CHRYSLER’S TIMING WITH THE VK WAS A LITTLE OFF WHICH MEANS GOOD ONES ARE NOW SURPRISINGLY SCARCE.
If Chrysler Australia had owned a crystal ball it wouldn’t have gone with quite so much metal when designing the longer, wider VH model. And had there been some funding for development they might have done a bit more with the VK to insulate it from the rising tide of buyer hostility towards big cars and soaring fuel prices.
The VK arrived in October 1975 and less than a year later was gone. During its tenure in a depressed vehicle market, just over 20,000 were made and survivors are accordingly scarce.
With no money – or so it claimed – Chrysler spent hardly anything to differentiate this version of the ‘whale’ Valiant from earlier ones.
Externally the VK’s changes were confined to a new grille and some additional body embellishment. Inside was only marginally altered with the most important addition the first multi-function column stalk (indicators, headlamp flash and dip) to appear in a Valiant. The VK also brought inertia reel seat belts that overcame a major impediment to belt use.
Also blinking from atop the mudguard (later moved to the dash) from early 1976 was a flashing ‘fuel pacer’ light that told drivers when their heavy right hoof was draining the tank faster than the wallet might like.
A test of a Regal with the 4.3-litre engine and automatic transmission portrayed a powerful (153kW) but lazy car that was slow to get itself moving but once underway would reach 174km/h and cruise happily at a (now-illegal) 130-140km/h.
Fuel consumption under varying conditions and including performance testing averaged 14.7L/100km. However on the highway a sensibly-driven six-cylinder VK could slip easily into the 10-11L-bracket. Mid-range acceleration was better than the from-rest figures would suggest too; 80-110km/h taking only a second longer than the same task in an automatic Monaro GTS350.
Pick of the VKs from the viewpoint of an indulgent buyer might be a lavishly-furnished Regal 770. These came with cloth-trimmed seats and better-quality carpets, alloy wheels and extra embellishments.
Engines were 5.2 or 5.9-litre V8s with automatic transmission and front disc brakes mandatory. The vast majority of 770s sold were four-door sedans but the range also included the last-ever version of the Regal Hardtop.
The car you see here has been given an exterior make-over by owner Andrew Liapis and you have to admit it’s hard to miss in that bright yellow. He has the car advertised at tradeuniquecars.com.au at the moment, but admits he’s ambivalent about selling it.
DIGGING DEEPLY into the classic market in search of a specific model is occasionally fun and frequently frustrating. That’s the dilemma that’s going to face Valiant enthusiasts who want a ‘finale’ example from the VH-VK succession. The VK isn’t exceptional but as the last Valiant to avoid response to ADR27A emission requirements it is worth owning for that reason alone.
Where to find good VKs is of course the big question. At Unique Cars we regularly see VH-VK Valiants and even a few Regals coming through, but hitting on a specific car from a particular series at the precise time the buying bug bites is difficult.
Best strategy and the one most likely to bring results is a day out at your nearest Chrysler Club car show – or any general display that attracts Aussie cars. Talk to a few Valiant owners, ask about the model and variation you want just in case someone might have one at home and is keen to sell.
MUCH MORE THAN A FACELIFT – THE NEW HQ MODEL SET THE STAGE FOR EIGHT SUCCESSFUL YEARS FOR AUSTRALIA’S OWN
The HQ ranks as the most important model in Holden history. It was the company’s last new, full-sized car and combined sales of the HQ and its derivative HJ-HZ models delivered 767,000 sales in the space of eight years.
HQ shape was an unrivalled blend of practicality and style, with panoramic windows and improved passenger space. The biggest change in engineering terms was coil springs at the rear in place of ancient semi-elliptics.
The HQ range was announced in July 1971 and generated such excitement that Modern Motor magazine included a plastic EP record describing the new model taped to the cover of its August issue.
The basic engine was a 2.8-litre ‘173’ six-cylinder, with a 3.3-litre ‘202’ and 4.2 or 5.0-litre V8s optional. Notionally there was an imported 5.7-litre V8 as well but very few of these scarce engines would have been slotted into a basic Kingswood.
The three-speed, all-synchromesh manual transmission was standard to early six-cylinder cars; V8s were usually automatic with a four-speed manual optional.
