WAGON WAR!

THEY GENERALLY STARTED LIFE AS FAMILY CARS THEN GOT WORKED TO DEATH AS CHEAP TRANSPORT. NOW THE GOOD OLD FAMILY WAGON IS BACK AS A MUCH-LOVED COLLECTIBLE.

WORDS GUY ALLEN CLIFF CHAMBERS PHOTOS NATHAN JACOBS COVENTRY STUDIOS

FAMILY CLASSIC WAGONS

THEY GENERALLY STARTED LIFE AS FAMILY CARS THEN GOT WORKED TO DEATH AS CHEAP TRANSPORT. NOW THE GOOD OLD FAMILY WAGON IS BACK AS A MUCH-LOVED COLLECTIBLE.

KINGSWOOD Holden

HOLDEN’S HZ KINGSWOOD SL MAY HAVE BEEN THE LAST OF THE LINE BUT IT WAS ALSO THE BEST.

Holden famously considered continuing the full-size Kingswood line past the HZ and we can only wonder what we would have ended up with. Though the Commodore proved to be a worthy car in its own right, the big brothers that started life in 1971 as the HQ series had really developed into a well-sorted car. It seemed such a shame to cut them off in their prime.

Holden famously sold over 485,000 HQs, eventually replacing it in 1974 with the HJ range. Styling changes front and rear distinguished the car, which in turn was replaced with the HX in 1976. Unfortunately the latter were most notable for falling victim to new emission rules where power and efficiency dropped – probably not the intention of those who drafted the regulations.

Of more concern though was the deliberate ‘tuning’ of the series’ handling to severe understeer. That, combined with low-tech chassis components led to some fairly undesirable characteristics out of the showroom. As our own Cliff Chambers once described it, “Few people today will experience the true horror of an HQ-HX Holden on showroom stock springs and rubber. Virtually every surviving car will be running on radial tyres, and a lot will have larger wheels and improved shock absorbers.” Indeed.

Where the HZ series distinguished itself was by having what the factory proudly dubbed Radial Tuned Suspension. Badges proclaiming this feature were fitted inside and outside the car, just so you couldn’t miss it.

Essentially Holden re-engineered the chassis. As auto historian and UC contributor Dr John Wright describes it, then Holden chief engineer Joe Whitesell in May 1976 invited

Peter Hannenberger, Opel’s chassis whiz, to come to Australia as his assistant. Hannenberger’s brief was to redesign every suspension system fitted to a Holden. An acronym tells the story: RTS. The first Holden with Radial Tuned Suspension was the Sunbird, which went on sale just eight months after Hannenberger started. The HZ range arrived October 1977.

The difference was astounding. Here you now had a big car that went pretty much where you pointed it and maintained a comparatively flat attitude. It was no sports car, but was a far more reassuring experience on winding roads.

What really distinguishes the series is what it was also often criticised for – that the overall package was pretty basic.

Compared to some of the more sophisticated European offerings of the day, that’s true. However what was then seen as primitive is now regarded as a virtue. These are simple and relatively inexpensive cars to maintain, with the usual proviso that you find one with a reasonably rust-free body.

Your engine choices were the 202 six, plus the 253 and 308 V8s. Trimatic autos were often the transmission of choice for families on everything bar the 308, which scored the robust Turbo Hydramatic 400. Three-speed and four-speed manuals were also on offer.

The car you see here is owned by Greg Armstrong and is a 1978 Kingswood SL in very close to stock trim. Its roof rack and rear window foil are period pieces, while the Premier hubcaps provide a little glam factor.

“THE DIFFERENCE WAS ASTOUNDING. YOU NOW HAD A BIG CAR THAT WENT WHERE YOU POINTED IT”

VALUE RANGE HOLDEN HZ WAGON

FAIR $5000 GOOD $16,000 EXCELLENT $27,500 (Note: concours cars will demand more)

WAGON MARKET GUIDE

WITH MORE than 150,000 HZs made there should still be a decent amount of choice in the market. For some models that remains true but finding a really good station wagon is becoming a challenge.

Pick of the bunch is going to be a V8-powered Premier but they are now thin on the ground and more expensive.

