Home » Chrysler In Australia Was Weirder And More Fascinating Than You Can Possibly Imagine

Chrysler In Australia Was Weirder And More Fascinating Than You Can Possibly Imagine

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If you’re a regular reader of this site, there’s a good chance you know about the rivalry in Australia between Ford’s Down Under operations vs. General Motors’ local representative Holden. It’s a war that was waged at the legendary Bathurst 1000 race and on the showroom floor until both companies stopped building cars here in the late 2010s. But in the 1960s and ‘70s, there was another challenger to this duopoly, just like in America. Chrysler had its own antipodean operations too for a long time, and just as it was in the U.S., it had to innovate and be a little bit quirky to try and compete with the two big players. If you think Chrysler had some oddball stuff over Stateside, wait until you read about some of what we had Down Under.

G’day again, Autopians! Today we will be taking a look at Chrysler Australia Limited, or CAL, and some of the models it released in the 1960s and ‘70s. For US readers, I am sure some of these cars will seem like an alt-universe to what you’re used to from Chrysler in that era. And like that era, CAL produced many unusual cars that are still well-loved today and some are landmarks of Australian vehicle production. 

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Vg Valiant Ute

CAL was always significantly lower in the sales charts than Holden or Ford. At its peak, it commanded just 15% of the market in 1970.  This is in comparison to Ford at 25% and Holden having over one-third of the market in that same year.

You could say CAL mirrored AMC in this regard during the period: Always short on funds, often receiving hand-me-down tooling from America and having to really stretch its engineering abilities to get the job done by recycling parts in a surprising fashion compared to the near-annual refreshes and larger-scale frequent platform changes the booming U.S. market would experience. 

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An example of this cut-price engineering and resourcefulness is the Valiant Charger itself. 

The VH Valiant range was due to be released in 1971, marking the first real departure from the U.S. Dodge/Plymouth models for something more uniquely Australian. Still based on the A-body platform shared with the Dodge Dart and original Plymouth Valiant, the VH range was longer and wider than what came before and approached B-bodies in size, such as the Plymouth Satellite. A $22 million budget was allocated to develop a sedan, station wagon, ute and luxury sedan and coupe (source Great Ideas In Motion, Gavin Farmer). Mechanically they remained the same as the previous series, this was more about increasing the size of the cars to bring them to match Ford and Holden.

Valiant By Chrysler
Photo: Author

The designs for the proposed five-body range were locked in November 1969 at a meeting with the head office in Detroit. The head of CAL, David Brown (no relation to tractors nor Aston Martins) asked about potentially adding a sixth body, a short-wheelbase coupe in the vein of the original Plymouth Barracuda and Ford Mustang. After being shown some styling prototypes, this was approved the next month and $2 million of the $22 million budget was allocated to this.

With this scant $2 million, Australian chief stylist Brian Smyth along with a team including International chief stylist, Bob Hubbach (who later went on to design the 1994 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe and 1995 Chrysler Atlantic Concept) designed the Valiant Charger and had it production-ready for release a mere two months later than the rest of the range that had already been styled and engineered nearly two years earlier.

Along with a simple yet effective ad campaign, the Charger was an immediate success, becoming up to 50 percent of CAL’s annual sales at times and helping keep the Australian operation afloat for a few more years. (I might write a future article on the development of the Charger; the methods they used to save money and still engineer a desirable car are legendary.)

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Whether this regular operating-on-a-shoestring financial position was a symptom or a cause, some of the nameplates that CAL brought to the market in the late 1960s and into the 1970s were a bit odd, and while not offensive to conservative sensibilities like the original 1971 Dodge Demon, they certainly raise some questions as to what CAL’s marketing department was consuming recreationally, presumably in some swanky, Mad Men-esque suites while wearing ever-wider lapel suits and the pointiest leather shoes available. 

Among the more unusual nameplates or models put to the Australian market from CAL:

Screen Shot 2023 01 26 At 3.10.16 Pm

Chrysler by Chrysler – From the first Valiant released to Australia as a CKD-assembled vehicle in 1961 until Mitsubishi took over the CAL plants and continued to build Valiants under license from 1979 to 1981 when the “Last Barstard” (sic) left the Tonsley Park factory, Aussie Vals often featured a badge on the rear stating they were “by Chrysler.”

