ON SAFARI

1968 Valiant Safari

Article: Karl Eriksen

The Valiant brand was introduced to South Africa in the early ‘60s and closely followed the design of the North American models, as opposed to the Australian models (the design of which Chrysler South Africa adopted in 1972). There was however, one Australian body that Chrysler SA embraced and that was the Valiant Station Wagon. This was known as the “Safari” in both countries. The 1968 Valiant Safari featured here is as local as local can be – it is one of the 754 Valiants assembled in Chrysler’s Elsies River factory (before they moved production to Silverton) that year, selling then for the grand sum of R2 585. 

Marc Baker is in great demand for his expertise in the design and creation of skate parks, traveling around the country and even overseas. He also, together with his business partner, owns The Shred, which is located in Paarden Eiland, Cape Town. This premises incorporates a skate park, skate store and coffee shop. He somehow finds the time to nurture his other passion, which is, of course, cars. He has a few in his collection and by the sounds of things there will definitely be more additions in the future. He found the Valiant Safari in Malmesbury, where it was being kept in self-storage along with a few other cars.

He has tried to trace the history of it but hit a dead end. What he does know is that it was apparently bought in Goodwood but due to the lack of rust he does not think that this is the case. The interior was also in really great condition. It had Cape Town plates so clearly someone had lovingly cared for this car. His business partner, Jamie, was the one who was initially interested in the car and it was actually Marc that took him to go and have a look at it with the idea that Jamie would buy it. But he hesitated, saying that he did not think he was ready for something like that yet but probably regrets it now.

Marc decided that if Jamie was not going to purchase it, he would. He says he loves the fact that the car is so original, right down to the hubcaps and vinyl upholstery – just as it was when it left the factory floor all of those years ago. Opening the car door, you are met with the incredible smell of aged interior, the equivalent to what a bibliophile would experience while perusing the shelves of an antique bookshop. He has some minor issues with it in the beginning due to the fact that it had been standing for so long. There was a severe misfire and the brakes were shot, but the car still managed to make it all the way to Cape Town.

After Marc cleaned up the car, he paid a visit to his mechanic, where it was repaired for a nominal amount. It sat there for a while as the distributor is difficult to access in the slant-six engine. Subsequently, that was sorted out and now she starts each and every time. The roof racks are also original and were given to Marc by the same mechanic. They had been sitting in his garage for 30 years and came from his dad’s Valiant. He also replaced the tyres with 13-inch whitewalls which were sourced in Athlone. The coolest thing about this car is the retractable rear window, the mechanism of which still works perfectly after all these years. If you are wondering why this novel idea was not made available in more cars, it probably has to do with the fact that driving with it open leaves the contending fumes that are drawn back into the car. Marc says that it is a matter of finding out which of the other windows need to be open to nullify this.

He says the car is really reliable now and he plans on keeping it as is, apart from toying with the idea of removing the “automatic” sign on the back door, which is apparently from a Mercedes Benz – which a previous owner placed there. Then there are the little spots of surface rust which he plans on tackling himself. There are also the twin Powerflow exhausts that were installed by the former owner, which he does not really like, and he might revert them to an original set-up but for now she sounds V8ish. It is something he is in two minds about. He is just about to start on his next project, a rusty 1958 Ford F100, which he plans on restoring to showroom condition. 

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