Words: Chris Ralph
Photos: Phil Wisewould and John Lemm
The HTCAV was abuzz recently when club president Les Walmsley sold his magnificent race and championship-winning Valiant Charger.
After the news broke, Les had to field hundreds of calls. ‘Why didn’t you sell it to me?’ was a common question, followed by who, why, how, etc. Was it a spur of the moment sale to some random? Far from it, it turns out.
‘Building’ a Relationship
The story behind this sale goes back to 2008, when Les met Ben Dahlstrom. Both worked in the building trade back then, but the talk soon turned to race cars.
Becoming young Ben’s motoring mentor, Les helped him and his father purchase a Valiant S Series from Michael Holloway in 2009.
As told in a previous JUST CARS story, the impact of Black Saturday, his father’s passing and the arrival of kids put Ben’s racing debut on hold for a decade or so. When he finally got to the track, Ben’s efforts in the push button auto Valiant S Series raised a cheer. And Les was always there to advise the younger MoPar peddler.
A Welcome Changeover
On the Charger, Les says he’s been fielding offers for years, but wanted it to go somewhere he could keep an eye on it. Being able to foster the career of a keen young driver would be even better.
For Ben, he’d always known that racing life would not end with the S Series, so the conversation around stepping up to the Charger began as ‘what if’ and ended as ‘why not?’.
Les rates Ben as a driver: “He’ll get there. He just needs to take it nice and slow at the beginning, not set the bar too high or listen to too much smart advice.”
And on adapting to the Charger: “It’ll come, they’re a pretty easy car to drive.”
He knows he’s got big shoes to fill, but Ben can’t contain his excitement. Coming from the push-button auto S Series will be a change, though. “What about this thing?” Ben jokes, wiggling his left foot.
And what will happen to the S Series? “I’ll run it a bit to keep it interested and I’ve got a son who’s only a few years off licence age,” he says. "We'll see what happens then.”
So what's next for Les? The Silver Fox is as wily on that as he is on the track. “Got a few options, mate. Y’never know,” he smiles.
A farewell drive in the famous Charger is likely, and he’s now the custodian of the ex-John Mann Camaro bought by Keith Kassulke who remains stuck in Papua New Guinea. “I might give that a bit of a run…”