1967 Chrysler VE Valiant

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Ben Galli

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The VE Valiant was the first model to take the fight up to Holden and Ford

If Chrysler was ever going to exert any degree of dominance over the Australian market the car to do it would have been the mightily impressive VE.

This Valiant knew precisely its place in the automotive scheme of things and no XR Falcon with its Mustang-bred imagery or Holden’s forthcoming HK were going to harm the new Chrysler’s prospects.

The VE, in common with all of Chrysler’s early product, was based upon a North American design. Prior to 1967 though, the Valiants that came here were generally out of date and looking their age. Not this time.

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Chrysler Australia’s model cycle for 1967 coincided with release in the USA of a restyled and updated Dodge Dart; a car similar in size to previous models but with fresh new styling that was easily adapted to Australian needs.

Prior to the VE, our Valiants had been hampered by a 2693mm wheelbase. Now they could revel in a 50mm increase, most of which added legroom for rear passengers.

| Buyer's Guide: Valiant VE Wagon

Viewed in profile, the VE was all straight lines and 90 degree turns. The grille and tail panels were inset, making the car seem even longer and lower. What it did need though were marker lights so the indicators could be seen from the side.

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Predictably there was no ‘Coke Bottle hip’ below the rear pillar, as displayed by competing cars. The windows were bigger though, with curved doors and side-glass helping to expand hip and shoulder room.

The rear window on sedans was curved as well, but not outwards. The new sheet of concave glass reportedly took local suppliers an age to get right but was said to offer improved rear vision. That was going to be an important selling point given the ease with which the VE with its new 160 Horsepower six would tow larger caravans and boat trailers.

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The basic North American engine was a 170 cubic inch (2.8-litre) six-cylinder and considerably smaller than the version that had been powering Aussie Valiants since their launch in 1962.

In basic form, the base-model VE had a 3.7-litre engine with 108kW, all synchromesh three-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic. The more powerful version made 119kW thanks to its two-barrel carburettor, revised camshaft and exhaust. To maintain the viability of the 273 V8, its output was also boosted by 11kW to 145kW.

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Upgrades to meet national safety regulations meant that windscreen washers and two-speed wipers, front seat belts and reversing lights became standard across the Valiant range. Four door armrests and a vanity mirror on the passenger sun-visor helped enhance the exclusivity of Chrysler’s family model.

Chrysler had been the first local supplier of a ‘family’ car to offer a V8 engine. For VE buyers, the biggest motor would become available in any version of the Valiant, although most likely the upmarket Regal or new, extremely plush, VIP.

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VE VIPs came with the V8 and disc front brakes as standard fittings, a vinyl covered roof, separate reclining seats with head restraints, a centre console and high-quality vinyl trim. Vertically stacked chrome strips on the back mudguards instantly identified the VIP to admiring onlookers.

The VIP Wagon swapped its bucket seats for a bench with armrest, its cargo area was carpeted and included remote operation of the tail-gate window.

High on the list of VIP design requirements was a need to appeal to British buyers who had taken a liking to the boatload of VC V8s that had been sent there during 1966 to ‘test the waters’.

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Choosing a Regal lifted the cost of your Valiant from its base price of $2490 to a still reasonable $3050. To justify the extra money, Chrysler included its excellent three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission, a heater/demister with blower fan, carpets, satin-trimmed dash, external embellishments and courtesy lights, including one in the boot.

Anyone needing load-space plus seating for three people could hop aboard a Wayfarer utility. These came standard with the 145hp Slant Six and could be specified with 160hp motor or a V8. However, very few V8 utes seem to have been built.

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225 engine was a beauty

Motor magazines taking their first look at the VE were hugely impressed by the engineering advances made by Chrysler and the handsome appearance stemming from quite basic alterations to the external sheet metal.

Wheels magazine went further in its admiration and handed its 1967 Car of the Year award to the VE range. The magazine’s staff had been granted quite unprecedented access to the model while under secret development and in return resisted the temptation to ‘scoop’ its opposition with details of the new model.

