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.
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.
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.
You will not get this car registered back onto the road. Australian inspection rules won’t allow a car that far gone to pass. It was a roo-shooter already for a reason (which meant it didn’t go on road).
At best you’ll have an ‘off road’ license which will let you bang it around a farm, but that’s it.
Everywhere else, it’ll be a trailer queen.
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.
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.
And now I’m going to be seeing Fred Gwynne as the audience whenever David tries to explain the situation.
Of course you do.
I love you, David Tracy.
Please don’t ever change. And don’t ever stop telling us the stories.
Parts vehicle??? What parts are left there????
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.
His ute is gonna get totaled in a wombat collision. Either that or a camel is going to come through the windshield after him. Disemboweled by a cassowary?
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?
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
Better watch the old classic “Bush Mechanics” to get in the mood of Aussie shitbox life.
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!
It ran when parked. I know what I’ve got. That will buff out. What do you mean that’s not a title?
I’m going to be a little more upbeat David. I never thought you would get that mail Jeep to Moab but you did it. I think this is a comparable challenge. Good Luck!
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!
Marmite or death!
/Points and howls like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.
How on earth did you find stuff that rusty in Australia??? I was under the impression that cars don’t really rust down there, due to the mild winters.
This is quite possibly the stupidest idea David Tracy has ever come up with. I love it!
This looks like quite a challenge, but it is mostly normal A body stuff in disguise.
I think when it is complete, and I don’t have any doubts of your ability to make that happen, you will have to get Lawrence added to this list to avoid confusion.
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.
David has the exact same look on his face as when my girlfriend first showed me her bewbs.
So you are Editor-in-Chief and Jason is Chief Editor?