AP6 Valiant (1965-66)
The AP6 Valiant was essentially a face-lifted version of its predecessor the AP5 Valiant. Labelled as AP, which stands for “Australian production”, the cars were manufactured using a uniquely Australian design. The preceding R Series and S Series models were produced simultaneously in the United States under the Plymouth badge. Though they share a strong similarity with their US-produced counterparts, the AP models have very few interchangeable panels.
From the early 1960’s onwards, Chrysler invested heavily in its Australian production facilities with the construction of new factories, such as Tonsley Park in Adelaide, which were capable of producing up to 65% of its vehicle parts. In 1965, engines were still being imported from the US, but plans for a new facility in Lonsdale, which opened in 1967, reduced the need for imports and increased local production to 95%.
With the release of the AP6, Chrysler expanded the Australian Valiant range with the addition of a two-door utility model, and in August 1965, a 4.5L (273 cu) Valiant V8. Chrysler classed manual and automatic variants as distinct models, and in doing so, promoted the full AP6 range as 10 models. The four-door sedan, five-door “Safari” wagon and two-door utility models were all available in both manual and automatic configurations. The Regal, which was the luxury Valiant model, and the V8 were offered in sedan or wagon form only – both being optioned with automatic transmissions as standard.
The AP6 is easily distinguishable from the AP5 with its slightly elongated bonnet, and the grille, which features a large central division painted the same colour as the bodywork . By contrast, the AP5, the grill is all chrome and spans the entire front of the car. Strangely, the AP6 Safari featured a variety of taillight and rear-side panel configurations throughout its production run.
The sturdy 3.7L “slant” six-cylinder engine was carried over from the previous model with a redesigned camshaft that raised torque slightly and improved performance. The push-button automatic transmission system was discontinued on this model and replaced with a lever selector that was mounted to the steering column.
The big announcement from Chrysler Australia in 1965 was the introduction of the V8 engine. The AP6 was the first of the Australian Valiants to be offered with a V8 engine. This meant that Chrysler was the first of the big three automotive producers in Australia to offer a V8 in its flagship model. It was, however, only available in the Valiant V8 and was not optioned across the range of vehicles. The addition of the 180bhp V8 pushed the top speed of the AP6 past the 100 mph mark.
The V8 model came with styling touches that were unique across the AP6 range, including bucket seats, a vinyl roof and a floor mounted gear shift, aside from the V8 badge. The running gear on the Valiant V8 was beefed up to counteract the extra torque through the addition of a heavy duty rear axle and stiffened rear suspension. Braking was also improved with the addition of power-assisted drums at the front and rear.
However it wasn’t just the V8 models being upgraded. Across the AP6 range, there were improvements being made, such as self-adjusting brakes that were now used across all models and modern acrylic enamel paint finishes.
The release of the Valiant Wayfarer, a two-door utility model, showed that Chrysler was determined to cover all corners of the market and position itself as a real competitor. It’s biggest rivals Ford and GM-Holden had already been producing commercial models for a number of years by this point, as the popularity for commercial vehicles continued to grow. At the time, the competitively priced Wayfarer optioned with its 3.7L engine as standard, offered a greater level of performance to that of its competitors.
From February 1965, Chrysler Australia built 43,344 units of the AP6 until it was replaced by the VC Valiant in March 1966.