With the values of highperformance Holdens rising as well, anyone with a V8 of any kind is likely to be holding on or at least holding out for more money.

Prices for usable cars needing work begin below $5000 but anything worthwhile will be priced around $15,000. Jumping to the upper reaches of the range, good V8 Premier wagons start appearing when the money on offer hits $20,000. However, anyone serious about snaring an excellent 5.0-litre is likely to be investing the thick end of $30,000.

HZs during the 1980s-90s were cheap and often altered to some extent.

Dropping a V8 motor into a 3.3-litre car was a quick and cheap way to boost performance, so be wary these being presented as genuine V8s.

If concerned, have a vehicle ID check done.

Under the paint, there’s a 253 (4.2lt) V8 with Trimatic transmission. This was a very desirable combination back in the day – not spectacularly quick, but excellent cruising ability.

For Greg, there’s a strong family connection to this model.

“My dad bought one from brand new and I remember driving around in it as a kid – so I’ve always had a soft spot for the wagons. I can definitely remember, I was five years old and riding around in the back of it. Unfortunately Dad sold it, but that’s just the way it is.

“A couple of years ago I made the decision to get one and had a look around. I found it up in Newcastle – had been looking around for a few months and came across this one. I made an offer over the phone and went up a few weeks later. I flew up with Mum and drove it home. She was over the moon – it was a bit of a trip down memory lane.

“I haven’t had to do much to it. Replaced the exhaust system on it, otherwise it was good to go. It had 98,000km when I bought it, and I’ve got a lot of the paperwork to prove it. It’s a bit of a gem.

“I’m not afraid to use it: driven not hidden, that’s what I believe. I try to keep it out of the rain, but otherwise it gets out. I do a bit of surfing, so I’ll often load it up and take it down to the beach, or for a cruise down the coast.

“It’s beautiful to drive, nice and smooth, like a big boat, that’s how they were. Dad had a drive of it and he says it’s almost like it’s brand new.”

“IT’S BEAUTIFUL TO DRIVE, NICE AND SMOOTH, LIKE A BIG BOAT, THAT’S HOW THEY WERE”

S M A R T B U Y E R ' S T R O U B L E S H O OT I N G

1977 - 1980 HZ KINGSWOOD/PREMIER

BODY & CHASSIS

With the earliest HZs now eyeballing their 40th birthdays, a bit of body deterioration is inevitable, even in cars that have been scrupulously maintained. If a car looks well-kept and there are no obvious bumps and bubbles, start a close inspection around window apertures, the lower section of the tailgate and base of the door shells, Blocked drain holes can rot the door structure while the outer skin still seems fine. Makes sure that the wind-down tailgate window does so without needing excessive force and the glass isn’t scratched.

Depending who you ask, replacement HZ bumpers will cost from $350-600 each but renewing just the rubber inserts will lighten the wallet by $100 per bumper.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Locally-made Holden V8s are under-stressed and durable. These engines can stand modification and serious improvements to output without significant risk of component failure. A Holden V8 needing work will be suffering oil leaks around the cylinder heads, timing cover and rear main bearing seal. Aftermarket extractors help performance and economy but make sure a previous owner hasn’t fitted a massive four-barrel carb that is pouring money down the exhaust pipe. Tri-Matic is the most common transmission option, especially where the HZ you’re considering has a V8. These cars were rarely seen with a factory fourspeed transmission and converting from an auto isn’t always successful. If offered a manual HZ, check its authenticity.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

The vast majority of HZs felt the benefit of Holden’s move to ‘Radial Tuned Suspension’ and even the bulky wagons can be set up to corner entertainingly. The mistake some people make is fitting lowered springs, unyielding bushes and low-profile rubber then wondering where the ride quality went. Sagging front springs are common and easily fixed.

Investing $400 in a full kit of bushes, ball joints and tie-rod ends will also make an amazing difference to how the car steers and corners.

Examine the brake rotors for score marks and press the pedal lightly when slowing the car to check for warped discs. New ones cost $60-350 each and master cylinders around $300.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Good quality trim used in these Holdens ensured that original seats, consoles, dash and door trims can still be found intact.

