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I Now Own A Parts Car In Australia: I Have Officially Peaked As A Human Being

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September is approaching, meaning I’ll be embarking on one of the most ill-advised wrenching trips…possibly ever. That’s because a few months ago I spontaneously bought a 1969 Chrysler Valiant Wayfarer “ute”located in the middle of nowhere, seven hours inland from Sydney, Australia. My plan is to fly to Australia from Detroit and road-trip the $900 machine to the World’s largest Ute show before exploring more of the country. But first I have to fix the crusty ute, and to aid me on that front — I’m proud to announce — I now own a parts car!

I think I’ve peaked, folks. I really do. I never thought I’d own a single car in Australia — to own TWO (okay, let’s be real, 1.5) is just epic.

I’ve got to give the credit to Laurence, the reader from the Dubbo area of Australia (basically in the middle of Nowhere, New South Whales) [Editor’s Note: I was going to fix this to “Wales” but this is just too funny a typo, so it stays. — JT] who volunteered to buy the first ute on my behalf a few months back after he and I got to talking over Instagram about the 1965 Valiant I bought in upstate New York last fall. Turns out, Valiants are quite popular in Australia; In fact, one of Laurence’s buddies had a spare “VF”-generation Chrysler Valiant Ute body sitting around, and after looking at my rustbucket, Laurence figured it might actually make for a good donor, so he bought it and hauled it back home, where my 1969 sits.

Laurence says the new parts vehicle might actually become the primary project car given its relatively rust-free body. Look at this thing from the passenger’s side; the panels look good!:

And hell, there’s even a flame painted around the gas cap:

Okay okay, if you look at the ute from other angles, things do look a little more, um, dire:

But don’t let those missing panels fool you; this is a solid chassis. Just look at that front unibody rail — unlike the one on my other Valiant Ute, this thing is straight as an arrow! And that’s a big deal, given that I have to get my machine through Australia’s inspection.

[Editor’s Note: I just want everyone to look at the picture up there and really let it sink in that that is what David thinks is his key to passing a government inspection. He looked at that and thought “oh good, now I don’t have to worry about paid government officials not letting me take a shitbox on Australian roads.” Fucking hell. – JT]

Laurence and I had a little video chat the other day to go over our newest acquisition.

As you can see in the image above, that transmission tunnel has been thoroughly “massaged” to fit some other powertrain.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this handiwork.

Laurence also managed to snag a spare Hemi Six engine — this one the smallest 215 cubic-inch, though he’s got a line on a 245. That’s the Australia-only straight-six based on a prototype Chrysler design that never came to the U.S. The engine replaced the venerable Slant Six starting in 1970-and-up Australian Chryslers; I badly want to experience this mysterious engine’s prodigious reliability and torque, so I’ll be swapping one into my ute:

For just a few hundred bucks, Laurance got a whole other Valiant ute, plus that engine and a three-speed manual transmission. The man’s ability to acquire Chrysler Valiant parts is unmatched.

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You can see in the screenshot above the pedal box that Laurence snagged. I plan to convert my Valiant — currently a slant-six automatic — to a column-shift manual Hemi Six. Is this complicating things a bit given the current state of my Valiant? Absolutely. But as cool as the “ute” side of things is, I’ve already experienced the joy of the Slant Six, since it was offered here in the U.S. There’s no way I’m flying all the way to Australia to drive around a car with the same powertrain I can get stateside when there’s a mysterious inline-six that will plop right in.

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Sadly, the column in this new parts vehicle has the shift tabs all broken off, though the good news is that Laurence has spare manual steering columns. Hopefully one of the works and doesn’t jam up too often as these columns tend to do.

The column is obviously not optimal, but on the plus side: Look at these rock-solid floors!:

Even the bed floor only has a couple of holes in it, meaning the under-bed/behind-bench storage — which is essentially the second-row footwell of the Plymouth Valiant wagons offered in the U.S. (this is the platform on which the Australian Valiant utes were based) —  will only become a little wet if it rains.

[Editor’s Note: David, this is an automotive website, not an archaeology website, which you seem to be confused about, based on these pictures. Are those potsherds in there? –JT]

Laurence also has a spare front subframe/K-member, which is important part needed to swap the Slant Six for the Hemi Six.

