By John Dooley

THE Sunraysia Chrysler Enthusiasts Group (SCEG) held their Annual General Meeting at the Mildura Racecourse recently following which the more than 30 attendees enjoyed a barbecue lunch relaxing on what was a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon.

The ‘Weekly took the opportunity to meet with the members and to take a look at the diverse range of mostly Chrysler vehicles belonging to them which they had on show.

Established just 12 months ago, the group is keen to expand its current membership to other Chrysler and Dodge car owners who would like to join them.

SCEG president Trevor Watts said that the group was born out of three or four car owners who used to get together to go for a regular ‘cruise’.

“As that attracted more people, we had the realisation that we had enough numbers to create a Chrysler club,” he said.

“And that is how the group came into being. From there we formed a committee and went through all the right channels to get the club incorporated and to be able to offer the ‘CPS’ which is the Club Permit System, which is a lower cost form of registration for enthusiast car owners to access.”

Trevor said the club has a number of regular activities for members to join in, primarily amongst those being the cruise days, of which they have had more than 20 days in the past 12 months.

“We try to go on a regular cruise one a fortnight − weather and COVID permitting,” he said.

“Generally the cruises are for half-an-hour to 45 minutes. We choose a range of different routes around the district. Quite often I will ask one of the members to lead the way and they pick a route and we all follow along on a ‘magical mystery tour!’

“We also like to frequent different coffee shops to spread the business around and so it is really a social based club and we all enjoy getting together.”

Trevor said that being a smaller group they have been able to continue to meet outside of the lockdowns and in doing so, observing COVID Safe protocols.

“When the numbers were restricted to 20 in an outdoor setting we were able to still continue on because minus friends and partners, the actual car owner numbers are around 15, so it was workable and we could still carry on,” he said.

“So it was great the club could continue to meet and go for a cruise and keep it together, which was good for our members to be able to get out and about.”

“A lot of the members enjoy the hour or so after the cruise, where we sit down, relax, have a coffee and chat about cars and a whole range of things, as much as the drive itself.

“We have really promoted the social side of the group and encourage owners to bring their partners along and so a really big part of the club is to try and include everybody.”

As for the cars, Trevor said the group’s members have a great line-up of painstakingly and lovingly restored and refurbished vehicles.

“We have two ‘S-Series’ circa 1962 models and we have some that date from 1968 to 1981 being the CM models,” he said. “We also have some VG hard-tops, some Utes and other sedans. There’s a mixture of V8’s and six cylinders.”

The Chrysler 225 cubic inch, slant six powered 1962 S-Series Valiant is an absolute classic and was notable for its push-button automatic transmission control panel.

The Chrysler CM Valiant was produced in Australia by Chrysler Australia from 1978 to 1980 and subsequently by Mitsubishi Australia from 1980 to 1981. It was a facelifted and revised version of the Chrysler CL Valiant, which it replaced. It was the last Australian Chrysler Valiant. The VG model was produced in Australia from 1970 to 1971. That model was the eighth Chrysler Valiant model to be produced in Australia.

Trevor was asked what he thinks it is that makes people want to collect classic cars.

“For a lot of our guys they grew up around cars like that. Their parents or grandparents owned Chryslers and they have fond memories of those vehicles,” he said.

“The other attraction is that they are easy enough to work on and you don’t have to be overly mechanically minded to be able to maintain them.

Trevor is the proud owner of white 1971 VG Valiant which he bought for a song many years ago.

“I’ve had mine for 25 years and I purchased it locally paying about $800 dollars for it. I have worked on it over the years and restored it to pretty good condition and so it’s worth a lot more than that now.

The group’s Club Permit Scheme manager, Ken Parr, whose role includes signing people over into the group to allow them to access Club Permit registration plates for their vehicles, initiated contact with the Weekly to promote what the SCEG is doing.

“Particularly with these older vehicles most people have one car and wanting another one and possible a third and so if you had three or four full rego’s, it becomes very expensive and would be horrendous when you only drive them 12 times a year or so,” Ken Said.

“As far as the club goes, we are all Chrysler enthusiasts. We wanted to form a legitimate club, but keep it Chrysler, Dodge and Valiant only. And while we are looking for people who may be interested in joining, it’s very much a family environment, kids and partners and friends are welcome and bring your car along as well.

“A lot of other car clubs are very broad, we are more unique in the sense that we are only focussed on those makes and everyone in the club has the same interests.”

Ken, it would have to be said, has one of the more stand out VJ hardtops with a 340 cubic inch 5.6 L V8 under the bonnet which visitors to this year’s ‘Show and Shine’ will no doubt have seen. He also had a tan coloured Dodge Ute on display as well.

“The VJ came from Geelong and it was white when I bought it and didn’t have an engine or an interior – it was just a wreck, which I did up over a number of years. I don’t know if you ever finish them!” he said.

Ken was guarded about what he has spent on it but said he assured his wife Nicki that it was money well spent.

“I used to tell my wife that it was like putting money in the bank and they will be worth a lot one day- that was my story anyway!” he said with a smile.

Produced by Chrysler Australia from 1973 to 1975, the VJ replaced the Chrysler VH Valiant and was a face-lifted and revised version of that model. The VJ series Valiant was the tenth Chrysler Valiant model from Chrysler Australia.

Nicki Parr said that she is also restoring a Valiant Charger – a case of – if you can’t beat’em – join ’em!

“That’s exactly right! We had this Charger shell and we didn’t know what to do with it,” Nicki said.

“It’s now been painted and eventually I will have something to drive and while I love being a passenger, it will be nice to have my own car.”

Charger was a huge success for Chrysler when it hit the streets in 1971. The marketing was backed by a catchy ‘Hey Charger’ TV advertising campaign with people turning their heads and giving a cool ‘V’ sign with their fingers. The action caught on and people everywhere were doing it.

Dealerships were overwhelmed with the response and within the first year of production, Charger was pulling 50 per cent of Valiant sales. Incredibly, even after winning Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year in 1971, Charger went out of production in 1978 – the cool car of the 70’s was dead!

In lockdown free times, the SCEG meet every second Sunday at 9am at the service station in Fifteenth Street across from Bunnings.

For information about joining the group please contact president Trevor Watts: m. 0455 892 047 or vice president Robert Zudetich: m. 0418 538 226.