When Chrysler launched the Valiant in Australia in 1962, they had an instant winner on their hands with demand constantly outstripping supply. Part of the reason for the Valiant’s success was its superb US-sourced 225ci slant-six engine. With 108kW on tap, this engine had around double the output of its contemporary Holden rivals at the time. However, the Australian Government demanded a 95 per cent local content for car manufacturers, so a long-term alternative had to be found. Fortunately, the parent company in the US had been developing a new six-cylinder engine for a range of commercial vehicles and offered the project to Chrysler Australia. This was readily accepted, and Chrysler Australia embarked on an ambitious A$36 million programme to complete development and build the engine locally. As well as a development facility, Chrysler built a massive engine plant and foundry in the industrial suburb of Lonsdale, south of the main assembly plant in Adelaide SA.

The new Hemi Six engine was released with the VG Valiant series in 1970 and was an instant hit. It was not strictly a Hemi compared to Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8s, but the hemispherical combustion chamber and longitudinally inclined valves was considered good enough for Chrysler Australia to use the title. Though not as smooth as the slant-six it replaced, the Hemi was strong and torquey providing V8 performance with the economy of a six. The Hemi Six engines powered the Australian Chryslers right to the end in 1981.

Hey Charger co-author Gavin Farmer wrote “The Chrysler Hemi six-cylinder engine, with high specific output and modern specifications, was undoubtedly the best of its genre at the time. It offered buyers a level of performance and economy that was simply unobtainable from the engines of its rivals. That it proved a strong challenger to its rivals with their larger capacity V8 engines on the racetrack is a further testament to the correctness of its design and to the tenacity of the small and under-resourced team at Lonsdale.”

The Hemi Chargers – Unbeatable in New Zealand

It is a well-known fact that while Chargers failed to capture the holy grail of Australian motorsport at Bathurst, they remain the most successful standard production race car ever on New Zealand circuits.

The tale of how Ford even sent out Allan Moffat in a works Falcon GT‑HO to break the Kiwi Charger domination, only to find the Kiwi Chargers (particularly the Leo Leonard/Todd Dealer E49) were faster, is forever written in local motorsport folklore.

What is lesser known, is that a significant part of the Chargers’ success on New Zealand circuits was achieved not with the mighty limited-edition Bathurst E49s, but the NZ-assembled Charger 770 151kW 265 Hemi Six coupled to a Borg-Warner automatic transmission. Local distributors, Todd Motors, had already proven the old adage ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ with Chrysler Valiant Regal V8s winning the B&H 500 at Pukekohe in 1970 and 1971. The B&H 500 was our Bathurst and limited to locally assembled production cars. At the time, there was huge national interest in the race that in many ways was every bit as gruelling as its famous Australian counterpart.

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