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The Valiant Charger, powered by the straight-six “Hemi Six-Pack” engine, set a speed record that stood for decades, and garnered a strong racing record in New Zealand.
by David Zatz
Some car books have lots of fine photos, but little to say that you don’t already know — and some repeat old canards. Others are mainly text, with a few photos — or collections of brochures, ads, and such. The original Hey Charger! stood in contrast to most books: it combined fine photography with an in-depth look at Australian Valiants, focusing on Chargers. Writers Gavin Farmer and Gary Bridger had page after page of excellent color photos with stories from company insiders.
How could they top that?
Apparently they weren’t happy with producing the definitive work on Chrysler Australia, because they shoved more information and photography in to make it even more definitive — along with never-before-published photos of the clay model, original concept sketches, and proposals that never saw production, some of which are shown below (not as clearly as in the real book).
This is obviously a labor of love; had they done half the work, they’d still have had a book at the top of its game. As it is, my main complaints are that the book is too long for my book-shelf, costs quite a bit to ship from Australia, and uses a relatively small type that I have a hard time reading (but this is true for most books now, which is why I have an e-reader). The book itself is reasonably priced, but dang! it costs a lot to ship it out of Australia or New Zealand.
The photography is beautifully rendered, and the writers have seemingly every brochure, engine diagram and photograph, even publicity from suppliers (like the carburetor company) where the Hemi Six-Pack was featured. There are also well-staged photos of the cars as they are now, and of the cars being built, well color-corrected. Just polishing and fixing all the photos must have taken the writers far more time than an average book writer spends on the entire project.
The book is dubbed “Hey Charger!” after the car’s ad campaign tag-line, but it devotes time to Chrysler Australia as a whole. The Charger doesn’t show up until page 35, but there are 242 pages (not including references and the index).
Hey Charger! includes a complete history of development and production for all the Chargers (as well as its predecessor, the Valiant Pacer), with Charger build numbers and full technical specs. The writers documented just how the proposal was made, how it was pushed through (with some level of subterfuge), and what the designers, engineers, and leaders did to make it possible given impossible budgets.
It’s not all development and history, though there’s a good deal of that. Page 75 starts you off on how the Valiant Charger was received by the Australian public and critics, then goes into the “fabulous Charger R/Ts.” They compare the Charger E49 to competitors of the day in great deal (including the Ford Falcon GTHO, which despite a hot V8 was unable to match the Charger Six)
Special topics include police Chargers, New Zealand production by Todd Motors, what happened to the Valiant series once the market started to falter, and the rise of the Valiant Charger, many years later, as a revered classic car.
The final part of the book covers racing — 20 pages on Australia, 20 pages on New Zealand, and a few pages on handling. Finally, there’s that intriguing section — “So, you want to buy a Charger?” It’s very helpful if you live in Australia or New Zealand; not so much if you live in the US, where you will find a definite seller’s market. Still, they go over the various models and options, potential problem areas, and, in some cases, how to detect and fix problems (in general terms).
Having interviewed more people since the first book, the writers were able to tell the story of the hot 340 V8 in Australia, debunking the myth that the 340 was “dumped” onto Chrysler Australia against their wishes and talking of why the 340 wasn’t used by the racers, including the famed Leo Geoghegan — and you can read the book to find out why.
Finally, there are the appendices: Pacer options, Valiant Charger specs, R/T and Six Pack Charger options and specs, numbers-decoding, option codes, and production numbers. One nice feature: giving period 0-xx km/h times for various models.
The focus of Hey Charger! is not restoration, but there’s a good deal of valuable information for restorers anyway. Indeed, no matter what your perspective, there is probably a good deal to like. Local reviewers have been enthusiastic, calling it “the last word,” a “landmark publication,” and a collector’s item. I can’t argue with that — incredibly well researched yet highly readable, it’s a fine book.
In 2003, I wrote for valiant.org: Farmer and Bridger have their eyes open to Charger weaknesses; they strive for, and largely achieve, balance. ... This is one of those books that you won't regret buying. It has a huge number of facts, many of which are lesser known, and is obviously written by people who did more research than looking at photos and spec sheets and visiting auto shows. It has many photos, but is not a mere picture-book... the depth and quality of the research and discussion is very good. We highly recommend Hey Charger! and understand why it was New Zealand's best-selling car book for three months.
How to buy it? Now, there’s a question. The price is NZ$90, or around US$63, plus shipping from New Zealand; you can pay with credit card via PayPal. Get Hey Charger! using this form (click here).
Note: most of the photos in the book are in color, including all current photography. The paper is a high grade glossy stock. The cover itself is blank, with a glossy color paper wrap.
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