Chrysler VJ Valiant Charger
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
In March 1973 the VH range was superseded by the VJ series. The VJ featured changes to the cowl, grille, lighting and rear quarter feature panel, with notably 7" round headlights replacing the previous rectanglular units. Significantly, this new model range saw the end of the Charger R/T, which pretty much coincided with Chrysler having officially withdrawn from participation in Australian touring car racing at the end of the 1972 season. However, the essential elements of the Six Pack E37 engine option were carried over into the VJ series, now referred to as the E48 engine option.
Option E48 - Street tune "Six Pack" 265ci engine with three two-barrel Weber carburettors and four-speed manual gearbox.
Option E55 - 4bbl 275 bhp 340ci V8 (1.88" valve heads).
Option E57 - 2bbl 255 bhp 360ci V8 (introduced late 1974 to replace E55 option)
VJ Charger 770 (with option E55)
Despite the withdrawal from touring car racing, the Charger range had proved to be one of the most successful marketing moves ever made by Chrysler. The car was a breakaway from the established principle that coupe derivations of four door sedans should be priced into a slightly more exclusive market. Charger models were, in fact, about $100 cheaper than the nearest sedan equivalents (although it was more difficult to find exact equivalents in the VJ range) but they conveyed a sporty image more successfully than the opposition's two-doors.
This came from one of the most daring styling efforts from a local manufacturer. The car was physically 13 inches shorter than the Valiant VJ sedan, and ran on a wheelbase 6 inches shorter – making it look more aggressive from the get-go. The dramatic tail treatment with its Kamm-type built in spoiler did the rest. And for the VJ model there was a special grille identification too. Chryslers 1973 model trimming initiative reduced the Charger range to only 3 models, the base 215 engined car (which was trimmed to Ranger standards), the "XL" and the "770".
On the XL you could option the 265 2BBL engine, a four-speed manual transmission, ER70 H14 Dunlop Aquajet tyres, radio, air-conditioning and two of Chrysler's then new "packages" - one for “convenience" and one for "protection”. The former comprised a vinyl-rimmed steering wheel, glove-box lock and remote control exterior rear-vision mirror, while the latter included vinyl side stripes and rear bumper over-riders. The fixed bucket seats in the base car were OK, but the plusher recliners standard on the XL were a vast improvement. The recliners had all the special shaping that made the VH units so outstandingly comfortable. The seat cushioning was made softer in the VJ range too.
The VJ Chargers interior was otherwise pretty much as it was on the VH model, except that the instrument panel was been re-designed to give a more "open" look. Gauges had white lettering over a black background and were easier to read in all situations, although the mph calibrations were a little too difficult to read at night. The main difficulty introduced with the Charger's 105" wheelbase was the shortage of overall legroom. The front seats didn't really favour those with long legs, while the rear offered only a reasonable amount of stretching space. Fortunately, the XLs recliners allowed you to find a reasonably good driving positions.
Ergonomically the Charger measured up pretty well, except that the wiper/washer controls were very close to the radio – so which often meant you had to take your eyes off the road it you wanted to avoid changing radio stations instead of turning on/off the wipers. The brake height was reduced in the VJ, which allowed a much easier foot transfer than the previous model, but the clutch pedal alignment on the manual cars left very little space for resting the left foot.
One area where the four speeder excelled was in the balanced feel of all transmission controls. Clutch, accelerator and gearshift were all set up to encourage smooth driving and there was never any reluctance to shift to a lower gear when necessary. The shift action was very light for an engine transmission combination of this size - and it was certainly more positive than anything offered by the Ford or Holden opposition. The 265 two-barrel engine was, at the time, regarded by most who drove one to be one of the best sixes around – and we are talking BMW-6 good.
It offered a tremendous degree of low-speed flexibility with a high-revving capability which left the other local sixes gasping in the distance. It went about its job with a certain harshness and noisiness which added too - rather than detracted from - its character. At high rpm it developed a very efficient-sounding crackle and kept pouring the power on right through to maximum. The gearbox ratios were well-chosen, giving 40, 60 and 85 mph in the intermediates. The VJ Charger would run standing quarters comfortably below the 17 second mark.
