Rescued 1972 Chrysler VH Valiant Regal hardtop

Dragged out of the desert as a rotting, stripped-out shell, this Valiant hardtop's crusty exterior is now only skin deep

Photographers: Jordan Leist

MIKE Roycroft hates to admit it, but he’s a Valiant guy through and through. I guess we could blame his dad, Phil – whose S-Series Valiant we featured in SM, July 2018 – because this isn’t the first Valiant Mike has built. He competed in the burnout scene with BLOWN VAL for a few years, even bringing it across the country to Summernats 25 from his hometown of Perth. That car is undergoing a major rebuild, with a blown Hemi just part of the equation, so it’s turned into a more of a long-term project.

This article was first published in the November 2020 issue of Street Machine

So what’s a bloke to do? Get another project, of course! Mike jumped on Facebook and found this VH Valiant hardtop for sale. “I had little to no expectations of the car’s condition; I only knew it was basically a stripped-out shell that had been pulled from a station in the desert,” Mike says. “Nobody knew how long it’d sat out there exactly, but it seemed to have been a few decades at least judging by how bad it looked off the couple of photos and description.”

Still, Mike figured it would at least be all right for parts, so a couple of weeks later, he and his dad made the 120-hour round trip to pick the car up from Kalgoorlie. “It wasn’t quite as bad as I originally anticipated,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, it was still an absolute pile of shit, but we could see that, just maybe, it might have some potential.”

For the next six months, the car sat under Mike’s house, still full of rubbish, empty King Brown bottles and Emu Export cans from the 90s – not to mention broken glass from all of the windows that had been shot out over the years. Mike wasn’t sure what to do with it; it needed quite a few rust repairs, a new radiator support and repairs to a section of chassis rail. “It had suffered a front-end collision – probably why it was parked up originally,” he says. “Over the years, pretty much every decent part had been picked off the car. I asked a few shops if they would be interested in taking on the project, but after sending them photos of the car, nobody really took it seriously. So it pretty much just sat for a long time, as I had no direction as to what to do with it.”

As fate would have it, Mike met Tom, who was looking to buy one of Mike’s other cars off him: “We got talking about these rare Valiant hardtops and how Tom had been looking for one for a long time. ‘I’ve got one under my house that I might sell if you’re keen,’ I told him. Tom looked over the car and explained that he did rust repairs and restorations as a job, and that this car would be an easy project for him. Right then and there I asked Tom that if I decided to keep the car, would he fix it up for me, which he was more than happy to do.”

Tom needed to clear a couple of projects from his shop before he could start work on the VH, so Mike spent the next few weeks emptying all the garbage and debris out of the car and giving it a good hit with the pressure washer. “The red stain on my driveway lingered for about three months from Kärcher-ing all the red dirt out of it,” he recalls.

Mike’s been into Valiants for quite a while, so he dug through his stash and called all his contacts to get all the bits to complete the car, which was nothing more than a stripped-out shell when he got it

For a laugh, Mike suggested Tom leave the body as untouched as possible: “Obviously [I wanted him to] repair all of the rust and get it structurally sound again, but leave as much of it as we could. Then I would fill the car with a tough driveline and just cruise it – a nice, quick, easy and fun project.

“Tom was a man of his word and knocked it out the park; the repairs were absolutely perfect,” Mike continues. “We ended up using panel cuts from many cars; some we had to buy and others I tracked down off friends. We went through three radiator supports, for example, until we got one good enough to actually use.”

Amazingly, most of the original hanging panels were saved – including the original guards, which were bent up pretty bad – but donor cars supplied the bonnet and nosecone.

While Tom was busy on the body, Mike set to work doing everything else he could in the background. These ‘hippos’ (as these cars are lovingly called by Valiant fans) can fit a pretty stout rear wheel and tyre combo with very little modification. “I dummied up a set of 275/60s on a 10-inch rim underneath the car and measured up for a new narrowed nine-inch diff combo from Phil at Final Drive,” Mike explains. “It all fits just right. It’s just a basic 31-spline billet axle deal with an iron centre and 3.5 gears – plenty for a streeter like this. All it takes is some careful measuring and some bolt-in offset spring hangers for it to work.”

