This week, Peter’s driving the Chrysler Valiant 770 Charger, which isn’t just a bunch of Chrysler model names after some time in the blender. It was a real car built by Chrysler for the Australian market. And it was fast.
A few weeks ago, I shared the story of Peter Wherrett, the founder of Australian motor journalism. His shows Torque and Marque were landmarks in how automotive journalism could find a place on television. He really honed the craft of the car review and managed to contextualize the cars within the Australian market and the automotive world as a whole with impressive skill. I’ll be sharing some of his work each weekend, and this week he’s in a Charger.
So what’s so special about this car? It was basically a supercar, believe it or not. Back in 1972, Australian motor racing had a homologation requirement. That meant that cars that would be raced needed to have a street-spec equivalent. The result was a set of cars from Ford, GM, and Chrysler that would likely be capable of more than 160 mph on sale in a country where most rural roads were unrestricted. The media called them supercars and there was a bit of a moral panic.
The resulting government backlash meant that the models were never put on sale in the end, but that didn’t stop the manufacturers from taking the lessons they learned in developing these cars and turning them into something a little more street-focused. Like this Charger right here, with around 300 horsepower and a 360 cubic inch motor.
So have a look and listen to Peter explain how Australia lost their minds over the possibility of race cars set loose on their roads, and how Chrysler took its American products and made them work for Australia. As you might imagine, it’s a straight-line machine that has some trouble with corners. Peter isn’t totally impressed with that formula and expresses some real concern about the safety of cars like these in the hands of regular drivers. I suppose he’s right, but he also rips a righteous burnout too for good measure. As he should.