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The magazine’s editorial team loved the new shape and Chrysler’s decision to go against trend and fit all of its V8s with disc brakes, bigger wheels and high-speed, nylon cord tyres. Even minor changes like electric windscreen washers and the security of an internal bonnet release made a difference.

Of its on-road performance, Wheels when making the award commented: "Chrysler has converted a stodgy, awkward handler into a responsive, good riding car that nobody can claim is a sports car, but which exceeds the ride-handling standards expected of current compacts".

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News-stand rival Modern Motor was less effusive but equally impressed by the much-improved VE. Its December 1967 edition looked at the entire VE range, describing the enlarged boot as "appreciably bigger and useful in shape" and the Torqueflite transmission as "still the best in the business".

One downside was the absence of factory power steering in models apart from the expensive VIP. Another was the floor-mounted headlight dipper switch which had been moved from directly beneath the brake pedal but still not far enough to be used with comfort. Then there was fuel consumption which would hasten the disappearance of V8 VEs as petrol prices during the 1970s began to soar.

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Column auto and detailed tiller

Six-cylinder automatics with the 160hp engine were able to deliver 11.2L/100km, however the V8 which shared its 64-litre fuel tank with the six-cylinder cars used appreciably more. Running at a brisk pace on rural roads or dealing with city traffic, a V8 would swallow around 18 litres per 100km and see heavy-footed drivers stopping every 350 kilometres for a refill.

Colour choices even in the VIP and Regal ranges were disappointingly drab but probably in line with Chrysler’s perceptions of its conservative buyer base. Not until the VG model with its live-wire Hemi Six engine arrived in 1970 would Chrysler do much to brighten the interior of owners’ garages.

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More VEs were built than any Valiant model during the 1960s. It also stands as the second most popular Valiant of all time behind the VJ, which clocked 90,865 sales against the VE’s 68,688. Putting that in context, the VJ sold for 30 months from March 1973 until October 1975 while the VE was available from October 1967 until March 1969 – a total of just 17 months.

Just how many of the up-spec VIP were included in the almost 69,000 VEs built is hard to determine but likely there were fewer than 5000 made and perhaps only one per cent of those survive in running order.

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IT'S MINE

When Marco Paolucci throws open the shed to choose this Sunday’s drive, he faces some difficult decisions.

In addition to his Nissan 280ZX, Marco has a scarce Dodge Challenger 340 and an innocuous but fearsome XW Falcon with around 650 horsepower sitting between its chassis rails. However, the car Marco is most likely to pick when taking the family on a run to "almost anywhere’ is this lovely, two-owner VE Valiant.

"It was one owner before I got it," Marco said. "Being sold by the son of the original owner after the old man went into a care home and not being driven for a long time.

"I didn’t offer as much as some other people, but the owner wanted it to go to me because I was going to keep it original."

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Marco’s family runabaout

True to his word, Marco has done very little to the VE except have the engine rebuilt by PSP Industries in Thomastown (Vic) and an electronic ignition system installed by Ignition Torque.

"Valiants and me go way back," he said. "Dad had a Charger and I learned to drive in that and I always wanted to own a Valiant.

"The beauty of this car is that it is so stock and so reliable you can just get in and take it on a drive or to a club event without ever worrying that it won’t get you home again. It just purrs."

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1967 VALIANT VE

NUMBER BUILT: 68,688 (all VE)
BODY: All-steel, combined body/chassis four door sedan, station wagon & two-door utility
ENGINE: In-line 3686cc six-cylinder or 4474cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 119kW @ 4500rpm, 297Nm @ 2500rpm (160hp)
PERFORMANCE: 0-97km/h 10.8 seconds 0-400 metres 18.1 seconds (Regal 160hp)
TRANSMISSION: Three-speed all-synchromesh manual or three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, upper & lower control arms and telescopic shock absorbers (f) live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) some with power assistance
TYRES: 6.95 x 14 or DR70-14 cross-ply

 

From Unique Cars #450, March 2021

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