That was my darling wives first comment when she saw the car of my dreams, a 1966 Chrysler VC Valiant sedan. It was a fair comment, the car was not only unregistered, it didn’t run (not a very good selling point for a car), had a flat rear tyre with the other 3 barely held together with cracked strips of rubber, no brakes, liberal amounts of rust and a good coating of oil over the motor and diff. This was going to be a long haul.
The Valiant was a classic Aussie marque, built on the tried and true Mopar platform developed by Chrysler and Dodge in the states. At it’s peak in the 60’s and 70’s it was a powerhouse in the Australian market, a status symbol considered a cut above the other local brands Ford and Holden. Unfortunately the famous Val trademark has long since gone the way of the dodo, with the last rolling off the South Australian production line in 1981, killed off by rising oil prices and the influx of cheap Japanese buzz boxes.
The dream of owning a Val was largely built on childhood nostalgia. I always loved them when i saw them driving around as a kid in the 80’s, a love that was shared by my brother in law who grew up in a family with Valiants in their DNA. He eventually bought a very nice 1970 VF VIP with a 318 V8 a few years back, and that was it for me, I had to have one of my own.
But how? The VF was beautiful, almost immaculate (for its 40 year old vintage), yet cost him 8 grand, and another $1,500 to ship from Canberra to Western Australia. Even then the 318 was found to need a semi rebuild at a fair cost to get it reliable. I had 2 mortgages, 2 kids, a pregnant wife and a house that needed some work, 10k was out of my budget. I began the search for a locally based Val for bargain basement pricing, with the understanding i was not going to find something that was going to be too crash hot.
My interest ebbed and flowed. The odd car came up on the various online trading posts, but they were either too expensive, absolute clunkers, or came up when money was tight and required for real life expenses, like babies. Eventually I spied her in the classifieds. A fully original, ivory 1966 VC sedan that had been sitting in a shed for 28 years, and all for a mere $2,500. The car was in Mandurah, a good hour and a half’s drive but I deemed it was worth the trip to check this old girl out.
I was pretty excited on the trip up, but my lovely wife Anna kept my emotions in check. “Just don’t be disappointed if it’s no good” was said more than once, but I held out hope this one would be a winner. On first spying the car it was hard not to be disappointed. What looked like a reasonably well preserved car in the pictures seemed rather sad in the flesh. She was sitting with an off kilter, bum down repose in the garage due to the flat tyre, and was covered in a thick mat of dust from top to toe. The paint was covered in a fairly widespread patina of surface rust, with pretty bad patches behind a couple of the wheel arches. Oil and rust was covering much of the once proud 225 slant 6 motor and had covered much of the engine bay. The tail pipe was held together with fencing wire, and separate from the rest of the exhaust system aft of the muffler. The diff probably had more fluid outside of it than in.
But…i kept telling myself that the body was straight with no major dings, the interior, save for cracked front bench seat vinyl and floor matting was amazingly clean and unmolested. The hood liner was all intact and clean, the dash crash pad and door lining perfect. The radio was a genuine original item complete with radio station letter call signs rather than wavelengths. “Even if the car is a bucket i could sit in here and drink beer and listen to football quite happily” I thought. I looked at Anna, “What do you think?”
“You’ve got your work cut out for you…but if you think you can do it…”
Time to talk turkey. The seller told me the history, in that the car was bought new as a present from her grandfather to her grandmother back when they owned a farm in Northampton, a genuine 46 year old one owner vehicle! While she wasn’t sure why, the car was pushed into the shed in 1985 (as proven by the ’85 rego sticker on the windscreen) and left there until the farm went up for sale. She decided to bring the car back to Mandurah to restore it, but never got around to it or had the spare funds so it sat in the garage taking up space. Eventually personal issues led to her needing to sell the house, and with it, the Val, as much as it broke her heart.
I thought straight out that $2,500 was a hard sell, she didn’t want to move on price but after reinforcing the fact that the old girl hadn’t run for near on 30 years, and the multitude of obvious issues, $2,000 was offered and immediately accepted.
She was mine.
For better or worse…she was mine.