Big-cube bruiser: 1973 Valiant VH Hardtop

Posted in Cars
Is Mark Heath’s VH hardtop the biggest cube Valiant streeter in the land? We certainly think so

The internet is a dangerous place for car lovers to be lurking. If a site isn’t trying to sell you the latest and greatest product for the lowest price ever, chances are it’s showcasing cars or parts that make you more excited than a schoolboy with a porno mag. Sure, the ’net has its uses, but if you’ve got cash in the bank, and an empty garage, you know damn well the internet will quickly change that.

This is essentially what happened to Auckland mechanic Mark Heath. Except, his garage already had an HR Holden in it, and it wasn’t him who was lurking, but a mate who knew all too well Mark’s weak spot for Valiant coupes, especially those with decent engines in them.
Trying as hard as he could, Mark swore he wasn’t interested … but soon took a look anyway, just to see what his mate was on about. Still not interested, he rang the seller, just to have a chat about it, still “not interested.” But somehow, it wasn’t long before the car was sitting in his garage. So much for not being interested, the internet had got him, and got him good!

Still, there are worse cars to buy than a 500ci Valiant, especially when you’re someone like Mark, who grew up with the cars. “Aussie muscle was really all that was around in those days, there weren’t as many American cars as there are now,” he says. So with the fond memories of days gone by, and thoughts of the skids ahead, Mark thought he was on to a winner — despite his being a mechanic, the hard work was already done, and the VH would just be a turnkey driver with no effort required. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that this wasn’t the case at all. And while the car had a lot of good parts on it, and a lot of the hard work was done, there were plenty of simple things that really let it down. 

Take for example, the cooling system, that may have been ok if the car had a six-cylinder in it, but would overheat at the first sign of traffic with the big-cube RB motor. It was small things like this that soon led to a major rebuild of the top end of the motor. In fact, all it took to encourage Mark to opt for some new Edelbrock alloy heads was a cross-threaded bolt in one of the stock heads, and an attempt at Heli-Coiling it gone wrong. 

As usual, though, one thing turns into a bunch of things, and it wasn’t long before the bills for the rebuild equalled what he’d paid for the car in the first place. At least he now had a car that was not only reliable, but was also nice to drive, not to mention was also seriously — or more accurately, stupidly — fast. No road-going Valiant has any right to be this ridiculous, but believe us when we say that this one is!

Of course, power isn’t without its own problems, and they usually involve finding the weakest link between the gas pedal and the road. While you’d think it’d be the 265/35R18 rubber strapped around the new wheels Mark fitted, you’d be wrong. Well, sort of. Sure, it turns the tyres to smoke any time you so much as look at the throttle, but one time, it wasn’t the tyres that were twisted, but the axles.

And they were already ones that Mark had ordered from the Moser catalogue! Broken 28-spline axle stub in hand, Mark jumped back on the internet and ordered a beefier set of 35-spline Strange items, which were fitted to the Steelie Gears–prepped nine-inch diff. With the axles sorted, and a heavy-duty drive shaft fitted for good measure, the tyres have once again become the weak link, and that’s the way Mark intends to keep it.

Included in the rebuild was the construction of a new custom-made fuel cell to replace the plastic item that was simply plonked in the centre of the boot when the car was purchased. Not only does he now have a decent amount of boot space, he’s also got enough fuel capacity to get wherever he’d like, within reason of course. The positioning of the tank should also in theory help the car hook up on the drag strip, and it’ll need all the help it can get, as besides the tunnel-rammed motor, there’s also a nitrous oxide set-up waiting to be completed; as if it needs it!

For now, though, Mark’s happy with how the car is looking and performing. It’s exactly what he hoped it would be when purchased, even if he still insists he was never really intending to be buying another car. Perhaps it was fate that brought the two together, or perhaps it was a mate who knew all too well that Mark couldn’t say no to a high-horsepower Valiant. Either way, we’re pretty sure we aren’t the only ones that are glad he bought it!   

Mark's Valiant was featured in NZV8 Issue No. 91 (December 2012). You can grab a copy here.


  • Engine: 500ci big block Mopar, 440 block, Eagle forged steel crank, Eagle H-beam rods, ARP fasteners, billet steel main caps, Ross pistons, Edelbrock heads, Weiand tunnel ram, twin Edelbrock 500cfm carbs, Holley Black fuel pump, MSD 6AL-2 ignition, three-inch twin exhaust, aluminium radiator
  • Driveline: TorqueFlite 727 automatic transmission, high-stall torque converter, manual valve body, deep pan, 9-inch diff, Gold Trac LSD head, 35-spline Strange axles, heavy-duty driveshaft, Strange billet yoke
  • Suspension: Torsion bar front, leaf spring rear
  • Brakes: Stock front, Ford drum rear
  • Wheels/Tyres: 18x8-inch and 19x9.5-inch Boss 335 rims, 265/35R18 and 235/40R18 tyres
  • Exterior: Stock
  • Interior: Aftermarket seats, Auto Meter gauges
  • Performance: Untested

Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.