Braking performance of the Charger in normal conditions was good. The brakes worked efficiently and little pedal effort was required. But when an all-anchors out stop is called for, the brakes tended to lock rather dramatically. In a time long before ABS, it seemed that the last few ounces of pedal pressure required for a "panic" stop couldn’t be controlled. You could improve this with a lot of practice, but then we doubt you would have been able to remember this when faced with a real panic situation. And in any case, who had the time or inclination to spend a day burning rubber trying to master the emergency brake technique. Needless to say, if you have a Charger these days, allow a little extra braking distance.
The handling of the VJ Charger was good to very-good, especially at normal cruising speeds. Pushed hard around tight corners, the standard and XL Chargers would tend to "kneel" at the front. This was probably because Chrysler did not fit an anti-sway bar. Thankfully it was standard kit on the Charger 770, Chrysler, and all station wagon models. It was also an option on all other Valiant and Charger models, and we would think it represented good value. The kneeling effect on Chargers not fitted with the anti-sway bar did not accentuate the car's understeering characteristics and lifting off in mid-corner did not produce sudden over-steer. The tail would come out quite progressively and controllably. No doubt the big tyres on the standard rims helped.
Ride comfort on good bitumen was definitely in the "better" class. But, as soon as you get on rough stuff, it was a different story. The ride became harsh and the Charger would bang and crash its way along. Overall wind-noise was slight, unlike other two-door coupes from the era, adding to the general driver and passenger comfort. The differences between the VH and VJ Charger were not great – but there were noticeable improvements. But for Charger aficionados that did not want the character of the car to change – it was all good news. The overall concept of the Charger did not change. It was still a brilliant car. Thankfully Chrysler did not choose to make the car look longer and wider. In fact, the company chose to take the opposite path and from the front the 1973 Charger looked slightly narrower. And regardless of which model you decided on, it remained very good value.
The Chrysler VJ Valiant Charger 770 (featuring option E55)
When specified with the E55 340ci V8 engine option, such VJ-series cars were no longer tagged as a special edition Charger 770 "SE". This meant that a variety of colour and trim combinations were featured in E55 optioned VJ Chargers such that the only external distinguishing features were the "340 4BBL" badges on the front guards. Most, but not all, of the VJ-series E55 option cars also featured the W35 option seven inch wide alloy wheels
that were a signature item for all prior E38, E49 and E55 option VH-series Chargers.
There was an improvement to the motor in this model, as opposed to the previous VH-series. The introduction of electronic-ignition" replaced the use of points ignition. This greatly improved the car for normal use making cold starts easier, and no longer requiring the ignition to be tuned every 10,000 km or so. The Carter Thermoquad was used in this series as well, however not from the start, or at least not all the cars left the factory with one. Some still had the previous models AVS carburettor. When the carburettor change was implemented is unknown, with some examples having the Thermoquad and later builds still keeping the AVS. There is considered to be an improvement to engine performance as the flow in the carburettor was increased from 625cfm to 800cfm for the Thermoquad.
During this option's life, there were other engine variations, such as the motors receivng changes to the cylinder heads
. According to the service manuals, early VJ models maintained heads with 2.02" inlet valves
, whereas later heads had a decrease in inlet valve size which saw a reduction to 1.88", again, when this was implemented is not truly known and some early build cars have the smaller valves
whereas some later builds have the larger valves
. It seems that most E55 versions of the VJ Charger were manufactured during the latter half of 1973
. When remaining stocks of the 340ci V8 depleted, Chrysler ceased manufacturing cars with option E55 and in late 1974 extended availability of the lazy 360ci V8 (from the prestige Chrysler by Chrysler sedan) to the Charger 770 by way of option E57.
VJ Charger Sportsman (option A23)
In August 1974, a limited edition Charger Sportsman was released, based upon the Charger XL. Built to a quantity of 500 units, all Sportsman cars were painted an exclusive combination of Vintage Red and white, with a combination black and white interior featuring specific cloth trim. These cars were powered by the standard 265ci engine and four speed manual transmission.