Theo Stergi’s 1964 Chrysler AP5 Valiant

The AP5 Valiant isn’t often viewed as tough street machine material, but Theo Stergi’s jet-black, 10-second rocket might just change that


THOUGH AP5 Valiants might not be all that common in the steroid-fed street car community, examples like Theo Stergi’s evil black monster leave you wondering why. It ticks all the mean street machine boxes: big ’n’ littles, stance like it’s leaving the line, blacker than the devil’s poo chute and engine bits perpetually reaching for the stars. To top it off, it was his first car!

This story was first published in the March 2021 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Chris Thorogood

“I bought it for $250 in 1985,” says Theo. “I was a young apprentice cabinet maker and I needed a car to get to work – I couldn’t take Mum’s car every day! It was originally from Melbourne and ended up in Mildura, and the guy was selling it to make bail money. I caught the train there and needed to get home, so I bought the car.”

While serving as Theo’s daily for the next few years, the Val was painted red and copped a set of chromies, but things really started happening when Theo’s exuberance sent the long-suffering engine to the great wreckers in the sky.

“I killed the original slant six, then had a 245 from a VH Charger and then a 265 from an RT Charger,” he says. “In ’99, I put a 273 V8 in it; then a few years ago I swapped to a 360 stroked to 408 cubes. When I hurt that, I put the current motor in.” Said engine is on a very different level than the previous powerplants, and is the work of Con Sagiaris from Pro Race Engines. Con’s no stranger to mental Mopars, so when Theo asked for something making proper power, he wasted no time in delivering.

The basis for the 441ci small-block is a Mopar R3 block, housing a Scat crank and H-beams with a set of custom Diamond forged pistons hanging off the little ends. Underneath, the motion lotion is controlled by a custom ASR baffled sump and supplied to the vital bits by a Mopar high-volume pump. 98 RON dino juice is introduced to the heavily ported Weiand tunnel-ram by dual Quick Fuel 750cfm four-barrels, while a pair of Edelbrock Victor heads deliver the concoction to the chambers. The ignition is an all-ICE affair, save for the MSD crank trigger. A custom solid-roller from Crow Cams controls the movement of BAM lifters, and Jet pushrods activate stainless valves via 1.7:1 T&D shaft-mounted roller rockers. Spent gases are whisked away from the engine by custom-made extractors and a twin three-inch exhaust system with X-pipe and Hooker mufflers and resonators. The combo has seen some significant changes since it was first run up on Con’s dyno two years ago, so the 441 should be making north of 750hp now.

Backing up the engine is a 5500rpm TCE converter that feeds twist into a TCI Powerglide built to withstand the rigours of racing. With goodies like a billet input shaft, Kevlar bands, straight-cut gears and the all-important transbrake, Theo won’t have to worry about spraying the Powerglide’s innards all over the startline. Continuing Theo’s quest for an unbreakable driveline, the old Fairlane-spec LSD nine-inch was given the flick in favour of a much more serious set-up from All Race Fabrications. The guys fitted a sheet-metal nine-inch with fully floating hubs, Strange billet axles, a Strange nodular iron carrier containing a Truetrac centre and 4.3:1 gears.

Underneath, the AP5 has copped a lot of work to help it track straight and true when Theo mats the loud pedal. Back in the mid-90s, Tony Kamarinos from TJ’s Wreckers was tasked with improving the Val’s handling characteristics by installing chassis connectors and binning the floppy AP5 steering box in favour of a manual Commodore rack. More recently, while the All Race team were taking care of the diff, they also fitted Gazzard Brothers split mono-leaves and the adjustable anti-roll bar you can see in the boot. Gone are the drum brakes the AP5 left the factory with, and in their place are Hoppers Stoppers PBR twin-pistons up the front and Wilwood twin-pistons under the bum.

The Val’s presence is accentuated by panels that are as black as night, but, amazingly, most of the paint is more than 20 years old. “It was painted in ’98 by a guy from Warrandyte,” says Theo. “It’s straight black; there’s nothing else in it. It’s had a few touch-ups – the driver’s door had a rust bubble and the quarters had a few imperfections from drag racing and kids riding their bikes past it. It’s withstood the test of time, and people always ask me if I’ve repainted it.”

With a healthy dose of giggle gas, the old 408 managed to push the AP5 to a respectable 10.40-second quarter, but the 441’s already run a flat 10 naturally aspirated on a shakedown run to check the suspension was dialled in. With the car’s recent modifications, Theo should be collecting a single-digit timeslip the next time he and the Val hit the track.


Paint: Dulux Jet Black


Block: Mopar R3

Capacity: 441ci

Carbs: Quick Fuel Technology 750cfm

Manifold: Weiand tunnel-ram

Heads: Edelbrock Victor

Camshaft: Crow solid-roller

Rockers: T&D Lifters:

BAM Pushrods: Jet Engineering

Valve springs: Isky

Pistons: Diamond forged

Conrods: Scat H-beam

Crank: Scat

Sump: ASR custom

Exhaust: Custom extractors, twin 3in system

Ignition: ICE

Radiator: Race Radiators custom, SPAL thermo fans


Gearbox: TCI Powerglide

Converter: TCE 5500rpm

Tailshaft: 3.5in 1350-series chrome-moly

Diff: Fabricated Ford 9in, floating hubs, Truetrac, 35-spline billet axles, 4.3:1 gears


Front: Standard springs, Moroso three-way shocks

Rear: Gazzard Brothers mono-leaf springs, Moroso three-way shocks

Brakes: Hoppers Stoppers BA Falcon (f), Wilwood two-piston (r)


Rims: Weld AlumaStar; 17×4.5 (f), 15×10 (r)

Rubber: Achilles 175/55R17 (f), Mickey Thompson 295/55R15 (r)

THANKS My family for all the late nights; Con at Pro Race Engines for all his help over the years; Tony at TJ’s; Jim at Terry’s Motor Trimming; Andrew at ESP for helping with bodywork and polishing; Steve at SMA for all the wiring; All Race for the fabrication work; Noel at VPW; Alex, Con and Bill for all the late nights in the garage