The VIP TREATMENT

IT MIGHT BE 50 YEARS OLD AND CONSERVATIVELY STYLED, BUT THIS VIP VALIANT CRUISER CAN PUNCH A NINESECOND PASS IN FULL 60S STREET TRIM

STORY JOSH BENNIS PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

IT M I G HT BE 50 YEARS OLD AND CONSERVATIVELY STYLED, BUT THIS VIP VALIANT CRUISER CAN PUNCH A NINESECOND PASS IN FULL 60S STREET TRIM

I’LL admit, long before I typed the first word of this article I jumped online to see if there were any Valiant VE VIPs for sale.

No, adding a Valiant to the garage isn’t on my radar, but there’s just something about the combination of trim, paint, chrome, vinyl roof, wheels and stance of Mick Lulic’s VIP Val that is tremendously appealing.

Mick is a through-and-through Valiant guy.

He’s owned a Charger for the best part of 25 years. And it’s definitely a family thing, because his dad owns one, too. That said, owning a 1968 VE VIP wasn’t originally in his plans. Upon attending the Mopar Nationals at Calder Park in 2010, this particular VE VIP caught his eye, and over that weekend he fell in love with the car for what he calls its “gangster appeal”, and thought about it for a long time afterwards.

“Five years after I first saw it at Calder, a friend called me up and said that the car’s for sale,” Mick explains. “I then I spoke to my wife and said: ‘What do you reckon?’ She said: ‘If you really want it, go and grab it.’”

So Mick got on the phone and spoke to the car’s then-owner, Robert Zganec. They chatted about how Mick had seen the VI P in 2010, and about the car’s overall condition given the time that had passed since he’d seen it in the metal.

“When I first spoke to Robert he said that someone was interested in the car and that they were coming to look at it the next day,” Mick says. “I straight away said: ‘I’m gonna get a trailer and make the trip from Melbourne to Adelaide on the chance this other guy doesn’t buy it.’ And sure enough, the next day my wife and I went there and brought it home.

“When I got to Adelaide I pulled into his driveway just as Robert was getting home from work. He pulled the covers off, put the key in the ignition and it started straight away. I could tell that the car was well sorted, and that the engine was strong. The paint was also still in top condition given it was only painted a few years beforehand.

“On closer inspection there were a few things I wanted to fix, such as the chrome and the trim, but this wasn’t a big deal, and if anything it would allow me to add my touch to the car. The selling point was that the car was three-quarters done to the way I wanted.

I loved it.”

A cool fact about this VE VIP is that it’s not a barn-find that’s been mini-tubbed and hotted up. Mick put us in touch with the previous owner, Robert Zganec, who says that the VIP has been performing in the Adelaide racing scene for as long as he can recall.

“I remember seeing the car around Adelaide as a 17-year-old,” Robert says. “It was originally owned by a shop called Pope Street Performance that used to race it; I believe it was their dad’s car. Then it disappeared for a very long time, and when I heard it was for sale I went and bought it. I drove it with

THE SELLING POINT WAS THAT THE CAR WAS THREE-QUARTERS DONE TO THE WAY I WANTED. I LOVED IT

a standard 360ci motor for a while, but it eventually gave way.”

After the motor died, Robert sourced another 360ci Chrysler small-block from an Australianbuilt Charger, and had an Adelaide engine builder by the name of Dino Cecere put together a package that would hopefully run a 10.80 or 10.90. The motor was built with goodies such as an Eagle stroker crank (stretching capacity out to 410ci), ported Edelbrock Performer RPM alloy heads, COMP camshaft, Scat H-beam rods, and forged Diamond flat-top pistons. The combination is enough for roughly 600hp on 98-octane pump fuel.

The fuel system is made up of a 950 Holley with a Holley Black fuel pump, and spark is thanks to Crane HI-6 ignition. Cooling is sorted by a CL Valiant V8 radiator and a 16-inch thermo fan.

Sending power to the rear 15x10 Center Line Auto Drag wheels and Mickey Thompson ET Street tyres is a 904 Torqueflite through a nineinch diff with a Detroit Locker and 4.11 gears.

together While he owned the car, Robert had run a best of 9.89@140mph with the help of 150-shot of NOS. Given this VIP cruiser runs full street trim, these numbers make for a very mean street car.

Within a few months of getting the VE VIP back to Melbourne, Mick had the car looking as it does on these pages: fresh chrome bumpers and trim, some light touch-ups, and a refurbished interior.

The latter is something Mick’s particularly proud of. With the help of a trimmer friend, he managed to salvage the original pressed seat inserts and then match up the outside of the seats with new material to keep the VIP’s original look. The door trims are as they came from the factory; however, the carpet and kick panels have been refreshed. The attention to detail in the high-end models like the VIP leaves little to be desired; the back seat looks like something you’d find in a late-60s inner-city smoking lounge.

Mick tells us that white paint with blue trim is quite rare. “The way the trim came out 50 best trim, car. years ago is pretty much spot-on in my opinion; I simply wanted to salvage it the best I could,” he says. “People comment on how nice the trim is now; a lot of the time they don’t know it’s been redone. I wanted the factory look, and I think we achieved that.”

Mick reckons he now likes driving his VIP more than his Charger. “I’ve had the Charger for 25 years. A few of my mates said: ‘Mick, the Charger has become a bit second-fiddle,’ and I replied: ‘Well, this is my new love now!’”

When asked if he’d ever consider selling the VIP, Mick laughs: “It’s not even an option.

Money can’t replace this car – the history of it and the overall combination. If I looked online and tried to find another one like this it wouldn’t happen.”

At the moment Mick says he’s enjoying cruising the car every Sunday, and might race it later to see if he can improve on the times it’s run in the past. For now, you’ll see (and hear) it rolling around the streets of Melbourne. s

THE BACK SEAT LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING YOU’D FIND IN A LATE-60S INNER-CITY SMOKING LOUNGE

MICK LULIC 19 68 VALIANT VE VIP

Paint: Glasurit Alpine White

ENGINE

Brand: Chrysler small-block 360ci (stroked to 410ci) Induction: 950 Holley Heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM alloy, ported Camshaft: COMP Conrods: Scat H-beam Pistons: Forged Diamond flat-top Crank: Eagle stroker Ignition: Crane HI-6 Oil pump: Melling high-volume Fuel system: Holley Black Cooling: CL Valiant V8 radiator, 16-inch thermo fan Exhaust: Bruce Morphett 4-into-1 headers, dual 3in exhaust

TRANSMISSION

Gearbox: 904 Torqueflite, fully manualised, reverse-pattern Converter: TCE 4800rpm Diff: 9in Detroit locker, 4.11 gears

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Springs: Torsion bar reset 1.5in (f), factory springs reset 2in (r) Shocks: Competition Engineering; 90/10 (f), 50/50 (r) Brakes: DBA slotted discs (f), Ford drums (r) Master cylinder: Factory

WHEELS & TYRES

Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x5.5 (f), 15x10 (r) Rubber: Nankang 185 /80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 325/50 /15 (r)

THANKS

Robert Zganec for building and selling me the car; Ronnie Borg from M&J