Chrysler Valiant VJ
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
By the time of the release of the VJ Valiant, Chrysler’s
market share was in its fourth consecutive year of
decline. There was therefore much pressure on the stylists
to ensure the face-lifted VJ arrested the decline.
The new look was heralded by Chrysler as being “Years
ahead of its time”, it clearly wasn’t,
but the question of whether it could around the flagging
fortunes of Chrysler in Australia remained. The VJ’s sheet metal remained unchanged over the outgoing VH,
styling changes being restricted to a grille makeover,
round headlights and revamped tail lights.
mechanical improvement was an electrical ignition system
which became standard on the Regal, Charger XL and
770 and Chrysler. This was the first time this feature
had been offered in an Australian built car. But apart from these handful of improvements, the VJ remained
very much the car of old.
One of the difficulties Chrysler
was facing were the perceived build quality problems
inherent in the VH, so the marketers set about confirming
to the public that the VJ was a well sorted and now
tried and tested quality alternative, offering more
features and refinements than the competition.
campaigns of the day focused on the new body finishing
techniques which included the use of rust-proofing
primer, along with higher paint application quality.
Chrysler also knew the cost of offering such a broad
line-up of models was significantly affecting the cost
of manufacture, so some rationalisation was needed.
When the dust had settled, there Pacer had been dropped,
along with the Ranger XL, Regal 770 and Charger R/T.
With the different machinations applicable to each
of these models, Chrysler had effectively brought its
model line-up down from 56 to a more manageable 18,
and to fill any perceived gaps in the line-up the Chrysler
executives were confident that by adding to the options
list any Chrysler purchaser would still be able to
leave the showrooms with their own very individual
It is worth noting the other, albeit small
changes introduced with the VJ. It was one of the first
locally manufactured cars to switch to the use of a
metric calibrated speedometer
, while the steering
featured a flatter rim at the bottom, supposedly to
give more leg room to the driver. In a decision unfathomable
today, except perhaps considering the fuel crisis of
the early 1970’s, to no longer produce high performance
Chargers was a travesty. Much lesser cars, such as
the Falcon Superbird and 6 cylinder Monaro’s
were able to eat away at the Charger’s market
share, this after it leading the two-door sales charts
the preceding year.
Visually there were very few changes
from the VH to VJ Charger, in fact you pretty much
had to be looking at the car head on, so that you could
see the new grille, to identify it as the latest model.
The new grille had a pillar effect and 178mm round
headlights. The front turn indicators were mounted
on the guards using body-coloured bezels, while the
tail lights also came in for a makeover.
Inside the trim was improved and a larger range of colours was
offered. There were only three basic models available,
the Charger, Charger XL and Charger 770, although the
standard features list was improved and the number
of options available increased. All Six-Pack and V8’s
had a front anti-roll bar
and swinging rear quarter
windows, and all excluding the base 215 engined Chargers
were fitted with the new electric ignition system.
A sports pack enabled the buyer to lift the XL to almost
VH R/T specs. Gone was the lower priced 265 Hemi
the six-pack and 318 V8 being the only muscle car options.
The Flagship Chrysler by Chrysler
The flagship Chrysler by Chrysler CJ was announced in March
and put on sale in early April. As with the Valiant
line-up, the Chrysler was visually almost identical
to the CH model, although the hand-painted coach line
was deleted, while the sill and wheel arch mouldings
that were previously available only as an option became
standard fare. Cars fitted with vinyl roofs were fitted
with lower mouldings to give the whole car a lowered
look. Carried over too were the engine options, coming
standard with the Hemi
265ci engine with the 360 5.9
litre V8 engine available as an option.
The commercial vehicle range was added to with the release of a low
budget Dodge badged utility which was virtually identical
to the Valiant model. The utes had revised grilles
and round headlights. The 215 Hemi
was standard on
both, and the Valiant had a slightly higher level of
equipment. VJ prices started at $2849 for the 215 Valiant
four-door, with the Regal 245 (with electronic ignition)
coming in at $3600 and the Regal Hardtop at $3765 -
the top of the line Chrysler by Chrysler sold for $4925.
The Charger prices started at $2970, rising to $3995
for the Charger 770. The Regal Hardtop was $3765, while
at the commercial end the Dodge utility was $2565 and
the Valiant utility was $2640.
Chrysler finished 1973
with a 9.5% market share, its lowest ever, and far
from the halcyon days of the R and S Series where the
waiting list ensured Chrysler had pretty much pre-sold
every car to roll off the production line. The “Big
Three” was no more, with Toyota now assuming 3rd position on the
sales charts, and Chrysler now knowing that they were
in trouble. In a counter offensive similar to the Battle
of the Bulge, 1974 would see Chrysler lift standard
equipment levels across the VJ range.
Fitted to all models (excluding the utes) were front power assisted
disc brakes, front seat retractor safety belts, speed
windscreen-wiper blades, a sound-deadening package,
door reflectors, a glove-box lock and anti-roll bar
In August 1974 came the release of the limited run
(of 500) Chager “Sportsman” models. Available
only in “Vintage Red”, the Sportsman featured
a bold white exterior striping and a distinctive roof
treatment. It was fitted with the Hemi
265 engine coupled
to a foud-speed manual gearbox. Plaid cloth inserts
were incorporated into the seat trim, and other
By productions end, some 90,865 VJ Valiant’s
had been manufactured. It was a good car, and arguably deserved better recognition
from the buying public, but the Japanese manufacturers
were quickly gaining a strong foothold in the Australian
automotive marketplace with their “fully loaded” yet
cheaper versions. The weaker of the “Big Three” had
succumbed to their industrial might, and now questions
were being asked as to the viability of the manufacturer.