Kingswoods were popular with private and business buyers – in particular the roomy and versatile station wagon. Bench seats front and rear (buckets were optional up front) provided plenty of lateral space for six adults. In the days before rear seat belts, four or five children could be slotted across the rear bench – or the seat could be folded flat to accommodate an entire team of junior cricketers in the load area.
Holden was already heavily involved in the options game and HQ models with their very plain specification provided rich pickings for dealers who tried never to allow a ‘poverty pack’ to leave the yard.
The most common Kingswood configuration was drum brakes all-round and three-speed manual transmission. In those days, even cab companies and business users still shied away from automatics because they used more fuel.
The handling with new all-coil suspension was full-on understeer with lots of bounce and axle-tramp on rough or corrugated roads. Where the all-coil benefits manifested was on second-rate bitumen with sweeping bends where the Holden could waft along soaking up all but the biggest bumps without complaint.
Radial Tuned Suspension would make a huge difference to Holden handling but that was six years and three changes of model away. Meanwhile the people who for years had used their Holdens to tow boats and caravans were among those disappointed by the swap to rear coil springs.
Our thanks to owner Geoff Bower whose collection we’ve raided on a few occasions over recent months.
MONARO VALUES have gone mad and Premiers are scrambling to keep up but there’s still not much interest being shown in the humble HQ KIngswood.
More than 450,000 HQ Holdens were made in the space of three years and the vast majority would have come to market wearing Kingswood badges.
HQ racing did its best to cull the population and rust gobbled up a big chunk of the rest. Those factors aside, there were simply so many made that they remain common. There surely must still exist several thousand examples of a car that once ranked as Australia’s most recognisable.
HQ utilities remain strongly represented in the market and the money they can generate when fitted with V8 engines (even if not original) match the prices being made by authentic V8 sedans. Those in untouched and largely unmodified condition are very rare. Sales of later HJ-HZ versions suggest values of $30-35,000 achievable. However it would not surprise to see an excellent 308-engined HQ at some point better those values by a considerable margin.
FOR MANY, THE ZD REPRESENTS A HIGH POINT FOR THE MUCH-LOVED FAIRLANE.
Changing a car’s grille and hubcaps may not rate as massive change but for some reason those cosmetic tweaks have helped ZD Fairlanes gain favoured status over the closelyrelated ZC version.
Both cars share verticallyheadlamps and a full-width grille, square-edged rear quarters that hint at Lincoln heritage and wraparound tail-lamp clusters. Yet it is the ZD that generally commands more money in the classic-car market.
November 1970 saw the ZD version replacing the ZC which had appeared in 1969. ZD production would continue for 16 months until it was superseded by the reshaped ZF model.
While looking similar to US models, the Aussie Fairlanes beneath the skin were very much products of their daunting environment.
Fairlanes were seen as tough and a favourite of buyers who travelled big distances in rural areas. These Fords used conventional coil-front/leaf-rear springs biased more towards smooth ride than pin-sharp handling, heavy-duty shock absorbers and 14-inch wheels with chunky rubber.
Any ZD supplied with a V8 engine was required to have disc front brakes. This ensured the Aussie Ford stood a better chance of having some brakes left at the bottom of a steep descent than US cars which even in 1970 still relied on all-drum braking systems.
Cross-ply tyres were standard on the 302-engined Fairlane 500 but with the more powerful 351 (5.8-litre) V8 came ER70 radials, rated for speeds up to 210km/h.
In addition to inclusions designed to keep its occupants safe, there was lots inside to keep them comfortable. Unless a front bench seat was specified the ZD was supplied with reclining bucket seats and a centre console. In addition there were quality carpets, plasti-wood dash trim and multiple interior lights. Power steering was standard with the V8 and dealer-fit airconditioning a popular option.
As a family car at the sensibly priced end of the market there wasn’t much to surpass a Fairlane. Even if you opted for the six-cylinder Custom, all that interior and boot space was still included and the running costs – including insurance – were around the same as owners of the less spacious Falcon were paying.
Playing the options game became very popular during the era of the ZD Fairlane. With the switch from ZC to ZD came an expanded range of paint colours and, as our featured car demonstrates, startling paint wasn’t the only way a Fairlane could attract attention.
A full vinyl roof was standard on ‘500’ versions but buyers could specify other designs through the dealer, including the half-roof Landau type – complete with C-pillar ‘carriage irons’.