Speaking of the Hemi Six, here’s a closer look at the 215 Laurence snagged for cheap:

Here are a few more images of my parts vehicle. The dash could definitely be a bit more complete:

Oh, here’s a little frame-mounted bracket that holds the Z-bar for the clutch linkage:

I’ve got to be honest with you: I have no idea how I’m going to pull this off. I’ve got obligations in late August and early October, meaning I’ve only got September to fix this ute, get it through inspection, and road trip it. That just doesn’t sound like enough time. I may have to cancel my August obligation and make it up to my friend (We were set to go to an Alan Jackson concert in Lincoln; maybe we can go to one in Pittsburg in October instead? I’ll talk to him. I really hate canceling plans on people).

Perhaps as concerning is the 14 hour time difference between the U.S.’s east coast and Australia’s. Back when I worked at Jalopnik, I used to visit my brother in Hong Kong quite frequently. Writing from there was tricky due to the 12 hour time difference. Now that I’m The Autopian’s Editor-In-Chief, I edit almost every article that goes up here; Editing from 10 PM to 5 AM, all while I’m wrenching on a genuine shitbox doesn’t seem feasible. This just means I’ll have to set some processes in place to make sure this place still runs smoothly for those five weeks I’m in the bush.

There will be plenty of wrenching content coming from me, and I’ll still edit the big stuff, but daily small blogs: That’s all Jason. (So you can all expect lots of wacky stuff during that period, as Torch Unleashed is quite something).

[Editor’s Note: Oh, good. Thanks for the heads up. — JT]

Anyway, clearly this whole operation hasn’t really been completely thought through (my motto of “Buy First, Think Later” strikes yet again).

But I’ll figure it out. One way or another I’m going to keep this site humming while wrenching on — and hopefully cruising around Australia in — a Hemi Six-powered Chrysler Valiant Ute. Should a 30 year-old like me maybe be focusing on other things like dating and family-creation and homeownership and other responsible things? I don’t know; I’ve been told this. All I can tell you is that I’m currently blinded by the glory of that blue Hemi Six sitting in the bed of my parts Valiant. I can’t wait to fire that thing up.

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137 Responses

  1. Only 3.5 Subaru as one cheap 82 wagon wouldn’t run so offered 100 for removing everything within my skill level, and the wheels had to stay on. of course got the hubcaps and spare.

  2. Well, I’d owned about 100 cars by age 30, so…. I think you’re doing great. Love and all that comes with it will happen when it happens, just don’t fuck it off. Find someone who understands you first.

    On to the ute(s), again, awesome job. I admittedly haven’t read everything on the subject, but is there a plan to bring the whole end product stateside at some point?

    If I were able to, I’d have you scouting me some Ford I-6 Inline heads to fit old 250 blocks, and a Barra for this blasted 2000 Mustang I’m driving at the moment that’s trying to worm its way into my heart like a parasitic, well, worm.

      1. Indeed. I can say that a healthy 90% ran/drove. Not that they were worth much. I remember buying cars at abandoned vehicle auctions for less than $100 and driving them home. I miss those days. I would’ve bought *more* cars that they said that I shouldn’t.

      1. I’m not convinced the structural integrity of stubborn rust will be sufficient to survive the addition of a Barra.
        I guess it does tick David’s requirement for an Australian-specific straight 6 though.

    1. Edit (we really need an edit function, and pic posting p-l-e-a-s-e): EFI heads to replace the log head carburated junk we left off with. Got future fox body project in mind and it really needs a decent EFI I-6.

  3. I think we can get you in the Guinness Book of World Records for owning the shittiest cars on the most continents. You’re already at 3 continents and I’m sure your brother can help you find another shitbox in Hong Kong for number 4. We’ll just have to work on Africa, South America, and finally Antarctica will probably be your biggest challenge. But, have no fear, we all believe in your ability to find the shittiest cars in any place in the world. You can do it!

    1. He’s already planning a road trip to South America in a Grand Cherokee. Chances are high that it breaks down there and he’s forced to abandon it for some indeterminate amount of time.

      This is a highly realistic goal for David if he can figure out the Antarctica challenge.

