Again the challenge facing each of the "Big Three" in 1967 was to be better than the competition at bringing new car buyers into their particular showrooms. Better performance and economy from larger capacity engines, combined with superior handling may have been the mainstay of improvements undertaken by the engineers at all three companies, but "standard features" were what the average Australian car buyer noticed most, and the successful in society wanted even more up-market modes to help identify their status in society.
Since introducing the Valiant range to the Australian motoring public in 1960 Chrysler Australia had been on a winner with its successive models with production failing to meet demand. The release of the VE in 1967 was no different and it proved to be a very popular model. A hit with motoring journalists this new model received the coveted "Car Of The Year" award from Wheels.
When it was released in October 1967, the VE looked very much like the American Dodge Dart with some styling cues taken from other updated U.S. models. This was despite the Australian designers responsible for the body shape starting with a clean sheet of paper when commencing work on the VE project in May 1964. This may possibly be attributed to final phases of VE's development being overseen by Chrysler Australia's new chief engineer, Walt McPherson, formerly head of Chrysler's proving ground in Detroit.
The Valiant VE was an all-new design and despite the US content the VE was unquestionably the most Australian Valiant to date. The amalgam of Dodge Dart and US Valiant created a lower profile and sleeker look, thanks largely to the almost completely flat body panel profile.
The VE was built on the U.S. Valiant's 108 inches (2743 mm) wheelbase. It offered a wider track and the body was slightly longer by an additional 5.5 inches (140 mm). The longer wheelbase and wider track afforded the car much improved ride and handling characteristics.
The bonnet and guards were shared with the US Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart, and the floor-pan was carried over from the VC, although this did undergo extensive modification. There was more interior space than its VC model predecessor. To further set the VE apart from the previous models, it was styled with a new more aggressive grille treatment, curved side glass, a concave rear window and a longer boot line.
Safety revisions were also introduced, all models now equipped with dual line brakes operated by a tandem master cylinder with separate front and rear braking systems; another Chrysler Australia first for a mass produced Australian car. V8 models were now fitted with power-assisted front disc brakes as standard, and power-assisted front disc brakes were available as an option on all other models.
Other safety improvements included double-sided safety rim wheels, front lap belts were made standard across the range, exterior rear-view mirrors fitted across the entire range, slightly modified suspension set up to improve road-holding, a recessed non-glare instrument panel, dual-speed windscreen wipers, electric windscreen washers, non-glare wiper arms and blades, padded sun-visors, flush-fitting interior door handles, a shatterproof interior rear-view mirror and vastly improved visibility due to the increase in glass area. In a rather strange marketing initiative, seat-belts were offered as a mandatory $10 "option"?
Other upgrades included the introduction of a 14 gallon (64 litres) fuel tank, shorter gear lever throw on the manual gearbox, relocation of the dipswitch from under the brake pedal to the high left of the firewall, and the windscreen wiper motor was relocated to the engine side of the firewall; greatly reducing wiper noise.
There was also some power upgrades. The basic Slant Six was retained with its 145 bhp rating, but a new two-barrel carburettor and air cleaner, matched performance camshaft combined with a low back-pressure exhaust system increased output to 160 bhp. The 273 V8 was also improved to give 195 bhp and made available across the entire Valiant range.
In all there were 18 different VE model variations available. The VE range consisted of Valiant & Valiant Regal sedans, Valiant Safari & Valiant Regal Safari station wagons and Valiant, Valiant Wayfarer & Dodge utilities, the latter being a lower-priced version of the Valiant utility. New for the VE model was the high-specification Valiant VIP available in both sedan and Safari wagon versions. It used the same body as the lesser Valiants, but featured a more luxurious interior, 273 V8 engine, and also shared the 3 'sergeant stripes' of the VC V8 on the rear quarter panel.
To compete with Ford's new long wheelbase Fairlane, the VIP needed to be something special, and it was; but at $3650 for the sedan variant it certainly was not cheap. The VIP's were fitted with a V8 engine, 3 speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, coaxial power steering, power assisted front disc brakes and high speed nylon tyres. Even with its ever growing list of standard inclusions the VIP was always at a disadvantage in that it shared the same wheelbase with all the other Valiant models. It deserved comparison with the Fairlane, but many discounted it as simply an optioned standard Valiant sedan.
The VIP's wheelbase was initially unchanged (108 inches) but was later extended to 112 inches and the styling made more distinctive with the addition of quad headlights, standard vinyl roof, frenched rear screen.
By the standards of the day the VIP was lavishly furnished. It featured a cushioned transmission control console, individually adjustable reclining front bucket seats each with "dielectric impressions" allowing air to circulate around the body of the driver and passengers. The front seats were also fitted an item that was far from common for any car built in the 1960's; built-in adjustable headrests. The VIP Safari wagon came with a roof-rack, power-operated tailgate window and rear interior dome light in addition to all the same luxury appointments of the sedan variant.
The new VIP did come in for criticism. Things that drew the attention of those levelling the criticism included the lack of boot depth, steering wheel placement (it being considered too close to the driver) and poor instrument switchgear placement. For the price of the model not to have a vanity mirror, speedometer trip meter or rear reading lights seemed a glaring oversight. The lack of directional dashboard ventilation also counted against the car and highlighted the perceived lack of attention to the interior layout of the VIP when compared to the 1962 Ford Cortina, which featured just such a control. The truth was that many of these same criticisms could just as easily be levelled at the competition.
The price for the base model VE remained unchanged at $2490, climbing up to the VIP Safari Wagon being the most expensive at $3720.
Although Valiants were more expensive, they were in every way a superior car, providing better performing 6 cylinder engines, better road-holding, ride and comfort. It was hard to find a disappointed Valiant owner and for those that chose to take the path less travelled they were richly rewarded.
Chrysler Australia during the VE's production run were able to achieve their designated 95% (average) local content quota and opened their Lonsdale (South Australia) foundry and engine plant in 1967.
During its production run, 68,688 VE Valiants were built.