A car with huge dash cracks, torn or collapsed seats has likely endured a hard life. Check that bench seats haven’t twisted on their runners and won’t move.

Replacements for peeling mock timber dash panels need to be found second-hand but authentic carpet sets are available.

Air-conditioners if you have one need to have been converted to R134a refrigerant. If this hasn’t been done or the system isn’t working, allow up to $1500 for repairs.

NUMBER MADE: 154,155 (all HZ) BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis four door station wagon ENGINE: 3310cc in-line six cylinder, 4142cc & 5048cc V8 with overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor POWER & TORQUE: 120kW @ 4500rpm 325Nm @ 2600rpm (4.2 V8) PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 12.9 seconds, 0-400 metres 19.8 seconds (4.2 V8 auto) TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with coil springs, locating links, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (r) BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted TYRES: ER87SR14 radial

WAGONAIRE Studebaker

STUDEBAKER MAY HAVE A BEEN AN AUTOMOTIVE MINNOW BUT THE WAGONAIRE PROVED IT COULD STILL COME UP WITH BIG IDEAS.

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that we said ‘Aussie-built’ wagons on the cover. How in hell does a Studebaker fit in? Well, this car and many other models from the same maker were assembled here under the auspices of the Canada Cycle and Motor Company from 1960 through to early 1966 when Studebaker went out of business. That assembly happened in the Melbourne suburb of West Heidelberg, where cars were screwed together from CKD (completely knock down) kits. At the time, having some local manufacturing content was encouraged by federal tariff barriers.

Based on the Lark platform, the Wagonaire was the brainchild of designer Brooks Stevens, who was given the task of finding way to expand the firm’s limited range without spending too much money. Stevens, who is also credited with ‘inventing’ the Jeep Wagoneer, got the flash of genius to rejig the Lark from the waistline up to include a sliding roof over the luggage area.

That one change effectively meant you could turn the wagon into a ute in a matter of seconds. Genius. The sliding panel is metal and manually operated in most cases, though there was an electric option available. Apparently the sealing and drain channels struggle in heavy rain, which can result in the occupants copping a bit of a spray – literally!

Studebaker’s mechanical platform was pretty straightforward. The Indiana company had two in-house V8s for this

range: a 259 and 289ci. Both had a good reputation for reliability and the 259 seems to be the more common powerplant in Australian cars. The ultra-keen American buyer could order a high-performance version, with the supercharged engine out of the Avanti and a four-speed floor-shift manual.

Later cars, built from the start of 1965, ran Chevrolet straight sixes or V8s.

Owner Richard Salter agrees these things are a rare beast. He estimates there are only about 20 in the country, with maybe 12 in running condition. This car was originally sold in NSW by York Motors and was bought from a fleet owned by the family of former Studebaker dealer and Bathurst class-winner Bert Needham.

Studebaker was active in racing here, in the USA and Canada (where they were also built) for many years, right through to the end. It was seen as a way of building up the brand image, even when funds were scarce.

Here the marque still enjoys a very active national club, which you’ll come across at a lot of classic car events.

“I like wagons for some reason, don’t really know,” says Richard, “This one particularly caught my eye because of the sliding roof – very unique. I think the marketing people from Studebaker back in the sixties thought it would be great for the family because of extra storage, carting tall things, plenty of room for the kids, the surfboards,

“THAT ONE CHANGE MEANT YOU COULD TURN THE WAGON INTO A UTE IN A MATTER OF SECONDS”

VALUE RANGE 1963-66 DAYTONA

FAIR $8500 GOOD $23,500 EXCELLENT $37,000 (Note: concours cars will demand more)

WAGON MARKET GUIDE

IF YOU’VE stared at the pictures of our featured Daytona and been smitten with the idea of owning one, then local Studebaker clubs will be the best place to start. Australian cars most likely came from Studebaker’s Canadian factory (which produced all Studebakers after 1963) but reliable production figures are hard to source. We can say with some certainty that just 618 Wagonaires were made in 1966 - Studebaker’s final year as a manufacturer.

If nothing is immediately available locally, your next stop may well be somewhere in the USA. There are some lovely cars featured on Studebaker web-sites but owners seemingly aren’t anxious to sell them.

