It might be 50 years old and conservatively styled, but this VIP Valiant cruiser can punch a nine-second pass in full 60s street trim
This article on Mick's Valiant was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Street Machine
I’LL admit, long before I typed the first word of this article I jumped online to see if there were any Valiant VE VIPs for sale. No, adding a Valiant to the garage isn’t on my radar, but there’s just something about the combination of trim, paint, chrome, vinyl roof, wheels and stance of Mick Lulic’s VIP Val that is tremendously appealing.
Mick is a through-and-through Valiant guy. He’s owned a Charger for the best part of 25 years. And it’s definitely a family thing, because his dad owns one, too. That said, owning a 1968 VE VIP wasn’t originally in his plans. Upon attending the Mopar Nationals at Calder Park in 2010, this particular VE VIP caught his eye, and over that weekend he fell in love with the car for what he calls its “gangster appeal”, and thought about it for a long time afterwards.
For a car that’s been part of the racing scene for multiple decades, the exterior is in very good shape. The VIP’s Alpine White paint and vinyl roof were refreshed a number of years ago, as were the chrome bumpers, trim pieces and grille
“Five years after I first saw it at Calder, a friend called me up and said that the car’s for sale,” Mick explains. “I then I spoke to my wife and said: ‘What do you reckon?’ She said: ‘If you really want it, go and grab it.’”
Mick spent considerable time making sure the VIP sits just right
So Mick got on the phone and spoke to the car’s then-owner, Robert Zganec. They chatted about how Mick had seen the VIP in 2010, and about the car’s overall condition given the time that had passed since he’d seen it in the metal.
Complementing the classic look of the VE VIP is a set of Center Line Auto Drag wheels. The front rims measure 15x5.5, while the rears sit at a fat 15x10 and wear 325/50/15 Mickey Thompson ET Street tyres. The wheels are one of the only external giveaways of this VIP’s true nature
“When I first spoke to Robert he said that someone was interested in the car and that they were coming to look at it the next day,” Mick says. “I straight away said: ‘I’m gonna get a trailer and make the trip from Melbourne to Adelaide on the chance this other guy doesn’t buy it.’ And sure enough, the next day my wife and I went there and brought it home.
“When I got to Adelaide I pulled into his driveway just as Robert was getting home from work. He pulled the covers off, put the key in the ignition and it started straight away. I could tell that the car was well sorted, and that the engine was strong. The paint was also still in top condition given it was only painted a few years beforehand.
“On closer inspection there were a few things I wanted to fix, such as the chrome and the trim, but this wasn’t a big deal, and if anything it would allow me to add my touch to the car. The selling point was that the car was three-quarters done to the way I wanted. I loved it.”
It’s the little things like the new vinyl roof and original badges that make all the difference with a car like this
A cool fact about this VE VIP is that it’s not a barn-find that’s been mini-tubbed and hotted up. Mick put us in touch with the previous owner, Robert Zganec, who says that the VIP has been performing in the Adelaide racing scene for as long as he can recall.
The VIP’s original 273ci V8 is long gone. In its place is a built 360ci Chrysler small-block that’s been stroked to 410ci, punching out a hefty 600hp on 98-octane pump fuel
“I remember seeing the car around Adelaide as a 17-year-old,” Robert says. “It was originally owned by a shop called Pope Street Performance that used to race it; I believe it was their dad’s car. Then it disappeared for a very long time, and when I heard it was for sale I went and bought it. I drove it with a standard 360ci motor for a while, but it eventually gave way.”
While the car has run a best time of 9.89@140mph (with the help of a 150hp nitrous shot), Mick tells us he plans to go quicker
After the motor died, Robert sourced another 360ci Chrysler small-block from an Australian-built Charger, and had an Adelaide engine builder by the name of Dino Cecere put together a package that would hopefully run a 10.80 or 10.90. The motor was built with goodies such as an Eagle stroker crank (stretching capacity out to 410ci), ported Edelbrock Performer RPM alloy heads, COMP camshaft, Scat H-beam rods, and forged Diamond flat-top pistons. The combination is enough for roughly 600hp on 98-octane pump fuel.
Right from the get-go Mick’s intention was to salvage and refresh the interior where it needed it most: the seats. The pressed inserts on the seats are original; the rest was matched and stitched up to replicate the factory look
The fuel system is made up of a 950 Holley with a Holley Black fuel pump, and spark is thanks to Crane HI-6 ignition. Cooling is sorted by a CL Valiant V8 radiator and a 16-inch thermo fan.
Sending power to the rear 15x10 Center Line Auto Drag wheels and Mickey Thompson ET Street tyres is a 904 Torqueflite through a nine-inch diff with a Detroit Locker and 4.11 gears.
While he owned the car, Robert had run a best of 9.89@140mph with the help of 150-shot of NOS. Given this VIP cruiser runs full street trim, these numbers make for a very mean street car.
Within a few months of getting the VE VIP back to Melbourne, Mick had the car looking as it does on these pages: fresh chrome bumpers and trim, some light touch-ups, and a refurbished interior.
The latter is something Mick’s particularly proud of. With the help of a trimmer friend, he managed to salvage the original pressed seat inserts and then match up the outside of the seats with new material to keep the VIP’s original look. The door trims are as they came from the factory; however, the carpet and kick panels have been refreshed. The attention to detail in the high-end models like the VIP leaves little to be desired; the back seat looks like something you’d find in a late-60s inner-city smoking lounge.
Mick tells us that white paint with blue trim is quite rare. “The way the trim came out 50 years ago is pretty much spot-on in my opinion; I simply wanted to salvage it the best I could,” he says. “People comment on how nice the trim is now; a lot of the time they don’t know it’s been redone. I wanted the factory look, and I think we achieved that.”
Mick reckons he now likes driving his VIP more than his Charger. “I’ve had the Charger for 25 years. A few of my mates said: ‘Mick, the Charger has become a bit second-fiddle,’ and I replied: ‘Well, this is my new love now!’”
When asked if he’d ever consider selling the VIP, Mick laughs: “It’s not even an option. Money can’t replace this car – the history of it and the overall combination. If I looked online and tried to find another one like this it wouldn’t happen.”
At the moment Mick says he’s enjoying cruising the car every Sunday, and might race it later to see if he can improve on the times it’s run in the past. For now, you’ll see (and hear) it rolling around the streets of Melbourne.
1968 VALIANT VE VIP
Paint: Glasurit Alpine White
Brand: Chrysler small-block 360ci (stroked to 410ci)
Induction: 950 Holley
Heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM alloy, ported
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Pistons: Forged Diamond flat-top
Crank: Eagle stroker
Ignition: Crane HI-6
Oil pump: Melling high-volume
Fuel system: Holley Black
Cooling: CL Valiant V8 radiator, 16-inch thermo fan
Exhaust: Bruce Morphett 4-into-1 headers, dual 3in exhaust
Gearbox: 904 Torqueflite, fully manualised, reverse-pattern
Converter: TCE 4800rpm
Diff: 9in Detroit locker, 4.11 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Torsion bar reset 1.5in (f), factory springs reset 2in (r)
Shocks: Competition Engineering; 90/10 (f), 50/50 (r)
Brakes: DBA slotted discs (f), Ford drums (r)
Master cylinder: Factory
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x5.5 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 185/80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 325/50/15 (r)