1-of-1: 1978 Chrysler Valiant CL Sedan

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When you look at the automotive landscape today, it is hard to believe Australia was once the home to a vibrant vehicle manufacturing industry. The halcyon days were probably the 1970s when Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Leyland (and its British subsidiaries), Datsun, Toyota, and several smaller domestic companies were churning out cars for an eager buying public. It should be no surprise to many people to learn that Chrysler Australia’s financial position at that time was in a similar state to its North American parent company, and Mitsubishi would eventually swallow the Australian operation. In a bid to stave off the inevitable, Chrysler showed enormous flexibility in a bid to secure lucrative government supply contracts. This thinking led to the production of cars like this 1978 Valiant CL Sedan. For our readers Down Under, its shape will be pretty familiar. However, what we find under the skin helps it stand out from the crowd. As you will see, the car can rightly claim the crown of a genuine 1-of-1 vehicle, but it is also a classic that needs a new home. Located in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, you will find this Valiant listed for sale here at Shannons Auctioneers. The online auction for this classic is set to commence on February 22nd, 2022, and while the auction estimate is A$40,000 – A$50,000, the owner is offering the car with No Reserve.

The history of this 1978 Valiant is interesting. Ordered by the New South Wales State Government, they used it as an evaluation vehicle for the Australian Federal Police. Intended as an undercover surveillance vehicle, the Government ordered the car in Spinnaker White. It clocked about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) in their hands before passing into private ownership. It has remained in regular use since and now has 210,000 kilometers (130,400 miles) showing on its odometer. The seller indicates that most of its paint is original, although it has received the occasional touch-up during its life. A few smaller chips and marks have accumulated during the past forty-four years, but they are acceptable for a survivor-grade classic. The panels are as straight as an arrow, with no significant bruises or marks. That leads us to the moment where we need to discuss the subject of rust. Things don’t look bad on that front. The lower body extremities appear perfect, while the numerous underside shots reveal little beyond the occasional light dusting of surface corrosion. The only penetrating rust is a couple of small areas at the base of the back window. Rust of this type is not unusual in Valiants of this vintage, and addressing this problem should be easy and inexpensive. The exterior trim is close to perfect, as is the glass. The owner has retrofitted a set of Sankey Benson W35 alloy wheels, which were a factory option in 1978. He has also installed magnetic police signage and a blue “bubble” light to complete the law enforcement image.

When we go below the surface, we find what makes this Valiant unique. Chrysler offered three motors in their 1978 range, including two versions of their six-cylinder engine and a 318ci V8. While the larger motor was available across all Valiant variants, it was only in the sporty editions like the Charger and Drifter panel van that the V8 could be teamed with a four-speed manual transmission. As an evaluation vehicle, this car is the only Valiant CL Sedan to feature a V8/4-speed drivetrain combination. However, don’t think that the combination equated to a fire-breathing monster. New emission laws (ADR27a) came into force from July 1976, severely impacting performance. That 318 should be producing 143hp, allowing this vehicle to cover the ¼ mile in 17.8 seconds. That figure also indicates why the Valiant probably failed as a viable alternative for the Australian Federal Police. Holden released its new Commodore range in October, and not only was it 500lbs lighter than the Valiant, but its range-topping 308ci V8 churned out 153hp. That it could cover the same distance in 16.7 seconds while remaining more agile and efficient, drove the final nail into this car’s coffin. The engine bay of our feature car presents beautifully, and it does so for a good reason. Its numbers-matching V8 developed a misfire, and a careful investigation revealed that this was due to a burnt valve. The owner pulled the engine and treated it to a rebuild. It is now in sound mechanical health and appears to be a turnkey proposition for its next owner.

The New South Wales Government ordered this Valiant trimmed in Satin Parchment vinyl, and it remains original and untouched. As was common with most Australian-built cars of this type and size during the 1970s, it features front bucket seats and a console. The upholstered surfaces are in excellent condition, with only some minor wear to show for forty-four years of active service. The dash and pad are equally impressive, while there are no major issues with the carpet. In addition to the factory AM radio, the owner has installed a vintage police two-way radio. There’s even a period-correct police hat on the rear parcel tray and a set of handcuffs in the glove compartment to reinforce this classic’s intended role.

That the Australian Government never pushed the “go” button on their Valiant CL program was no surprise for those living Down Under in 1978. While the Valiant was a respectable performer that handled well for its size and offered excellent interior space, Holden’s Commodore appeared in October of that year and was a game-changer. Smaller, lighter, more agile, and more efficient than the Valiant, the company offered it with a 308ci V8 that produced more power than the 318 under the hood of the Valiant. Despite this setback, Chrysler Australia soldiered on gamely. A perfect reflection of their plight is reflected in production totals for that model year. The company offered the Valiant CL in eight variants, but their entire production total for that year was a mere 32,672 cars. Chrysler Australia limped on until April of 1980, when it was purchased from the parent company by Mitsubishi. The final Valiant, a Spinnaker White Sedan, rolled off the line in August 1981. The low build totals make finding a Valiant CL a challenge in today’s market, but our feature car takes that to a new level. I won’t be surprised if the bidding easily sails beyond the upper auction estimate, so I will be watching this auction with interest.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Moparman MoparmanMember

    Oh, those LOVELY slotted mags! Such a refreshing change from today’s myriad no lip, flat faced, multi-spoked designs! Oh, and the car looks good, too! GLWTS!! :-)

    Like 10
  2. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    Maybe what sunk it as a surveillance vehicle was the whirly blue light on the top.

