Chrysler Valiant CM
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The last re-styling and packaging of the 1971
VH design was to be seen in the CM Series Valiant – unfortunately this would also be the last of the prestigious lineage of Valiant’s that had graced our shores since 1962’s introduction of the “R” series.
Chrysler had always been the weaker of the “Big Three”, and the first to succumb to the might of Japanese mimickers. Our loss was their gain – and with the CM Series the Valiant would pass into lore as one of the most robust, solid performing and elegantly beautiful cars to ever grace Australian highways.
Why the once mighty failed has been the subject of many bar conversations for decades since – too many models, not enough models, a lack of direction, and the decision to build even bigger cars just when the petrol crisis of the early 1970’s loomed, all are mere conjecture.
The truth was far simpler; the Australian market could not sustain 3 manufacturers with the highly regulated local content quotas being imposed by short sighted Governments, particularly with Japanese imports flooding the market. Button figured it out years later, but in 1978 it would be the CM that would remain the Valiant swansong – and what a shame that was…
The problems of selling a big car in the late 1970’s were obvious to all, particularly given the price of petrol – add to that the fact that the Valiant remained a make-over of the ’71 VH Valiant and the scene was set for the departure of the once great Valiant.
Most obvious to all potential purchasers was the Valiant’s continued lack of front flow-through ventilation, something Japanese cars had featured from the early ‘60’s, and the HQ Holden and XA Falcon featured in the early 1970’s.
Even Chrysler knew the problems facing their Valiant range, with sales of their Mitsubishi sourced “Chrysler Sigma” mid-sizer putting the sales figures of the Valiant to shame. Many believed that Chrysler only continued manufacture to bolster their local content, and since the tooling was mostly done for the previous CL model little was needed in terms of further investment.
This was pretty much the truth, with the main changes taking place under the bonnet of the CM. The wonderful Electronic Lean Burn System (ELB) had been adapted to the ‘Hemi’ six cylinder engines. The Hemi
had been fitted with some rather obtrusive “lung
apparatus” to ensure compliance with the ADR
27A regulations, however with the fitment of ELB this could all be jettisoned. The end result was that the Hemi was now easier to start, more responsive, smoother and more refined and, most importantly, more economical than its forebears – Chrysler even claimed it to be 25% more fuel efficient.
The Valiant line-up was even further rationalised, now available in only three models. No Charger, no Panel-Van and no Ute; most knew the end was nigh for the Valiant. Worse still, the facelift did not include any new sheet metal, and was restricted to merely a new grille, repackaged tail lights and a variation on previous body mouldings and badges. All CM Valiant’s came with the suspension
changes introduced with the CL Valiant’s, but the standard equipment list certainly grew.
The Base Model Standard With 245 Hemi
The base model Valiant was now referred to as the “Medium Line” model – it coming standard with the 245 4 litre Hemi engine
fitted with ELB technology, along with quartz halogen headlights, push button radio, 152mm styled road wheels, a remote controlled exterior mirror and heated rear window.
The Regal model came with a 265 4.3 litre Hemi ELB engine, with ignition delay lights, retractor rear seat belts and trip odometer, floor console with centre armrest, a “Fuel Pacer” and bumper overriders. Top of the line was the Chrysler Regal SE, featuring classic style cast alloy road wheels and four speaker stereo radio-cassette player.
For the sports minded Chrysler aficionados, there was a GLX edition of the base Valiant fitted with the larger 265 4.3 litre Hemi mated to a four-on-the-floor manual transmission
by 178mm 7” “Hot Wire” cast alloy wheels
, a tachometer
, front grille paint treatment, tinted side glass, roof console with map light, rear seat armrest, floor console, body stripes and other embellishments. But for all its glitz and glamour the GLX was a mere shadow the once great Pacers and Chargers, and sold poorly.
To try and re-invigorate interest in the Valiant, the marketing department of Chrysler choose to emphasise the fuel efficiency of the car, trying to lure back those that had turned their backs on traditional big six Aussie sedans in favour of the Japanese 4 cylinder also-rans. In tests conducted with both motoring journalists and independent observers, the Chrysler CM turned in some pretty impressive fuel consumption figures, averaging around 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres in a mixture of city and country driving.
Helping to substantiate these figures, Sydney adventurer and long standing Valiant stalwart Phil Gander drove a CM from Sydney to Melbourne on a single tank of petrol – quite an accomplishment! All things considered, and forgiving the lack of flow-through ventilation, the CM was indeed a mighty car, however in reality it was too late to stop the inevitable.
Chrysler Return To Profitability
year after the release of the CM Chrysler Australia was to return to profitability – but it was not due to the release of the CM, but rather the popularity of the Mitsubishi sourced Sigma. Mitsubishi would take over the Chrysler operation in 1980 – then continuing the manufacture of the CM Series.
The heady days of the Valiant occupying 3rd place in the sales charts were now long gone, it continuing its slide all the way down to 20th position. But Mitsubishi knew they would not be investing in any re-model of the big car, and for the immediate time anyway, and given that the tooling costs for the Valiant had long been written off, the CM would remain a handy little earner.
The base price in 1981 was $7921, less than many Japanese 4 cylinder cars of the day. But time was something the Valiant no longer could enjoy, the only question was when production would end. The answer came on August 28th, 1981. For nearly 2 decades and from only 4 basic body shapes the Valiant had been a regular part of the Australian motoring landscape, but it was now to be relegated to the history books – and of course Unique Cars and Parts
. When the numbers were counted, the CM was clearly the least popular of all Valiant’s, managing to only sell 16,005 cars in its three year production run.
The last Valiant was manufactured on the Tonsley Park assembly line on the 28th August 1981, not by Chrysler Australia but by Mitsubishi Motors Australia limited. The last was a white automatic
CM Series, build number 565,338. The honours of driving the last valiant off the line were given to former chief executive David Brown, who had been managed Chrysler Australia during the halcyon days between 1960
From the production line, the car was delivered to the Purnell Brothers dealership in Bankstown, New South Wales, they being a long time Chrysler dealership and selling a record breaking 20,000 Valiant’s along the way. The 2nd last car to roll off the line was given away as part of a “free lottery” between Mitsubishi Australia staff.
some 347,510 Valiant sedans, 110,794 wagons, 55,572 utilities, 31,857 Charger coupes, 17,646 hardtops and 1959 panel vans had been manufactured. More than 300,000 Hemi engines were produced at the Lonsdale facility, and Valiant’s were exported to 35 overseas markets including the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan, the West Indies and, ironically, Japan. Along the way, the Valiant picked up two gongs from Wheels prestigious “Car of the Year” awards, first in 1967 with the VE model, then in 1971 with the Charger.
Like many other manufacturers, there were models that never made it to production. A CM-2 was made ready by designers hoping the Valiant would continue on in production, and work had even started on a major restyle as the CN model. They didn’t make it.