The Five Colour Chrysler Cruiser

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Often the most amazing things pass us by and it takes decades before we appreciate what we saw at first hand. This Chrysler Valiant Safari wagon that appeared at the Vintage Retro Markets Show and Shine is a prime example of this.

Australia often got cars that had been developed elsewhere for other climes and other purposes. Sometimes these were wildly inappropriate – like the European minicars of the 50’s – and sometimes they were exactly what the Doctor ordered.

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Here in Perth we depended upon the Fremantle Doctor to make us better in the afternoons. When we needed treatment in other areas we packed the Esky and the cossie and the snags and headed for the coast north or south. For those of you in North America or South Canada who are currently bewildered I can only refer you to Wiki and hope that one of the locals has been writing for it. Note: despite Paul Hogan’s advertisements, no Australian has every thrown a shrimp on a barbie…Actually most of us would throw Paul on a barbie…

Okay. This is a car that was mostly designed in South Canada but then was redrawn in South Australia for the local market. it is a station sedan of the cruiser class. Originally a more expensive thing to buy than the GM or Ford equivalent, but only by dint of advertising and size, it took a generation of Australians back out to the beach or beached them in the outback, and did it with style. Not a lot of comfort, mind, but when you wanted to make an impression on the suburb with your new car this was the one to do it with. The engines actually were quite powerful and the bodies were generous. The trim could be a bit iffy but then we learned not to expect all that much from South Australia. It was the water, you see….

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Well, crank on 40 to 50 years and what was big and wide is still big and wide and the modern car driver who might be accustomed to bedding down in a bucket seat is confronted with a space as big as the Nullarbor plain. Bench seats that invite trouble, particularly if you are young and randy. ( They also invite trouble if you are old and arthritic but we won’t go into that.). A genuine column shift. No instruments to speak of and the ones you do get are unspeakable. And the kind of style and grace that only space and classic lines can deliver.

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This Safari is owned by someone. I have no idea whom, but I can tell they are as cool as it gets. How do I now?

  1. Hessian bag upholstery. With seat webbing door liners. Beat that trendsters. Puts your red sneakers and top knot in the bin, doesn’t it?
  2. 5 colour paint job. And four of them are directly off an Automasters sign. One is the bit left over from the original. AND THEY ALL WORK.
  3. Fender fill panels. Fender fill with louvers. No-one does fender fill unless they are what it is all about.
  4. Whiteys, stock hubs, and lowered just enough.
  5. Top colour white – this is Australia, and we know how to do summer. We do it every damned year. But the top colour comes down off the turret to the top body line. This means the turret looks lower, cleaner, and sleeker.
  6. Blinds. Venetians, to all the rest. The internal speed line of Australia. Art deco in the rear cargo bay.
  7. The trim strip is coming. That side chrome strip is coming back, as soon as the owner gets a good chrome plater to do it. That’s what the line of holes is for. Patience.
  8. No need to change the window winder. It is blocky, but authentic. Still, if you win a little at Lotto and get an electric one…

Some cars are city cars. Some are country cars. Some are everyday cars. This Safari is 5:00 on a Friday afternoon flying down the coast road to Dunsborough with the sun starting to slant in from the west and the temperature dropping. There’s an Esky full of tinnies and the meat tray you won at the pub raffle in the back. Your mates are up ahead of you and they’ll have the barbie ready when you rock up. And the local wireless station starts playing the Beachboys.

Who knows what the rest of the world is doing? Who cares?

 

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