This year marks 40 years since Chrysler’s “last bastard” rolled off the production line in South Australia, marking the end of an era for one of Australia’s own big three.
The unremarkable plain white CM-series was the last of a total 565,338 Valiants produced in four distinct generations between 1962 and 1981 and would probably have remained an unexceptional vehicle were it not for a famous inscription in its boot.
A line worker at Chrysler Australia’s Tonsley Park plant took it upon himself to etch LAST BARSTARD – replete with spelling error – into the sound deadening of the last Val. Unnoticed by management and quality control at the time, the inscription now forms part of the legend surrounding the car and has helped bolster its worth as a collector’s item.
Otherwise, the final Valiant was a completely standard car. It featured a 4.0-litre (245ci) six-cylinder engine, the smallest-capacity of three powertrain options offered at the time, and a three-speed automatic transmission. It was presented to Purnell Bros. Mitsubishi in recognition of their strong Valiant sales record and was never registered. Today it has just 26km on the clock.
Chrysler’s sales of its long-serving Valiant had slumped to just 16,000 units annually by the start of the 1980s, and as Australian buyers looked to models including the European-styled VB-series Holden Commodore and ultra-modern XD-series Ford Falcon, the Valiant appeared past its use-by-date. The CM-series was still based on the CH-series Valiant released a decade earlier.
The final full-size Chrysler was replaced by the smaller Sigma in 1981. Mitsubishi Motors purchased 99 per cent of the equity in Chrysler Australia in 1980 and went on to produce Chrysler-badged versions of its mid-size car before branding the vehicle ‘Mitsubishi’ with the very next series.
The Valiant nameplate was synonymous with Chrysler Australia in much the same was the Kingswood was to Holden and Falcon to Ford. A total of 16 series were produced across four generations with sedan, wagon, utility, panel van and coupe (Charger) body styles available.