FANGED – 1963 Chrylser Ap5 Valiant Safari

First published 2011-03-22 

Model: 1963 Chrysler AP5
Specs:  3200cc OHV (225ci) In line 6 cylinder, Front engine  Longitudinal RWD  3 speed automatic
Year last driven: 1999

This old Valiant was the trusted recycling bin of one of GOA’s esteemed founders. He would chuck plastic bottles in it until full (a process that took several months) and then start it up and drive to the recycling depot but it didn’t start it’s life with him like this:

front-yard-chrysler-ap5-valiant-safari-01

Exhibit A: Valiant AP5 Safari with world’s skinniest hotwires

He bought it on a whim after foolishly parting with a tuff and impressively rust-free Holden TD Gemini wagon. Unsure why he did this (Editors Note: It was for a girl, of course), as the big Valiant was not overly tuff and had more rust than metal, including a fairly unwieldy archipelago of bog parting from the car behind the rear wheel. We’re all for old steel, trust me and this had all the right features; 1960s-style flat side glass, thick, heavy doors and the stoic but uniquely-Australian grille of the AP5. But the Gemini was more fun to drive.

The Safari was roughly the same size as a boat and it handled like one. The push button automatic was a great novelty, even if it was fairly pointless. Shifting down into second for a big hill required a savage and accurate jab at the dashboard. No wonder they discontinued them; I viciously jabbed the solid metal surround more than once, resulting in no gear change and weird cracking from between my distal and intermediate phalanges.  This tired old example had a few other problems as well; the gearbox often ran low on trans fluid and as a result, a quick jab into reverse late one night resulted in a ten-second-long groan-fest followed by an incredible clunk into gear. Then the car settled back into a quiet idle, as if to say, “What?”

Had I not taken acid, it would have been easy to back out and leave, but I had and as a result, fell out of the car laughing, unable to leave the vicinity for at least another hour.

Gearbox woes were not all though; the exhaust was a conglomerate of the original exhaust with some random replacement bits added in desperation although, despite or possibly because of these running repairs, it still tried to noxiously gas anyone who drove it.  Age was not kind to the front bench seat either which had split and sagged every possible way. At least the dashboard wasn’t cracked or sun-damaged… it was made of solid metal.

The AP5 as a model was a milestone for Chrysler Australia; it was the first Valiant to be manufactured in Australia following the RV1 and SV1 Valiant models that were assembled from CKD kits.  It was also the first Valiant wagon to be sold in Australia, introduced us to the “Safari” nomenclature that was slapped onto any and all Chrysler-branded wagons, and it helped lay the foundation for a dynasty of Big Three Aussie family cars that would go uninterrupted for another 18 years.

Age will not weary them; The Ode of Remembrance did not ring true this time; age did weary it and I can only imagine this one met its maker a long time ago.