Big-block 1971 Chrysler VH Valiant hardtop – flashback

Looking back on Kahn O’Donnell's Pro Street, nitrous-assisted big-block Valiant coupe

Photographers: Phil Cooper

IF YOU live in one of Australia’s major cities then building a street machine isn’t a big problem. All you need is an idea, some cash and desire. The rest usually follows from there.

First published in the March 2007 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Phil Cooper

But what if you live in the outback, or maybe Tasmania, where the number of performance businesses can be counted on one hand? Well let’s say it makes things a tad harder.

Kahn O’Donnell knows all about this.

“I buy a lot of my stuff from Super Plus in Melbourne,” he says. When you’re in a remote location, mail order becomes your best friend.

So what possessed Kahn to take on an unusual project like this VH Valiant Hardtop?

“The old man had a couple and a few friends had them looking nice too.” As with many street machiners, that’s all it took.

There’s no doubt that Chrysler’s swoopy coupe is a tough-looking machine. It has the right stance, the curvy body has plenty of sex appeal and best of all there’s room for a big-block up front. Some would say that you need a big-block just to get them moving.

Kahn bought the big Val back in 1990. Covered in Russett Metallic, and powered by a 265 Hemi and auto trans, it was relatively tidy but it’s hard to get excited by a metallic brown Valiant.

“I drove it for a couple of years and put some Cragars on,” Kahn says.

Now, the Hemi six is a great motor but it’s not a 440. Given the option of a 440 big-block over a stock 265, which way would you jump?

One of Kahn’s mates took a trip to Canada way back when and shipped home a bunch of 383s and a few 440s. He kept the best stuff for himself of course, but when he realised what Kahn was planning he decided that the Hardtop would be a better home for all the stuff he’d put aside.

So that’s how the 440 Dodge engine, steel crank, and heavy-duty Six-Pack rods (from the legendary 440 Six-Pack) came into Kahn’s possession. He passed it all on to Eric Kostiuk who threw them into the mixing bowl with a set of Edelbrock Performer heads, a large Crane cam and a set of Keith Black pistons. He topped it off with a Weiand Team G intake and a squirt of giggle gas.

As yet, the port-injected NOS Fogger system remains unused but Kahn plans to throw 200hp–300hp in there and flick the switch.

Originally he had an 1150 Dominator sitting on top of the Team G intake but it ran poorly so it was switched for an 850cfm Demon carb that the big 440 loves. Horsepower and quarter mile times are unknown at the moment as Kahn and the Tasmanian rego authorities are having a difference of opinion regarding the width of his back rubber.

With 15in-wide rims under each of those fat rear quarters we can understand that but look at the big picture — is it cool?

Of course it is.

Those 15s didn’t get under there without a little help. First time around, Kahn and his father relocated the leaf springs and mini-tubbed the big Hardtop. That allowed 12-inch rims under the rear but the bum sat a little too high.

“As I was taking it to Hobart to get the springs reset, it chafed through the ropes and came off the trailer,” Kahn told us.

Apparently the damage wasn’t too bad and so he loaded the Valiant back up and took it straight home. Where mini-tubs were no longer deemed to be enough.

“I set the car up on stands and cut the whole floorpan out, from the gearbox crossmember right through to the back,” says Kahn.

Taking an angle grinder to your pride and joy is a bold move at the best of times but to cut half the floorpan out requires a pair of big brass ones. We’ve seen plenty of cars that have never recovered from such a move.

Kahn’s dad Dennis is a metal fabricator from way back and this wasn’t really a challenge for his abilities. The rear chassis clip was built from 3×2-inch box section steel on the bench, then slipped under the back of the Val and welded into place.

Kahn isn’t without abilities of his own either; he built the floorpan, the six-point steel rollcage and the custom headers.

They’re not easy with a 440 filling the engine bay, we’ll give you the tip.

Up back there’s a 10-gallon fuel cell, two Holley pumps, a battery and a bottle of the good stuff — everything a healthy engine needs. Under the floorpan there’s a custom nine-inch sent over by Keysborough Diff that’s been filled with a pair of billet 35-spline axles, a full spool and a set of 4.56 gears. It’s attached to the chassis through a four-link rear and a pair of coil-over shocks.

Inside, Kahn has fitted a pair of Aerotech buckets and a slew of Auto Meter gauges. Hiding in the glovebox is an MSD 7AL3 and an adjustable timing control unit along with enough relays and switches to run the Space Shuttle. Take a look inside.

You’ll need a degree in electrical engineering to understand it all — but what a neat job.

Outside, the panels, fibreglass bonnet and boot lid are covered in Hemi Orange. The big Hardtop screams Pro Street with every inch of its long frame and you can bet Kahn’s glad that class is still around.

“I really want it street registered. Once it’s on the street I’ll take it to the track,” he says.

With 440 cubes sucking down a whole bunch of nitrous, that’s gonna be one hell of a ride.


EVERYONE knows and loves the Valiant Charger but you’ve got to wonder why Chrysler Australia created the VH Valiant Hardtop.

Released two months after the Charger, the Hardtop wasn’t a huge seller while the VH Charger made up almost half of Chrysler Australia’s sales at the time.

Built for more refined tastes, it didn’t generate the excitement that had the public buying Chargers as fast as Chrysler could build them.

The VH Hardtop cost just $70 more than the equivalent VH sedan. It looked bigger than the VG Hardtop in every way but in reality it was 76mm shorter. On the street they seemed huge but didn’t offer much more interior space than a Charger — except in the boot.

Chrysler Australia made the Hardtop in VH and VJ models, which were available as Regals or Regal 770s. If you wanted more, the CH Chrysler with the optional 360ci V8 was there for the taking. Chrysler only made 500 of those and an unmolested example is almost impossible to find now — most have been stripped of their drivetrains or hugely modified.


Colour: Hemi Orange

Block: Dodge RB 440
Carb: Demon 850cfm
Manifold: Weiand Team G
Nitrous: NOS Fogger
Heads: Edelbrock Performer aluminium
Pistons: Keith Black 10.2:1
Crank: Steel
Rods: Six-Pack
Cam: Crane Commander hydraulic
Ignition: MSD 7AL3, MSD adjustable timing, Blaster twin-coil and MSD Pro Billet dizzy
Exhaust: Custom 2.25in primaries, four-into-one headers, twin three-inch system, stainless mufflers

Transmission: Torqueflite 727B, manualised, HD clutch packs
Converter: TCE 5500rpm
Diff: Braced and shortened nine-inch, 35-spline billet axles, full spool 4.56 gears

Springs: V8 torsion bar (f), coil-overs (r)
Shocks: Koni 90/10 (f), coil-overs (r)
Bushes: Nolathane
Brakes: Valiant discs (f), Ford discs (r)

Steering Wheel: Autotechnica
Seats: Aerotech
Gauges: Auto Meter
Stereo: Clarion CD
Rollcage: Steel six-point
Shifter: B&M Pro Stick

Rims: Cragar Superlite II, 15×6 (f), 15×15 (r)
Rubber: MT Sportsman Pro 26×7.5 (f), Hoosier 31×18.5 (r)

Dad for fabricating ability and advice, Kent Page for transmission and other help, Brian Osmond for the great paint, and
Matthew Kostiuk for inspiration, Keysborough Diff (03) 9706 3454, Super Plus (03) 9703 1119