    2. I wonder if he really owns anything in Australia. Met some guy on the internet bought a car site unseen. He has found me many parts and has shown me pictures of them. If it is on the internet it must be true. It used to be a prominent forehead translated to intelligence. I’m thinking a mischievous friend of DT keeps pranking him while he is asleep. But it makes for excellent content.

  4. I recently finished mechanically restoring a 1967 Volvo 1800. I had spent years collecting parts and refurbishing the mechanical components. Even with all or most of the parts going into rust free shell it still took a while to get all that stuff back in and adjusted. I think this build will quickly eat into 6 weeks. In the end there is always a small part you need that adds 2 weeks to the project. I can’t wait to watch this progress. Any Autopians in Australia lending David a hand?

    1. I’ve offered. Especially given I’m only an hour or so up the road. However, unless Lawrence is going to start the restoration on David’s behalf now and has an inside line on a registered automotive engineer to approve this thing, I can’t see how it’ll get to the 2022 Deniliquin Ute Muster unless it’s on a trailer.

    1. He gets all his phones from a phone junkyard in Korea. It took a month to rebuild the current phone to a usable state, but it only gets 22 minutes of battery life on a full charge.

  5. David – I’m originally from Dubbo, but I live in Milwaukee now, and let me tell you I’m stoked watching this ute! I’m planning on bringing a ute up in a few years time (buying a Holden VU, so I’ll have to wait until it’s 25 years old) but man, the thought that there’ll be two utes from my old stomping ground in the Midwest kinda brings a tear to my eye!

  6. “Should a 30 year-old like me maybe be focusing on other things like dating and family-creation and homeownership and other responsible things? I don’t know; I’ve been told this” I am slightly younger than you, and just bought a house. Don’t do it, its a trap! Now I don’t have money to throw at project vehicles! Or time to work on them!

  7. Are there even enough collective parts to make one vehicle? Then again, he got the FC running. However the concept of passing any sort of inspection seems far off. Can one bribe the officials with a case of Fosters?

  8. While the idea of taking on this particular project was already amusing, I really appreciated the editorial snark from Jason.
    Good luck. Hope it goes better than it looks like it should.

  9. David, you now own busted, rusty vehicles in both hemispheres, and on opposite sides of the globe. What relationship, home, or offspring creation could possibly top this achievement? I have a 27 year long marriage, a nice house, 4 kids, and I’m still a little jealous of you.

    I wouldn’t swap lives, but the jealousy remains…

    1. It’s unhealthy. Both of these cars should probably be scrapped. He keeps buying these projects and amassing a junkyard of wasted time and impossible dreams.. It’s just a continuation of the original problem.

  10. I don’t know what I’m looking forward to more, the interesting articles this project promises to generate, or the 5 weeks of Torch Unleashed.

    It’s probably the Torch Unleashed.

    1. Definitely Torch Unleashed although I’m slightly terrified if current Torch is in fact leashed. This site is going to be 24/7 taillights and building cars out of taillight and what is the best smoothie to drink out of a taillight and other taillight shenanigans. Then again we will get more Mack Hardigraw so I’ve come around from being scared to being overjoyed! Bring on Torch Unleashed!!

  11. >Should a 30 year-old like me maybe be focusing on other things like dating and family-creation and homeownership and other responsible things? I don’t know; I’ve been told this.

    Don’t listen to anyone else, they’re not the boss of you!

        1. We need DT type people. I agree. They show up on the random breeding principle. I doubt we actually need a breeding program. Too many mice gets too many cobras, too many cobras gets too many mongoose, where does it end?

        2. I reckon the best way to find a mate is to lower your head and do what you love. Or, at least, the mate you find is less likely to leave you six months down the road when they find out that they have to make turn signal sounds in bed.

    1. Wow. If it was written off, the delays inherent in the whole application by mail part of the policy will certainly doom his plans, even if by some miracle it does qualify.

      I admire the amount of trust David is putting in his local contact to advise regarding and negotiate through these pitfalls.

  12. Yes, the ‘parts’ car looks more solid than the ‘project’ car, so I agree their monikers should be switched. Swap the interior and missing fender from the 1st ute onto the new one. Install Hemi 6 cross member and powertrain. Cruise in style!
    BUT – 5 weeks isn’t near enough time to do all this, even in a fully equipped shop with a lift, torches, welders, alignment rack… You do have a fully equipped shop to use, right? Right???
    Bless you, DT. Enjoy the adventure.

