I’m sure there will be plenty of publicity about the 60th anniversary of the EH Holden this year.
After all, it is part of our popular culture and the best selling Holden ever, on a monthly basis.
But another anniversary has passed quietly, which I think is equally significant — and that was the release in 1963 of the AP5 Valiant.
The EH was the first new car my parents bought.
It was September 1963 and even then, as a young boy, I wished they’d bought the Valiant.
To me, it was a much more prestigious car.
Everyone had a Holden, but not everyone owned a Valiant.
I realise now however that we got the EH because that is what my parents could afford.
The extra money, about 100 pounds for the Valiant, was just a stretch too far.
The AP5 was better looking than the EH Holden and XL Falcon — its two main competitors.
Like the EH and Falcon, it was designed in the USA.
It was a variation on the 1963 US Plymouth Signet and Dodge Dart.
The AP5’s panels were flatter than its American counterparts and there was less bling.
This was all done to save money on tooling costs and to reduce production complexities for lower Australian volume.
Proving once again that less can be more, the AP5 came out of the design studios looking better than the American duo.
Local buyers agreed.
Chrysler Australia sold every AP5 sedan and station wagon it could make: 49,440.
That tally was nowhere near the EH’s 250,000 plus, but it was enough to establish the company as one of the Big Three in Australia — for a while at least.
Top of the range was the Regal, in sedan and wagon formats.
Powerful and better equipped, even the basic AP5 ran circles around the EH and Falcon.
Up front was the unbreakable 225 cubic inch (3.7-litre) slant six engine.
It was at least 20 per cent larger than Holden’s much praised 179 six and Ford’s 170 “Pursuit” engine.
Pumping out 145bhp (108kW), it delivered a 25 per cent power advantage over its two rivals.
In manual form the AP5 reached 60m mph (100km/h) from a standing start in 13.1 seconds — almost one second quicker than the 179 Holden.
Chrysler’s TorqueFlite three-speed automatic was optional and featured a space age push button selector.
Inside an AP5, the upholstery was a cut above what Holden and Ford foisted on its customers.
Armrests were fixed to each door, something missing in Holden Special and Falcon Deluxe.
The window winders were tastefully chromed.
The dashboard dials were etched in chrome.
It was all chic and minimalist.
Back in 1963, I preferred the AP5 Valiant — and still do.
I reckon it was the best local car of 1963.
David Burrell is the editor of retroautos
1963 Chrysler AP5 Valiant Regal Safari.
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