Flashback: Rob Evans’s VJ hardtop

The November issue of Street Machine features Rob Evans’s chop-top VJ Valiant hardtop. Here’s a look back at his previous ride, circa 1992

Photographers: Peter Watkins

SOUTH Aussie Rob Evans has been building and racing tough Mopars since the late 1970s. He’s had no less than four Street Machine features in that time, including the chop-top, weapons-grade VJ hardtop featured in our current issue. But back in the early 90s, he was rolling in a red VJ two-door with stock-height roof and plenty of mumbo under the bonnet. We featured that one in the Jan/Feb ’90 mag and liked it so much we gave it another run in 1992, which we present to you here. Enjoy!

This article was first published in the Oct/Nov 1992 issue of Street Machine.

IT’S too bad so many tough streeters are built more for show than go. We’ve always reckoned there’s not much point having a hot car if you’re not gonna use it. That’s why we’ve made sure the Street Machine Summernats is more than just another show ’n’ shine; why driving events play a big part in Australia’s hottest horsepower party. And it’s why we reckon Rob Evans’s neat Chrysler hardtop is one of the best examples we’ve seen of a fair dinkum street machine.

Looking at that rich Dulux Vintage Red paint, so-straight panels, and superbly detailed engine bay, you might not believe Rob’s 340-powered hardtop has been a regular runner at the drags at Adelaide International Raceway for almost 10 years. Rob calculates he’s done more than 200 runs down the quarter in the past two years alone. His best time? A respectable 11.0 seconds and 124mph through the traps.

That’s not bad for a big heavy cruiser with a smoothly streetable engine. The 340’s definitely on the mild side of wild, running a 80-thou overbore, standard two-bolt mains, and a single 750 double pumper Holley atop a Strip Dominator manifold. Attention to detail is what makes this motor work — everything was crack tested and shot peened where necessary before reassembly. Performance-enhancing goodies included Chris Milton-machined 360 heads with 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves, Speed Pro 11.5:1 forged pistons, Mopar Performance lifters and valve springs, and twin Holley Blue fuel pumps. Oh, and a NOS nitrous kit, which turns sweet streeter into strip animal at the touch of a button…

Despite its regular quarter-mile workouts, Rob says the 340 has been stone reliable. It dropped a rod a week after these pix were taken, but the rebuild afterwards was, amazingly, only the first in more than six years of hard use.

For some reason Mopars have never been that popular among Oz street machiners. Not that Rob minds — it meant he was able to pick up the very tidy hardtop for a paltry $3200 almost 10 years ago. He dragged it for a couple of years until one day it turned hard left off the line and buried its nose in the wall. During the rebuild Rob decided a full detail job to show standard was in order.

After receiving a new nose, which included a Chrysler by Chrysler grille and bumper combo, the body was de-badged and de-chromed. Modified Charger lights were inserted into the tail, and the whole lot was then hit with four coats of primer, four coats of red, and finally four coats of clear. Rob, a storeman, did the work himself. It’s a top job — and you won’t be surprised to learn he now sprays other people’s cars in his spare time.

Interior mods are equally subtle. The seats have been retrimmed in black vinyl with velour inserts, and black velour now covers the hoodlining. A handmade aluminium fascia houses standard Chrysler instruments. Extra instrumentation includes an oil pressure gauge, and the huge Auto Meter tach on top of the steering column.

Mechanical changes, like the engine mods, have been relatively minor. The Chrysler 727 tranny, for example, runs a standard torque converter with a 2500rpm-stall kit, manual valve body and a Mr. Gasket shifter. The tailshaft is standard, but the rear end is a Ford nine-inch with a 4.11 LSD gear set and 28-spline Falcon GT axles, plus air shocks and 10.5-inch Ford drum brakes.

Rob showed the car for about six or seven years, even driving it across from Adelaide to Canberra for Summernats 3, but says he “preferred racing it to looking at it”. His goal now is to lower that ET by one full second to 10.0 neat, but admits it will be an uphill push, given the hardtop’s hefty weight. In the long term, Rob reckons he might get really serious and stuff the 340 into something significantly smaller and lighter but still in the family, like an AP6 Valiant.

Chrysler hardtops are a big part of Rob Evans’s life — among the unfinished projects in the back shed is a VJ version with a 360-cube V8 under the bonnet and a two-inch chop in the roof. “It belongs to my missus,” says Rob. “I keep meaning to finish it, but I spend all my money on my car.” Ain’t that the truth…


Paint:Dulux Vintage Red 
Induction:Holley 750 
Intake man:Holley Strip Dominator 
Heads:360 Chrysler 
Pistons:Speed Pro 
Ignition:Accel, Mallory 
MSD exhaust:Dual 2in 
Diff:Ford 9in 
Springs:Torsion bar, reset leaves
Shocks:Stock, air shocks 
Front brakes:Stock discs 
Rear brakes:Ford 10.5in drums 
Wheels:Weld; 15×5.5 (f), 15×8 (r) 
Tyres:Firestone Champion 15×5 (f), M&H Racemaster 275/60 (r)