Chrysler Australia built cars locally from 1962 to 1981, producing memorable and still much loved cars starting with the R & S Series sedans based on the US Plymouth Valiant. The AP5 followed in 1963 - the last to offer the novelty of push-button gear selection. Replaced by the AP6 of 1965 - the first locally built car to offer a V8 option with the 273 Commando. Stock engine was the bullet proof and powerful 225 cubic inch slant six that was the mainstay under the bonnets of the VC, VE & VF models. With the VG of 1970, Chrysler replaced the slant motor with the locally developed 245 inch (4ltr) Hemi.
The first all Australian Valiant was the VH of 1971, with Hemi sixes offered in sizes from 215 (3.5ltr), 245 and 265 (4.3ltr) cubic inches. V8s ranged from the 318 Fireball to the potent 340 offered in the E55 Charger, and the 360 that was the stock unit in the luxury Chrysler By Chrysler sedan and hardtop. The VJ introduced electronic ignition in 1974 - first local manufacturer to do so. The little-changed VK introduced in late 1975 sold barely 16,000 units - signalling the beginning of the end for Chrysler Australia. The restyled CL range released for 1976 heralded the demise of the legendary Charger two door - phased out in 1977.
The final locally built Chryslers were the CM sedan and wagons introduced in late 1978, with cutting edge ‘Electronic Lean Burn’ engine management on all engines, the range dropped to two sixes - 245 and 265 Hemi, and the 318 Fireball 5.2ltr V8. The last CM rolled off the line in late 1981 - the end of an era.
Models included the Safari wagons, prestigious Regal and VIP sedans, Regal 770 hardtop, long wheelbase Chrysler by Chrysler, the iconic Charger coupe, Pacer and R/T muscle cars.
Chrysler Australia’s most loved car is undoubtedly the Charger. From the sensational VH of 1971 through to the VJ, VK and final CL model of 1977 - the Charger remains the most successful coupe ever made in Australia. Models include the muscle Chargers - the VH R/T E37, E38 and mighty E49 six packs - triple side draft Weber carbs mounted on the mighty 265 (4.3 litre) Hemi. In 1972 the E49 was the fastest accelerating six cylinder car in the world, and remained the fastest Aussie car over the quarter mile for over 25 years.
The 1973 E55 VJ Charger came the hot US sourced 340 Mopar small block, but not the four speed. Even with a Torqueflite it could run 15.5 in the quarter all day long, and was the fastest Aussie automatic V8 of its’ time. Buyers could order the milder 318 and 360 V8 if the hot 340 was too much engine for them. Cheaper models came with the 245 Hemi which still offered rapid performance for the day.
By 1977 Chrysler dealers were barely able to shift the CL Charger off the showroom floor. They had become outdated within their own lifetime - but time heals all wounds, and the last of the Chargers are more sought after today than the (mostly) insubstantial four cylinder cars that took their place. Long live the Charger!
Oddly named…fondly remembered. During its’ time on this earth, a bare five years from 1971 to 1976 - the ‘CbyC’ was one of the Aussie luxury kings. On release in 1971, Chrysler beat Ford and Holden to market with their new long wheelbase luxury model, and was named king of local luxury cars by the motoring press. With a standard 360 V8 and Torqueflite - it offered the biggest engine, the most power, and other niceties like electric seats, power everything, and a two-door hardtop body. The hardtop sold so poorly it was quietly killed off after selling around 400 units. As a result they are incredibly rare and highly valued collector cars today.
Chrysler added electronic ignition on the 360 V8 & 265 Hemi six in 1973, but the best engines were not enough to rescue sales, as the CbyC began to slip behind both Ford’s Fairlane/LTD, and Holden’s Statesman DeVille/Caprice twins. Without the budget to address inherent shortcomings (lack of proper flow-thru ventilation seen as unforgivable by the motoring press) - the big, outdated luxury Chrysler sedan was quietly phased out in 1976 - replaced by the standard wheelbase CL Regal SE. Chrysler also dropped the 360 engine option across the board, the 318 Fireball the only V8 available from 1977.
Today, the big CbyC sedans are true collectibles, and a reminder of a time when Australia made some truly memorable, spacious, stylish & high powered long wheelbase sedans. Though very much inspired by American design philosophy, the local luxury offerings by the Big Three were far superior to drive than anything made by Ford, Chrysler or GM in the US at the time.
Highly prized today - let’s hope the surviving Chrysler by Chryslers are with us for a long time to come.
From 1955 through 1975, Imperial was a standalone marque. After 1975 it was brought back in to the Chrysler fold…but in the two decades Imperial stood alone, it made some magnificent luxury cars to rival Cadillac and Lincoln. Models include the Imperial Crown, Custom and LeBaron sedans, coupes and convertibles.