Chrysler Valiant VH
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
There was a collective sigh from Valiant aficionados in 1971 with the release of the all-new VH, particularly with those salivating for new Chrysler sheet metal. The previous models had always looked sensational, but the all-Australian designed VH clearly departed from the 1960’s and embraced the 1970’s, much as the pintuck suit made way for flares and wide lapels.
Somewhat modest in comparison to the investment in the development of the Hemi engine
, Chrysler spent a still very sizable $22 million on the development the new Valiant, the company determined to lift their market share from 12%. It seemed the designers of the VH got it right, with commentators of the day, along with the public, claiming the new body style to be both bold and beautiful.
There certainly seemed to be plenty of extra sheet metal over the previous iterations, and although the VH, at 4900mm, was only fractionally longer than the VG, it appeared to be vastly longer and larger. Adding to the illusion was the increase in wheelbase size, stretched 76mm to 2810mm (111 inches), while the width of the car was increased by 100mm.
In contrast, the GMH
engineers were making the upcoming HQ model look smaller than it really was, recessing the tail lights into the bumpers and creating a low waist line. Time has revealed both to display timeless proportion and symmetry, but in the early 1970’s it was evident that the engineers at Chrysler were poles apart in their thinking to those working for the General.
Adding to the VH Valiant’s clean lines was the reduction in body decoration, ensuring clean lines along the breadth of the car. The door handles were recessed, and the curves accentuated at the front bumper bar, moulding beautifully into the front parking/indicator lights above, with body contoured bumper below.
The hatch type bonnet, unusual for the early 1970’s, allowed engineers to add a cross member above the grille and strengthen the cars front section. The curved rear deck contained a bigger boot than before, the spare wheel was set deep into the floor and the fuel filler was hidden behind the rear number-plate.
More Sheet Metal, Less Glass
All the extra sheet metal had the counter effect of reducing the amount of glass, and some detractors complained that visibility was somewhat impaired when compared with the VG. In many respects they were right, with visibility at the lower levels when parking almost non-existent, making any parking maneuver dicey at best. But worst of all, despite the size of the VH, there was little improvement in leg or head room, leading some to claim the new model was a victim of fashion over function. But we are all guilty of being a victim to fashion at one time or another.
All that extra metal made for a heavier car, the premium being some 45kg over the predecessors. But few who entered the Chrysler showrooms were asking the question as to weight, instead being captivated by the flowing lines and all new interior. The instrument panel and dashboard were completely remolded, the steering
wheel and seats were new and the trim featured new patterns, and for the first time in a Valiant pre-moulded carpet was fitted.
Four Different Hemi's
Under the bonnet came the choice of 4 different Hemi’s, the two new iterations being the 4.3 litre 265ci two barrel version producing 152kW (203 bhp) and a high performance version of the same engine for the Pacer, this tweaked version producing 162kW (218 bhp). The standard 4 litre 245 along with the 3.53 litre 215 (that had replaced the endearing Slant Six) were carried over, as was the 5.2 litre 318 Fireball V8, the latter being made available as an option on Regal models.
Despite protagonists complaining (quite rightly) about the “H” layout of the floor mounted 3 speed manual gearbox in the previous two model Valiant’s, it would again be carried over to the VH. Why Chrysler stuck with this layout, which still came without a much needed reverse gear lockout, remains a mystery. Thankfully though the dual braking system introduced with the VE was included on all VH models with front disc brakes
standard on almost all Valiant’s, the only exception being the low compression 215 engined “fleet specials”, these only making up some 3% of total Valiant production.
Other new features introduced with the VH included a floor mounted handbrake lever on the right hand side of the driver’s seat, a steering
column lock (designed to meet upcoming Australian design rules set for 1972), while the suspension
was completely remodeled and tuned, as Chrysler put it, to the “power and aerodynamic
qualities of the cars”. The system still used front torsion bars and semi-elliptic rear springs, but at least anti-roll bars
were fitted to the Pacer, Regal 770 and all station wagon models. The tyre
size increased to 140mm (replacing the previously used 127mm versions), and the fuel tank capacity was increased by 20 litres to a whopping 89 litres.
All models featured better soundproofing, and along with the new body styles came new monikers, the medium-line Valiant being called the “Ranger” and the better equipped versions called the “Ranger XL”. The Rangers were identified by a grille featuring horizontal aluminium bars, rectangular headlights and the all-important centrally-placed Ranger ornament. The base Ranger model came standard with the 215 Hemi, while the 245 was available as an option.
The Ranger XL was designed to fill the gap between the low end Valiant’s and the more up-market models. Apart from featuring the XL badge work, there were individual wheel trim rings under the hubcaps and mouldings framing the door windows. White side-wall tyres
and chrome frames around the tail lights completed the package nicely. Inside the XL featured a more plush trim, retractable front seat belts, courtesy light switch gear to all doors and an illuminated boot. Engine choices consisted of the 245 or 265 Hemi engines
, and power assisted front disc brakes were available as an option. The VH wagon was some 152mm longer again than the sedan iterations, making it the mammoth of the range, and the road.
