1971 Chrysler VH 770 Valiant E38 tribute

By: Ray Ikin with Guy Allen, Photography by: Ben Galli

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Ray Ikin's latest toy tops off nearly five decades of playing with Chargers

Originally this was a six-cylinder auto 770 in Vintage Red with black interior, and I transformed it into a tribute car – or a copy of an E38. So it has nearly all the gear that you’d expect, right down to the door trims with their silver panels.

There wasn’t much to this car when I got it. It was a rolling shell with most of the glass missing and no interior. However I’ve been building and fixing Chargers for decades, so it looked like a viable project.


As it turned out, it was much worse than I expected when it came to rust. I ended up depending a lot on Elko Perfromance in Vic, as they seemed to have pretty much everything I needed, including patch panels. In fact, I think I must have tested their patience a few times, but they were good. Paul Norris there is a walking encyclopedia on Chryslers.

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I tackled a lot of basic rust repairs and Paul took on the finer stuff. That was lucky, because he doesn’t usually tackle panel work.


Then it was off to a painter and that turned out to be a bit of a story. The bloke I use was working with a new paint shop. They were given the codes for Vintage Red and what we got wasn’t quite right. It was one of those situations where I looked at it and wondered if it was worth having a barney over it – then the more I looked the more I liked the colour, so I decided to leave it alone.

As it turns out, I like the colour and I like the whole car.

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I had the motor before I got the car, it’s out of a CL dated about 1976. You can get a lot of the ancillary gear for them now. For example a company called Redline makes an inlet manfold for them that has the right numbers on it.

The triple Weber carburettors can be expensive and difficult to find as a set. My solution is to have an ad running permanently in a parts magazine, and I’ll buy them one at a time. They come from everywhere and I think I may have soaked up every spare Weber in the country! What I did for a while was put them together as a set with a manifiold and sell them on.


Webers are one of those components that are easy enough to work on, but there are lots of things you can get wrong. When I first started working on them, I never pulled all three apart at the same time. That way if you got lost, or had a part left over, you had an example to check where you went wrong.

Balancing and tuning them is quite tedious. However they react to atmosphere and have some ability to compensate for conditions. People say Webers never stay in tune, but that’s not my experience – they’re actually very good. The car will idle differently as the conditions change, which people assume is going out of tune, but it’s not. You set them up once and leave them alone.


I’m a motor mechanic by trade and I’ve lost count of how many of the 265 sixes I’ve built over time – I enjoy doing them. It’s got the big harmonic balancer in place, it’s a reproduction item from Romac.

When it came to gearbox choices, there were two good three-speed and one four-speed transmission sitting in the shed. However I have two other four-speed Chargers, one of which is a hill-climb car. I was thinking I might just break that hill-climb ’box one day, so I decided it might be wise to keep the spare four-speed. And that’s how we ended up going down the E38 path.


As for the diff, I was talking to a bloke I know who had a limited-slip unit at one stage. I asked whether he still had it, and the story was it was making noises going round corners, so he replaced it and left the old unit down the side of his house.

It cost me $100 and I took it to my diff man, who repaired it and said, "I never want to see it again." Apparently it had left-hand threads in the crown wheel and pinion and he rekoned you can no longer get the bolts. That seemed a bit odd, so I traced them through the parts books and they were made for 1972 Chargers that were likely to run at Bathurst. I checked with John Grant, who was involved with Chrysler and John Ellis at the time, and he confirmed the story.


I’ve gone for the bonnet scoop because it looks good, even though it doesn’t do anything. Chrysler tried them out in a wind-tunnel and soon realised the air flow went higher than the scoop and made it redundant. Still, I like the look of it.
Dave at Warragul Motor Trimmers did the interior for me. I gave him a bit of a challenge this time – normally a trimmer can use the old seats as a patttern, but this time he had to do it from scratch and I’m very happy with the result. The actual grain of the material may not be spot-on, but I think people get too fussy over that sort of thing. So far as I’m concerned, if it’s black and looks right, that’s fine. This is, after all, a tribute car.

The door trims are a set I had sitting around for years and years, but I didn’t use them at first because they had speaker holes in. However when I was doing this car I cleaned them up and put them in. You can get new ones but they’re a lot of money.


Some of the little trim pieces are almost impossible to get and people charge a fortune and I won’t pay. There is usually an alternative. My approach with these projects is not to worry about the last tiny detail being factory-correct. I don’t care. It’s my car and I make sure it’s a good working example, because I like to use them.

One example is I’m running twin side-filler petrol caps because I like the look of them. However it’s not running a big tank and one of them is a dummy.

This was a big job, like the car I did before it. I think the bloke I bought this car from had no idea what he had got himself into. There’s no way he would have got it finished.


There were lots of things that went wrong along the way and some of them were silly. For example I’ve fitted maybe a dozen twin-plate clutches to Chargers, but this time I put the back plate was in the wrong way round! Of course the clutch wouldn’t work and I had to pull the gearbox back out and turn it around. Geez it was frustrating.

I’ve been involved with Chargers since they were new. We couldn’t really afford one when they came out and I was annoying the hell out of my wife. She wasn’t keen on a two-door car but eventually relented. They came out in August 1971 and she said, "If you work out how to pay for it, you can have one, but I need all your money." We had just built a new house and had a lot of commitments.


So I started driving taxis three nights a week and in December 1972 I bought a new Charger.

What are they like to drive? Of course they’re clumsy compared to a modern car. But once you get going to a car show, they’re fine. It can be hundreds of kilometres away and you get there and back feeling quite relaxed. They’re great highway cars. And everyone looks at them.


The next project? Cleaning up my shed – it’s a disgrace! I think I’ve had enough of the big jobs for a while. I might tackle a new coat of paint, or replacing an engine, but nothing big…


1971 Valiant VH 770 E38 Tribute

Engine 4345cc inline six with three twin-choke Weber carbs
Power 208.5kW @ 5000rpm
Torque 420Nm @ 3700rpm
Gearbox 3-speed floor-shift manual
Suspension Independent with torsion bars (f); live axle, semi-elliptic leaf
springs (r)
Brakes 11-inch discs (f) 9-inch drums (r)
0-100km/h 6.4sec


From Unique Cars #453, May 2021

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