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.
The major 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.
Advertising 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
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
with their own very individual motor car.
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
wheel 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
;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
option, 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
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
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 extras fitted.
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.