In the early 197o’s the muscle car era in the U.S. was dying a quick and painful death. Government safety and emissions legislation, rising insurance rates, and skyrocketing fuel prices all combined to kill what many still regard as the golden era of automotive performance. 1971 would be the last year a 426 HEMI would slide under the hood of an American Dodge Charger, but down under, the HEMI Charger was just getting started!
More specifically, the Valiant-based Australian Charger would have a unique look and an even more unique 6-cylinder Weber-fed HEMI under the hood. The Australian ad campaign was targeted on people shouting and, in some cases, purring the phrase, “Hey Charger!”
The 1971 model introduced the “VH” series of Chrysler-branded Valiant Chargers featured a short wheelbase and a fastback roofline. It immediately attracted the praise of the press and won the Wheels Magazine “Car of the Year” award. Further praise was heaped on by the Australian Motoring News describing it as “the most handsome car Chrysler has ever produced, and probably the best looking car ever produced by an Australian manufacturer.”
It came in four different variants with the standard Charger sporting a 215 cubic inch six cylinder, the Charger XL with the 245 cubic inch six-banger and the lauded R/T and 770 hot-shot versions and featured the 265 cubic inch HEMI engine.
The HEMI engine itself came in a few different flavors based on which model of Charger it was in. The E37 Charger was the original HEMI offering and made 218 horsepower. It was quickly followed by the higher horsepower E38 280 horsepower motor, though both were considered street engines and were equipped with 3-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The E39 was offered in 1972 and was the real race motor. It featured a trio of Webers mounted to a short intake, officially making for the only Six-Pack optioned HEMI, and had a compression ratio of 10.5:1, good for a stout 302 horsepower. The E39 4-speed equipped Chargers could run the quarter-mile in 14.40 making it the quickest quarter-mile machine ever built in Australia! It had a reputation for embarrassing the V8 GM Holdens and Ford Falcons.
1972 also marked the model year of the Charger 770 “SE” edition that featured a small block 340. The SE was an extremely rare car and only 770 were produced. Surprisingly, all cars came equipped with a single pipe exhaust and the 727 Torqueflite transmission.
In 1973 the reign of the Valiant Charger VH ended, and the redesigned VJ series entered. It featured changes to the cowl, grille, lighting and rear quarter feature panel,with round headlights replacing the previous rectangular units. A street HEMI engine was still available from the old E37 package, but was now referred to as E48 and featured an upgraded 4-speed transmission. The uber-hot E39 race HEMI was gone.
The Charger R/T itself was also gone forever, a decision which was linked to the fact that Chrysler had officially withdrawn from participation in Australian touring car racing at the end of the 1972 season.
The upscale Charger 770 VJ series continued to offer a small block V8 in the 1973 and ’74 model year, though the “SE” model was dropped entirely. A small block 360 came into the mix in late 1974 for the Charger 770 and in the Charger was restyled again as the VK series for the 1975 model year. At this point, but the HEMI was gone entirely and Charger production ended after 1978.
We love the video of old automotive ads in general, but this one is something special. To begin with, simply being Australian gives it a charm in it’s own right. There is certainly sexual innuendo in some portions, but by today’s standards it’s pretty tame. We’re confident that be the end you’ll be grinning. Be aware though, it will take you a week to get the phrase “Hey Charger!” out of your head.