Tough CL Valiant ute ready for Drag Challenge

Tony Jones transforms his late dad's knackered CL Valiant ute into a zesty pro streeter

Photographers: Rick Welch

WHEN Pat Jones traded his VJ hardtop for an Alpine White 1976 CL Valiant hay-hauler back in 1980, he could never have anticipated its transformation into the drag-spec ute before you now.

First published in the October 2021 issue of Street Machine

For three decades, Pat dailied the six-pot/four-speed manual ute, with his sons Tony and Terry also regularly using it as a motorbike hauler and tow vehicle. It’s fair to say the CL copped its fair share of abuse over the years.

When Pat passed away in 2010, Tony became the ute’s custodian and ensured it stayed on the road, but in 2014, the thrashed CL gave up the ghost. “I was going to restore it, but couldn’t get the original stripes and no one was interested in making a set at the time,” Tony says. “So I figured it was time for another V8, plus it needed panel and paint anyway. Then I got the pro street bug.”

With his dad having owned Chryslers since 1964, it’s little wonder Tony’s a Mopar guy through and through. In 1979 he became an apprentice mechanic at the Townsville Chrysler dealership, which is where Pat purchased the CL a year later.

There, Tony spannered on Chryslers and Mitsubishis for the next two decades, and owned a bunch of Valiants, including a 1972 VH E55 340 Charger that he bought in 1982 from the original owner for $3500. “It showed just over 48,000 miles on the clock and was in mint condition. I sold it in 1984 for $4200 thinking I was going really well to make $700 in two years – if only I knew then what I know now,” he laughs.

With this solid Mopar background standing him in good stead, Tony set out a plan for his new steed. First, the ute was stripped for the addition of chassis-strengthening subframe connectors. Next, a beefy 410-cuber was planted up front, wrapped in a beautified engine bay. The stroked Chrysler small-block is crammed with tough parts, from a Scat crank and rods to Edelbrock Performer RPM heads, topped with an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air-Gap manifold and Quick Fuel Pro Street carby.

The CL is fed a diet of readily available pump fuel via a MagnaFuel QuickStar 300 pump. MSD gear provides the zaps, including a Pro-Billet distributor, coil and leads, and a 6AL-2 ignition box.

The old cogbox has been binned in favour of a built, manualised Torqueflite 727 mated to a Dominator 4200rpm stall converter. The third-member is equally tough, incorporating a nine-inch with a Currie 9-Plus nodular-iron case, Eaton Truetrac, Strange 3.9s, Daytona pinion support and 31-spline billet axles. The power is fed down the line by a custom 3½-inch chrome-moly tailshaft finished with 1350-series universals.

The vivid Cromax custom-mix Pearl Orange paint really brings the CL to life. “I’d always liked this colour; the pearl is really cool in the sun,” Tony says. XXXplict Refinishing in Townsville was tasked with ironing out the years of heavy-duty wear and minor rust spots. Further upgrades then ensued, with a Dodge Six-Pack bonnet scoop attached to make allowance for that tall manifold, and the entire engine bay copping a massive makeover while still keeping items relatively accessible.

The tatty original tan interior was overhauled by Steve Whiting at Orsum Upholstery, maintaining many of the original Valiant styling cues. Black vinyl with white pearl inlay and orange stitching now features on all trimmed surfaces. A B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, SAAS wheel and a raft of Auto Meter gauges help with the cabin’s race-meets-street vibe.

Now all that’s left is for Tony to flog the CL down the strip. “My original plan was to do Street Machine Drag Challenge with my 25-year-old son, Luke,” he says, “but Luke is stuck in Canada because of COVID restrictions. Hopefully next year we’ll do DC if he’s back in the country. On paper it should do high 10s on a perfect run.”


TONY is an ex-Super Sedan racer, having campaigned ‘Cold Swet’, a mid-10sec Mazda RX-2 coupe, in the mid-80s. But his Mopar love still shone through via his choice of powerplant for the Mazda – a 340ci Chrysler V8. In 1984, he won the Northern Nats Super Sedan class in the car.

Tony Jones
1976 CL Valiant Ute

Brand: Chrysler 410ci
Induction: Quick Fuel Pro Street 850cfm DP
Manifold & heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM 
Cam: Crane mechanical roller 283/290 
Rockers: T&D
Pushrods: Trend
Conrods: Scat forged H-beam
Pistons: RaceTec 
Crank: Scat 4340
Fuel system: PULP, MagnaFuel QuickStar 300 pump
Exhaust: TTi Performance 4-into-1 headers, 3in system
Ignition: MSD 6AL-2, Pro-Billet distributor, coil & leads 
Trans: Chrysler Torqueflite 727, manual valvebody
Tailshaft: 3.5in chrome-moly
Diff: 9in, Currie 9-Plus nodular-iron centre, Eaton Truetrac, Strange Pro
Street 3.9:1 gears, 31-spline billet axles 
Front: Mopar Performance torsion bars, Competition Engineering shocks
Rear: Custom leaf-spring pack, Competition Engineering shocks
Brakes: PBR ventilated CM discs and calipers (f), Ford GT drums (r)
Master cylinder: PBR dual-diaphragm booster 
Rims: Ridler Prostar; 15×7 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: BF Goodrich 205/65R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/60R15 (r)

Tony Brinkley and Steve of Brinks Performance Townsville for a great engine and lots of advice; my wife Tracey and son Luke for their support and encouragement; Steve Whiting at Orsum Upholstery for his great work on the interior; XXXplicit Refinishing in Townsville