VJ Valiant (1973-75)
When Chrysler released the VJ Valiant in 1973, the company’s popularity in Australia had begun to dwindle. Though it consistently produced high quality vehicles that often represented better value for money than its competitors, the cars never managed to grab the public attention in the same way the contemporary Fords and Holdens did.
General Motors-Holden had long been producing cars in Australia that were well suited to the country’s demanding conditions. The Holden brand had been around since the late 1940s and had the reputation of a dependable Australian designed and built car. Over the years, GM-H had won the public trust and with it, the largest market share. Chrysler released the Valiant line in the early 1960s in Australia about the same time as Ford released its Falcon range.
The early Falcons were designed and produced simultaneously in the United States, and compared to the Holden models, they had a much more modern look. The Falcons gained a lot of attention at the time of release, which prompted GM-H to come up with a competitive design. It was amidst this highly competitive environment when the Valiant range was launched.
Holden retained the market share of sales for many years, with Ford a close second. Chrysler never managed more than a 15% share of the market. This is still a significant slice although it didn’t match up to the large sums the company had invested in its Australian facilities.
Sales of the Valiant had been in decline for four years until 1973 and Chrysler chose not to invest heavily in the development of a new model as they may have done in previous years. The VJ Valiant had only a slight facelift from its predecessor the VH. Except for its revised grill and round headlamps, the VJ was essentially the same design that had been in production since 1971.
Chrysler also chose to limit the range of vehicles available. The expansive list that previously included the Pacer sedan, Ranger XL and the powerful Charger R/T models was cut in half. The reduced range was limited to the base model Valiant sedan, Ranger sedan and wagon, Regal sedan, wagon and hardtop, and Charger, Charger XL and Charger 770 models. The Valiant and Dodge utility models continued to be produced, but the Ranger ute was dropped.
The removal of the more luxurious Ranger XL models meant that Chrysler had to increase the quality of the basic Ranger models to fill the gap in the range. The company did this by offering retractable seat belts, power assisted brakes, front anti-roll bar and increased sound deadening. Stopping the production of the Charger R/T also meant that Chrysler no longer had a true performance model on the market, and potential customers would have to look to Ford and GM-H to meet their high-octane needs.
The VJ was optioned with a range of engines, which included three Hemi-6s, the 215 (3.5L), 245 (4L) and 265 (4.3L), as well as a 340 (5.6L) V8. In 1974, the 340 V8 would be replaced with a larger 360 (5.9L) V8. There were a range of transmission options available, including three- and four-speed manual, and three-speed automatic gearboxes.
The VJ model had some functional upgrades from the VH Valiant, such as being the first Valiant to have electric ignition which was a really significant improvement. Chrysler also made the options list a lot larger so the more budget-friendly models could be tailored to the customers individual needs. The list included engines and transmissions, as well as cosmetic items such as mag wheels, wheel trims, cassette players, radios and center console mounted gear levers.
A limited run of 500 Charger Sportsman models were produced in 1974, fitted with the 265 Hemi-6 and a four-speed manual transmission. The Sportsman was available only in red with white accents along the wings and roof, and had a red and white plaid interior.
From April 1973, Chrysler Australia built 90,865 units of the VJ Valiant, before it was replaced with the VK Valiant in September 1975.