Chrysler Royal The Big Aostralian


In America through the 50sand 60s in particular the Chrysler Corporation was a rugged member of what the US media called "The Big Three." It had five product lines—Plymouth, Dodge, De Soto, Chrysler and Imperial—not to mention a vast commercial vehicle range and it was heavily involved in the manufacture of armaments and products for NASA. It was, however, a corporation largely focussed on North America with tiny outposts in France—Simca—and Australia having taken over the old coachbuilding company T J Richards.

However, despite big ideas and statements at the time (mid-1951) any plans they had about making a Holden competitor simply had to wait for more resources. What to do in the meantime? The answer was simple— produce more of the same! That meant local manufacture at Keswick of the body panels to manufacture the P25 Plymouth/D49 Dodge/

SP25 De Soto and to import the mechanical components from Canada and the UK.

In mid-1957, however, Chrysler Australia stunned its dealers by announcing the Chrysler Royal API as the only model they would be building. There were some very disgruntled dealers around the country.

The Chrysler Royal was old well before it was new being an amalgam of the previous body (the passenger section albeit with a new wraparound rear window) onto which new front and rear panels derived from 1955-56 US Plymouths were blended. All this sat on a chassis that had been in production since 1939!

Initially the Royal was powered only by the big, lazy, torquey side-valve six-cylinder engine of either 230- or 250-cid depending on the transmission ordered. However, like the Plymouths and Dodges it succeeded, the Royal was virtually indestructible as many rural owners would testify.

Sales, though, were well below expectations causing Chrysler management to hastily offer the 313-cid "poly-head" V8 with its 220bhp as an option. Performance increased dramatically to over lOOmph top speed but the brakes remained tiny 10-inch cast iron drums that were nowhere near able to cope...

API was replaced by the AP2 in 1959, the differences being a garish new grille and a fin-upon-a-fin at the rear while the definitive Royal, the AP3 with dual vertically stacked headlights, revised fins and three-lens taillights and new dashboard, arrived in 1960. Sales did improve slightly with AP3 but by then Chrysler was in financial trouble here, production going as low as 2 cars a day near the end in 1963. Along the way there had been the Plainsman station wagon and Wayfarer utility, both of which are very rare and therefore very collectable today.

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