Retired smelter worker Roger Graber, 62, bought his 1973 Valiant VJ Charger 15 years ago for $2000. "It's worth about $30,000-$35,000 now to an enthusiast," he says. "I wouldn't get rid of it, though. My son and grandson will probably fight over it when I fall off the perch." However, the money-making tale ends there.
"I did have three of these," he says. "One was a drag (racing) project with a Ford 351 engine in it and the other was stripped down. When I moved I didn't have anywhere to put them so I sold them. I only got $2500 for the drag car and $1500 for the stripper. I regret getting rid of them now."
When Graber bought his current Charger it was in "a terrible state", the 265 (4.3-litre) Hemi six-cylinder engine was "knackered" and the car had been off the road for years. "I spent about two years restoring it for the road, not as a show car," he says. "It cost about $5000 for the restoration."
Graber claims to be a self-taught mechanic and did all the mechanical, paint and body work on the car. "I'm mechanically minded and can turn my hands to anything," he says. "I rebuilt the engine myself to make sure it was right."
However, he put in a non-standard 600 Holly carburettor. "Otherwise the engine is standard," he says. "It has heaps of grunt without having to do much to them. If I checked the economy I wouldn't drive it so much. It gets about five kilometres to the litre (20 litres per 100km) because the carby is too big for it. I have a 350 which I'll put in it and then I might get about 7km/L (14.2L/100km)."
Graber totally renovated the front suspension right down to the rubbers, but has done nothing to the rear except replace the brake shoes. The car features a four-speed Borg Warner gearbox with synchro in all but first. "You can't break them and it's as smooth as," he says. "It's 1970s driving. You have to be careful because the back can break out easily."
"It's hard to drive, there's so much power you can easily spin the wheels. You have to drive it smoothly. But it's very reliable. I always keep a good check on the engine and recently changed the engine oil, gearbox oil and back axle oil so it's running really smooth now."
If it stays in good condition, Graber plans to show it at the MotorMania show and shine at Rockhampton Showgrounds on July 25. The show is part of a 10-day Central Queensland MotorMania festival of motoring that includes cars, karts, drag racers, motorcycles and more.
"There's a big concentration of petrolheads up here, maybe because it's an industrial town and people have a bit of money," he says. "Our club (Curtis Coast Cruiser Club) has more than 60 members. A lot have joined because they can get concessional rego and it's a lot cheaper, especially for the guys with V8s."
Visit www.motormaniacq.com.au for more information on upcoming MotorMania shows and events.