By 1980, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Chrysler Valiant would soon be gone. 18 years of supplying Australians with motoring pleasure was almost at an end, with new half owners Mitsubishi taking over the reins and putting their mark on the Australian designed Valiant models that were rolling out of the Tonsley Park factory. Mitsubishi’s own Sigma, rebadged as a Chrysler, was outstripping the CM model Valiants in sales and showing that the trend towards smaller cars was showing no sign of abating. This did not dampen the Valiant engineers spirits though, with plans being drawn up for a CM2. and also a CN model Valiant. You have to had it to them for their optimism.
Valiant was definitely wasn’t going down without a fight, the engineers coming up with a system called ‘Electronic Lean Burn’, to make the problems associated with emissions standards ADR27a lessen in severity. The addition of ELB allowed for better starting, better response, and most importantly in the face of it’s smaller competition, better fuel economy. This last point was such an important selling point in the late 70s/early 80s, and Chrysler was claiming the hemi engines with ELB were up to 25% more efficient. To prove this, CM Valiants were tested by motoring journalists and independent observers, the cars being able to come up with a 9.3/100km fuel economy on average for city and country driving. Not bad for a car which is supposed to be too large in a field of smaller cars.
By the end of it’s three year run, 1978-81, Chrysler had moved 16005 units, helped along by the fact the base price was $7921, cheaper than alot of it’s 4 cylinder competition. Still, the Sigma was kicking it in the sales department, and the decision was finally made to cut the Chrysler branding altogether. The last car rolled off the Tonsley Park production line in 1981, by which time it was now branded the Mitsubishi production line.
Chrysler was gone, to take a 13 year break from the Australian market. It returned in 1994, bringing in the Jeep Cherokee, and has slowly been expanding it’s range since. Today the Chrysler Australia group brings in Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Alfa Romeo and Fiat cars, a massive range compared to the couple of cars they had on offer in 1981 before Mitsubishi took over. For Chrysler Australia to try to continue production in the early 80s would have been a folly, it was better off being integrated into the Mitsubishi brand, or it would have folded in the face of competition. Today the remnants of Chrysler’s first shot at the Australian market are cars that are worth saving, just like today’s Awesome Everyday Driver.
Today’s Awesome Everyday Driver comes courtesy of Tony. Bought 3 years ago, with 44000kms on the clock, it now sits on 122000kms, and is still immaculate.Right down to the original paint, headlamp guards and Hornsby Chrysler sticker in the window, it is a testament to the care taken in keeping this rare wagon looking as good as it did when it rolled off the factory floor. The amount of kilometres Tony has put under the wheels of this car show that it isn’t just for driving to and from work. I will sign off with Tony’s own words in relation to the car: ‘use it, drive it, enjoy it’.
Thanks to Tony for taking the time out to share the history of his well cared for machine.
The pictures are my own.