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Whilst this made some sense for the first few years, as the advertising of the period from CAL put the Valiant name out front-and-center, with Chrysler Australia Ltd with the Pentastar down in the bottom corner and so having “by Chrysler” on the rear of the car would help Aussies identify the parent manufacturer.

Why they continued this for 13 years until the range simply became badged “Chrysler” is maybe evidence of the lack of sobriety in head office, but it gets stranger.

The range from CAL started with Dodge as the nameplate for their most stripped-out of utes. These bargain models had no chrome bumpers or grilles; those pieces were instead painted silver in what can’t have been that much of a cost-saving overall. The rest of the normal range had Valiant for the basic ute and then Valiant + whatever trim level (Ranger, XL, Regal, Regal 770, SE, etc.) depending on the year and what body style you were there was some logic that was easy enough to follow.

With Ford Australia adding new front and rear sheet metal and a longer wheelbase to their Falcon to create the local Fairlane range in 1967 as a new entry in the luxury segment and Holden responding via a long-wheelbase Premier the following year, CAL needed a spruced-up Valiant to take on this emerging new market niche. Initially, it began with the 1968 VE-model Valiant VIP, and then followed into the VF and VG series of cars. 

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For reasons unknown, from 1971 to the end of CAL’s participation in this segment in the mid-’70s, the name was changed. No longer would this be a “Valiant” by Chrysler VIP, it would be a “Chrysler by Chrysler.”

Whether they were simply ahead of the curve on future oxymorons such as “ATM Machine” or “PIN Number,” or had no idea that to most rational humans this recursive naming convention would give the reader concerns about the cognitive abilities of said executives is also lost to the mists of time. 

Available as both a long-wheelbase sedan and hardtop, they really went for the old ‘slap some chrome everywhere’. The hardtop, as predicted by the Australian team back in 1969 didn’t sell that well in Australia.

As an added bit of strangeness, via CAL’s export program, there were small numbers of Chrysler by Chrysler sedans that made their way to Japan. How a vehicle approaching the dimensions of a 1968 Dodge Charger was ever considered a viable business case for Japanese export beggars belief, but then, again there was the effort from Mazda/Holden in the Roadpacer which was probably more bonkers.

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Sportsman

It’s also no secret that Aussies love a beer or three. Our beer consumption per capita peaked at 140.3 liters (37 U.S. gallons) per year in 1974. 

Charger Sportsman From Wheels Jan 1975

Arguably also the peak of ‘70s fashion, the Valiant Charger Sportsman was a limited-edition of 399 with a unique paint job and also featured an interior so lurid it’s amazing they didn’t require a handlebar-moustache and gold chain as a prerequisite for buyers. Other than the Ford Landau Coupe it’s probably the closest we got to a factory pimpmobile in Australia. 

I suppose they went with Sportsman because Pantsman didn’t make it past the committee.

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Equipped with the 265-cubic-inch (4.3-liter) Hemi Six, the biggest of the Hemi Six range and with either a four-on-the-floor manual or floor-shift auto I’m yet to find a wilder Australian-produced factory special based on the interior alone. Blasting “Evie” (Parts 1, 2 & 3, possibly the first 11-minute song to reach #1) on your aftermarket 8-track whilst driving one of these would have to be peak mid-’70s Australiana. 

This limited-edition Charger also had my all-time favorite car review written about it by Tony Curtis for Wheels Magazine in January 1975. Part fever dream it’s a real triumph of parody that cuts through the fantasy of owning a sporty coupe post-’73 oil crisis with the cold light of day.

White Knight

The next special-edition Charger after the Sportsman. Now a bit of an insulting term online, it was a typical stripe-and-spoiler package to move some VK Chargers. Not quite as lurid as the Sportsman outside nor inside, they came in Amarante Red or Alpine White and were the only Aussie Valiant to come with body-colored bumpers. 

