On the road

It's a fin thing

Arguably one of Australia’s most flamboyantly designed early vehicles, the Valiant R Series turns 60 this year, prompting us to take a ride down memory lane.

The specs

Model: Valiant R-Series

Engine: 225 cubic inch (3.7-litre) slant-six

Claim to fame: Space-age styling

Chrysler may have been last of the Big Three Aussie manufacturers to launch its own family car here, but when it did so in January 1962 the stunning Valiant R-Series made its big-selling rivals the Holden EK and Ford Falcon XL look like yesterday’s news. With its space age styling, including subtle rear fins, twin headlights and a faux spare wheel pressing on the boot lid, the R-Series brought a dose of Detroit flair to a roadscape inhabited by fairly ordinary looking Falcons, Holdens, Vauxhalls and Zephyrs.

While the be-winged Valiant is today regarded as every bit the Australian classic, it was in fact a US designed model first sold Stateside as a Plymouth and arrived here in CKD (Completely Knocked Down) packs for reassembly at Chrysler’s Mile End factory in Adelaide.

In total just 1008 Valiant R-Series were imported and reassembled in this way before the model was replaced by the car’s US successor the S-Series, which looks similar but lacks some of the R-Series design flourishes, including the cat’s eye taillights, brightwork and egg-crate grille. These days the Valiant R-Series is a rarely seen but instantly recognisable Aussie classic, with Unique Cars editor Guy Allen estimating the current value of a good example to be around $40,000.