Ray Bell writes: Ever since I first saw this great Web site Ive been wanting to introduce its many US and Canadian visitors to a unique Mopar vehicle that wrapped up its career just inside the 1962 to 1965 period.
A relic of the Forward Look era, 1955-61, the Chrysler Royal was the result of Australias peculiar needs at that time. The Chrysler Royal shown in the pics is the 1963 model of Jeff Richardson, known as Bluey, of Grenfell a small town in the midst of the New South Wales Central West an area of rolling hills some rocky outcrops and wheat and sheep farming as far as the eye can see.
Bluey has had the car 18 years now, having bought it when he lived in Sydney. Right from the start this was a drive as you restore project. For the first eight of those years the original body clothed the old 1954 Plymouth Chassis that provided the platform for the Royal from its introduction in 1957. But when he got really serious about the body, Jeff found that there was rather more rust than he liked to have to fix, and there was evidence that the car had been T-boned at some time in its past.
So a new body was found and fitted to the chassis and the project continued. The 313 Poly motor was worked over as were the other mechanical parts and eventually the car emerged as a gleaming example of one of Chrysler Australias finest compromises.
This kind of compromise was needed to make money in the unique Australian market. Since 1949, GM had been building the local car, the Holden, with a 138ci ohv six, which basically formed a pattern of what kind of popular car Australians would have. The flathead sixes sold in the Plymouths, Dodges and DeSotos of the mid-fifties were stodgy and old fashioned, reeking of old technology in the minds of the buyers.
This was particularly so because of the vast number of smaller and more efficient engines that powered cars being imported from England and Europe. Australia saw a wide range of these cars in that era so Aussies were encouraged to think in terms of this kind of efficiency. Especially with the relatively high fuel prices being enjoyed in a country yet to find any oil of its own.
Chrysler had, of course, broken into ohv engines at the time, but only in their V8s. While there was a market for bigger engines, it was a small market with Fords Customline generally in command. Chrysler Australia could still make ground, however, if they could turn out a car that was modern enough but didnt require too much new tooling.
To modernize the 1954 Plymouth body, the design team had lengthened the tail of the car and designed in fins. These were small at first, on the 1957 AP1 model, but had larger add-on fins put atop them when the AP2 was released. They were smoothed out and cleaned up, and bestowed with DeSoto-like tail lights, in 1960 when the AP3 made its debut.
Even though the rear of the car was longer, the economical designers had retained the original trunk (boot) lid, putting the extra length into the panel between the rear window and the lid.
Up front, the fenders were very much like the 1955 Plymouths, with the grille and headlight sections aggressively leaning forward in the style Virgil Exner created with his Forward Look cars.
Between the front and rear the doors, the windscreen, rear window and roofline everything remained as it had been in 1954 (and in 1955 and 1956 in Australia), but with the AP3 the roofline was changed slightly by pressing in a rib at each side and lowering the main portion of the roof panel.
That was how the AP3 Chrysler Royal came about. Still using the original suspension and brakes of the pre-torsion bar era. It was sold with a choice of the flathead 6 with either 3-speed manual, 3-speed manual and overdrive or a Powerflite automatic. From late 1957 the Canadian-built Poly 313 (the very first were 301s) had been an option, but only with an automatic transmission Powerflite 2-speed until 1959, an iron Torqueflite 3-speed when the AP3 was released.
We dont really know when Chrysler Australia stopped production of these cars. The Valiant was introduced in 1962 and was a major success, requiring the Chrysler Australia plant to concentrate largely on this bread and butter line. A small number of Dodge Phoenixes was being assembled each year to reach into the luxury market, so the Royal was squeezed out.
Its reasonable to assume that the Royal was used as a fill-in when there was production line time available to consume the stockpile of parts on hand, so it seems that a number of cars were assembled and stored to be sold off as dealers had enquiry.
Right at the end of that time, some of the V8 cars were given the 727 transmission and an 8¾ end instead of the earlier 8¾ that was only just capable of living up to that Poly engine. These cars appear to have finally been sold off during 1964.
For Jeff, this has been a real labor of love. His mother owned a 1952 Dodge and it was passed on to Jeff, so what else would a loyal son have but the last of the direct descendents of that model?
Some upgrades have been fitted to the car. A Holley on a Weiand manifold, a mild camshaft, things that help the car perform better on the country roads on which it travels. To upgrade the brakes, Jeff had adaptors made to enable him to use DBA discs and Holden calipers.
In the meantime, the local area has become a kind of Mopar Mecca. Ben Simpson, whose Dodge was featured as Mopar of the Month in May 2005 comes from there and has a stash of his other Mopars at his fathers farm south of town. And theres a Mopar Museum in the main street, owned by Jeff Connolly, who liked the area and decided to grace it with his cars.
Jeffs black 1952 Dodge is in the museum, adding to a collection that can delight and excite true Aussie Mopar enthusiasts. Cream of the cream in the display is the E49 6-pack Valiant Charger Jeff Connolly keeps refusing to sell. These cars are now commanding huge prices, this one has only done 19,000 miles since being purchased in 1972!
Blueys shining blue Chrysler Royal, however, doesnt just sit around. It does a bit of what it was built to do cruises the streets of town and prowls the local highways giving Jeff a great ride in the Australian bush.
The difference in the chrome strips on the side is because the replacement body was from a 6-cylinder car.