    Like 14
  3. Tbone

    The back story is more interesting than the car itself

    Like 6
  4. Joe Samascott

    Wow! Does that look like an AMC Ambassador, or what?!

    Like 7
  5. A.G.

    The front end and profile remind me of a 1967 Ambassador 4 door sedan. The headlights and bumpers differ though. The rear fascia has a later AMC look to it.

    Like 8
  6. PaulG

    Early 70’s Dodge Coronet with a touch of Challenger. Topped off with the hornet taillights.
    Interesting for sure

    Like 6
  7. Fran

    I see AMC in the back end. Sorry to say the USA was vibrant also.

    Like 1
  8. Chinga-Trailer

    I had an Australian Valiant “Ute” years ago. Sold it at Barrett-Jackson.

    Like 2
  9. Gary

    During my one and only trip down under many years ago, I was tickled pink to see all the different Chrysler variants there. Being a slant six lover, I was also pleased to see so many of them loved and cherished in different cars. Always thought the Valiant Chargers were a nice design that should have been offered here.

    Like 5
  10. Howie Mueler

    This must be a blue light special.

    Like 4
  11. Chris LondishMember

    I worked in a Chrysler dealer at that time and drove a couple of V8 4spd cars a Charger and ute, they gave your left leg a good work out having dual plate clutches but went really well never a great handling car with their semi eliptic rear end tend to jump around corners especially the short wheel base Charger, although even with the 6 cyl 265 engine went really well

    Like 3
  12. John Kearney

    My ol man owned a royal blue 1977 CL wagon that had the 265 fireball engine in it matted with a 3 on the tree manual. It was one of the fastest cars l ever drove back then easily smashing my mates Ford 302 XC sedan over the quarter. The Chrysler wagon was a dream to drive and the biggest car on the market where that big six used to love chewing up and spitting out the Fords and Holdens back in the day😁… Mopar Power.
    The OL Val had both fold down and swing out rear tailgate, 4 wheel disc brakes, power steer, electric windows, Valiant mags as standard, blue leather and cloth interior, aircon, factory upgrades everywhere like bigger radiator, HD clutch, brakes, factory tint, chrome roof rack and so on, l am absolutely kicking myself l ever sold the ol mans car but circumstances at the time were different back then which couldn’t allow me to keep it. I also owned a 1978 Chrysler Drifter Panal Van lime green with the drifter stripes, had a mild 318 with borg warner 4 spd and rear end, had that car for years then sold it to make way for a family car…. For some reason a man always has regrets on selling the classics we used to own as kids.
    Anyway l love these classic Valiants … Valiant Effort 👍

    Like 4
  13. Dave, Australia

    The last ever Australian Valiant, 1981, was a white 318. It was up for sale about 5 years ago. Was in a museum most of its life, only had 30 km on the clock. Was virtually brand new. Search last ever Australian Valiant

    Like 4
  14. ed sel

    Here’s a beautiful version – https://youtu.be/x_wLVCLPx0M

    Like 0
  15. Chris In Australia

    Beating an XC 302 is not setting the bar very high. And I’m doubtful about the 4 wheel discs from factory. Ditto the 3 on the tree on a highly optioned car. The Fireball was the 318, not the 265 lump.

    Like 0
    • John Kearney

      I’m glad you asked as my father worked for Borg Warner at the Eureka street Ballarat plant in Victoria and I’d hazard a guess that he ordered the car with the upgrades as I vividly remember that his Val came with the regal touches ie :- grill, dash, interior brakes etc. I also remember that the air intake cover had fireball emblazoned on it and I also happen to know that there weren’t many 318’s around that could outrun the 265 as most 265’s came out with performance cams an upgraded carby bigger radiator and beefier diffs that gave the cars more grunt, I’m actually pretty certain that the 265 Chargers came out with the beefier Borg Warner 4 spd box and Dana upgrades in the Diff, I can find out for certain as my Fathers mate who worked with him is still alive where I can gather that information for you if you like.

      Like 0
  16. Starline58

    NSW Police had a few of these with the 265ci 6 cylinder and an automatic. I drove on in 1981 as a Probationary Constable at St Marys Police station. I thought it was pretty fast at the time – but the brakes were terrible.

    Like 0
  17. Brian Barrett

    Nobody has mentioned the “Police Specials” that were built by Chrysler Aust. I remember the late production Chargers that the NSW police had and they were sporting the 360 ci. motor. I’m sure this option was also available in the “Chrysler by Chrysler” model.

    Like 0
  18. Stevieg

    I love the oddball stuff, and here in the states, this is odd! I like it!

    Like 0

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