    1. I have to disagree. If the standards are only running and driving (somewhat safely), I think David can get it done. He’s gotten some pretty good “Roadkill” type wrenching experience in the last few years. A lot can get done in a week if you have the proper support and nothing else to do. Here, Lawrence sounds like he is going to be a major asset, so I think David can get this driving again in five weeks with Lawrence’s support. His biggest challenge is going to be not having a support vehicle when he road trips it.

      1. If you read prior posts Australia will not register a vehicle with rust that weakens structural integrity. Both these cars are only held together by dust. Does that means it passes because the rust is all the structural integrity the vehicle has?

  13. Make sure you eat a bunch of sausage rolls and meat pies. Since moving to the US I’ve resorted to making them at home and could you bring me some Vegemite? My jars looking a little low!

  14. Being an Aussie and working on older cars parts supply is insane,
    when you can find them in AU they take weeks to months to arrive

    when parts are communal I order from USA and they get here faster than AU suppliers.

    postage alone is taking near 2 weeks from my local capital which is less than 100 miles away.

    hope they offering you a loaner car for when this does not happen.

  15. Perfect! Combine all that “stuff” together and you’ll really have…uh, you’ll really…

    Well, I guess you’ll have 1 shitty car and a bunch of extra stuff. How will we tell the difference in the “before” and “after” pics?

  16. I love this. Classic DT buy/wrench/road trip but with added the added uniqueness of travelling half way round the world, plus Valiant too!
    I can’t wait, this is going to be incredible!

  17. That ‘massaging’ of the trans tunnel would likely have been to fit a 4 speed Single rail gearbox – particularly the ‘reshaping’ of the crossmember. Make sure the workmanship and welding is OK, because that crossmember carries the suspension loads, since that’s where the rear ends of the torsion bars mount.

  18. David, you do know it is possible to buy vehicles that run and drive without massive amount of labor, right? Every time you start one of these misadventures, I swear there is no way it is going to work, and yet it does. Good luck, and Godspeed!

  19. “Should a 30 year-old like me maybe be focusing on other things like dating and family-creation and homeownership and other responsible things? I don’t know; I’ve been told this. All I can tell you is that I’m currently blinded by the glory of that blue Hemi Six sitting in the bed of my parts Valiant. I can’t wait to fire that thing up.”

    The best thing that I ever did in this life was stop chasing and doing things that people (family) told me I SHOULD be doing, and instead just focused on and did the things that made ME happy. Sure, some of those decisions did not sit well with family (like deciding not to have kids), but it’s my life. You do you, man.

  20. David, I commend you on your unabashed enthusiasm for poorly researched masochism. I’ll be moving back home to Australia in October, so if you’re still trapped in a Valiant, I can always stand by and do a Nelson laugh.

  21. I am starting to feel guilt when I click on David’s posts.

    Maybe my views are encouraging this behavior. Maybe if I didn’t read it, he’d develop a more healthy relationship with a nice reliable vehicle. Maybe he’d find a nice sedan with an intact floor or a complete door sill.

    Instead, with my encouragement, he lives out the automotive version of Love After Lockup.

  22. so…based on our prior knowledge with you, just what would you look for in…a woman, Mr. Tracy?

    Multiple artificial appendages? Untreatable rashes? An inability to regulate body temperature? Breath like a Nawlins sewer?

  23. Torch, make sure Autopian gets some sort of executive life insurance policy on DT. He’s surely going to die from several simultaneous spider/snake/dingo bites complicated by brown lung.

  24. Trying to catch up, and not sure I have this straight.

    David Tracy is traveling far south to save two utes, and the outcome is going to depend critically on 1960s suspension and transmission technology?

    And I thought that David was out of the loop on pop culture references.

  25. With apologies to Austin Powers, DT is the new “International Man of Rustery” haha.
    Good luck and I look forward to reading more about the project. I’ll say a few Hail Marys that it goes easier than the debacle with the cab-over Jeep

  26. Overseas parts cars are definitely the way to go. In 2008 I bought a rather deteriorated KV Mini 1 for parts, sight-unseen, from the Bubblecar Museum in the UK. Inasmuch as this is a voiture sans permis that weighs about 400 pounds, the cheapest way to get it to Seattle was, somewhat surprisingly, air freight. So, have I ever flown internationally? No. Have I ever paid to have an entire parts car flown internationally? Yes.