An Insatiable Appetite For Cargo, The VH Wagon
A seemingly insatiable appetite for cargo, the wagon could swallow more than any other car on Australian roads (excluding commercial vehicles of course), making it unquestionably the King of the Wagons. It incorporated an integral air deflector mounted over the rear window designed to keep it clear from dirt and road grime, a popular standard feature carried over from previous models. Also carried over was the electrically powered tailgate window, operated by a tailgate lock key or a switch on the instrument panel.
At the performance end came the Pacer, described by Chrysler as “one of the most strikingly beautiful cars of sporting type available anywhere”. They were right of course, it looked and was about as hot any six cylinder car could be, and fitted with the new 265 Hemi
it demanded respect. The new engine was coupled to a heavy duty clutch, gearbox and differential, while different gear ratios to those used in the standard Valiant’s helped ensure the Pacer remained at the head of the pack when exiting the traffic lights. Just ask any Holden V8 owner of the day, they quickly learning the meaning of “Eat My Dust”.
The Pacer featured a special grille of red bars in a black surround, while a wide black stripe ran from midway on the front door to the rear end of the car, where it blended with the black paint treatment of the rear deck and quarter panels. Naturally a “265 Hemi
Engine” identification badge was fitted to each of the rear quarter panels. Inside the Pacer was fitted with high-backed bucket seats incorporating headrests, and the instrument cluster was finished in dark blue featuring a tachometer
among the other rounded dials. A new gearshift knob design adorned the Pacer’s three-speed manual floor control. The styled-steel wheels were shod with 165mm 185 SR radial ply tyres
At launch the VH Regal was the luxury model of the range, while the Regal 770 had a more sporting leaning. The Regal came standard with an automatic transmission
, other standard features including a plusher interior, reclining front bucket seats with high backs incorporating headrests, armrests both front and rear, a glove-box courtesy light, ashtray courtesy light, under dash courtesy lights to both driver and passenger foot-well compartments, and an electric clock. Externally the Regal featured an engine bonnet ornament, sill mouldings beneath the doors, a wide appliqué-panel beneath the doors, a wide appliqué-panel linking the tail-lights and a distinctive paint treatment on its hubcaps. The Regal emblem also appeared on the roof pillar behind the rear door. The Regal came standard with the Hemi
245, although the 265 could be optioned, along with Chrysler’s 318 V8.
The Regal 770
The Regal 770 was distinguished by a set of quartz-halogen driving lights mounted between the headlights, along with overriders on the rear bumper and special 165mm steel belted radial tyres. Inside the upholstery was finished in a unique basket-weave pattern. The sensational 265 Hemi
came as standard, and of course the 318 V8 could be optioned. To provide better road-holding a front anti-roll bar
was fitted. When it came time to put your hand in the wallet, you would need $2895 to drive away in the base 215 VH Ranger, and $2985 for the 245. The 265 two-barrel model was priced at $3235, as was the Pacer. “Airtemp” air-conditioning
was a $400 option. The Regal 770 was $3885, then came the Regal 770 V8 at $4015 and wagon at $4125. There were cheaper six cylinder cars out there, but arguably none as good, and undeniably none so technologically advanced.
And most importantly, Chrysler had managed to keep its price increases very conservative, the price of the base Valiant being kept to a modest 11% premium over the original “R Series” model introduced in 1962. Consider that wages had increased over that time by 57%, steel by 30% and housing by 25% and you can see just how remarkable the minor price hike really was. During the first year of manufacture Chrysler would increase the model lineup to a remarkable fifteen iterations, most important of which was the August release of the now legendary “Charger”, along with the Chrysler limousine in November. In October 1971 came the two door hardtop model, costing only $70 more than the sedan model – and unlike the VG hardtop that had used imported sheet metal rear of the windscreen, the VH panel work was made entirely in Australia at Chrysler’s South Australian stamping plant.
The hardtop was 114mm (4 inches) wider than the VG version, although it was 76mm shorter. Nevertheless, at 4880mm it remained 100mm longer that then VH sedan, it also taking the honors as having the largest capacity boot of any Aussie built car. The Hardtop was available in both Regal and Regal 770 models, both equally sought after models by collectors of today. The VH was great, all Aussie and set a benchmark in style, quality and performance that few could match.
The VH Pacer
Unlike the VG Valiant range
, the Pacer was now only available in 4-door sedan form. Apart from vivid paint colours, optional bonnet blackouts and striping, the new Pacer featured a higher performance version of the 265ci engine, with 218 bhp (163 kW) at 4,800 rpm and 273 lbf⋅ft (370 N⋅m) at 3,000 rpm. The Pacer could run the quarter-mile in 15.9 seconds, get to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 185 km/h. In fact, at its release, the VH Valiant Pacer set the record for being the fastest mass-produced four-door sedan with a six-cylinder engine manufactured in Australia, a record which stood for 17 years. However the Pacer's days as the VH performance model were numbered, because that same year saw the announcement and introduction of what was to become Chrysler Australia's most recognised new car - the VH Valiant Charger
. In total, only 1,647 VH Valiant Pacer sedans were produced.