Wagonaires rarely appear in auction catalogues or on specialist car-lots so cruising the internet or haunting car shows is the best way to snare one. North American values are reasonable; good cars when they are offered costing US$12- 15,000.

The truly fortunate might stumble across one of the incredibly rare R2 Wagonaires with the same supercharged V8 used in Studebaker’s sporty Avanti.

that sort of stuff.

“This particular Daytona Wagonaire has a 4.3 litre, a small V8 – the other V8 that Studebaker manufactured was a 289.

This is just a standard three-speed auto column-shift, it also came with a manual three-on-the-column with an overdrive, and a bit later on some of them came with a factory floor shift – four on the floor.

“When I got this car it looked a hell of a lot worse than it actually was. There was a lot of surface rust, I rubbed it back to bare metal by hand. There wasn’t too much to do after that – a little bit of rust to cut out.

“After I did the grunt work I got a professional painter to finish it off. The original colour was a boring grey and I agonised for hours over what to paint it. These are period colours but were never in this combination in this car.

“It’s a factory interior, in fact the seats and dashboard are all original – just tidied up a bit – and the carpets have been redone. The door cards and upholstery are all factory original.

“It’s not quite concours – there’d be a fair bit of work to get it up to that standard, but that doesn’t really interest me because I just love driving it around. I drive it as often as I can.”

“IT’S NOT QUITE CONCOURS BUT THAT REALLY DOESN’T INTEREST ME”

S M A R T B U Y E R ' S T R O U B L E S H O OT I N G

1963 - 1966 STUDEBAKER WAGONAIRE

BODY & CHASSIS

Hands up all who are surprised to learn that replacement body panels for Stude wagons aren’t hard to find. Me too, however one large supplier in the USA is offering virtually every piece of sheet metal a restorer could want. The stuff isn’t cheap and checking fastidiously is still the cheapest and best way to ensure you get a car with minimal rust. New floor sections are available at US$450-600 per set while the complete rear floor section for wagons is currently under $1000. Lower tailgate skins cost $350 with freight extra. You can even buy a new electric lift assembly for the tailgate window. Before falling in love with a Wagonaire, check that nifty sliding roof panel.

If it has been welded shut or the vendor doesn’t want it opened, assume there is a major and costly problem being concealed.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Studebaker built its own engines and they were durable but, unless supercharged, not especially powerful.

The 289 cubic inch unit is almost identical in displacement to a 4.7-litre Ford but without the wealth of performance parts available for that motor. Oil leaks, fuel leaks and good old wear and tear are the main issues affecting Studebaker engines.

Thumps from deep inside the engine or rattling from the top end denote a motor ready for a rebuild which could add $3000-6000 to your purchase cost. Some parts are available from local suppliers but the array in the USA is immense. Manual transmission cars were available with overdrive and that, providing it works, is a big bonus.

Most will be automatic; 1965-66 cars with Chevrolet-supplied 283 cubic inch engines.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Pretty much everything you need to rebuild a creaking Studebaker front end is available, including power steering gear.

Not cheap though; for a rebuilt power steering pump, ram and control valve expect to pay A$1500 exchange. Pairs of front coils are available at US$205 but new heavy-duty rear spring sets made specifically for the wagon cost US$595. Studebakers of this age will normally have all-drum brakes with a power booster.

They can be touchy at first application but lose efficiency very quickly. V8 Lark sedans routinely led Bathurst 500 races during the 1960s until the brakes gave out. New parts are still available and disc brake conversion is viable.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Searching local sources for new items of Studebaker trim proved a fruitless exercise. Except for the usual array of ill-fitting moulded carpet sets, items that a buyer might need to refurbish the interior of a Daytona were thin on the ground.

Checking again the US spares market turned up practically anything needed, however some prices will encourage buyers to bargain hard when buying a Stude with sub-par trim.

When inspecting, ask to see the rear seat folded, wind down all the windows – including the tail-gate – listening for crunching noises from a binding, perhaps damaged mechanism.

