1977 Valiant Charger 770 - Reader Rides

By: Brian Johnson

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Brian Johnson is living the dream with his 1977 Valiant Charger 770

Valiant -Charger -profile

Brian Johnson is a retired retail manager – ex-Woolworths – who bought this 1977 Chrysler Valiant Charger in 1992. "That means I’ve had it 25 years!" he says with a disbelieving shake of his head.

Like so many other now-valuable Aussie cars, this Charger was just another second-handy when Brian bought it… it was at that 15-year, almost-worthless point in every car’s life where it could have been bought to be run into the ground as a cheap P-plate or railway station runner… Or snapped up by an enthusiast as a bargain-priced keeper.

"At the time I was planning to retire and wanted a project – something I could do a small amount of work on," he continues. "It was advertised in a local paper, the Maitland Mercury; I saw it one lunch-time so I rang and arranged to see it. I took my son with me so he could drive home just in case it was good enough to buy – and it was. It was advertised for $2300… I offered $1900 for it"

As Brian tells, the car was in reasonably good shape for a 15-year-old Charger with only a little work required.

Valiant -Charger -engine

"It had just been driven down from Darwin, the Top End" says Brian. "It had only been back in NSW for a week when I bought it. Even now, it still has a sticker from Katherine Radiators in the engine bay."

However, good as it was, Brian’s car carried one horrible hangover from a previous owner: A sickly slick of yellow paint over every piece of factory shiny stuff – the trims, chrome and even the original old-school classic jelly-bean alloys.

"It was hideous!" says Brian. "There was absolutely no chrome on it anywhere – it had all been painted, as was the fashion back in the day. Thankfully, I took the bumpers and everything off and it all came off OK with paint stripper; everything was in good shape under that paint!

"The next job was to fix the shock absorbers and after that, I did the brakes," he says. "Apart from that, I’ve done next to nothing mechanically in the 25 years I’ve owned it."

Valiant -Charger -interior

Brain has driven the Charger for about 45,000 of the 180,000km showing on its odometer. He’s a member of the Newcastle Restored Vehicle Club and drives the car to events often. In fact, we first met Brian and his Charger on a club run, parked among hundreds of cars on display – with thousands of people around them – at the Maitland Steamfest in the NSW Hunter Valley.

"It’s a club car on Historic plates so of course I don’t use it every day," he says of his Charger. "I have a Ford Territory for that. The Charger has been on historic plates for about 10 years and now I’m on the 60-day logbook [permit scheme] so I can drive it plenty of days.

"Our club has runs once or twice per month so we get to go on some good runs: from the NSW Central Coast such as [beach-side] Terrigal, to the areas around Port Stephens and a few hours away to Merriwa," he says. "We have about 80 members and 150-odd cars. I’ve been in the club for about 20 years."

Valiant -Charger -main

No trailer sailor, this cool old Charger carries the marks and scars of a life well-lived. Apart from liberating the factory chrome from under its layer of ‘custom’ yellow paint 25 years ago, there have been a few touch-ups to the original Lemon Twist paint over the years (and no doubt there will be a few more) but the original oh-so-70s side-stripes have survived all those hot Aussie summers. However, the cloth on the front seats didn’t, so the original pair has been replaced with another set.

"I’ve done just about nothing else to it in those 25 years," he says of his classic Aussie time-warper. "I’ve done nothing to the engine." In this case it’s a 318-cubic inch (5.3-litre) V8 fitted with Chrysler’s innovative (but often troublesome)  ELB – Electronic Lean Burn – system that used 1970s space-age electronics to make these engines drink less fuel. Behind that V8 is a cruisy auto and standard BW diff.

"Almost every time I drive it, some bloke comes over and says, ‘It needs a bit of work, I’ll give ya 10 grand,’ or some-such," says Brian. "But it’s not for sale. I’ll keep tinkering with it… it’s a terrific fun club car."

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