KEITH Fabian comes from a family of street machiners. His brothers take the more commonly trod path of owning Ford and Holden products, but 36-year-old Keith has always been a bit different: “My first car was a Centura and I’ve never not had a Valiant. My brothers reckon I was dropped on my head as a baby.”
This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Street Machine
Another reason – or excuse, depending on your view – is that Keith’s originally from South Oz, which could be considered a Mopar stronghold compared to other parts of the country.
Front on, the coupe looks tough and especially aggressive with the metal hanging out the bonnet. A nice touch is that Keith managed to get BLOWEN plates on it – the same plates that Jye Core had on the car in Queensland
Where he lives now, though, is the windswept township of Geraldton, about five hours north of Perth. “I had some family over here and my wife wanted to do some study. We thought we’d come over for a few years; then I opened up my shop and that was that,” says Keith. Thirteen years later, they’re still there, and Keith’s shop, West Coast Auto Smash Repairs, is flat-out.
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While the early Valiant coupes are much-loved Aussie muscle cars, there’s no denying their direct connection to the US Dodge Dart. But while the Dart got a 340 from the factory, the biggest motor offered in Oz was the 318. Keith fixed that and then some by slotting in a blown 340
Before anyone gets onto social media to say: “Hang on! That’s so-and-so’s old car”, yes, you’re right. The car was originally built by Queenslander Jye Core, and although it doesn’t look like it’s changed much, Keith has made quite a few alterations since he took ownership five or six years ago. Visually, the only major difference is the Weld Magnum Forged rims, but it’s under the skin where it’s changed the most, with Keith making several mechanical upgrades.
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To easily swallow those 15x10 rims and 275 rubber, the car has been mini-tubbed to the chassis rail and had the leaf springs relocated. The rear end now features a 9in with QA1 mono-leaf springs and shocks as well as CalTracs
“It’s been a mission. With the old block that I had, I kept hurting it, and then I had issues getting a Torqueflite to hold up,” Keith says. “Finally, this year I put in the big Powerglide, went to a full Reid case and bellhousing, and hurt it again. Only a minor thing, but it still means pulling the ’box out again.”
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He’d love the car to be Mopar all the way through, but since it already had a Ford nine-inch in it, Keith reckoned he might as well cover the entire Big Three and put in a Chevy gearbox. “It does have a bit of a glass jaw, because I’m still running 28-spline billet axles,” he jokes.
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But don’t worry, the important bit, the bit everyone can see – because half of it is hanging out the bonnet – is Mopar through and through. When Keith bought the car it already had a blown 340 in it, but he had issues with it and actually cracked the block on it a couple of times. “I found a proper Mopar 340 replacement block and they’ve got four-bolt mains and are pretty rare,” he says.
There are other benefits as well, including the fact that it’s a brand-new casting made from high-nickel cast iron and has thicker webbing, thicker pan rail, and thicker deck and bore walls. All of that extra meat might add some weight, but it also comes in handy once you start stuffing some boost into the engine. While it might have 340 cast into the side of the block, the actual capacity is around 368 cubes due to the extra stroke of the 360 Scat forged steel crank.
The Weiand 6/71 is topped by a couple of Quick Fuel E85 carbs, which don’t help fuel economy much, but do help keep the engine temps nice and cool. The heads are aluminium Edelbrock Performer RPM items that have been ported and polished. Hooker headers and a twin three-inch exhaust get rid of the fumes, and Keith is rapt with how the car is running now.
The block is a genuine Mopar replacement 340 with Scat rods and crank, RaceTec pistons and a Weiand 6/71. The E85 Quick Fuel carbs measure up at 650cfm each and the motor puts down 652hp at the tyres on a very reliable and streetable tune
“Wayne Smith at Performance Carb Tuning and Jeff Johnson at Streetbuilt worked hand-in-hand on the tune-up. They’ve been awesome, ever since I started using them. We sort of dialled it back a bit and it’s been super reliable,” says Keith. That safe, reliable and even streetable tune still sees over 650hp making it to the tyres.
One more change that Keith made was to the interior, removing the high-back race buckets and harnesses for standard seatbelts and more low-key, albeit still modern-ish, bucket seats. “I’d love to put a factory split bench in it, if I can find one,” he says. There’s a Pacer steering wheel and instrument cluster, although you can’t see it past the Auto Meter speedo and tacho.
Keith loves taking his four kids cruising in the car and isn’t afraid to belt up on it at Powercruise or similar events, but he also has no qualms about running it down the quarter-mile every now and then.
It’s a mostly stock interior that’s been updated with some aftermarket bucket seats and Auto Meter gauges. The FAST air/fuel meter keeps tabs on the E85 tune-up and a TCI Outlaw shifter controls the Reid-cased Powerglide
“I ran a 10.8 when it had the Torqueflite in it, but I couldn’t hit top gear hard because that’s how I kept breaking it,” he says. “It’s got a nine in it every day of the week, but because I don’t have a ’cage, they said: ‘Look man, you’ve got one more. Make it stick and then you’re going home.’ But as soon as I leant on it I smashed the planetary when I hit top gear. That was the last straw, and that’s when I pulled it and put the ’Glide in.”
It may have fought him all the way, but now Keith’s got a tough-as-nails Aussie classic that can smash tyres at will but still be docile enough to cruise the streets with the family. Perfect.
1970 VG VALIANT HARDTOP
Type: 340 Chrysler
Carb: Twin E85 Quick Fuel 650cfm
Blower: Weiand 6/71
Heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Crank: Scat steel
Radiator: Aluminium with twin thermos
Exhaust: Hooker headers, twin 3in system
Ignition: MSD Digital, MSD distributor
’Box: Reid-cased Powerglide
Converter: AllFast custom
Diff: 9in, 3.55 gears, billet axles
Front end: Standard torsion bar
Rear end: Mono-leaf springs, CalTracs
Shocks: QA1 (f), QA1 double-adjustable (r)
Brakes: Discs (f & r)
Rims: Weld Magnum Forged; 17x4.5 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: M/T Sportsman S/R 26x6.00R17LT (f), ET Street Radial Pro 275/60R15 (r)
Jye Core for doing most of the set-up on the Val; Wayne Smith at Performance Carb Tuning and Jeff Johnson at Streetbuilt for all the time to tune it; my good mate Leigh for helping pull motors in and out, and the continuous transmission swap-outs!