There was a collective sigh from Valiant aficionados
in 1971 with the release of the all-new VH, particularly
with those salivating for new Chrysler sheet metal.
The previous models had always looked sensational,
but the all-Australian designed VH clearly departed
from the 1960’s and embraced the 1970’s,
much as the pintuck suit made way for flares and
Somewhat modest in comparison to the
investment in the development of the Hemi engine,
Chrysler spent a still very sizable $22 million on
the development the new Valiant, the company determined
to lift their market share from 12%.
It seemed the designers of the VH got it right, with commentators
of the day, along with the public, claiming the new
body style to be both bold and beautiful.
seemed to be plenty of extra sheet metal over the
previous iterations, and although the VH, at 4900mm,
was only fractionally longer
than the VG, it appeared to be vastly longer and
Adding to the illusion was the increase in
wheelbase size, stretched 76mm to 2810mm (111 inches),
while the width of the car was increased by 100mm.
In contrast, the GMH engineers were making the upcoming
HQ model look smaller than it really was, recessing
the tail lights into the bumpers and creating a low
Time has revealed both to display timeless
proportion and symmetry, but in the early 1970’s
it was evident that the engineers at Chrysler were
poles apart in their thinking to those working for
Adding to the VH Valiant’s clean lines was
the reduction in body decoration, ensuring clean
lines along the breadth of the car. The door handles
were recessed, and the curves accentuated at the
front bumper bar, moulding beautifully into the front
parking/indicator lights above, with body contoured
The hatch type bonnet, unusual for
the early 1970’s, allowed engineers to add
a cross member above the grille and strengthen the
cars front section. The curved rear deck contained
a bigger boot than before, the spare wheel was set
deep into the floor and the fuel filler was hidden
behind the rear number-plate.
More Sheet Metal, Less Glass
All the extra sheet metal had the counter effect of reducing the amount
of glass, and some detractors complained that visibility
was somewhat impaired when compared with the VG.
In many respects they were right, with visibility
at the lower levels when parking almost non-existent,
making any parking maneuver dicey at best. But worst
of all, despite the size of the VH, there was little
improvement in leg or head room, leading some to
claim the new model was a victim of fashion over
function. But we are all guilty of being a victim
to fashion at one time or another.
All that extra metal made for a heavier car, the premium being some
45kg over the predecessors. But few who entered the
Chrysler showrooms were asking the question as to
weight, instead being captivated by the flowing lines
and all new interior. The instrument panel and dashboard
were completely remolded, the steering wheel and
seats were new and the trim featured new patterns,
and for the first time in a Valiant pre-molded carpet
Under the bonnet came the choice of 4
differently Hemi’s, the two new iterations
being the 4.3 liter 265ci two barrel version producing
152kW (203 bhp) and a high performance version of
the same engine for the Pacer, this tweaked version
producing 162kW (218 bhp). The standard 4 liter 245
along with the 3.53 liter 215 (that had replaced
the endearing Slant Six) were carried over, as was
the 5.2 liter 318 Fireball V8, the latter being made
available as an option on Regal models.
Despite protagonists complaining (quite rightly) about the “H” layout
of the floor mounted 3 speed manual gearbox in the
previous two model Valiant’s, it would again
be carried over to the VH. Why Chrysler stuck with
this layout, which still came without a much needed
reverse gear lockout, remains a mystery. Thankfully
though the dual braking system introduced with the
VE was included on all VH models with front disc
brakes standard on almost all Valiant’s, the
only exception being the low compression 215 engined “fleet
these only making up some 3% of total Valiant production.
Other new features introduced with the VH included a floor
mounted handbrake lever on the right hand side of
the driver’s seat, a steering column
lock (designed to meet upcoming Australian design
rules set for 1972), while the suspension was completely
remodeled and tuned, as Chrysler put it, to the “power
and aerodynamic qualities of the cars”.
The system still used front torsion bars and semi-elliptic
rear springs, but at least anti-roll bars were fitted
to the Pacer, Regal 770 and all station wagon models.
The tire size increased to 140mm (replacing the previously
used 127mm versions), and the fuel tank capacity
was increased by 20 liters to a whopping 89 liters.
All models featured better soundproofing, and along
with the new body styles came new monikers, the medium-line
Valiant being called the “Ranger” and
the better equipped versions called the “Ranger
XL”. The Rangers were identified by a grille
featuring horizontal aluminum bars, rectangular headlights
and the all-important centrally-placed Ranger ornament.
The base Ranger model came standard with the 215
Hemi, while the 245 was available as an option.
The Ranger XL was designed to fill the gap between the
low end Valiant’s and the more up-market
models. Apart from featuring the XL badge work, there
were individual wheel trim rings under the hubcaps
and mouldings framing the door windows. White side-wall
tires and chrome frames around the tail lights completed
the package nicely.
