RV1 Valiant (1962)
The RV1 Chrysler Valiant, also known as R Series, was the first model of Valiant to be sold and assembled in Australia. To test the market, Chrysler shipped just over 1,000 sedans to Australia from the United States where they had been designed and produced since 1959 under the Plymouth badge.
The R series can be differentiated from the S Series by their boot lid and tail lights. The R Series has a faux spare-tyre mount stamped into its boot lid and has cat-eye tail lights, while the S Series doesn’t.
The Chrysler company had been active in Australia since 1928, importing auto parts from the US and having them assembled by Adelaide coachbuilders, TJ Richards & Son. A company, which was formed by a collective of independent automobile distributors in Australia, bought a large share of TJ Richards & Son in the 1930s and renamed it to Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto Distributors Ltd.
In 1951, the Chrysler company acquired the Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto Distributors and renamed it to Chrysler Australia, with the intention of producing automobiles almost entirely locally. From this point, Chrysler began a process of expansion into the Australian market acquiring new production facilities and the rights to produce a variety of foreign designed vehicles. By the late 1950s, the company was assembling American-designed cars, such as the Chrysler Royal and Dodge Phoenix, having some sales success. However, the introduction of the Valiant in 1962 would see its fortune improve greatly.
The Valiant was the car that put Chrysler in the top three car manufacturers in Australia at the time, along with General Motors-Holden and Ford, also known as “the big three.” Following the popularity of the Valiant in the US, Chrysler’s gambit to test the car on the Australian market paid off and the limited number of R Series cars sold out instantly.
The R Series cars were assembled from January to March 1962 in Chrysler’s Mile End facility in Adelaide. They were rigorously tested over thousands of miles to ensure their suitability to Australian conditions. The cars came with large 14-inch wheels for additional ground clearance and were fitted with the larger of Chryslers slant six engines, the 3.7L (225cu) unit which was capable of producing a substantial 145bhp.
The slant six engine was called as such because it slanted off to the side to allow for clearance between the engine cylinders and bonnet lid, allowing the bonnet line to be lower which added to the aesthetic of the car. The R Series came with floor mounted three-speed manual transmission and an option of push-button automatic transmission which was a forward thinking addition in improving the driving experience.
In comparison, the Valiant was head and shoulders above its Ford and GM-H competitors in ride quality, handling and out-and-out power. The first Ford Falcon released in Australia, the XK model, came out a year earlier and had a 2.8L (170cu) engine with a top speed of 85mph and output 95bhp. This was considered powerful at the time of release when compared to the EK Holden, the nation’s best-selling car, which had a 2.3L (138cu) engine with a top speed of 80mph and output of 75bhp. The R Series Valiant with double the horsepower of the Holden and a top speed of 94mph was welcomed by the public and motoring press alike.
The R Series was built on Chrysler’s A-body platform and was a unibody design, which meant it was more rigid than the body on chassis designs popular in the previous decade. The car’s overall weight was reduced where possible by the use of aluminium parts in ornamental and structural components. Parts manufactured from aluminium were up to 60% lighter than the steel alternatives and were used to replace items where strength was not a defining factor, such as housing for engine parts and in the front grill.
From January 1962, Chrysler Australian built 1,008 R Series Valiants before it was replaced with the S Series in March 1962.