Owner Leigh Deakins is a die-hard Ford fan and runs a business called Classic Ford Parts. You can track him down via Facebook.
SURVIVAL RATES from the approximately 12,700 ZDs made remain strong. These are not a difficult car to maintain, with mechanical parts common to other 1970s Fords and increasing numbers of body panels and trim parts being remanufactured.
Finding correct accessories can be a challenge and often expensive, but worthwhile as the finishing touches to a high-quality restoration.
ZDs in decent condition with 302 (4.9-litre) V8s can still be found below $20,000 but from there the money being sought increases rapidly.
The 351 end of the price scale now begins at $30,000 and might exceed $50,000 if the car is documented in a scarce colour combination.
Rust has killed plenty of older Holdens and careful inspection is required to avoid big repair costs. Window surrounds demand close attention to bubbling or poor previous repairs.
Cars with vinyl roof covering are especially susceptible to hidden rot so look for any discoloured patches or brown staining around seams. Wheel-arch lips must be examined for filler, so too the sills, door bottoms (lie under the door if possible), boot floor, boot lid and wagon tailgate. Chromed and stainless parts, especially those specific to the Premier, aren’t easy to replace. Make sure all the flipout door handles work.
No real horrors here except for rear main bearing oil leaks and overheating, due usually to neglected maintenance. Let the engine idle for a minute after test driving, switch off for a couple of minutes then note any significant increase in temperature.The most likely causes will be a worn water pump or clogged radiator. Check for carburettor fuel leaks especially with V8s. A Trimatic transmission that’s reluctant to upshift and shudders on down-changes is due for replacement - a cheaper, quicker alternative to having your ‘box rebuilt.
Nothing that’s underneath a 1970s Holden is impossible to fix or replaced.
The steering box is a sloppy old device at the best of times and it’s hard to know if it needs a rebuild. If the car you pick has power steering and problems the cost could run beyond $1000. Sagging front springs are common, especially in cars with V8 engines, and look also for rust around the rear spring mounts. Check brake rotors aren’t warped or deeply scored and that brake drums haven’t gone out of shape. New ones cost $60-200 and exchange master cylinders $250.
Worn and torn seat trim and dash deterioration can be costly to rectify. Replacements for peeling mock timber dash panels in the Premier need to be found second-hand. Seats collapse and benches in particular can jam on their runners. Original seat belts are too old to be trusted and need to be replaced. Sets of remanufactured door trims cost $1500 but several decent-looking consoles were offered at $200-400. Airconditioners need to have been converted to R134a refrigerant. If it hasn’t been done or the system isn’t working allow up to $1500 for repairs.
NUMBER BUILT: 452,576
BODY: all steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan, station wagon, utility, panel van
ENGINE: 2834cc, 3310cc six cylinder or 4146cc or 5048cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 101kW @ 4400rpm, 263Nm @ 2000rpm (3.3)
PERFORMANCE: 0-97km/h 13.1 seconds, 0-400 metres 19.6 seconds (3.3 automatic)
TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: 6.95x14 cross-ply
Rust is the big killer of these cars and with good replacement panels in short supply the cost of rejuvenating a seriously rusted car is hard to justify. Those which present reasonably well still need to be checked for rust beneath body mouldings, in the doors, lower edge of the boot-lid, around the rear window and inside the boot. Used rust-free doors cost $200300, new bonnets are $800-900. Check the ZD grille for chunks of missing plastic because undamaged grille inserts are hard to locate. Decent used bumpers have been seen recently at $350 each and new ones are quoted at $550. Rechroming original bars can cost more than $1000 per pair. Complete kits of body rubbers aren’t cheap at $1800 per set.
Ford V8s are durable, easy to fix and cheap to replace. Look for oil leaks around the heads, power steering pump, welch plugs and water pump. Start up exhaust smoke can signal worn valve guides, a continuous blue plume means a $3000-5000 rebuild. Non-standard carbs fitted to V8engined cars can cause problems. Fairlanes usually have a C4 auto that unless severely abused will survive indefinitely. Signs of a ‘box needing a rebuild include abrupt upshifts and gears taking longer to select at rest. Threespeed manual or the scarce four-speeds are equally durable. Standard diffs or the limited-slip unit that was mandatory with the `351’ engine will leak oil but should not whine or clunk.
