If you’re a Mopar fan and Adrian Betterton’s ’71 Valiant doesn’t get your hair standing on end, you’d better check you’ve got a pulse
Goosebumps rise across your skin and the hair on the back of your neck stands to attention. A shiver runs down your spine as you experience that throwback from caveman days known as the fight or flight reaction. It was a natural defence mechanism employed if we experienced something threatening or dangerous, like a dog and its hackles. The body automatically puffed up your lustrous coat of hair to make your caveman self appear larger than he actually was, thereby hopefully intimidating any potential threat.
Of course, we are no longer quite so hirsute, nor do the same things pose a threat, but that original, basic defence mechanism is still there, showing itself when it deems appropriate. For any true enthusiast, one of those moments is the firing of an all-American big block V8 like the 512ci Mopar in Adrian Betterton’s 1971 Chrysler Valiant. The starter motor whines as the crank inside the engine begins to turn. After a few chugs, coughs and splutters, 512 cubic inches of American iron roars into life, the ground vibrating underfoot as it finds idle. The motor begins to warm, and the deep, guttural Mopar roar begins to surge and ebb under the spell of an aggressive camshaft spinning in the bowels of the beast.
Although it can’t quite be pinpointed, there is definitely something primal, something quintessentially masculine about the roar of a big block V8. Adrian’s particular 440-based engine is a perfect example, wrapped up in a clean, aggressive Valiant shell.
Six Years Down
Adrian first bought the car six years ago while on the hunt for a Holden HK Monaro. “I was looking for an old-school cruiser, and always loved the HK. But after a bit of research I realised they were well out of my price range. My girlfriend at the time knew someone selling a VG Valiant, so I went along and checked it out. It was perfect,” Adrian says.
Like so many other NZV8 feature car owners, Adrian soon grew bored of cruising round in the stock standard old girl, and slowly began sneaking bits and pieces onto the car as they came up. For example, Adrian explains, “It was time for new tyres, but there was no way I was going to fork out for the same stuff again, so I called up Lance at Arrow Wheels. He sold me a set of 17×7-inch and 17×9-inch Sabres, and then custom fitted them to the Valiant. From there, it just got more and more out of control.”
By then, the 30-year-old paint was looking a little ragged, so Adrian rang paint-master mate Mary-Anne Roper, asking for a quick weekend respray. This, as you would expect, turned into six months of weekends as the pair perfected and prepped the body for its new Vixen Red paint.
Lastly, Adrian was going big block, so he needed a big block-esque scoop. “I took the bonnet and scoop to a panelbeater, who I won’t name. After a few days he called me up to let me know it was finished, I went down there and everything would have been just fine¦ if I was putting it on a SLR5000. It was backwards! My jaw hit the floor, admittedly so did his when I told him. The problem was rectified and I took the car down to Ross Walker at Unique Auto Worx, who laid on the red and black paint.”
Now that the car was looking a million dollars with its fresh paint, and sitting low on the Arrow wheels thanks to reset leafs, heavy duty torsion bars and Monroe gas shocks, it was time for a new motor. A big motor. Starting with a 440ci Chrysler big block, Adrian contacted Stateside company 440 Source, which supplied him with a full 512ci stroker kit. The kit came with nearly everything Adrian needed to build his new motor, including the Platinum Series crank, which cleverly uses the smaller 2.200 journals, thus making block clearance a far easier affair. Oil supply comes from an enlarged oil pan, and Hemi pick up and pump. GK Reconditioners peiced the whole lot together.
Above the hulking block, 440 Source also provided a pair of alloy heads with 212cc intake and 72cc exhaust ports. As for the camshaft, Melling supplied Adrian with a Class 3 shaft to use with a set of Crane hydraulic lifters. The 480 lift, 300 duration cam is a good mix of street and strip, with a rev range of 2000rpm to 6000rpm. ARP head bolts, PRW stainless steel roller rockers and custom Octane Fabrications alloy rocker covers finish the job.