Drifter

This was one of the last special editions, unusual in that it spanned the Charger, Ute and the short-lived Panelvan that CAL only made for a short time and was very much late to the surf-van party created by the Holden Sandman ute and panelvan and fought by Ford with the Sundowner range of Escort and Falcon panelvans and even a trimmed-up Ford Transit. The name was meant to evoke images of the open road, however, with the skinny tires of the day that lacked grip in any conditions under a heavy right foot it would not be hard for the vehicle to resemble the modern-day definition.

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Tunnelram Aust Chrysler+(2)

Here’s a video too:

Honorable Mentions:

Pacer

No, nothing like the Mirthmobile from Wayne’s World, this was CAL’s performance Valiant sedan from 1969 to 1972. Kitted out with period boy-racer trimmings like racy decals and stripes, blacked-out bonnets and trim, dash-mounted tachometer in the VF model and typically loud colors with lurid names such as the now unfortunately-named Isis Yellow, Thar She Blue and Riding Hood Red. They began CAL’s entry to the youth market ahead of the release of the Australian Charger in 1971.  The name was also revived for a 50th-anniversary limited-edition Chrysler 300C in 2019.

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Safari  

The name given to Aussie Valiant Station Wagons from 1963 to 1971. Whilst not a particularly off-the-wall name even for the time, it does seem a little out of place for such a conservative, middle-of-the-road wagon from the period when CAL kept everything straight-laced. I suppose someone at CAL was a Beach Boys fan.

Wayfarer

This was a U.S. Dodge nameplate in the late 40s and early 50s, so it’s not a huge surprise that CAL recycled this moniker. Why it ended up on the higher-spec Valiant Utes (as in, you were wealthy enough to option front disc brakes, a heater or maybe a radio)  from 1965 to 1971 is a bit of a head-scratcher when it was originally used on post-war business coupes and convertibles Stateside. 

As an aside, we later worked out that Cactus is probably a base-model Dodge ute, it’s not always clear from the VIN on the early models with the production lists pre-1971 also not being accessible. Evidence for Cactus being a Dodge includes there being no door switches for the interior light (rubber delete grommets still intact), the rear bumpers have definitely not had any chrome on them before, and the most permanent evidence is the fact that the inner roof structure only has provision for a driver’s side sun visor. That’s right, they didn’t even bother spot-welding in the mount for the passenger side that is out-of-sight under the vinyl headliner!

Using ‘“Town & Country” on later special-edition Utes that were dressed up with Vinyl roofs, carpeted interiors and formal stripes later on make far more sense to me from a naming standpoint.

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LeBaron

Yes, we had our own LeBaron as a special edition for 1978. As befitting the name, this was a classed-up CL model Valiant Regal of which only 400 were built, and among the first Aussie Chryslers to receive a radial-tuned suspension. A bit of an odd name choice in that we didn’t get Imperials in any great numbers on our shores. No word on if they had any owners with a penchant for a short skirt and a long jacket. 

Hillman Hustler (1)
Photo: Author

Hillman Hustler

CAL had many sub-brands under its wing through the Detroit office’s acquisitions over the 60s and 70s. These included Rootes Group marques such as Humber and Hillman. Another name that’s been a bit tainted by later developments (thanks Larry Flint), the Hustler was a boy-racer version of the Hillman Hunter which famously won the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon at the last moment when the leading Citroen collided with a spectator vehicle. Now Hustlers (let alone Hunters) are almost extinct and you’re lucky to see one even at a major car show.

Their advert was rather exciting, with snazzy music with a bit of an old-school-heist vibe and some bloke whispering features like “radial-ply tires” and “four-speed box.”

Chrysler Centura

By the early ’70s, the mid-size car market was becoming a booming sector in Australia. Holden had good success with the Vauxhall Viva-based Torana, and Ford with the Cortina. CAL rightly wanted to get in on some of this action, and so a deal was made to utilize Chrysler Europe and import Simca/Chrysler 180 vehicle bodies from France. Once in the country, they would either be sold with a 2L inline-four-cylinder (also from Simca) or have the 215 or 245 ci Hemi six dropped into their lengthened nose.

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Complicating matters was a ban by dockworker’s unions in Australia in 1973 on French products, in protest to the French nuclear testing in the Pacific. This lasted two years, and as a result, the Centura’s entry into the market was delayed and CAL was late to the party once again. The Centura was not a sales success and the model was dropped in 1978 due to this and due to Peugeot purchasing a bankrupt Chrysler Europe.