NUMBER MADE: N/A BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis four door wagon ENGINE: 4248cc & 4736cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor POWER & TORQUE: 144kW @ 4500rpm, 358Nm @ 3000rpm (4.2-litre 4bbl) PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 12secs (est), 0-400 metres 19secs (est) TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, wishbones and telescopic shock absorbers (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r) BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) power assisted TYRES: 6.00 x 14 cross ply

FAIRMONT Fo d

FORD’S XY SERIES HAS BECOME A MARKET FAVOURITE OVER TIME AND IT’S A SHAPE THAT SURVIVES THE WAGON TREATMENT PRETTY WELL.

Ford’s XY series is one of those weird phenomena that people struggle to describe – it is, for many, the most handsome car Ford ever built in this country. A big statement? Yup.

But prove me wrong.

The thing is, the cruel observer might note that, really, you’d have to be a train-spotter of the first order to notice the difference between anything from XR through to XY. An unkind type might even use the description ‘boxy’. Call it what you like, it’s the numbers that tell the story.

This is the series to have, with GT prices firmly established in six-figure territory and anything solid hitting new car prices.

To be fair, the XY was in fact more than just a cosmetic upgrade from the XW predecessor. Sure it had a new grille, indicators, tail lamps and trim, but it was the under-skin changes which distinguished it. Ford knew Holden’s HQ series was on the way and had to be ready to combat it.

Most significant was the release of the new 4.1 litre straight six engine, which went on to power a variety of Fords (including Falcon, Fairlane and Cortina) for a couple of decades. Though no firebreather, the initial 116kW and eventual 127kW in 2V form was enough to deliver very solid performance.

Typically for the time, what you ended up with was hugely influenced by how you and the salesperson manipulated the order form in the dealership. The choices were huge. Few went for the flamboyant GTs, but a more humble Fairmont (which is the

model you see here) could be optioned up into something with real teeth. Two V8s were on offer – the 302 and 351 – which automatically saw the brakes upgraded to discs at the front. Then you could opt for four-speed manual or three-speed auto, a limited slip diff, plus a variety of dress-up options, including the sporty GS pack.

Additional instruments, centre console, stripes, chromed wheel covers and even dual exhausts were all available off the showroom floor. You could, for all intents and purposes, effectively order a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a GT in Fairmont livery that copped a much lower insurance premium than the race-inspired stablemate.

Performance is more than adequate, even if it’s somewhat restrained by modern standards. There is plenty of tuning knowledge out there for any of the engine packages. Though handling was regarded as acceptable in the day, it’s not a highlight when judged by modern standards. Power steering is a big advantage in these things, given the manual option had a giant 5.4 turns lock to lock, though the feel is dead. That said, those in the know say a fresh set of bushes and a decent wheel-tyre package does a lot to smarten them up. The same could be said for any car of the era.

The car you see here is a 1971 Fairmont with 302 V8, auto, power steering and factory air fitted under the dash.

The five-slotter wheels are a good period fit and allow a

“YOU COULD ORDER A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING XY GT IN FAIRMONT LIVERY”

VALUE RANGE XY WAGON (302 Fairmont)

FAIR $9500 GOOD $22,000 EXCELLENT $34,000 (Note: concours cars will demand more)

WAGON MARKET GUIDE

BEING RELATED to the GTHO Phase 3 guarantees any XY Falcon a good measure of collector interest.

Recent months have seen that interest becoming more intense, especially for the practical and comparatively affordable station wagon.

Wagons with a factory V8 engine, in decent condition and priced sensibly are going to sell quickly though and without much haggling.

Prices during the last 12 months have climbed significantly and finding a decent 351 manual wagon in GT ‘warpaint’ being sold at auction for $26,000 – as one did during 2016 – is unlikely.

Modified XYs, especially when fitted with extras like the desirable GS Pack, Globe alloy or steel ‘12 slot’ wheels, add a bit to value but the real ‘finds’ are factory stock Fairmont V8 wagons.

Among the leastexpensive eight-cylinder Fairmonts is the three-speed auto 302. $15,000 should buy a car needing some paint and trim work but for a top-class 302 or 351 automatic Fairmont, the outlay can easily double.

little extra rubber on the road.

Owner Stuart Beard has catholic tastes when it comes to cars: he’s had XC and XD Fords in the past, plus an RX4 Mazda and has another wagon – an EJ Holden – awaiting restoration. He can see himself with a Valiant Safari some day, too.

