A new star rose on the Australian motoring scene in 1971
, with the arrival in the VH Valiant range of the short wheelbase, fastback Charger.
Chrysler's TV campaign featured the young adults at whom it was targeted, waving at one as it swept by them and shouting "Hey, Charger!" - one of the more memorable TV ads of the time, it created a cliché that haunts today's owners... Charger won Wheels magazine's Car of the Year award for 1971
and was widely acclaimed by others of the motoring press, as well as the public.
Australian Motoring News described it as "...the most handsome car Chrysler has ever produced, and probably the best looking car ever produced by an Australian manufacturer". This style-setting 70s icon came in four model guises - standard, XL, 770, or the all muscle R/T. The first of the serious track pack R/T Chargers was the E38.
Despite being hampered by a three speed gearbox, it still drew comments from "Wheels" magazine like, "we achieved a time of 14.8 seconds for the quarter mile - on smoother surfaces the Charger galloped away so easily that a best of 14.5 seconds is with in reach".
E38 versions had 280 HP while the E37 and E48 were the street "six-packs". E38 was a race ready Charger with the A84 "TrackPack", which included a 35 gallon fuel tank. The A87 "TrackPack" included all the race track goodies with the exception of the big tank for endurance racing.
Then in 1972
the E38 was superseded by the more powerful and greatly refined 4-speed E-49 Charger. This drew comments from Wheels such as " The raw quivering power is instantaneously on tap and with a ratio for every conceivable situation the Charger just storms through.
It would take a Ferrari Daytona with racing driver Jackie Ickx at the wheel to stay with one". All E-49's came with the "TrackPack", and 21 also had the huge fuel tank in the option list which took up nearly all available boot space. The Mercury Silver example (pictured below) is one of 149 "TrackPack" E49 Chargers made.
R/T chargers are arguably the most Australian-built examples of all Aussie muscle cars, the only foreign sourced component being the exotic Weber carburetors from Italy. A car was actually shipped from Oz to Italy, for development and testing of the triple Webers, where they covered thousands of miles around Italy before deciding on the final specs. The "Sure Grip" diff' was made here but based on a US design. The six cylinder HEMI engines were first designed in the US as a truck engine, but this design was greatly improved upon here in Australia.
The engines were completely Australian, unlike the V8 Cleveland
and Windsor engines used by Ford in its Falcon GT
, or the Chevrolet engines used by Holden in the Monaro GTS
. The VJ Charger was released in 1973
, but the range was reduced to three models; Std, XL or 770 (even though a few six-packs still managed to hit the market). The VJ brought higher equipment levels, round headlights, a new grille and new tail lights. However, the R/T was gone forever. E49 was the ultimate Charger, with only 149 built. Here is a breakdown of how many were made in each color.
The E49 "six-pack" engine came with a baffled sump, tuned length headers, special shot-peened crankshaft, conrods, pistons, rings, cam, valve springs, a twin plate clutch and triple 45mm dual throat Weber carburetors. Chrysler quoted this engine as producing 302 HP which, in a 1372 KG (3000 pound) car, made for rapid acceleration. Road tests of the era recorded quarter mile times of between 14.1 and 14.5 seconds. 0-100 mph (160 km/h) in 14.1 seconds was the norm. This compares to times of between 15.2 and 15.6 for the next quickest accelerating Australian muscle car, the mighty XY GTHO Falcon
The 770 Charger became a bit more luxurious in the VJ range and was the choice pick, especially the E55 option which gave you the famous 340 V8 (though even this had been watered down when compared to the VH model). Charger followed the normal course of slight exterior and interior changes that came as the model series progressed through to CM, but with the demise of the R/T the car had lost most of its appeal and sales suffered as a result. As is often the case when a manufacturer builds a car that breaks the mould, Valiant Chargers today are highly prized by collectors - none more so than the awesome E49.