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"Hey, Charger!"

To anyone living in Australia in the 70's, this cry (from a television advert) signified a new beast in the performance muscle car industry. In 1971, Chrysler Australia released the VH Charger, a sports car version of the VH Valiant (In the U.S. the Charger (which consisted of different models to the Australian versions) was brought out under the Dodge badge); despite sharing the 'Charger' moniker with it's American counterpart, the car shared similarities with the Plymouth Duster. Winner of Wheels magazine's 'Car of the Year' award, the Charger was based on the VH Valiant, the Charger featured a short wheelbase and a curb weight which was 130kg lighter than any Valiant sedan yet. The somewhat reasonable cost of $2,800 for the base model allowed Chrysler to trim the excess costs for the the more souped-up models. The Charger featured the same slightly angled bonnet as the Valiant sedans, which lead to a configurating of two or four square or round lights (sometimes two of each) at the front, with a shallow slope from the rear windshield to the concave rear panel.

The base model came with a straight six 215ci with three speed manual transmission (a generous specification when you consider that the comparable Holden Monaros started with a displacement under 190ci). The Charger XL came with a 245ci six with a choice of three speed manual or automatic transmission, while the Charger 770 came with some luxury creature comforts and had the option of the venerable 200+hp producing 265ci Hemi (An engine initially intended for trucks in the U.S., but abandoned there and tricked up in Australia for use in the Charger. The engine design was quite different to initial U.S. models, and the fact that it was made in Australia signified Chrysler as the only automobile company in Australia that used Australian engines. (Ford using Windsor and Cleveland motors, Holden Chevrolet ones)), or a 318ci V8. Most sought after though was the R/T though; the Stock form was able to run the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds, and it featured a 3.23 diff in place of the 2.92 standard, a tachometer, and an oil pressure guage. Optional on the car was the E37 option - which added the 'six-pack' - a package that added three 2-barrel Italian Weber carburettors; pushing the output up to 248hp.

Top of the line for the R/T's was the E38 option. With an increased engine compression ratio it raised the power output to an impressive 280hp. Quarter mile was down to 14.8 seconds in second gear, and it pissed the 0-60mph in in 6.3 seconds - performance comparable to Ford's monster 351ci V8 Falcon GTHO, except the Charger vastly outweighed the blue ovaled juggernaut in terms of handling.

The Fastest Acceleration Yet

In 1972 the E49 Charger came into being. Kitted out with the revamped 265 Hemi which raised power to 302hp, it was also the first Charger to come with a four-speed manual Borg-Warner gearbox. Barring some types of very recent production-run high-perfomance Holdens and Fords (Ford Falcon XR8's and new Holden Monaros probably), the E49 Charger holds the crown as having the best acceleration ever for Australian production run cars. Really? Yes. In 1997 Motor magazine ran a feature on Australian muscle cars, past and present. The twenty five year old E49 with the straight six Hemi scored 6.1 seconds for 0-60mph and 14.4 seconds for the quarter mile (on modern sprint tyres, a stock E49 has broken the fourteen second mark). By comparison, The new HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) GTS-R running a blown 5.7 litre V8 scored 6.2 and 14.45 seconds. For modified cars, there's still debate over which is fastest out of the Charger and Ford's mighty XY Phase III Falcon GTHO - a rare 1969 Australian supercar.

The Hemi was not the only engine of choice for later model Charger's however; The full luxury 770 model (Chrysler Valiant E55 Charger) featured the option of the high-performance 340ci V8 in the VH Chargers from 1972 onwards. It's automatic transmission was more than a match for even the manual Ford XA Falcon GT and the new Holden HQ Monaro. The stock setup had a non-performance camshaft and an insufficient exhaust, so the car managed a 7.2 second 0-60mph, and a 15.5 second quarter mile - beneath it's full capabilities. After harsher The next two Charger models (respectively, the VJ and VJ, came with a choice of the 318ci V8, or a 360ci V8 (Popularly used in trucks in the U.S.). While the 360 sounds impressive, it was simply a bored-out 318, and it's weight offset much of the performance gain; in the quarter mile, the 318 achieved 16.7 seconds, while the 360 got 16.2.

Life, Death, and the Japanese automobile industry

Unfortunately, the E49 was the last R/T model Charger made. Just as Ford couldn't justify an XC GT, (which was cleverly circumvented by the release of the Ford XC Cobra) neither could Chrysler justify their R/T. The discontinuation of the R/T label led to the Australian public beginning to lose interest in the Charger. There was still more than enough demand however to produce another two models (The aforementioned VJ and VK Chargers) before the Charger range was finished early 1978. However, without the Charger in Chrysler Australia's lineup, interest in the company's automobiles dissipated almost completely. Chrysler pressed onward with the heavy Chrysler CL Valiant GLX, a quality car that was not popular due to the availability of sportier and lighter vehicles such as the emerging Holden Commodore and the new Ford XD Falcon. By this stage, Chrysler had also been producing the small affordable (and completely unexciting - think Toyota's Corolla, or the Datsun 120-180s) Chrysler Sigma. Chrysler's Australian operations finished at the end when Mitsubishi bought out the works. Today, you can see Chrysler Sigmas and Mitsubishi Sigmas on the roads with barely a break in production dates. The CM Valiant GLX too already had Mitsubishi made panels and parts, with the "Chrysler" being included as being "under license from Chrysler America". Good things never last, and even worse, are reasonably expensive to obtain now.

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