First published in 2011-04-21
As detailed in a previous Gleaned item on the Ford Econoline Yank-tank-boogie-van-mystery-machine, sedan based-panelvans were always the SHIZ for Australian tradesman and surfies alike.
Much like in the States though, the Big Three manufacturers noticed the pungent smell of bong smoke wafting from their commercial products and decided to cater to the developing market.
While the Yanks came up with lairy variants like the Econoline Super Van, the Australian youth market was provided with much more restrained items.
Ford’s Sundowner option was heroically offered across the Escort, Falcon AND Transit vans, while Holden’s Sandman option, available on the van and ute, included many features that were normally only available on the sporty sedan or coupe-based Monaro GTS and was by far the most popular sports variant among the pot-headed, sex-crazed youth of the 1970’s.
Chrysler though, seriously dropped the ball in the panelvan department. While ute variants were offered with all US-based Aussie Valiants from the VC-model of 1966 onwards, the Australian-designed VH-model of 1971 still did not include a sedan delivery-style van, a shocking oversight given the youth of Australia were craving mobile privacy coupled with the ample doggie space that an extra-high roofline would afford.
When Chrysler’s panelvan finally arrived with the CL-model of 1976, it was a desperately under cooked item when compared to the Holden or the Ford. While the other Big Aussies weren’t exactly lauded for sublime handling or road holding, the engineers of the 1970’s did tune things like spring rates and, uh, well, that’s more than the boys at Chrysler looked at…
Both the Holden Belmont/Kingswood range and the Ford Falcon range featured panel vans that were more or less based off their coupe utilities brethren, but somehow the Chrysler van, based off the ute like its contemporaries, handled even more like a crate than either of the others.
Yet once the panel van body style was released, Chrysler Australia wasted no time in releasing a sports version in the vein of the Sandman or Sundowner. Chrysler, never a company to do things by halves (after all, they did release THREE coupes in 1971 when Ford and Holden had one and at a time when the buying public wanted none), released not one but two sports versions of the van.
Many readers will be familiar with the Drifter, the true spiritual brother to the Holden Sandman and Ford Falcon Sundowner, however what we have here via eBay is what looks to be a tidy, restorable example of a Chrysler Valiant van, fitted with the rare Sports Pack.
The Sports Pack was available on the slow-selling Charger coupe as well as the van and ute and featured upgrades such as 3-spoke sports steering wheel, Charger 770-spec gauge cluster and body stripes. Vans optioned with the Sports Pack, option A53 as shown in the photos on the advert were normally fitted with side-windows, however this one is thankfully windowless, allowing for full privacy when smoking hooch or trying to bed nubile 1970’s tail. Or doing both concurrently.
The advert describes rust and some other problems, however buyers with some mild body-repair skills should be able to put the bong down long enough to get the thing roadworthy; the Impact Orange paint has a luster that belies its age, although given the spray job on the original build plate, it’s probably had a respray at some stage. The seller states it was originally fitted with a 4.3 litre Hemi six, however the E44 option code shows it to be a factory 318ci V8 version.
Other tasty options fitted to this example are the 4-speed sports floor shift (option D20) and, well, a radio cassette player (R26). The G15 option is the laminated windscreen, mandatory fitment at the time of sale.
The alloy wheels (option W35) appear to have been removed at some stage in the last 35 years, although the colour-coded Rallye wheels were standard fitment for Sports Vans, so perhaps there was a mix up there. No mix up with those tasty Bridgestone Eagers though; they are the shiz.
Given the Buy It Now price of $6,600, it’s possible the rust is more extensive that it appears, but post-GFC asking prices on classic Aussie muscle is still stupid-high and considering this Sports Van is ultra-rare, AND one of only approximately 1700 panel vans built by Chrysler Australia in total because you know they technically sucked, we’d stick it in our Garage of Awesome if we had the time, money or space.
Grab it for yourself for safekeeping on eBay