What I’ve always found interesting about the cars we feature in Street Machine is the back-story: how the owner found the car, why they built it the way they did and what influenced them. To me, that’s more important than how many thousandths of an inch the engine was bored out or what the diameter of the sway-bar might be. So once I started reading Mat Lloyd’s tech sheet about his stunning VK Charger, I knew it was going to be a cracker of a story.
First published in the August 2022 issue of Street Machine
Mat’s relatively young at 31 years old, but he’s had some good influences in his life. When his older brother Mike brought home an XY GT replica, Mat knew he had to get a muscle car as well. Since he couldn’t have a GT, and Monaros were too expensive, the choice was simple.
“Both my dad and his brother had R/T Chargers growing up, so as a young fella hearing stories about my uncle building engines and my dad racing them on the street, I didn’t really stand a chance,” Mat says. “I mean, what’s more Australian than a Vitamin C Charger and a Vermilion Fire XY GT?”
Mat got this Charger when he was 15 and still in high school. And make sure you’re sitting down for this part – he paid just $3000 for it. That may seem like a pittance, but to Mat, that was his entire life savings from working at his grandparents’ garden centre – and there were a few other expenses, since the car was located in Mt Barker, SA, over 2000km as the crow flies from Mat’s place in Wanneroo, Perth.
“I saved up the money to send my uncle over there to have a look at it,” Mat says. “It was $660 to get it brought over on a truck, a couple of hundred bucks for a tow truck in SA, and I had to get a taxi to take him around for the whole day. I was sitting at school while it was all going down, having mad anxiety about whether it was working out.”
The car did make its way to the west coast, but Mat was tapped out financially and couldn’t work on it for a long time. Still, he’d done pretty well, because the car was actually quite a rare piece of gear with some pretty cool options.
Moparphiles will know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention E57 and K13, but to save the rest of you opening up the Googles, they’re the option codes for a 360 V8-powered police Charger – although when Mat got his, there was little to identify it as an ex-cop car. The light blue paint had been sprayed over with black, but it still had the 360, 727 Torqueflite trans and console with the push-button shifter.
Mat knew his muscle car needed to look tough, so the first step – once his funds had been sufficiently replenished – was to strip it back in preparation for a new paintjob. “I was lucky enough to have a friend with a blast yard, so the car was stripped down to bare metal,” he says. After dicking about with different panel shops, Mat wound up using Kustom Rides Panel & Paint to give the Charger its new clothing.
The bright orange Vitamin C hue covers the bumpers as well, and while the paint looked great, it was at risk of looking like a rolling high-vis vest without something to break it up. So Mat chose to go with an E38 stripe package and had the bonnet painted gloss black.
It’s meant to look how he thought a Charger might have ended up if the 1972 ‘supercar scare’ hadn’t made Chrysler and its competitors pull out of motor racing. “I think 1973 could have been Chrysler’s year to really be a contender again against the Phase IV and the XU-1s with a 308 in them, especially if they’d brought over the six-pack 340,” he says.
While Mat didn’t go down the 340 route – they’re not real common in this part of the world – he put aside the matching-numbers 360 for safekeeping and built himself a stonking 392-cuber that started out as a virgin 318. “I’ve been known to be a bit rough on the gear and didn’t want to window the original block, especially since I plan on throwing some nitrous at it,” he explains.
“The first block came back bad, so I threw an ad up on Marketplace, and to my disbelief I was contacted by a gentleman who found a brand-new block in a crate in a boat salvage yard. I bought the Eagle crank and rods and Arias pistons off a gentleman over east. ”
Mat screwed the engine together himself, and being of a younger generation, he’s not afraid to throw a bit of technology at the problem, refusing to ever use a carby. “I chose to go with a Holley HP engine management system,” he says. “Using a dual-sync Holley distributor makes my life very simple, and being an auto sparky by trade, I knocked up a harness and tried to keep it nice and hidden. The manifold was drilled to allow for the injectors, and fuel rails and mounts were made, and they came up really good.”
Mat’s not afraid to ask for help when he needs it though, and when it comes to EFI and tuning, it’s tough to go past Jeff Johnson on the west coast. “With Jeff on the laptop, the engine fires up and gives us little to no grief,” he says. “I swung past to show Jeff the car moving under its own power – literally its first drive in 15 years – and he convinced me to put it straight on the dyno. It rolled off a healthy 350rwhp.”
If you’re after a fresh interior for your Mopar in WA, Jason Turner at World Custom Trimming is top-notch – plus he’s a Mopar nut. He reckons Mat’s is the 47th Charger he’s retrimmed!
After such a long wait, all Mat wants to do now is enjoy the car. “People really do appreciate seeing old muscle cars on the road,” he says. “The ‘Hey Charger’ peace sign is a regular when the car is out and about, and it’s a childhood dream getting my car featured in Street Machine. Sitting there as a 10-year-old thinking, ‘I’ll have something like this one day’ – and then you actually get to do it!”
1975 VK VALIANT CHARGER
|Paint: Vitamin C
|392ci Chrysler LA small-block
|Twin Accufab 4150 throttlebodies
|Edelbrock Performer RPM
|2.02in (in), 1.60in (ex)
|Comp Cams 282S solid flat-tappet
|Arias custom forged
|Eagle forged stroker
|Factory with mechanical fan and shroud
|Custom four-into-one headers, twin 3in into single 3.5in, MagnaFlow
|Dual-sync Holley distributor
|Fremantle Torque Converters 3000rpm stall
|Standard, 2.92:1 gears
|Torsion bars, Monroe shocks
|16:1 steering box
|Discs (f), drums (r)
|Center Line Convo Pro; 15×7 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
|Kumho 205/65R15 (f), Maxxis 225/65R15 (r)
My old lady – you’re the best; my younger brother Steve for help with assembly and dealing with me when the car tested my patience; Jeff Johnson, not only on this build but on my other cars – he always goes above and beyond to help you and his tune-ups are simply the best in the business; Ben and the team at Kustom Rides Panel & Paint for doing great work within the budget I gave him; Jason at World Custom Trimming, whose work speaks for itself; Johnny at Benzenes Detailing – the man’s a magician at his craft