Fairlanes and Falcons share suspension design so expect creaking and thumps unless the joints, arms and bushes have been recently replaced. Edge worn tyres mean immediate work. Leaf springs crack and in extreme cases the mounting pivots and shackles can fail. Look for rust around spring attachment points. Shockers especially fronts need regular replacement. All-drum cars are scarce and why bother when everything to maintain a disc-front car or convert one from drums is available. New master cylinders cost $200 and exchange boosters are $350. Ensure the handbrake works and releases easily. New cables and pulleys are around $100.
Cars with their original seat vinyl are keenly sought and still not difficult to find. If the seats are torn or badly discoloured, adjust your offer to cover the cost of new trim. Original vinyl is still available but you might need to compromise on colour. Carpet sets and new headlining are off-the-shelf items. Electrics generally give little trouble although the headlamps benefit from halogen inserts. Starter motors can get noisy well before they fail. Factory aircon came either fullyintegrated with extra dash vents or with an under-dash outlet. If the A/C isn’t working, allow $1500-2500 for repair or replacement.
NUMBER MADE: 12,513 (ZC) 12,797 (ZD)
BODY: all-steel, unitary construction four-door sedan
ENGINE: 4089cc six-cylinder, 4942cc or 5766cc V8 with overhead valves and downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 186kW @ 4600rpm, 481Nm @ 2600rpm (351)
PERFORMANCE: 0-97km/h sec, 0-400 metres 16.6 sec (351 auto)
TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed auto
SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, wishbones, anti-roll bar and telescopic shocks (f); live axle with leaf springs and telescopic shocks (r)
BRAKES: Drum (f) Drum (r) or V8 – Disc (f) Drum (r) with power assistance
TYRES: 6.95 x 14 crossply, ER70H14 radial (mandatory with 351 engine)
Rust and a lot of it has spelled the end for most of Australia’s Valiants. Most serious from a safety standpoint is rot around the sub-frame and steering box mounting points. With the car on a hoist look closely at the chassis rails and suspension mounts. Also check the rear spring attachment points, floors and inner sills. No matter how good a car looks from the outside, terminal rust can exist behind the shiny panels. Regals were often supplied with vinyl roof covering and any bubbling or staining around the seams means the turret is almost certainly corroded and dangerous. Some rust repair panels are available but good chrome seems difficult to find and even second-hand parts are getting expensive.
Oil leaks are common and usually not a major issue. Rebuilt engines cost $2500-4500 depending on how far you want to go. Six and eight cylinder motors in decent condition are available for a lot less than the cost of a rebuild but do compromise the car’s authenticity. New radiators aren’t dear but unless there is a leak or visible damage, try to combat overheating with a flush and new radiator cap. Check the car has a thermostat too. Switching from conventional to electronic ignition isn’t difficult and including a new coil and labour the cost is likely to be less than $200. A transmission that’s slow to select gears and thumps on down-shifts is due for replacement.
Virtually everything needed to return a Valiant’s suspension to new condition is available from after-market suppliers. However, reconditioning and replacing parts that might have been untouched in 20 years isn’t a low-cost exercise. Kits of new bushes, ball joints and idler arms cost over $400 and a pair of rear springs $500. Brake rotors that are heavily scored or make the brake pedal pulse need replacement. Reconditioned brake boosters are available from $350. Wider rims such as the optional Chrysler sports wheels with lower profile tyres will help with the handling.
The trim fitted to 1970s Valiants and Regals in particular will likely have exceeded its effective life-span. Retrimming is the solution but matching the original material could be difficult. Second-hand seats and sometimes entire interiors in decent condition are occasionally available. The dash plastics are pretty tough and resistant to cracking but a trashed dash is best replaced with a complete unit in better condition. Make sure the seats move easily and lock in place. Airconditioned vehicles should by now have CFC-free refrigerant but may be suffering age-related problems. Listen for noises from the compressor when the a/c is activated and make sure the air being delivered to the cabin is truly cold.
NUMBER BUILT: 20,555
BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan or wagon, utility
ENGINE: 4015cc or 4342cc in-line six-cylinder 5205cc or 5900cc V8
POWER & TORQUE: 153kW @ 4800rpm, 355Nm @ 2000rpm (4.3)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 11.8 seconds, 0-400 metres 18.2 seconds (4.3 auto)
TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: independent with torsion bars and anti-roll bar (f) live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers(r)
BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: FR78S14 radial