Valiant Charger: Reader Resto

By: Steve Kealy, Photography by: Lou Martin

Presented by

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Karl Miegel's shed-find Chrysler Charger proves that Aussie classics are still out there waiting to be found

 

Valiant Charger Resto

You hear about cars being ‘on blocks’, but this one really was – on logs, in fact, says Karl Miguel, owner of this remarkably original 1978 Chrysler Valiant Charger.

A three-owner car with full history, the Charger was found in Gundagai, NSW and had been in a shed for more than 18 years. The first owner had a couple of Chinese take-away restaurants and retired, leaving the car in Gundagai for return visits; after he died, his house and contents were auctioned. The car was sold to a local man who drove it for a few years before parking it.

And there it remained for 18 years.

Charger -on -logs

"It took me seven years to buy due to my moving around for work and losing contact with the owner," explains Karl. "It managed to remain hidden in the shed over the muscle car boom for five years until I happened to drive past its hiding place and I saw it again – and this time I didn’t let it escape," said Karl. The owner remembered Karl’s earlier attempt to buy the car; "He was one of those older guys that you have to catch early in the morning to do a deal, because by lunchtime, he’d be incoherent, rude and abusive." Karl spent a mate’s $2000, intended for spares, as a deposit and collected the car a week later.

Charger -engine -before -5

It was in remarkable condition – definitely worth the chase. However, the long-term storage and lack of use meant there was more to getting the Charger back on the road than a splash of petrol and a jump-start.

"It hadn’t been started for at least twelve years when I got it," says Karl. "I managed to get it running but due to its long period in storage, the welsh plugs and main seals front and rear developed leaks, it had no brakes and the ELB [ignition system] had gone into limp-home mode."

Charger -engine -before -6

The driveline was removed to replace seals and gaskets hardened by years of slumber. Karl installed a set of standard-sized new/old stock (NOS) rings and bearings – just because he was in there anyway – and had a look at the valves. Time had inflicted more damage than the just 91,000km the car had travelled. Also needing attention were the brake lines after decades of accumulating moisture, and the unique water pump – a special item for V8s with air-con – needed some ingenuity to reconstruct.

Charger -brakes -2

The engine received a new coat of heat-resistant paint and the engine bay got a solid tidy-up. It’s all standard and the paint just needed a generous dose of elbow grease to shine once more. In fact, the whole car just needed little more than a really good clean-up: the seats, floor mats and headlining didn’t need any re-trimming; they’re all original 1978 fare. Even the door, window and boot seals are all the original rubber. What looks like a dose of rust in the boot is in fact red-lead primer, applied pre-emptively by the first owner.

Charger -engine -after

The result is a car that retains 98 per cent of its original paint, has its original matching-numbers engine, gearbox and diff and despite now having 95,000kms on the clock – Karl drives the Charger several times per month – still has some of the plastic that covered the seats from the factory.

Charger -interior -after -3

"I’ve even spoken to the ordering dealer, Thomas Brothers in Wagga Wagga," said Karl. "Allen Thomas is still alive and has been very helpful. The selling dealer was O’Brien Motors in Gundagai. Unfortunately the dealer principal has passed away, but his son Peter heard that I had the Charger and contacted me. Peter filled in some of the history and put me in contact with Leo Close, the Sales Manager that sold the Charger and also Bill Clark the Service Manager who stored the Charger for a few years.

Charger -karl

"The car and I crossed paths a few times – I often ate at the first owner’s restaurant, so we’d probably been within ten metres of each other any number of times," says Karl. "Then I found it, lost it and found it again."

QUICK TIPS

Some basic updates can do wonders to sharpen up one of these lovely cruisers. Modern tyres and brake pads are essential, but you may also consider updating the dampers to a set of Konis. We also like the idea of going through the steering and suspension bushes, replacing the latter with polyurethane – particularly up front.

WHEELS

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When found, the Charger was rolling on the optional five-slot kidneys. Owner Karl has replaced the original 14-inchers with these bigger repros.

ENGINE STRIP

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When found, the car had been stored for 18 years so seals and welsh plugs were old and cracked even with just 91,000km on the clock.

PAINT

Charger -paint

Apart from some minor mechanical work the car was in sensational condition thanks to the dry climate in southern NSW. Most of the paint is original.

CLEANING

Charger -cleaning

Cleaning and detailing a shed-find classic such as this to bring it back to life can be incredibly rewarding...and incredibly dirty!

TRIM

Charger -interior

Many Chargers lost their gaudy original trim during the 1980s street machine craze. Thankfully, Karl's survived. You don't find seats such as these at the wreckers any more!

SPECIFICATIONS

Valiant Charger

Engine 318ci V8
Max power 173kW @ 4800rpm; 459Nm @ 2400rpm
Transmission 4-speed manual
Length 461.3cm
Width 190.1cm
Height 137.4cm
Wheelbase 266.7cm
Kerb Weight 1444kg
Fuel Tank 68.2 litres

 

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