The Valiant proved to be a welcome American invasion…
Such was the pace of styling changes in the 1960s and ‘70s that one of pre-democracy South Africa’s favourite cars, the Chrysler Valiant, can be split into several re-styles over just a few years. In this feature, we’re looking at the models that were on sale from 1970 to 1977. At CAR, we tested a total of 27 models of the Valiant.
Even more confusing than today’s multiple model ranges, there were two versions of the Valiant from 1968 to ‘72. The smaller car was the Rebel/Regal, while the VIP used the slightly larger body from the Dodge Dart. The VIP name was borrowed from the Plymouth Fury, an American model. Clear? Then, from 1973 to ‘77, the styling went from sharp edges to curves, and the vehicle was dubbed the Fastbody.
Back to that smaller car. The names changed from V-100 and V-200 to Rebel and Regal. In keeping with the modern style of the time, instrumentation was converted from circular dials to rectangular but then reverted to circular in the 1973 models. The headlamps received the same treatment; from circular to rectangular for two years before changing back.
Boot space was a capacious 25 cubic feet, or 707 litres. The (now rare) station wagon had a utility space of 1 934 litres with a floor length of 2 130 mm when the rear seat was folded.
The VIP sported unique styling with features such as power steering, armrests, vinyl roof, electric windscreen washers, reversing lamps, front wing indicators and optional air-conditioning. The introduction of power-assisted front-disc braking replaced the drums in 1969. To accommodate these, wheel sizes increased from 13 to 14 inches. Power steering was largely optional, reducing the steering wheel turns from 4,6 to 3,6 lock to lock.
While the styling kept morphing, the mechanicals were unaltered save for power output tweaks. The highest output of the 3,7-litre straight-six was found under the “hood” of the Charger: 121 kW using a dual-barrel Holley carburettor.
Which one to get
If you can find a Charger 190 Coupé, you’ll be fortunate. We tested one in January 1973 but sales lasted from 1970 to ‘75. All models are now increasing in value.
What to watch out for
As mentioned, powertrains are very reliable for the time. Spare parts might be an issue but there were so many sold that locally sourced second-hand spares should be available with some searching.
Availability and prices
There are always a few Valiants available, so look around for your preferred body style. Many may have been neglected in the last few decades so it could take time to find a respectable car. The last sedan we tested in 1974 was a (rare) three-speed manual Rebel VJ. The price tag was R3 695. After this, sales of the Rustler bakkie continued until 1976.
The Safari (station wagon) is also rare and our last test was in July 1974. It would be an interesting find since it used the Charger Power 190 engine with a higher compression ratio and 114 kW.
As we relayed in a 1965 road test, the devaluation of the sterling after the Second World War made British cars cheaper and North American much too expensive. Chrysler dropped its prices by over 10% to retain competitiveness with other six-cylinder makes. It worked and sales of the Valiant rose. In the first five years of the ‘60s, its position in the sales chart jumped from 19th to 15th and then fourth. In 1966, it hit the top and was only toppled in ‘69 by the VW Beetle. In 1974, the Valiant was still in seventh spot.
At first manufactured in the Atkinson/Oates plant in Cape Town, thanks to the popularity of the models, production was shifted to a Silverton, Pretoria, factory. This facility is still owned and used by Ford.
Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, used Valiants were highly sought after by taxi drivers who knew the value of the two bench seats, as well as its strength and reliability.