Inside the XL featured a more
plush trim, retractable front seat belts, courtesy
light switch gear to all doors and an illuminated
boot. Engine choices consisted of the 245 or 265
Hemi engines, and power assisted front disc brakes
were available as an option. The VH wagon was some
152mm longer again than the sedan iterations, making
it the mammoth of the range, and the road.
An Insatiable Appetite For Cargo, The VH Wagon
A seemingly insatiable appetite for cargo, the wagon could swallow
more than any other car on Australian roads (excluding
commercial vehicles of course), making it unquestionably
the King of the Wagons. It incorporated an integral
air deflector mounted over the rear window designed
to keep it clear from dirt and road grime, a popular
standard feature carried over from previous models.
Also carried over was the electrically powered tailgate
window, operated by a tailgate lock key or a switch
on the instrument panel.
At the performance end came
the Pacer, described by Chrysler as “one of
the most strikingly beautiful cars of sporting type
They were right of course, it looked and was about
as hot any six cylinder car could be, and fitted
with the new 265 Hemi it demanded respect. The new
engine was coupled to a heavy duty clutch, gearbox
and differential, while different gear ratios to
those used in the standard Valiant’s helped
ensure the Pacer remained at the head of the pack
when exiting the traffic lights. Just ask any Holden
V8 owner of the day, they quickly learning the meaning
of “Eat My Dust”.
The Pacer featured a special grille of red bars in a black surround,
while a wide black stripe ran from midway on the
front door to the rear end of the car, where it blended
with the black paint treatment of the rear deck and
quarter panels. Naturally a “265
Hemi Engine” identification badge was fitted
to each of the rear quarter panels.
Inside the Pacer was fitted with high-backed bucket seats incorporating
headrests, and the instrument cluster was finished
in dark blue featuring a tachometer among the other
rounded dials. A new gearshift knob design adorned
the Pacer’s three-speed manual floor control.
The styled-steel wheels were shod with 165mm 185
SR radial ply tires as standard.
At launch the VH Regal was the luxury model of the range, while the
Regal 770 had a more sporting leaning. The Regal
came standard with an automatic transmission, other
standard features including a plusher interior, reclining
front bucket seats with high backs incorporating
headrests, armrests both front and rear, a glove-box
courtesy light, ashtray courtesy light, under dash
courtesy lights to both driver and passenger foot-well
compartments, and an electric clock.
Externally the Regal featured an engine bonnet ornament, sill mouldings
beneath the doors, a wide appliqué-panel beneath
the doors, a wide appliqué-panel linking the
tail-lights and a distinctive paint treatment on
its hubcaps. The Regal emblem also appeared on the
roof pillar behind the rear door. The Regal came
standard with the Hemi 245, although the 265 could
be optioned, along with Chrysler’s 318 V8.
The Regal 770 was distinguished by a set of quartz-halogen
driving lights mounted between the headlights, along
with overriders on the rear bumper and special 165mm
steel belted radial tires. Inside the upholstery
was finished in a unique basket-weave pattern. The
sensational 265 Hemi came as standard, and of course
the 318 V8 could be optioned. To provide better road-holding
a front anti-roll bar was fitted.
When it came time
to put your hand in the wallet, you would need $2895
to drive away in the base 215 VH Ranger, and $2985
for the 245. The 265 two-barrel model was priced
at $3235, as was the Pacer. “Airtemp” air
conditioning was a $400 option. The Regal 770 was
$3885, then came the Regal 770 V8 at $4015 and wagon
at $4125. There were cheaper six cylinder cars out
there, but arguably none as good, and undeniably
none so technologically advanced.
And most importantly,
Chrysler had managed to keep its price increases
very conservative, the price of the base Valiant
being kept to a modest 11% premium over the original “R
Series” model introduced in 1962. Consider
that wages had increased over that time by 57%, steel
by 30% and housing by 25% and you can see just how
remarkable the minor price hike really was.
the first year of manufacture Chrysler would increase
the model lineup to a remarkable fifteen iterations,
most important of which was the August release of
the now legendary “Charger”,
along with the Chrysler limousine in November. In
October 1971 came the two door hardtop model, costing
only $70 more than the sedan model – and unlike
the VG hardtop that had used imported sheet metal
rear of the windscreen, the VH panel work was made
entirely in Australia at Chrysler’s South Australian
The hardtop was 114mm (4 inches) wider
than the VG version, although it was 76mm shorter.
Nevertheless, at 4880mm it remained 100mm longer
that then VH sedan, it also taking the honors as
having the largest capacity boot of any Aussie built
car. The Hardtop was available in both Regal and
Regal 770 models, both equally sought after models
by collectors of today. The VH was great, all Aussie
and set a benchmark in style, quality and performance
that few could match.