To feed the hungry beast there’s a re-jetted Holley 800cfm carb, bolted above a tried and true Edelbrock Peformer intake manifold. This is supplied fuel by a Carter electric fuel pump via half-inch braided line, while the fuse is lit by an MSD 6AL Mopar performance model ignition module. All this gear now sits pretty under the Valiant’s hood with plenty of room, looking very clean thanks to an Octane Fabrication de-loomed and smoothed engine bay.
Back It Up
Back behind the engine sits a very tough 727 transmission, which is accompanied by a 440 Source 7/16 flex plate and a 10-inch Boss Hog 2200rpm high stall converter. This pushes power out to the rear of the car, where a shortened nine-inch diff, complete with LSD head and 3.25:1 gears, can be found.
Good power and a solid transmission generally require an upgrade in the braking department. For this, Adrian kept the rear drums as is, but replaced the front stoppers with Wilwood four-pot Superlite discs and rotors. Although it’s no race car, the Valiant will now pull up in a tight spot if needed.
Before the Chrysler could be called finished, it needed a refreshed interior, as this one had taken a beating over the previous three decades. Adrian took the beast down to Alvin at Stock Upholstery, who reupholstered the interior in simple black, with a tidy red pinstripe to match the car’s exterior. Besides the new look, the only other interior enhancements are a set of Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges, a Hurst pistol grip shifter and a steering wheel pulled from an R/T Charger.
Mopar or No Car
Powerful, reliable and tidy, this Chrysler has come a long way in the last six years. Maybe that deep Mopar rumble emitted by cars like Adrian’s Valiant gives a gearhead his or her shivers simply due to the instinctively frightening low bass notes and the shaking ground. Or perhaps it is more complex than that: the promise of crushing power and mountain-moving torque that only the sound of a hulking big block eight can provide.
1971 VG Chrysler Valiant – Specifcations
Engine: Chrysler big block 440, 440 Source 512ci (8390cc) stroker kit, Platinum series crank, Platinum series 17cc dished pistons, Total Seal rings, steel SFI damper, Hemi 6ct oil pan, Hemi oil pick up, high-volume pump, 440 Source alloy heads, Melling Class 3 camshaft, Crane hydraulic lifters, PWR stainless roller rockers, 1.5 ratios, ARP head bolts, Octane Fabrications alloy rocker covers, alloy water pump, Holley re-jetted 800cfm, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, Carter electric fuel pump, Holley regulator, half-inch braided fuel line, MSD 6AL ignition module, twin three-inch exhaust system, Desert Cooler alloy radiator, 16-inch Davis Craig fan, de-loomed engine bay, smoothed firewall
Driveline: 727 transmission, 440 Source Hemi 7/16 flex plate, Boss Hog 10-inch hemi 7/16 bolt torque converter (2200rpm stall), shortened nine-inch diff, LSD head, 3.25 gears
Suspension: Re-tensioned leaf springs, Monroe gas shocks, heavy duty torsion bar, Nolathane bushes
Brakes: Front Wilwood four-pot Super Lite discs and rotors, factory rear drums
Wheels/tyres: 17×7-inch and 17×9-inch Arrow Wheels Sabre rims, 215/45R17 front tyres, 255/40R17 rear tyres
Exterior: Stock body, Vixen red re-spray
Interior: Re-upholstered interior, R/T Charger steering wheel, Hurst alloy pistol grip shifter, Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges, custom alloy centre console
Adrian Betterton – Owner Profile
Previously owned cars: 308ci Holden HQ one-tonner, 406ci Holden HZ panel van
Build time: Four years
Owned: Six years
Adrian thanks: Craig at Octane Fabrications, Mary-Anne, Brad at Brake Co, Ross Walker at Unique Auto Worx, Lance at Arrow Wheels, Tim at Procoat, Alvin at Stock Upholstery, Gerard at GK Automotive and Reconditioners
Words: Peter Kelly Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 49. Click here to check it out.
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