  27. So David, it seems you bought a parts car that is largely devoid of parts. It is good you managed to get some other parts to complement it.

    I am curious if you have a secret goal of owning a broken car on every continent?

  28. LUCKY! ( In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice )

    Australia is my dream! I have a few mates down there that want me to come down to paint their cars ( cheaper for me to fly in, ship materials and do it on site then locally for them). But all the current restrictions on them have held us back. Can’t wait to see and hear all about this! BLOODY OATH!

    1. Yeah good luck with that. Australia has like a lot of deadly creatures. I hear 9 out of 10 tourists die before they even get their luggage at the airport luggage carousel. True fact Australia’s #1 export crap from luggage of dead tourists.

  29. Get in touch with the folks behind Mighty Car Mods. They might be willing to assist, or direct you to who could. They’ve put some off-beat stuff through the NSW “rego” (I think that’s how they refer to it) before. And they have lots of experience fixing up shitboxes. Might make for some cross promotion, too.

    1. Most of the cars they work on are not regoed, thus why things like the 2K turbo project it was all done in car parks.

      and why the BRZ is doomed.

      or they rego them first then modify (thus the whole Mira doner “shell”)

      other than the 240Z i don;t think they ahve really had one of the modified ones regoed.

  30. I think we need to come up with a Tracy number to determine how a person compares to you David.

    Like the Tracy number (Tr) could be the number of vehicles you own (n) multiplied by the ratio of inoperable vehicles (j) to operable ones (k) multiplied by the number of frames that have been reinforced due to rust (r) and the number of countries you have vehicles in (c)

    Tr = n * (j/k) * r * c

  31. I am anxious for you – reading the article, shaking my head, thinking “no, no, no”.
    You’re going to get spider-bit by a snake with Australian tetanus.

    If you pass inspection, it won’t be because the vehicle is street-safe. It will be because the inspector will pity your…your what?…Idiocy? Naivete? Hubris? Balls?

  32. The greatest thing about the internet was allowing weird people with niche interests to connect to each other.

    The worst thing about the internet was allowing disturbed individuals with potentially hazardous interests to connect with each other.

    I am unsure which this is.

  33. 2 things for you to consider:

    1.) Vehicles will not pass inspection in Australia if they have any rust that could compromise structural integrity (even slightly.)

    2.) Wear sunscreen every day, with a decent hat. The Australian Sun is vicious, and will definitely damage your skin.

    1. There is no way this will ever get by the RTA (or RMS or whatever they call themselves now) in NSW. Not in the time frame and budget DT has. Australia is not the US when it comes to that, that’s for sure.

      1. It’ll be a colossal waste of time and effort. You’re right – they won’t register this.

        Needs to shelve these damned doomed projects and focus on a single realistically obtainable objective.

      1. I got distracted along the way because I learned how to run a mill, and I learned how to cast aluminum. Currently I’m working on a twin 2bbl Weber setup for a late model E0 casting number head. I’ll get one or both making pulls one day.

        Also, in my profile there’s a pic of a set of LS heads cut up and welded together that fit on a Ford 300 block. That’s taking higher priority than either of the above.

        1. Just awesome, man, great job. I’m just now experimenting with hopping up the 250 6 in my ’74 Chevy pickup. Not much yet, just HEI, intake, headers and a Weber 2bbl.

          I love Inline 6s from Ford, GM (not Atlas) and Chrysler (high hopes for the Hurricane 6, slant 6 was innovative as hell), as well as imports but I tend to prefer the American products. I’d love a late 70s Datsun 810 with the fuel injected 240 Z motor (or upgraded to 2.8L).

          Sorry, I could ramble on for days lol

          1. I love all the I6s, including the Atlas (although I’m not sure I’d want to own one myself, y’dig?)
            Guy I know found that they can handle about 900HP in stock trim and has several that he’s throwing ungodly amounts of boost at in order to run single digits in the 1/4 mile. Google “Calvin Nelson 4200 Studebaker” if you’re interested. He’s got a great Youtube channel as well.

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