With the Hemi six, the Centura’s handling is best described as a ‘lead-tipped arrow’, due to the extra weight being quite forward of the front axle. A similar problem did plague the early six-cylinder Cortinas, to be fair. 

Due to their lightweight chassis and many already having been factory-fitted for a Hemi six, they were popular with drag racers as they offered a nearly 200kg weight reduction over a full-size Valiant. The rear differential, the relatively strong and modifiable Borg Warner 75 unit was a popular item for hotrodders and owners of sixties Mustangs, with Centuras often bought in the 90s just for their rear axle and then scrapped which has made them relatively uncommon now. 

From the steadily declining sales, industrial disputes and Chrysler USA’s money problems in the late ’70s, CAL’s operations were sold to Mitsubishi in 1980. The Valiant was still produced until 1981 when that line was closed to make room for more Mitsubishi products. CAL only managed a best result of 3rd place in the outright standings in the ‘72 Bathurst 500-mile race (on a shoestring budget compared to the other two), which also served to keep mainstream attention fixed on Holdens and Fords.

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The quirky engineering and focus on tough six-cylinders whilst also offering big V8 cruisers has kept a loyal fanbase over the decades. Likely the biggest single-brand car show in Australia is Chryslers on the Murray which is held in Albury-Wodonga every March and sees about 1,000 cars attend.

Through this event and the old online-forum era I have strong friendships with other Chrysler enthusiasts across Australia, and the camaraderie back in the earlier days was exceptional. I once traded fuel tanks with someone who lived over 1500km away and had never met, using friends we knew in-between to transfer the tanks between towns and hand-over to the next person to continue the journey at no cost. 

I am seeing echoes of this in the Suzuki Mighty Boy/Alto fanbase, another underdog vehicle with passionate owners who are willing to help anyone in need even at their own personal cost to keep the cars running.

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Photo: The author and his car, from back in 2007

As a Valiant owner, I used to get picked on by some of the older car enthusiasts in town. Back in the mid-2000s, for them, it was Holden, Ford, or nothing. Now with the prices of all classics rising and good examples of any classic metal being harder to find, I am now fielding questions from some of the same people who now are becoming interested in these cars as classic Holdens and Fords get priced further out of reach. Truly, this is democracy manifest.

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As always, if there is something about Aussie car culture you’d like to know more about, let me know in the comments!

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

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How An Australian Town Came Together To Help An American Fix The Most Hopeless Car On Earth

Australian Civil War: 1980 Holden Commodore vs 1989 Ford Falcon S

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Strangek
Strangek
1 year ago

I love this stuff, keep it coming Laurence! I’d like any variety of Drifter please, I’ll put wider wheels on when it gets here.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Strangek

Thank you, I try to aim for the more obscure stuff and the background contest for what we had here as the mainstream stuff has been done to death on Aussie car websites.

If you want to see a neat custom Chrysler panelvan, look up Simon Major’s Disturbia.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

So much want for the Valiant Ute up top! Simple, clean lines, an unpretentious grill, and the turn signals on the fenders seal the deal: I covet those. I actually bought a 72(?) Satellite (I think) once simply because it had the turn signal repeaters in little bullets on top of the fenders way out front. Saw one flash during the test drive, immediately turned around to go back and tell him I’d take it.

Keep writing, Laurence : I’m woefully ignorant of Aussie car culture. The more you tell us about it, the more I realize just how much I’m missing.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Thank you! That’s a VG model ute, the model after Cactus. My ute is one of these, just worse for wear of course haha

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

I really feel like the Hemi Six was a missed opportunity for Chrysler US to make even the base vehicles seem sporty. I am also surprised how long lived the 351 cleveland was. up until Edelbrock made some heads, aussie cleveland heads were the go to performance upgrade.

Of course most of us US gearheads seem to only want Mad Max cars, and to be sure the XB/GT is in it’s own right a really slick car made with it’s own following outside of that movie. But I still want one with a Monza kit on it in Black.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

what was the last 20 percent or so in 1970?

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  JDE

I haven’t got all the sales numbers, but Toyota was fourth at approximately 10 percent.

