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American Cars That Got Weird When Built Overseas

We all act a little differently when we travel outside the country, but these American cars went way off the deep end when built in a different region.

Truth be told, each of these cars represent the ingenuity of the local sales and manufacturing arms of the big car companies. Hardly ever given enough budget to truly update a car, they took cast-off models and engines and developed a range of products unique to their country. They just look a little strange to our eyes, used to viewing the originals.

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Chrysler Royal (Australia)

Think in your mind what a ’64 Chrysler (or Dodge or Plymouth) looked like. If you can’t bring an image to mind, go look it up and come right back, we’ll wait for you. Well, in Australia in 1964 you could buy a Chrysler that was based on a 1954 P25 series Plymouth. Sold from 1957 until 1964, the design was updated as best as possible by the local Chrysler manufacturing plant, adding tail fins later in the ’50s, etc. By the end of production, mechanicals had been upgraded to include a 313 CID V8 (Canadian and Australian version of the 318) and a three-speed TorqueFlite transmission. Beyond the usual two and four door models, the Chrysler was available as a coupe utility (think El Camino), station wagon, and cab/chassis for ambulance and hearse applications (though they carried different names).

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Ford Falcon (Argentina)

The Argentine Ford Falcon is a car that was built by Ford Argentina from 1962 to 1991. Mechanically, it was based on the original 1960 Ford Falcon, which means the basic design was in continuous production for 31 years. The Falcon retained the same frame and  body shape throughout its production, with several face lifts taking place during its lifespan – an attempt to give it a European flare and bring it into line with other more contemporary Fords. However,  it was apparent that it was simply a 60s design wearing a 80s grille. Engines ranges from straight sixes (170, 187, 221), the 2.3 L “Lima” four cylinder, and an imported diesel.

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Chevrolet 400 (Argentina)

In the early 1960s, all of the Big 3 manufacturers were building small cars in South America,  Chrysler with the Valiant II and Ford with the Falcon. General Motors’ entry into the market was based on the US market Chevy II, which was named the Chevrolet 400 for Argentina. Offered only as a four-door sedan it was produced from 1962 until 1974, maintaining the Chevy II frame and a substantial portion of its bodywork. Engines were all six-cylinders, ranging from 194, 230, and 250 cubic inches. There was a Super Sport version introduced in 1968 available with the 250 engine producing 155 hp.

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Chrysler Valiant (Australia)

Chrysler Australia had been building the Dodge Dart, badged as a Chrysler Valiant from 1962 to 1969, and like the Ford Falcon in Argentina, there were attempts made to make the Valiant look more specific to the Australian market, but it was not much more than a revised grille and other trim treatments.

In 1969 Chrysler of Australia created a Valiant body unique to their market and built it on an extended and widened Dart platform. All the underpinning remained the same.

Chrysler Australia developed their own six-cylinder engine from a discarded truck engine design from the US that was to replace the Slant Six. The lads down under developed a Hemi head engine inline six, somewhat similar but not identical in operation to US Hemis, and offered them in three displacements: 215 CID, 245 CID, and 265 CID, the most powerful producing 302 hp.

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Dodge GTX (Argentina)

Chrysler in Argentina had been building versions of the Dodge Dart  (Valiant) since the early 1960s. As the 1960s progressed, incomes grew and car buyers were looking for new, larger, more comfortable and/or higher performing models than the Falcon and the Valiant offered. Without the resources to develop entirely new models, Chrysler engineers stretched and widened the Dart frame to accommodate a full-sized four-door sedan (Polara) and a two-door sport coupe (GTX). The GTX looked like a cross between a classic Plymouth GTX and a ’70 Dodge Charger (not a bad thing) but at about 3/4 of the size.

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Renault Torino (Argentina)

The IKA Torino was developed from components from both the ’64 Rambler American and Classic and made by Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) under license from American Motors Corporation (AMC). The 1966 Torino was IKA’s first completely Argentinian product.

Then in 1975 IKA was purchased by Renault to form Renault Argentina S.A. The Torino was built on the same AMC platform all the way through 1981 in both two-door hardtop and four-door sedan versions. Power came from an advanced OHC engine developed by Kaiser in the US before being absorbed by AMC. The engine, used for Jeeps only between ’62 and ’65 found new life under the hood of the Torino. Maximum output was 215 hp from the factory.

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Chrysler Esplanda

OK, you need to pay close attention on this last one. The Ford Vedette was built by Ford in its French factory between 1948 and 1952. It was powered by a 136 CID (2.2 L) Ford “Flathead” V8, It was installed in Fords through the 1930s, but customers wanted more power than the little engine offered, so it was dropped from the US line.

In 1954 Ford sold the French factory along with the Vedette to the French manufacturer Simca, who continued both the Vedette name as well as the 136 CID Ford “Flathead” V8. Then Simca, still selling an updated Vendette and Ford V8, was purchased by Chrysler. So starting in ’67 you had a car with a Chrysler badge on the back with a Ford V8 under the hood. OK, it get stranger.

The Vendette was deemed to aged for Europe and was shipped off with its Ford V8 to Brazil, where it became the Simca Esplanada (despite the fact that Chrysler was active under its own brand in South America). But before it left, the old Ford engine, with roots back to the 1930s, received an interesting upgrade: The heads for the engine (which Simca dubbed the Emi Sul) were essentially copies of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s famous Ardun overhead valve conversions for the “Flathead” which nearly doubled power to 140 horsepower.

So we have a car designed in Dearborn, built in France, sold to the French who then sold it to Chrysler, who then copied the cylinder head design from the Godfather of the Corvette, and shipped the whole thing off to Brazil. Yup.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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