CM Chrysler (1978-81)
The CM Valiant was the final Valiant produced in Australia. It was the eighth iteration of the fourth generation of vehicles and the 16th model to be produced since the Valiant line first went on sale in 1962.
Chrysler’s market share had been in continuous decline in the preceding years, compared to its Ford and Holden contemporaries, who continued to dominate much of the Australian automotive market share. Unlike previous models that received extensive changes, only very minor alterations were made to the CM from its predecessor the CL model. Those changes were purely cosmetic, with the CM receiving a new front grille and redesigned tail lights and badges.
Under the bonnet though, a significant improvement had been made with Chrysler’s new electronic lean burn system (ELB). This was a computerised fuel ignition system which Chrysler claimed was developed during the company’s work for the United States space program. The ELB improved reliability, fuel efficiency and created a smoother more responsive ride.
Advertisements from the time claimed the CM could achieve up to 25% better mileage over its competitors. The ELB also replaced the additional engine paraphernalia that had to be fitted to the previous model to comply with emissions laws.
The release of the CM, saw a significant reduction in the range of available vehicles. There was no longer a utility option, while the short-lived panel van was discontinued as well as the Valiant Charger. The reduced range now offered only five variants with two body styles – the base model Valiant sedans and wagons, Regal sedans and wagons, and a Regal SE sedan.
The SE was offered as the luxury model and was fitted with Chrysler’s largest engine, the 5.2L 318 V8 as standard. It was also the only CM model to come with air conditioning, power steering and alloy wheels from the factory.
The two other engines on offer from Chrysler were the 245 cu and 265 cu Hemi-6s. The basic sedans and wagons were optioned with the 245, while the Regal models were fitted with the larger 265. In mid-1980, the 318 V8 was phased out and eventually discontinued.
All vehicles could be optioned with a choice of 3 and 4 speed manual transmissions, as well as three different 3-speed automatic transmissions. The CM Valiants were all fitted with radial tyres and radial tuned suspension which had previously been optional.
In the late 1970s, it wasn’t just Chrysler Australia that was struggling to stay in the market. Its US parent company was also facing hard times. To ensure the company’s survival, it decided to sell off its overseas assets, including Chrysler Australia and in 1980, the company was sold to Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.
A special edition GLX sport sedan was produced during the production of the CM model. The car came with the larger 265 Hemi-6 engine and floor-mounted 4-speed transmission, a unique honeycomb grill, striping down the sides of the body and wire wheels. It also has a unique interior, which includes a sporty dash with a tachometer, sports steering wheel, roof console and wool cloth trimmed seat.
The Chrysler Valiant struggled to achieve better than third place in the market. Even in its late-1960s heyday, it never managed to compete with the sales achieved by Ford and Holden. However, the Valiant models were well respected by the motoring press and the public alike for their high build quality, performance and generous amount of accessories fitted as standard.
In their two decades of production, the Valiants were some of the era’s most forward thinking, innovative and attractive cars.
The CM Valiant was produced from 1978 to 1980 by Chrysler Australia, and 1980 to 1981 by Mitsubishi Australia. It was produced in fewer numbers than any other model with only 16,500 units built. In total, 565,338 Valiants were produced over the cars’ almost 20 year history