KIDS ARE impressionable creatures, so the cars we find desirable tend to be the ones we saw adorning the showrooms, racetracks and television advertisements of our particular generation. But Shane Heard never had that opportunity with the Aussie Charger. At just 26 years of age, he was born a full 10 years after the Charger stopped rolling off the assembly line in 1978. He never got to hear those R/T six-pack Webers sucking in cubic gallons of air and fuel, or see a whole generation of people shout: ‘Hey Charger!’ every time they saw Chrysler’s coolest cruiser. But he ended up with one just the same.
This article was first published in the July 2014 issue of Street Machine
“I always wanted a Mustang, but then I saw a Charger go past one day. I was with my mum and I asked her what it was,” Shane recalls. “It just stuck in my mind, and when I finally started looking for a car, that’s what I went looking for.”
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Rather than strip the low-kilometre original Charger back to bare metal, Shane repaired the minor rust in the rear quarters and treated the classic Aussie Mopar to a two-pack respray in the original Deep Chartreuse Metallic
Shane was just 16 when he bought his first Charger. “I paid about $1000, I think. I got it cheap because it had heaps of rust and a dodgy sunroof. So I learned how to weld with Dad.”
From there he ended up buying a couple more Chargers as parts cars and potential projects, before stumbling across his current ride.
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“I got this one when I was 17 years old,” he says. “It was all original and had 65,000 miles on the clock. It even came with all the receipts, including the original buyer’s receipt. It was in great condition; if you didn’t want to spray it, it didn’t really need it. There were a few little marks here and there, but yeah, as soon as I saw it I said: ‘I’ll take it!’ Obviously I didn’t have the money so Mum and Dad said: ‘We’ll give you half for your 18th birthday present.’”
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To raise the rest of the cash Shane sold his other Chargers and then started planning what he was going to do next. The car was too good to use as a daily driver, so it commenced weekend cruising duties, and for a young bloke who’d just turned 18 who could think of a cooler cruiser? We bet they were locking up their daughters all over town when Shane hit the streets.
“I left it stock for a couple of years, but then I decided to lower it and change the interior up a bit,” Shane says. “The interior was an olive-y green colour and to be honest it looked pretty average.”
So with the cranial switch flipped, Shane began by going over the bodywork. The Charger wasn’t too bad for rust, with just a couple of pinholes to repair, but Shane elected to get both sections cut out. Being pretty happy with the colour, he decided to stick with the original Deep Chartreuse Metallic, but this time treated the old girl to a lavish coating of two-pack.
“Rob Ambruosi built a killer engine for the car,” Shane says. Check out how the long runner intake fills the engine bay. They reckon the hopped-up 245 Hemi should make at least 300hp
Then it was time for the trim. The dash still wears its original paint, but there’s new carpet underfoot and the factory puke-green seats have been stripped and re-covered in a mix of cream and tan vinyl.
From there Shane moved on to the wheels and suspension, and after lowering the Charger several inches front and rear he bolted on a set of 17-inch American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels. While 17-inch rims might not sound too crazy, they certainly fit and sit right in the Valiant’s old-school wheelarches.
Early Hemi sixes have been known to suffer oil pump issues due to cam float – that’s movement backwards and forwards. Chrysler Australia eventually fixed the problem by altering the oil pump drive engagement, but most people chasing 300+hp invest in an external oil pump system like Rob has built here
With the Charger looking righteous, and Shane no longer on his P-plates, it was time to start looking at horsepower options. Luckily for Shane, he lives just up the street from Top Alcohol racer and engine builder Rob Ambruosi.
“I’m a plumber by trade and Rob needed some plumbing work done. He said: ‘We’ll build an engine for the Charger.’”
Now if you asked 100 guys what engine they would build for a Valiant Charger, you’d probably get a list of big- and small-block V8s as long as your arm, with a couple of multi-carby or turbo 265-based Hemi sixes thrown in. Not a single person from that 100 would say: ‘I’m building a 245.’ But that’s exactly what Shane has done.
The only thing Shane didn’t like about the car was the original green vinyl trim, so that’s been switched to a tasteful mix of tan and cream, with a SAAS wheel and smattering of aftermarket gauges
“It was Rob’s idea really,” Shane says. “He said: ‘If it’s a virgin motor, never been touched, then it’s a perfect thing to start off with.’ So we stripped it, and it was like new inside. It was amazing. Rob said: ‘I can get this thing to rev just as hard as a 265.’”
To be honest, it’s not complete craziness to use a 245 Hemi. Chrysler had plenty of racing success with 245 Hemi Pacers in 1970 and ’71. The main disadvantage the 245 has against the 265, besides the obvious 20ci-capacity difference, is the smaller camshaft and valves, and those are easy to fix.
Rob bored the block 60thou and sent the head off to the USA for extensive work. Naturally the Yanks didn’t really know what the hell it was, but they did know all about head flow, so they got the Hemi head working with bigger valves and some neat porting.
“They actually enjoyed working on it, because it was something different,” Shane says.
Throw in some custom Diamond pistons, custom Oliver rods and a custom-ground roller cam and you can see that this is a serious lump of iron.
So serious, in fact, that they haven’t even dropped the car on a chassis dyno for some tuning. Yeah, you read that right.
“I’ve still got the original three-speed manual ’box in it at the moment, and we’re currently in the process of putting a 904 Torqueflite behind it, so we’ll dyno it after that. Rob estimates an easy 300hp, but we don’t want to dyno it until the 904 and nine-inch goes in,” Shane says. “We tried some testing and took it to 6500rpm, and it just spun the clutch, so we’re not going to do that again.”
The boys only fired it up on Christmas Eve, so the engine is barely even run in at the moment.
“I’ve just been breaking it in. It actually had its first proper oil change yesterday,” Shane says. “I try and get it out once or twice a week, just to give it a run. I reckon I would have done an easy 2000km already. I’m hoping to have it at Bright Rod Run this year and the next Chryslers On The Murray.”
Sounds like fun we reckon, but one thing is for sure: you don’t want to mess with this little six.
1972 VH CHARGER
Colour: Deep Chartreuse Metallic
Engine: Hemi 245ci
Intake: AussieSpeed PP&R Hurricane
Carby: Holley HP 650cfm
Heads: Cast iron, ported
Crank: Balanced 245
Cam: Custom roller
Ignition: ICE 7A
Exhaust: Pacemaker extractors, single 3in stainless system
Transmission: BorgWarner three-speed
Diff: BorgWarner, standard gears and axles
Brakes: Discs (f), drums (r)
Springs: Lowered; 4in (f), 3in (r)
Shocks: Pedders (f & r)
Rims: American Racing Torq Thrust II; 17x7 (f), 17x8 (r)
Rubber: Kumho; 215/40 (f), 235/40 (r)
My parents and family; my girlfriend Sarah; Rob Ambruosi at R&N Superchargers & Fuel Systems