So, what’s the attraction with a wagon? “I just wanted something a bit different. A mate of mine had it for eight or nine years and I always said to let me know if he decided to sell it.

“It cruises along very nicely. A bit sluggish compared to a car of today, but it’s a beautiful cruiser.”

What’s his advice if you’re looking for a wagon of your own? “Rust is always something to look out for. Tailgates in those things go. That one has already had a skin on it and it’s hard to find a decent tailgate. With the price of a respray and getting your rust cut out, you can say good bye to 25 grand.”

Stuart has kept the mods minimal. His example has been lowered just a touch, while the engine is running an Edelbrock manifold and four-barrel carburettor. He’s added GS striping since the photos were taken. Longer-term, he can see the engine getting a freshen-up, but that’s about it.

One thing is for sure, the Fairmont is a keeper.

“IT CRUISES ALONG VERY NICELY. A BIT SLUGGISH COMPARED TO A CAR OF TODAY, BUT IT’S A BEAUTIFUL CRUISER”

S M A R T B U Y E R ' S T R O U B L E S H O OT I N G

1970 - 1972 XY FALCON/FAIRMONT

BODY & CHASSIS

XY wagons weren’t always valuable or desirable and some will display repair work that is sub-standard or even dangerous. It makes sense when spending serious money to have the car professionally inspected but just checking for yourself that the chassis rails aren’t kinked or showing signs of welding will save time and money. Fake Fairmont wagons aren’t as common as sedans but look for ‘JG34’ as the build number prefix. Places to find rust include wheel arches. lower door skins, front mudguards, floor-pans, roof gutters and the tailgate. Reproduction panels are being made but join a Falcon club and find out which suppliers to consider and those to avoid.

Some bright work is being remanufactured but quality re-chroming costs big money.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Given the value of these cars and the premium payable for V8 versions, the most important underbonnet check to be made is to the Build Plate, ensuring the engine is at least of the same capacity as was originally fitted.

Finding a car with all of its original mechanical components is unlikely if buying a V8, ensure it has a Y (302 V8) or K (351 2V) stamped in the ‘Engine’ segment of the plate. Bearing rumble accompanied by smoke at start-up, a ticking sound signifying worn cam lobes and oil leaks indicate an engine that needs work but rebuilds are routine. Automatic and manual transmissions are durable and get noisy only when very close to needing replacement.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Suspension simplicity means that even a Falcon/Fairmont suffering serious chassis neglect can be refurbished easily and for not much money.

Symptoms include more than 50mm of play at the steering wheel, squawking from the front end at low speeds and a sagging rear end. Leaf springs lose temper and flatten or crack, leading to a harsh, noisy ride. A brake pedal that feels mushy or excessively hard may signify a faulty master cylinder or power booster. Both are still available and not expensive. New brake rotors and rear drums remain available too. If the steering wanders, allow $350 for a rebuilt steering box and double that if the power steering has serious fluid leaks.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

The vinyl trim used in XY Falcons was very durable and refurbishing original material is preferable to spending $1500- 2000 on all-new seat coverings. New hoodlining is worthwhile and costs around $300 plus installation. Manual window winders that bind might just need some spray lubricant.

New handles are easily obtained but the door innards are more difficult. Be wary of non-functioning electric window lifts.

Replacements for a worn or cracked steering wheel are available or those chasing some GS style can spend $1500 on a reproduction ‘rim blow’ steering wheel. Check that all the instruments work and that warning lights come on with the ignition and extinguish after the engine starts.

NUMBER MADE: 118.666 (all XY) BODY STYLES: Steel integrated body/chassis four-door station wagon ENGINE: 4089cc in-line six cylinder, 4950cc or 5750cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor POWER & TORQUE: 116kW @ 4000rpm 325Nm @ 1600rpm PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 12.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 18.3 seconds (250 auto) TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs & telescopic shock absorbers (r) BRAKES: disc or drum (f) drum (r) power assisted TYRES: 7.35x14 cross-ply

Valiant REGAL SAFARI

THE VE VALIANT WAS AN AWARD-WINNING SERIES IN THE SIXTIES AND STILL A GREAT DRIVE TODAY.