The rest would be made up of the other good dozen or so marques, such as VW (locally made), Datsun, Renault & Peugeot still had quite a presence here and Leyland was still a force in the small car market.

Other interesting sales for 1970 include 58 Rolls-Royces, 47 Porsches, eight Lamborghinis, seven Ferraris, six Aston Martins, five Maseratis, and three Bentleys.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 year ago

That brown “The Chrysler” sedan is a knockout. They really had is going on with those loop bumpers.

James Mason
James Mason
1 year ago

It seems to carry the same design language as the 1969-1972 Newport/New Yorker/300

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 year ago
Reply to  James Mason

Fuselage, baby!

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 year ago

Thanks, Lawrence, for the well-written article about Australian automotive scene! I look forward to more articles!

Seeing Mad Max for the first time in 1982 exposed me to the bizarre Australian vehicles. My head was churning through the “Rolodex” of automobiles to identify those vehicles in the film. With no Internet and search engine back then, I never found out the names of cars until first-ever visit to Australia in 1987. Gratefully, one of the Australians in my camping group was very well-versed like you and was very helpful in identifying those cars and explaining their history. I came home with a second set of “Rolodex” for the Australian automobiles.

Ricardo
Ricardo
1 year ago

Great read Lawerence. I think there is a place for contributions from Australia on this website. Australia is a wonderful mix of being a British Colony based within Asia influenced heavily by the USA. As such we get a mix of stuff to eat, watch, and drive which comes from all over the world but gets tweaked to suit our taste. We eat tons of Asian foods, drive mostly Japanese and Korean cars, but watch a lot of American movies and TV and even use their slang.
What we have done historically in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is develop cars from USA, UK and Asia and adapt them for Australian conditions: ie high heat, and crap roads. American cars got upgraded suspension while cars from the UK got bigger radiators….and upgraded suspension.
Asian cars had a robust nature about them from early on building a reputation for value, reliability and good engineering which is why in 2022 Toyota has 21% new car market share followed by Mazda with 9.6% followed by Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi.
Perhaps explaining Leyland’s history in Australia would be a good topic to cover next. So much promise, so much flair, so much failure. My science teacher had a P76 in high school delivering on the whole science teacher/weird car thing that Breaking Bad repeated so well decades later.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo

Thank you!

One day I plan on writing about Leyland in Australia, but I want to do a lot of research on this before writing as there’s already been enough hacky journalism around that topic and the P76 in particular.

My dad worked at Leyland at the Zetland plant from the late 60s up until 1975 or so, unfortunately he passed away when I was eight so I can’t ask him but I think I can track down some people he worked with.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
1 year ago

As a previous owner of several Leyland P76s and past member of the Victorian Owner’s Club, I can confirm a lot of the ‘journalism’ relating to the story of the P76 over the years has just been repeating previous lazy research on the subject.

On the topic of foreign cars adapted for manufacture in Australia to suit Australian conditions, a weird extension of this was Australian cars exported to various markets, including to South Africa in the late 60s/early 70s, until Apartheid protests in Australia made it problematic. New local content rules in South Africa (calculated by weight) resulted in Australian cars exported as partially assembled shells and fitted with drivetrains in South Africa, leading to oddities such as later model Valiants being fitted with Slant Sixes long after they were replaced in Australia by the Hemi six, Falcon utes badged as Rancheros, and Cortina utes with V6 engines.

Craig Simpson
Craig Simpson
1 year ago

Thanks Laurence, takes me back to the cars around the burbs when I was a kid (although we were a Holden family, with Kingswood, Torana and Commodore being the feature nameplates). I also haven’t heard Evie in a long, long time, so thanks for that.

I did search for that Wheels article but came up short.

At some stage it would be good to delve into the transition from Chrysler to Mitsubishi. IIRC (and it’s a long time ago) the first Sigmas were badged Chrysler, (or was it the other way around, and the last Chryslers were badged Mitsubishi?)

And lastly, next time you’re in Sydney we should do an Autopian Sydney meet. Be interesting to see if there’s 5 or 50 of us.

