Valiant VG Pacer buyer guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Cristian Brunelli

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Slick styling and sharp pricing helped Chrysler find a new market. From our 2017-18 Muscle car value guide, on sale Dec 29, 2017.

Holden stunned the Australian market with its Monaro and in 1969 was set to carve another niche with its six-cylinder Torana. What was Chrysler, still at the mercy of US-based product planners to do? Along came a Mopar Man with a plan; stripes and bright colours, strange seats and some very sharp pricing. The VF Valiant Pacer had arrived.

To all intents the Pacer was a Dodge Dart but without the V8 engine available to US-based buyers. Chrysler knew that Australia wouldn’t cop an eight-cylinder model aimed at younger buyers. Not yet anyway. Note though that ‘our’ Pacer did come with front disc brakes that were optional on the more powerful US version.

A year after the original VF model was launched came a restyled and more refined VG. This was the car that Chrysler believed had the combination of power, light weight and keen pricing to fight off the opposition’s Toranas and V8 Falcons.

The basic engine was a 4.0-litre, 245 cubic inch six with
a two-barrel (2bbl) carburettor and 138kW. Three-speed transmission was standard (with auto optional) as were four doors. The VG was also the only Pacer available as a two-door Hardtop.

Weight and concerns about rigidity saw performance-oriented buyers stick with the sedan, but Pacer Hardtops still sold well among buyers who fancied something stylish and a bit different. The Hardtop cost more than the equivalent 2bbl sedan but was identical in specification and trim. Colours came with clever code-names like Little Hood Riding Red, Bondi Bleach White and (for whale enthusiasts) Thar She Blue.

Inside the VF’s ‘tombstone’ bucket seats had been swapped for more conventional buckets and the ventilation system improved. The dash was redesigned to accommodate a tachometer and there were extra safety features plus a blacked out ‘anti-glare’ bonnet.
The Pacer engine was on its own sufficient reason to buy one. Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes accompanied the VG range and were standard to the Pacer. Three-speed all-synchromesh transmission with a floor shift was standard too.

A tallish final drive gave manual cars a 182km/h top speed and coincidentally helped with fuel economy.


MARKET REVIEW
VG Pacers, especially two-door versions, have typically been easy cars to find and largely immune to the peaks and troughs of an unpredictable market. However VGs have lately become quite difficult to locate and we wonder if owners are holding on and hoping that this time the price growth being experienced by other models might rub off.

Looking back at the 2011 Muscle Car Guide we found six VG sedans and the same number of Hardtops, all priced at $27,500- 31,000. In 2016 we found seven Hardtops at pretty much the same asking prices and just one VG sedan with an ambitious tag of $60,000. This year the roles are reversed with four-door cars offered in the $25-40,000 bracket and a couple of two-doors averaging $50,000+.

Cars with verified competition history hardly ever appear in the open market which is curious since a lot of Pacers did front for Series Production events during the 1970 and 1971 seasons.


CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS

Rust can affect structural areas
of these cars and cause the front to literally break off in a heavy impact. From underneath check
for rust or cracks around the sub-frame mounting points, steering box and inner mudguards. Hardtop doors may not shut without being lifted and need new hinges. These are available ex-USA (Dodge part) at around $140 each. With the cost of quality chroming now extreme it came as no surprise to find reconditioned front and rear bumpers advertised at $600- 750


ENGINE & TRANSMISSION


The Hemi Six used
by VG Pacers ranks among the most durable power units ever made. Provided they haven’t been overheated to the point where rings crack and the cylinder head warps, 300,000 kilometres can be expected between rebuilds. Replacement cylinder heads are available at less than $1000, with standard pistons and rings around $500 a set. They do leak oil from around the head
and timing cover
but unless the car is concours and priced accordingly a squirt of degreaser and wipe down every
few weeks solves
the problem. The manual transmission and standard diff are very tough and easily reconditioned.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES


People said it couldn’t be done but other people turned the Pacer with its torsion bar front end into a pretty successful competition car. Steering can feel disconnected but reconditioned
steering boxes or a complete rack and pinion conversion are available. $150 spent on front-end bushings can also make a noticeable difference. Look at rear leaf springs for cracks especially near the shackles and leaking shock absorbers. Brakes that take a long time to react or have an unyielding pedal need money spent.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS


Lots of vinyl and
parts common to mainstream Valiants mean that the inside of a Pacer shouldn’t be too difficult to revamp, even if neglected. Plastic instrument covers crack and distort due to heat, fuel and temperature gauges may not work at all due to sensor problems. Seat frames can crack and twist so check if possible that they haven’t
been hastily welded. New door trims are available and window winders that require excessive effort can be lubricated at the same time the door cards are being replaced.


VITAL STATS

NUMBER MADE: 46,374 (all VG)
BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis four-door sedan or two-door hardtop
ENGINE: 4014cc in-line 6 cylinder with overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE:
138kW @ 4600rpm, 325Nm @ 2000rpm (2bbl)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h
8.8 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.7 seconds
TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum
(r) power assisted

TYRES: 185H14 radial


VALUE RANGE
FAIR $15,000
GOOD $28,000
EXCELLENT $40,000
(Note: concours cars will demand more)
Numbers from our 2017-18 Muscle Car value guide

Muscle Car Value Guide home page

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