Chrysler Australia will be remembered late sixties were proof of that, with them instantly recognisable. Those straight edges and glasshouse looks still work.

Meanwhile the company had turned the straight six engine into an art form. Modern Motor magazine, back in the day ran a side-by-side test of the Holden 186, Ford 200 and Valiant 225 – all with autos. The Val literally ran away with the performance honours.

As a package, Wheels magazine thought enough of the car to give it the treasured Car of the Year gong for 1967. Editor Bill Tuckey’s wrap-up said, in part, “The VE is Chrysler’s moment of truth in metal. It represents the for a number of things, among them its ability to stand out a little from the crowd. Its VE series Valiants of the simple almost austere lines that made time to stop shadow-sparring and went in for 160hp, tied to the three-speed Torqueflite auto. Apart from the apparently compulsory accessory venetian blinds on the rear glass, it presents as a dead-stock car. That, particularly in wagon form, is a rare thing.

Owner George Politis explains he spent a considerable amount of time hunting down what he wanted. “I was looking for about two to three years for a sixties Australian classic and I thought, well, my dad had an almost identical car that he bought from Heidelberg Chrysler, Melbourne.

“He bought that new for about $3000 and day the smallest of the big three decided it was some infighting.”

The car you see here is a late build for the VE series – 1969 – and comes with a desirable mechanical package: the ‘hi-performance’ version of the 225 (3.7lt) straight six claiming

had it for about 25 years until he found a subframe had rusted and he got rid of it.

“I thought I might as well look for something that I learned to drive in and that means something to me. I kept finding modified cars but wanted something original. I found one in Brisbane that was a one-owner deceased estate that was originally sold in Ringwood, Melbourne. And the guy had retired to a dairy farm just west of Brisbane. When he died, his three kids got their mechanic to go over the car and get a Queensland roadworthy and put it online. I flew my dad and my brother up and we spent three days driving back.

“My dad thought I’d gone mad and he said, ‘You haven’t given this guy money, have you?’ And I said, ‘Well, generally when you buy a car you have to hand over some money.’ On the plane he was worrying about who’s paying for the plane tickets and then the cab ride there – “I bet you this guy’s taking us the long way round! What happens if the car’s not there, what happens if it’s a rust bucket?’ He was just Mr Negative all the way there.

“We got there and it was under a cover, he unfurled the car cover and then my dad started tearing up. All the way back (it was a three-day drive), ‘Geez this is a nice car, how reliable is this? And geez it’s a big country.’ He’d never been interstate. He loves it now.

“I reckon wagons are rare, so when you do see one, they get your attention. They’re really really practical. I remember my dad, he used to have a little furniture store in Sydney Road in

“HE UNFURLED THE CAR COVER THEN MY DAD STARTED TEARING UP”

VALUE RANGE VALIANT (V8 Regal)

FAIR $6000 GOOD $18,000 EXCELLENT $30,000 (Note: concours cars will demand more)

WAGON MARKET GUIDE

CHRYSLER pioneered V8 power for ‘family’ cars but the VE was the first Australianbuilt Valiant to be sold in quantity with a V8 engine.

VE Wagons in decent condition and with six-cylinder engines typically cost $12- 16,000 but they are still not easy to find.

Hunting down one in Regal trim is even more challenging. However, except for really outstanding examples, Regals seem not to be significantly more costly than a basic Slant Six Safari.

The ones to find if you are a true Valiant devotee are the 4.6-litre V8 Regal or an extremely rare VIP wagon. The Regal in excellent order is likely to sell for less than $30,000 but a VIP in similar condition could exceed $40,000.

For parts support and assistance in locating a good car to buy, join your nearest Chrysler club. These organisations are very active with numerous events and Display Days in all parts of the nation. They also hold or know of spare parts sources that contribute to the numbers of 1960s Valiants still enjoying productive lives.

Brunswick and he’d have a student desk, a three piece lounge suite, a couple of mattresses and a bedhead, all packed up in the back of the Valiant to do his own deliveries.

“Whenever we went to the beach or on holidays, you’d just swing the back door open and stuff everything down the back, it was easy.”