SK2807
SK2807
1 year ago
Reply to  Craig Simpson

You remember correctly, the first Sigma’s we’re in 77 or 78 and were Chrysler Sigma’s, then Mitsubishi bought them out in 1980 and long story short we ended up with Magna’s a few years after!

Craig Simpson
Craig Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  SK2807

The last of that long line of cars was the Mitsubishi 380, a pristine example of which is still owned by my parents.

Now that’s a car worthy of shining a light on to an incredulous world.

CivoLee
CivoLee
1 year ago

I’ve always liked Australian cars. They look like how American cars might look if gasoline cost the same here as it does in the rest of the world.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 year ago

Great article & well documented!

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 year ago

Great article & well documented! ????????

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago
Reply to  Rapgomi

He writes very well for a foreign language.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Yeah nah yeah, thanks cobber!

SK2807
SK2807
1 year ago

A succulent Chinese meal!

Ricardo
Ricardo
1 year ago
Reply to  SK2807

I understand the reference but not the context here….. and keep your hands to yourself

SK2807
SK2807
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo

Check the second last paragraph and Laurence’s reference to democracy manifest….I’m not just a random Australian quoting our true national anthem!

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
1 year ago
Reply to  SK2807

I read the line but skipped the link. Checking it out now was quite good and gives me several lines to throw out in my next conference call with my colleagues down under. Democracy manifest indeed. Keep it coming Lawrence!

Drad
Drad
1 year ago

When we moved to Australia for a number of years, I thought it was weird seeing Mitsubishi Sigma’s with Chrysler badges on them. I guess they were phasing out the brand in the early ’80s. I know that in New Zealand, when Jeep came back to the market, they put “By Chrysler” badges on them all and I’m fairly certain that the Cherokee had the Pentastar badge on the tailgate release button (I could be wrong).

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
1 year ago

I grew up living abroad so I always love an international perspective of my favorite topics, that being said, I loved reading the article. So many of my favorite sites focus so much on US cars, reading about the Australian car scene felt so fresh and interesting. It really made my day, especially the Cake reference.

Adam Rice
Adam Rice
1 year ago

“Consolidating it’s position.”

/me winces.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Rice

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that is an autocorrect fail. I have watched spelling errors become more common in print, not less, over the course of my lifetime since autocorrect became a thing.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago

Argh, bugger! I’m quite particular about that too, I’m blaming spellcheck or whatever Google Docs uses, the fault still lies with me for not picking it up in a proof-read!

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Rice

Oh, yes, I noticed it right away! I worked in the advertising agency, and we had a bunch of copy editors and proofreaders who are extremely anal retentive about the orthography rules and spelling.

It does get to me every time people are unaware about the difference between your/you’re, its/it’s, their/they’re, etc.

Dave Murray
Dave Murray
1 year ago

Why are two letter model designations so common in Australia? “BA Falcon” “VL Commodore” etc. And one letter, two number designations on Japanese imports? “K10 Micra”, “E20 Corolla”. You can tell which youtubers I watch from this list, ha. The closest thing I can think of for North American produced vehicles is Jeep, with the XJ, JL, etc, but that makes sense as they descend from CJ being an abbreviation. Beyond that, we just have generations of vehicles “3rd Gen Firebird”, or retronyms like “square body Chev”

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Murray

I think it’s because most of our cars had long market cycles, with annual refreshes being very uncommon compared to the US.
It makes narrowing down what you’re talking here about easier, as there was often an overlap with a new model or where the ute or station wagon variant may not come out until the following year.

An example would be in 2000 for the Holden Commodore. The Commodore sedan and wagon had already moved to the VT series in 1997, whereas the ute was still the previous VS model until that December when it moved over to that platform as the VU.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago

*about here easier. Phones sometimes!

Matthew Parsons
Matthew Parsons
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Murray

The European sourced Fords I have owned also have two letter model designations, such as the LV Focus or LZ Focus.

Ricardo
Ricardo
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Murray

There were coding charts within each manufacturer to signify the model and year of release.
The famous Holden Commodore did not start with a ‘VA’, it started with the ‘VB’ Model, then went to an updated ‘VC’ model about 3 years later, followed by the ‘VC’ after that. Next model along however was not a ‘VD’ or ‘VE’…. it was the ‘VL’ (complete with Nissan’s ripper RB30 engine).

