Valiant R & S Series: Potent ’60s Pentastars!

14 April 2014
Adelaide’s Clem Smith was one of the top Valiant R series campaigners in the 1960s. Here he’s pushing his hot slant six Valiant hard at Queensland’s Lakeside Raceway at the 1964 ATCC.

Chrysler’s Valiant Hemi Pacers and R/T Chargers are today revered as the finest high performance road and track cars to wear the famous pentastar badge in Australia, but the most successful Valiant to compete in the Australian Touring Car Championship was in fact the first one – the R series.

That historic achievement occurred at South Australia’s Mallala Raceway on April 15, 1963 when Australia’s premier tin-top title was still being decided by a single race each year.

On this occasion, humble Melbourne car dealer Ern Abbott in his R series Valiant had the audacity to come within one tenth of a second of stealing pole position from Bob Jane’s all-conquering 4.1 litre Jaguar Mk II – the reigning ATCC title holder and at the time the fastest touring car in Australia.

And keeping Abbott company on the three-car front row was another R series driven by Adelaide Chrysler dealer Clem Smith. The sight of these two drum-braked, slant six, three-speed Valiants sharing the front row with a disc-braked, DOHC, four-speed Jaguar was truly a sight to behold.

A packed grid at Mallala awaits the start of the 1963 ATCC clash. The three-car front row has Jane’s Jaguar on pole with the two Valiants driven by Ern Abbott and future circuit owner Clem Smith right alongside.