Grunty Valiant Charger turns 40
http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/sp ... r-turns-40
The Valiant Charger is set to celebrate 40 years tomorrow at the Timaru International Motor Raceway.
The famous Australian muscle car has turned into a collector's delight and the RT Six-Pack Charger Club will have several on display at the Brooklands Classic Car meeting.
One person who knows a fair bit about the Charger is Leo Leonard.
He drove the E49 model to the New Zealand Saloon Car Championships in 1973.
"They were good for the applications we needed – performance and handling – and when you added some Kiwi ingenuity, they were hard to beat.
"The 265 Hemi engine gave them plenty of power and they could go 150 miles per hour off the assembly line."
Leonard said one reason they came so collectible was the fact the Australian government banned them in 1974 as they were just too fast.
"The XV1 Torana and GTHO Falcon went the same way, so consequently there weren't many made."
Just how much a collector's item they are brings a smile from Leonard.
He bought his off Todd Motors, one of three brought into the country, for $4118.
Leonard said it was sold by someone recently to an Australian collector for $370,000.
"And he had to pay A$90,000 in duty and tax to land it.
"But we used to race them and sell them to fund the next car."
Leonard said Chrysler had decided to get into racing as a tool to assist retail sales.
"They were serious as the carburettors were tuned in Italy by the Weber factory."
Timaru Charger owner John Christie agreed.
"There was an old adage – race on Sunday, sell on Monday."
Christie has had his E49 for almost 30 years and used to race it.
"They were a beauty, handled good and if set up right went good as well."
Leonard also raced his Charger at Bathurst but a collapsed wheel bearing brought his race to an early end. "Funnily enough they weren't as successful racing in Australia as New Zealand but that may have been the Kiwi ingenuity thing."
Chrysler, however, were serious about selling them and used former world champion Stirling Moss to promote them in Australia.
Christie said the line used was "the fastest production car it the world" and at the time it was true.
"The Chargers looked and sounded the part, with the straight pipes out the back."