Understanding the R series Valiant requires taking
a look back in time so that the car can be put into
In the early 1960’s the Australian
motoring landscape was filled predominantly with Holden’s
and British cars, although the all new Ford Falcon
XK was certainly making some inroads.
decide to enter the foray in January 1962 with their
unquestionably superior R Series. The stage was set
for a showdown, the idiom “The Big Three” quickly
entering the vocabulary of most baby boomers.
We simply couldn’t put it any better than Chrysler
themselves, who prepared a press release clearly marked “Not
for Publication before 11am, January 18th, 1962”.
It read…”VALIANT SUITED TO AUSTRALIA – Engineers
road-tested the Valiant over thousands of miles to
ensure it was entirely suited to Australian conditions.
The Valiant passed all tests with flying colors”.
The good news didn’t end there, Chrysler detailing
the performance and economy of the newcomer to Australian
shores, the Valiant boasting a top speed of 94mph,
and able to complete the standing quarter mile in a
little over 19 seconds.
Chrysler engineers did indeed
put the Valiant through some grueling testing before
its release; in a concession to the standard of Australian
roads, the new Valiant was fitted with 14 inch wheels
to allow better ground clearance, and the decision
was taken to only use the bigger 225 cubic inch (3.7
liter) slant six motor, rather than the usual 170 cubic
2.8 liter motor fitted to US Valiants.
The 225ci slant
six produced a healthy 145bhp (108kW), which compared
more than favorably with the Generals 138ci engine
developing a mere 75bhp (55kW), and the Ford Falcon
developing 90bhp (67kW).
by South Australia's Premier Sir Thomas Playford in
January 1962, the Chrysler Valiant R Series (or RV-1)
was assembled in Australia from US parts - and as a
consequence was almost identical in appearance to the
1961 US Valiant. This model would also find its way
to other countries, sometimes sold as a Dodge or Plymouth.
The base model used a three speed manual, although
unlike the competitors with their “three-on-the-tree” configuration,
the gear lever was mounted on the floor, an indication
of just how much more advanced the new Valiant was.
Then there was the ₤136 ($272) optional automatic,
state of the art and push button, it simply blew the
competition away. The gunmetal dash was also way ahead
of its time, other manufacturers taking years to catch
on with the trend.
At ₤1299 ($2598) when new, it was not cheap
when compared to the competition, but Chrysler were
soon to learn that it didn’t need to be, demand
far exceeding supply. Holden’s iteration was
the EK, bulkier and without the beautifully sculpted
and timeless lines of the Valiant, nor anywhere near
the power, Chryslers new model was a winner, and deservedly
The Motoring Press Sing The Valiant R Type's Praises
The motoring press and driving public were soon
singing the cars praises, noting its lively performance,
maneuverability, tractability (thanks largely to the
vast reserves of torque, the slant six being good for
291Nm), stopping power, quality of finish, design,
handling…the list went on and on.
The Valiant wasn’t without some minor faults
however, many lamenting the lack of synchromesh in
first gear, and the 23 miles per gallon fuel consumption
(12.3 liters per 100 km) proved far from being frugal,
the small 10 gallon (48 liter) fuel tank ensuring the
owner was always reminded of the cars like of a drink.
There were also some styling features that proved contentious,
although we would argue that they represented what
was best about styling at that time. Most detractors
likened the fake spare tire mount to a garbage bin
lid, while others though the profile overly “sculptured” and
predicted the car would soon become a panel beaters
night mare. Not many listened – nor they should
Inside the Valiant appeared similar to the competition,
but then to do the car justice you had to look beyond
the fact that all in the big three were fitted with
bench style seats. The gunmetal dash on the valiant
housed far better instrumentation, including speedo,
fuel, temperature and ammeter gauges, and with the
push button automatic transmission option the interior
looked far more futuristic than the competition.
Valiant was also the first of the big three to adopt
the use of an alternator instead of the then usual
generator, smaller and lighter few would have realized
the attention to detail in the R Series. The stage was set,
the new Valiant was in every way a winner. That it
sold out in a matter of days should have come as no