AP5 Valiant (1963-65)
The AP5 Valiant was essentially an Australian redesign of the American Plymouth Valiant. AP stood for “Australian production”, with the majority of the car being manufactured in Australia. Previously, most parts had been imported from the United States, where the Valiant was being produced simultaneously, however much of the body work was now being manufactured in Chrysler’s new Tonsley Park facility in Adelaide.
Though the shells of the previous R Series and S Series models had been identical to the US model Valiants, the AP5 was a uniquely Australian design. Even though they looked very similar, the AP5 actually shared only a small number of body panels in common with its US counterpart. Core mechanical components such as engines were still imported entirely from the US, however local production was now accounting for about 60% of the vehicles manufacture.
The AP5 design was a leap forward for the Valiant range with Chrysler removing much of the late 1950s styling from the vehicle. A new squarer, more boxy design replaced the previous models’ pronounced rear fins and side mouldings, which created a bolder, more substantial look. The side contours of the AP5 were very clean with long straight lines extending from the front to rear, with the new squared off back end creating a much more spacious boot compartment.
The front was drastically restyled with single round headlights, which replaced the S Series dual headlight units, as well as a long sweeping grill that spanned the entire lower half. The new design was much similar to the styling of the AP5’s contemporaries and biggest market rivals, the EH model Holden and XL Ford Falcon. Fuel consumption was marginally improved over the S Series with the addition of a Holley single barrel carburettor, as well as a revised rear suspension which featured slightly modified softer springs.
In November of 1963, the range increased as Chrysler released a wagon variant of the Valiant called the Safari. Though a Valiant wagon and a two-door sedan option had been available in the US since the R Series, up until this point the Australian range had only included the four-door sedan. Oddly enough, sedans were marketed as two different models, based upon the drive line configuration – either automatic or manual. Though the AP5 was marketed by Chrysler as having six different vehicles to choose from, in reality there was only the choice of four-door sedan or five-door wagon with manual or automatic transmissions.
A luxury model called the “Regal” was added to the range, which was mechanically identical to the base model vehicle. The Regal was optioned with an automatic transmission as standard, and featured additional badging and improved furnishings. The Regal sedan and wagons were fitted with increased padding in the seats and foldable arm rests, a unique steering wheel, colour matched interior, heater/demister, interior lighting, and carpeting. Chrysler added the Regal variant to the range to remain competitive with Ford and GM-Holden, who were by this point, both offering luxury versions of their flagship models.
At the time of AP5 release, there were few local production cars that could compete with it in performance and value. As one motoring journalist said, “There are rivals that approach it’s standard of comfort but fall far behind it in performance and it is that combination of comfort and performance that is hard to match.” Though the newly developed “red” engine had improved the performance of the EH Holden, it still wasn’t nearly as powerful as the AP5, while the Falcon XL lagged behind them both. Where its competitors offered multiple engine choices, Chrysler offered one, the 3.7L (225 cu) slant six-cylinder that outperformed them all.
From May 1963, Chrysler Australia built 49,440 units of the AP5 until it was replaced by the AP6 in February 1965.
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