Natural progression: 1973 Valiant Hardtop Coupe

Posted in Cars
Published in NZV8 Issue No. 94

When the five Davy brothers were growing up the family’s main mode of transport was a Valiant. “I guess back then they were the equivalent of a people-mover,” Gene Davy laughs. Not only did his dad drive a Valiant (with five boys in the back) but his uncles did too. So when Gene got his licence, choosing what type of car he’d own was easy.

Over the years he went through a number of different ones, working his way up to owning a very cool genuine RT Charger race car with a lot of history. After more and more people started telling him the car was too desirable for it to be racing, he decided that perhaps they were right. This timing was perfect, as his business Davy Tyres was taking up more and more of his available hours anyway, so the decision was made to give the racing a break, and instead support his brother Brett’s efforts.

After a year or so of not playing with a car of his own, his cousin and great mate Jason Oxley spotted a ’73 Hardtop Coupe for sale in the Bay of Islands. It wasn’t long before the princely sum of $600 was handed over, and the still-drivable Coupe belonged to Gene. Without a shed to put it in, he dropped the car straight to his mate Ken’s place where it was stripped down ready for sandblasting. Once clean of all the grease and grime, it was back to Ken’s to get some patch panels welded in. Despite only paying $600 for it, the shell was in remarkably good condition, so with new inner rear quarters rolled up, and sills created, as well as a patch in the boot floor, it was rust free.

The bigger issue than the small areas of rust though was the fact the car had a sunroof, and Gene really wished it didn’t. Finding a donor roof was impossible, and chopping up another decent car just for its roof was against Gene’s morals and love of the cars.
So instead he, Ken, and panelbeater friend Jason Raiti spent every night for a few weeks creating and fitting a patch panel to the complex curved roof. It was no easy task, but it’s one that’s been performed so well that you’d now never know.

Being mates with the Kitson brothers from Greenpark Panel & Paint meant the body was then sent to them on a rotisserie to get straightened out and painted up. A true Mopar man, Gene decided on painting it Plum Crazy, which the Greenpark team sprayed flawlessly. In fact, it was the quality of their panel and paintwork that made Gene realise he needed to step up the rest of the build too.

Although he’d decided early on in the piece that he would stick with the 360 small-block engine that came with the car, he knew he wanted it to be just a bit more special than it was. It wasn’t until researching stroker motors though that he stumbled upon a kit from Hughes Engines in the States, which would see it taken out to 426ci. 426 is the magic number for any Mopar fan, so he knew there and then that was just the kit he was after. Besides the forged crank, forged pistons, billet rods and solid camshaft, the kit came with a main stud girdle, piston rings, gudgeon pins and everything else required to put it all together.
To make the most of the newfound capacity, Gene added stage-three Edelbrock RPM heads to the package, which Hughes also did plenty of work on. With two-inch intake valv es, beehive springs and CNC-machined rockers in them, they’re pretty much as serious as a street head can get.

Once all the engine parts had arrived, Gene dropped off box after box to Wayne Simons at Henderson Automotive to do all the machining and assembly work.

Upon the engine’s return it was decided to centralise it in the bay to allow more room for some decent headers. Also influencing this decision, as well as improving the handling, was the addition of a Hemi Performance Rack and Pinion steering set-up to replace the stock steering box. Ian Rainbow from Key West Equipment helped with the headers and exhaust, which now consists of two-inch headers into three-and-a-half-inch collectors and twin two-and-a-half-inch pipes with Flowmaster mufflers.

When looking for a trans that would handle the torque of the stroker motor, he got talking to Shane from Segedins who had just the thing — a Chuck Mann–built 727 with TCI internals all freshly built but unused. As if that was not enough on its own, Gene opted to add a Gear Vendors under/overdrive unit, giving the car essentially another complete gear-set at the press of a button.

With the car back home in Gene’s freshly completed shed, he set about getting the handling up to scratch and the rest of the build completed. Good mate Shaun Logan was always present, as was brother Brett, and cousin Jason; the catch was he had to keep the lads well hydrated. The old torsion bars were removed and new heavy-duty items fitted along with a set of Nolathane bushes and a massive sway bar up front. Thankfully the stock brakes were deemed up to scratch, with just a set of drilled rotors and decent pads required, while out back the drums that came with the nine-inch diff were retained as well.

Owning a wheel and tyre shop, there was plenty of pressure when it came to choosing the right wheel and tyre set-up, and we think he nailed it. The 18×8- and 18×10-inch Boyd Coddington Espadas he chose is one of just four in the country. With the way they fill the guards, you’d think they were custom-made for the car, rather than being an off-the-shelf item.

With the interior Gene opted for a stock look, having Huggins Upholstery re-trim the lot in black as per the original. The only major change inside is the addition of several Auto Meter gauges in a carbon pod and a B&M shifter, also encased in a carbon surround.

After four years in the making, the build was completed just in time for this summer, and already Gene’s been racking up the miles in it. But just as everyone told him the race car was too good to race, we’re predicting he’ll be getting plenty of comments about this one being too good to drive too. But that’s exactly what he built it for, and that’s exactly what he’ll continue to do, just like his brothers will keep on driving theirs … Looks like these boys are all set to be Valiant guys for life!


Engine: 360 Chrysler, Hughes Engines stroker kit to 426ci, forged pistons, H-beam billet rods, forged crank, solid lifter camshaft, CNCed aluminium rockers, main stud girdle kit, LA aluminium stage three CNC ported heads, two-inch intake valves, beehive springs, 950cfm Holley carb, RPM Air-Gap manifold, electric fuel pump, MSD-6AL ignition, MSD blaster coil, MSD Pro Billet distributor, custom headers, 2.5-inch exhausts, Flowmaster mufflers, two-inch headers, 3.5-inch collectors, alloy radiator, custom shroud, electric fan
Driveline: Chrysler 727 transmission, shift kit, TCI internals, nine-inch diff, LSD, 28-spline axles, Gear Vendors under/overdrive unit
Suspension: Heavy-duty torsion bars, leaf-sprung rear, Rancho adjustable shocks, heavy-duty front sway bar, Nolathane bushes, rack-and-pinion steering
Brakes: Stock disc/drum
Wheels/tyres: 18×8- and 18×10-inch Boyd Coddington Espada wheels, 245/40R18 and 315/35R18 Yokohama tyres
Exterior: Removed wheel arch trim, removed sill plates, PPG Plum Crazy paint
Interior: Full re-trim, B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges, recalibrated tacho, Pioneer head unit, Kicker speakers and sub, Dynamat
Performance: Approx. 500hp

Driver profile

Gene Davy 
Age: 41
Occupation: Owner of Davy Tyres
Previously owned cars: R/T Charger, Valiant ute, Harley Road King, Pacer, HQ Ute
Dream car: ’68/’69 Dodge Super Bee with 426 Hemi and four-speed, or 1970 Plymouth Road Runner A12 four-speed
Why the Valiant? I’ve always liked the shape of the coupe, it’s a bit different and they are rarer than the Chargers now
Build time: Four years
Length Of Ownership: Five years
Gene thanks: My partner Pauline and the kids, Ken Hagan, Shaun Logan, Brett Davy, Jason Raiti, Jason Oxley, Mike and Kyle at Greenpark Panel & Paint, Dave Moyle at Prostreet Automotive, Dean at JT Automotive, Ian at Key West Equipment, Huggins Upholstery, Stephen Milliken at Greenlane Speed Shop

Words: Todd Wylie  
Photos: Adam Croy