(first posted 12/17/2014) As a change of pace from coverage of Motorclassica, here is an in-depth look at one of the rarer cars on show, the 1972 Chrysler by Chrysler Hardtop. This car comes from before the peak-Brougham era, although after the Brougham died – the Holden Brougham that is! If that sounds mixed up, so are my feelings for this car.
On one hand it is a car that arguably should not have been built, as it was only at the insistence of the North American managers at Chrysler Australia and Highland Park that a long-wheelbase coupe was made for a market that was resolutely committed to sedans. Perhaps the previous generation hardtop that had a 3” longer wheelbase than its sedan cousin (111” vs 108”) may have had an influence however that was simply a matter of expediency because it used imported Dodge Dart hardtop body panels, rather than a deliberate strategy.
Now before we go further, I think it is worth re-setting your perception of what a Valiant was in Australia. The Chrysler, not Plymouth, Valiant was positioned above the competing Holden and Falcon right from its debut in January 1962 with the 145hp 225ci slant six against the 75hp 138ci Holden and 85hp 144ci Falcon. In 1965 Chrysler introduced the first V8 in the class a year ahead of Ford and two years ahead of Holden.
In 1969 the new Chrysler VIP ventured into Brougham territory, or perhaps more accurately Ford Fairlane territory with a 6” wheelbase stretch to 114”. Of course all this while you could still get a bare bones hose-out interior base model as well as a workhorse ute, and Chrysler was playing the performance game with the Pacer that featured warmed versions of the sixes.
The Australian-designed VH Valiant of 1971 obviously took a lot of inspiration from the Fuselage Chryslers in the US although with a more defined hip line, and was larger than the previous car in wheelbase by 3” (to 111”), width by 4” (74.2”) and surprisingly just ½” more length – but thanks to the more voluptuous bodywork it actually looks quite a bit longer. The local Hemi 6-cylinder could be had in 215, 245 and a new 265ci capacity in addition to 318 and 360 V8s.
The Chrysler by Chrysler that replaced the upscale VIP was built on a 115” wheelbase, up 4” from the standard Valiant, with an overall length of a trim 196.6” (just over the 5 metre mark). The hardtop’s weight was 90lb lighter than the sedan’s 3670lb (including 100lb of optional air conditioning that was surely specified by most owners). If you opted for the 265 six instead of the 360 V8, in addition to fuel you would also save 200lb of cast iron. Either way you had a 23 US gal fuel tank and 31 cu ft trunk (at least according to the manufacturers specs, it seems rather large!).
The Chrysler by Chrysler had a full-loop bumper and standard vinyl roof with a smaller rear window. On the hardtop the vinyl roof had a strip of body colour above the doors, sweeping back for quite a unique appearance. The purple is a signature Mopar colour, but would have been an unusual choice in 1972 Australia.
Inside there were all the goodies as you might expect, with brocade trim, power steering, pull door straps, power windows and mirrors, aircraft-style reading lights and a special instrument panel clad with would you believe Carpathian elm! Options were air conditioning, power seat adjustment and Searchtune radio with stereo cassette. The underdash air conditioning vents betray the lack of flow-through ventilation which was a weakness for a 1971 car.
The rear seat shows similar accommodations, although the seat cushion looks on the short side. You can also see where the retractor is located for the lap-sash seat belt. Seat belt use was first made compulsory in the state of Victoria in 1970 (in the front seats at least).
Of course, befitting a Brougham-style car there were a lot of shield emblems. While the difference between the items on the rear tail light sides, wheel covers and dashboard might be explained by the lesser height of the latter, the grille divider features a different style that looks more like those on a Hillman or Singer that featured the three spires of Coventry’s cathedrals.
I mentioned having mixed feelings for this car. While I am more inclined to think the Hardtop was an unnecessary distraction or waste of Chrysler’s scarce resources, because the Chrysler by Chrysler version sold only 480 units in addition to just 1970 other Valiant Hardtops from 1971-75. On the other hand it is always interesting to see a car being taken in a unique direction, not to mention this beautifully restored example, with its only competitor being the Ford Landau.
Overall this beautifully restored example makes for an interesting piece of history if nothing else. Next: back out into the sunshine to see an incredible variety of cars brought along by various car clubs.