Mike’s always planning for the future, so he fitted a 100L fuel cell and big MagnaFuel fuel pump in case he decides to upgrade the motor to something with an even bigger thirst

Before long, Tom had the repairs completed and it was time for the car to come home, but not before a quick visit to Michael at Ramcharger Painting Services, who blended up a ‘special’ mix of Chrysler Regency Blue to match the faded original paint. “It turned out pretty damn good because a lot of people don’t realise half what was done to the car, which is what we were going for,” Mike says.

“Once it returned home, Dad and I cleaned up the underside and repainted it nice and fresh with Rust-Oleum before fitting the new suspension and diff. It’s great because it’s like brand new underneath, but you’d never know.”

The engine started out as a 360, but thanks to the 4in stroker crank it now measures up at 410 cubes. It’s got a solid cam, Victor 340 intake and 750 Holley for a bit of extra pep

Even though the car looks like garbage (Mike’s words, not mine), he still wanted things done to a high standard and for everything to work, so he had local legend Rory from RS Installations rewire the entire car with a new modern loom.

With a semi-decent foundation in place, it was time to look at an engine and trans combo. Mike toyed with the idea of doing an LS swap – just to upset all the Valiant people – and was beginning to research and gather the parts needed when good friend Col Palmer (whose Centura we featured in the June 2004 issue) showed Mike an engine he had recently pieced together using a mix of parts he had lying round at home. It was a neat little 410 stroker that suited the theme of Mike’s build quite well, so with a little persuasion, Mike was able to seal a deal with Col.

Mike drives the hardtop a lot, so he wanted to make sure it stayed cool. An aluminium three-core radiator from Brown’s Radiator Services with –20 AN fittings does a great job with the AU thermos

“It’s very basic, but angry enough,” Mike says. Starting out as a 360 with a four-inch stroker crank, an old-school profile solid flat-tappet cam and some heavily ported, big-valve Chrysler 360 iron heads, all the normal good stuff has been added to the outside: Edelbrock Victor 340 manifold, Holley 750 HP carb and MSD ignition. JSR headers were installed, before Mike had his friend Shaun at Taps Race Pipes make up a twin three-inch mandrel-bent exhaust. “The exhaust was originally dumped at the diff; it sounded real good but was obnoxiously loud, so I have since added an extra two mufflers and tailpipes,” Mike says.

Mike dragged a 727 Torqueflite out of his junk pile and had Jake from the Charger Club of WA give it an overhaul and a few tweaks, including a TransGo shift kit and Moroso deep pan. There’s also a Dominator eight-inch converter, and for a laugh, Mike kept the original column shifter.

One area Mike didn’t want to look shitty was the interior; after all, that’s where you spend all your time. The whole lot has been refurbished to original specs, and Mike even kept the column shift

Rob Sellen Motor Trimming did the factory interior using correct Regal 770 reproduction materials ordered from SMS Auto Fabrics in the USA: “It looks way too good for the car,” Mike admits. There’s also a healthy amount of Car Builders insulation and deadener to kill off unwanted road noise and vibration, and Mike reckons the car drives way better than it looks.

“All up, it took us around 10 months to build the car, and I’ve had a heap of fun in it already,” Mike says. “Some people totally get it and love it to bits, but there’s others who just don’t understand it, which I find hilarious!”

Mike is on the fence about pulling it down for a paintjob and stepping the motor up a little in the future: “We’ll see what happens.”


Paint: Regency Blue and rust

Type: Chrysler 410ci small-block
Inlet: Edelbrock Victor 340
Carb: Holley HP 750cfm
Heads: Ported cast-iron
Valves: Big
Cam: Mopar Performance solid flat-tappet
Pistons: Diamond
Crank: Eagle 4in stroker
Conrods: Eagle
Radiator: Brown’s three-core aluminium
Exhaust: JSR headers, twin 3in, Pacemaker mufflers
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor, 6AL2 box, Blaster SS coil, 8.5mm leads

’Box: 727 Torqueflite, TransGo shift kit
Converter: Dominator 8in
Diff: Narrowed 9in, 3.5:1 gears, 31-spline billet axles

Front end: Standard torsion bar
Shocks: KYB (f & r)
Steering: Standard
Brakes: VH Valiant discs (f), EL Falcon discs (r)

Rims: Weld S71 17×5 (f), Weld Star 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Continental 175/55R17 (f), Mastercraft 275/60R15 (r)

Tom at Sideshow Cycles; Rob Sellen Motor Trimming; Rory Smith at RS Installations; Col Palmer for the engine; Jake Rebrovic for the transmission work; Troy Kreinbihl for the parts