So, any buying advice, George? “If you end up buying a car from interstate, it involves taking a leap of faith. This guy was very forthcoming with loads and loads of photos from every angle, plus a roadworthy certificate meant it had at least some mechanical checks. When we roadworthied it here (Vic), we found a thumb-size patch of rust in a front wheel arch, so I had that repaired in metal – it cost a couple of hundred bucks.

But that was it. I suppose the advice is to persist and just keep looking. You know the old story, if you find a good body, that’s far cheaper than finding a wrecked body and a good motor, because the mechanicals are easy to fix.”

What’s it like to live with? “It’s easy to drive and almost every driver on the road treats you like an elderly citizen.

They treat you with respect, they allow you to merge, they’re not impatient with you. They’re not trying to drive over the top of you.

“You get people, all sorts of ages and socio economic status, giving you the thumbs-up and having a chat to you at the petrol station. Even when I drive it to my work – I’ve got a dental practice – a lot of my patients think it’s really cool that their dentist drives a classic car like that from time to time.

“It’s wonderful.”

“IT’S EASY TO DRIVE AND ALMOST EVERY DRIVER ON THE ROAD TREATS YOU LIKE AN ELDERLY CITIZEN”

S M A R T B U Y E R ' S T R O U B L E S H O OT I N G

1967 - 1969 VE VALIANT

BODY & CHASSIS

Valiant wagons seem more prone to rust than sedans, contributing to scarcity of 1960s Safaris. Rust in the front sub-frames and firewall is pretty much terminal and must be checked with an on-hoist inspection.

If the underside of your VE is solid that’s a great start but doesn’t mean the rest of the body won’t need work. The turret and window apertures must be solid, so too the inner sills. Check for any moisture under floor coverings, rusty floor pans and wagon tail-gates that are full of filler. Valiant parts specialists can supply replacement tail-gate skins and some rust repair panels.

Re-chromed bumpers cost $800 or used at $250-350 each.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Oil leaks from the sump, timing cover, cylinder head/block join and timing cover gasket, cracked exhaust manifolds and clogged radiators are typical of the problems you will encounter when buying a Slant Six. V8s are more prone than the smaller engines to overheating and buyers are wise to budget for a radiator recore and thermofan.

Rebuild kits for the Slant Six and V8 remain available – parts for the 225 at under $1500 and similar V8 kits priced at $1600- 1800. Reconditioned exchange Torqueflite automatic transmissions cost between $1300 and $3500 depending on intended purpose.

These are a really hard tranny to break but be wary of slurred changes and delays of more than two seconds when selecting reverse.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Chrysler stuck doggedly with the same very basic suspension design almost until the end of the Valiant’s life.

Body roll, endemic understeer and miserable wet grip are issues that are magnified by worn suspension and steering components.

All parts needed for a full suspension rebuild are available and not expensive. Changing to larger diameter wheels and lower profile tyres can make a big difference to grip and steering response.

New brake drums cost around $100 each with sets of shoes another $70 per wheel. Fitting larger-diameter rims makes space for a front disc brake conversion which, with labour included, should cost less than $2500. )

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Everything inside a 1960s Valiant is basic and pretty durable. The seats may still have their original pleated vinyl so can have worn sections replaced and the colour matched by a vehicle trimmer.

The vinyl hood lining costs about $300 but you need to be very patient if installing it yourself. Otherwise spend $500 and engage a professional.

Replacement door cards are available and while there, have a look for damage to the cargo area floor and inside the tailgate.

Virtually everything electrical can still be replaced with new components including the starter, alternator and wiper motor.

Halogen headlight inserts make a big difference to nighttime vision.

NUMBER MADE: 68,688 (all VE) BODY STYLES: Steel integrated body/chassis four door station wagon ENGINE: 3686cc in-line six-cylinder or 4474cc V8 with overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor POWER & TORQUE: 145kW @ 4400rpm, 359Nm @ 2000rpm (V8) PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 10.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.3 seconds (V8) TRANSMISSION: Three-speed manual, three-speed automatic SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r) BRAKES: Disc or drum (f) drum (r power assisted TYRES: 6.95x14 cross-ply