CHRYSLER is best known locally for its iconic 1960s and 70s cars, including the wondrous Charger, but it was building vehicles in Australia long before that.
Adelaide’s T.J. Richards made its own bodies for Chrysler vehicles from 1922 until it was bought by Chrysler in 1951.
The new operation began by assembling American cars in Adelaide, but in an effort to remain ‘modern’ while trying to save its pennies, Chrysler decided to develop a local version.
What it did next was not far from Johnny Cash’s fictional song about an assembly worker stealing parts from Cadillacs he built over several years in order to assemble a car at home that he called a ’59-60-61-62 model.
To replace its dated Plymouth, Dodge and De Soto sedans, all of which were derived from the P24-series Plymouth of 1953, Chrysler Australia produced a single model called the Royal.
Launched in 1957, the Royal attempted to marry the ‘Forward Look’ styling of its dramatic US relatives to the frumpy centre section of the old 1953 Plymouth. Pronounced tailfins, a wraparound rear window and a full-width, forward-slant grille did their best to make the AP1 Royal look mod, only to be undermined by its carryover roof, doors, windscreen, bootlid, bumpers, interior and breathless 3.8-litre side-valve six.
The even chromier AP2 Royal of 1958 took the mis-match to a new level, stacking yet another tail fin on top of its existing one, but the final Royal – the 1960 AP3 – was much better, especially as a V8.
With stacked headlights, sharper fins, triple tail-lights and a cleaner grille, it was the car the Royal always should’ve been.
The arrival of Chrysler’s radical Valiant in 1962 buried the Royal six, leaving the V8 version to soldier on until 1964.
Just look at those fins. And the AP3’s awesome tail-lights