1972 Chrysler Valiant VH Charger R/T E49 survivor

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Mark Bean

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Such was its popularity at one point it accounted for 80 percent of VH Valiant production

Hey Charger! It was the simple catch cry of the famous TV ad that thrust the Chrysler Valiant Charger into the motoring and motorsport spotlight in August 1971. Sitting on a shortened wheelbase of the current Valiant sedan of the time, the Charger was introduced within the VH series and its success was immediate.

Demand swamped supply. It won a major touring car race on debut. Wheels magazine awarded it the 1971 Car of the Year and its popularity was such that at one point it accounted for 80 per cent of all Australian VH Valiant production.

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The Charger was with us for just seven years and was initially built to suit many budgets. In 1971 the $2795 base model was exactly that: a three-on-the-tree manual, skinny steel wheels, vinyl trim, no radio, no heater and a 215ci straight six in its snout.

| Reader Resto: 1972 Valiant Charger E49 video 

But the variants that cemented the Charger’s legendary status among Aussie muscle car aficionados were the Road and Track or R/T models of which just 1300 were produced and only in the VH Series. There was one automatic base model, 630 base models with a three-speed manual, 60 base models with a four-speed manual, 134 four-speed E37s, two E48s plus 316 E38s of which 82 had big tanks.

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King of the catalogue was the R/T E49 with a production run of nine months and 149 units. Launched June 1972 it came with a sticker price of $3975. It was built with the objective of driving up and down Mount Panorama Bathurst on the October Labour day weekend 130 times, and faster than any other car.

| 2020 Market Review: Chrysler Pacer/Charger E38, E49, E55

Standard kit included a blacked-out grille, vertical stripes on the front guards sporting the number ‘4’ indicating it’s an E49, plus side stripes that flowed onto the rear of the upswept tail. There were also quartz-halogen headlights, full instrumentation, an aluminium steering wheel and wild colour names; Vitamin C, Hemi Orange, Hot Mustard and Mercury Silver.

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Of the 149 produced just 21 were fitted with the A84 Track Pack option comprising a 160-litre fuel tank to gain an on-track advantage by reducing the number of pitstops, along with a quick-ratio 16:1 steering box, 14 x 7-inch alloy wheels and heavy-duty disc front brakes and rear drums.

The R/T E49 gained a BorgWarner four-speed manual gearbox after its predecessor made use of a pace-restricting three-speeder.

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Although the R/T E49 shared the same displacement engine as before, the triple Weber carburettor-fed 4.3-litre Hemi-six was given a serious boost of grunt jumping from 280 to 302 horsepower, an unprecedented figure for a six-cylinder engine and only surpassed in 1975 by the Porsche Turbo 911.

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In 1972 Wheels magazine declared the R/T E49 "the fastest accelerating Australian muscle car of all". A standing quarter mile took 14.4 seconds, zero to 100mph took 14.1 seconds, while zero to 60 mph took 6.1 seconds. By comparison a Falcon GT-HO Phase III took 15.2 seconds to go from standstill to 100mph.

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Another magazine, Sports Car World, was equally lavish in its praise in the October 1972 issue. "The stopwatches don’t lie – but it’s pretty hard to believe. A 0-100 mph time of 14.1 seconds! That’s really flying – and the engine’s no thumping V8 nor quad cam V12. It’s Chrysler Australia’s 4.3-litre in-line six, in a stormer called the Charger R/T E49."

Those performance figures combined with exhaustive testing and development by race ace Leo Geoghegan had hopes at Chrysler for success at Mount Panorama. Back then the annual enduro resonated with all Australians, who could walk into a showroom and buy a Bathurst-winner.

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Holden, Ford and Chrysler invested heavily in factory prepared race versions of their homologation specials. As a factory team, the R/T E49 Chargers made one appearance at Bathurst in 1972, with Doug Chivas and Damon Beck finishing third. That year a young Peter Brock in a Holden Torana GTR XU-1 won the first of his nine Bathurst crowns with the GT-HO Phase III of John French finishing second. It was an historic day for the Australian motor industry, being the first and only time the three local manufacturers appeared on the Bathurst podium together.

The Charger R/T E49 did make a cameo appearance at Bathurst the following year in the hands of privateers, finishing sixth in class and 13 laps behind the winners, Allan Moffat and Pete Geoghegan in an XA Falcon hardtop.

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At the time of the Charger’s heyday Ken Spalding was the Sales Manager at Purnells of Bankstown NSW. He remembers those times very well. "We were Australia’s biggest Chrysler dealer selling around 250-300 new Valiants a month.

"There was a select few of us who went to the original Channel 10 studios in Lane Cove Sydney for the release of the Charger, said Ken. "This was one launch I’d never forget.

"We sat there expectantly, the lights went down, the music started playing and then a Charger appeared under the spotlights. The initial reaction to it by all of us was ‘Wow, this is unbelievable’.

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"It was the best car launch I have ever been to and when the salesmen saw it at the dealership for the first time they were blown away. It was certainly a unique car in its day.

"There was the ‘Hey Charger’ ad on TV and then people just flocked to the dealership and they sold very very well. The public I guess were as much in awe of the Charger as we were."

The opportunity to own such a rare piece of Australian muscle car royalty as this Chrysler Valiant Charger R/T E49 A84 Track Pack seems to come along less frequently than the Transit of Venus eclipse.

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Of the 21 R/T E49 Chargers produced with the A84 Track Pack it’s believed only three are in original condition and Australian Muscle Car Sales (AMCS) in Sydney has this stunning example for sale for $395,000.

"This Hemi Orange R/T E49 is in unrestored condition, with the original engine and matching numbers and is one of just two big tank R/T E49s to go to Queensland," says Mike Selby of AMCS. "It has had three owners in its 48-year history who are all Valiant collectors and it has only travelled 95,819 miles."

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After seeing the advertisement, the Charger’s first owner, Ian Robinson, rang Selby to tell him he still has the original sales invoice and a bunch of photos from his time with the car. A copy of the sales invoice and Robinson's photos will come with the car. Robinson sold it to a Victorian buyer and then it was moved on again to another Queenslander who is the current owner.

According to Selby, although a buyer may choose to undertake a ground-up restoration, he believes its extraordinary value lies in its originality as it sits today. "It’s funny how you go to a car show and see row after row of superbly restored cars, some rebuilt to a better standard than when they left the factory new, and then someone arrives with an unrestored model, a bit of faded paint, a tear or two in the interior trim and people flock to it like moths to a light." Selby added.

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1972 Chrysler Valiant VH Charger R/T E49

Number produced 149
Engine 4340cc 6cyl, OHV, 12v, triple Weber carburettors
Power 222kW @ 5600rpm
Torque 441Nm @ 4100rpm
Weight 1365kg
Gearbox 4-speed manual
Wheels 14 x 7.0-inch
Tyres ER70H14
Brakes discs (f), drums (r)
0-100km/h 6.1sec
0-400m 14.4sec
Top Speed 211km/h
Price when new $3975

 

From Unique Cars #447, December 2020

 

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