SK2807
SK2807
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo

You’re missing a VH and a VK in there before the VC became a VL

Greg R
Greg R
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo

The VC was followed by the VK, although I can understand someone wanting top forget about them. The VL came after the VK.

Troy Marsden
Troy Marsden
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo

The story goes that they skipped VD because… well…

Not sure why they went all the way to VL though. Probably a marketing decision.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Troy Marsden

And then they went back and used VE and VF later plus VG on utes…. no idea here either!

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Murray

I had already sold my 1995 Jeep Cherokee Sport before I ever knew what an XJ was. They don’t say “XJ” anywhere on them.

Justin Haas
Justin Haas
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Murray

Folk do it for Mercedes and BMW, too. I think it makes people feel cool knowing the factory code name.

W123 or w201

e30, e34, e39

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Okay laurence a whole lot of blah blah blah. Sure Australia had some great cars but many more failures. Let’s be honest if all the home market vehicles were a success the foreign companies would not have succeeded. Not that i wouldn’t some Holden cars but really rose colored glasses.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

You seem to have omitted the darkest era of American automobiles: Malaise Era during the 1970s and early 1980s. Extravagantly useless battle ram bumpers, mediocre build quality, deeply suffocated and underpowered engines, questionable styling directions, excessive size and weight that are sold by yard and ton, and so forth.

General Motors X-Car, anyone? “Honey, We Shrunk the Cadillac!” Cookie cutting style back by popular demand? Need I go on?

Paul Brogger
Paul Brogger
1 year ago

Love it all, Laurence but the vignette beginning
I once traded fuel tanks . . .
is pretty special! Keep it coming!

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Brogger

I mean, he’s just going to leave us hanging like that?

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago

Thanks! The full story on that trade probably isn’t that interesting outside of the trade itself.

Basically there are two different Charger tanks (excluding the humongous Bathurst racing tank), pre-76 and post-76. For some reason I had a post-76 tank in my ’74 Charger and it didn’t fit properly as there’s a dome at the top of the tank for fuel evaporation control or something.

Other bloke had the flat-topped Charger tank I needed, I had the emissions-era tank he needed so we did the swap and had a few sets of people we know transport the tanks between us relay-style.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

So Valiant was its own marque in Australia all the way until Chrysler pulled out of the market completely? I never realized that, they only did that in the US for the first model year in 1959/1960, then it got folded into Plymouth.

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
1 year ago

I concur. Fascinating, informative article. Jonesing for a Ute..had at 3 Rancheros, a 68 Falcon Based, and of the 72 Jetnose ones. Some of the cars I shoulda coulda woulda kept…if I had a place to store them..and back then who would have guessed. Apparently not me! Sold ‘em at a profit and it was on to the next one! Ok, let’s hear about the GM and Ford stories!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

Thank you! Next story is a bit of a dive into one of the big two, should add some context to how Australiam cars fared in the later Malaise era

Iain Delaney
Iain Delaney
1 year ago

Was the Hillman the same as the U.K. Hillman? We had one of those for a very short time in 1971, before the engine exploded. I guess Hillmans weren’t made for Canadian winters. The second-hand Corolla Dad bought to replace it made it to 1977.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 year ago
Reply to  Iain Delaney

Yep, Chrysler bought Hillman and Humber in 1967. Peugeot own the marque now.

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
1 year ago

What an entertaining story. Thank you for this. It amuses me that Chrysler by Chrysler predates Ferrari LaFerrari by decades. The “Hey, Charger” commercials made me flash back to the “Hey Javelin” commercials in the U.S.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago
Reply to  Iwannadrive637

Thanks, I looked that one up. Poor fella just wanted to drive his Javelin!

A few of our car ads have been re-creations or adaptations of US car commercials, I’ll make sure to point them out as we look at other brands and eras

Drew Donald
Drew Donald
1 year ago

I dunno. I can imagine quite a bit… of weirdness and fascination…

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

I’m liking that LeBaron.

I can’t figure out what its rough U.S. equivalent was though…so I guess the perceptions of Chrysler are similar here too, eh?

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 year ago

This was great read! Well done Laurence!!

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