The Dirty Dart has done strange things to my brain. Sitting next to this ’65 Valiant is one of my favorite cars, the beautiful and glamorous first-generation Riviera. Yet I managed to run up and snap a bunch of pictures of a lowly turquoise Valiant post sedan. It was in nice condition, way nicer than the Dart, and I keep telling myself that there’s nothing wrong with loving a dorky little A-Body…nothing wrong at all. Is there?
Well, of course there isn’t. There’s a lot of Dart/Valiant love around this place, for good reason, and while these early A-Bodies might not be as visually striking as the most beautiful car of the 1960s, the Riviera (my opinion), they have a forthright style that’s more “cute underdog.” People dig an underdog.
The first thing about this Valiant that struck me was its condition. It was the same color as my Dart, but the body was nearly flawless. My Dart wagon shares a quarter panel with the Valiant, and it flows nicely into the bumper, but I feel that the Valiant handled the taillight treatment better than the Dart. The fuel filler situation leaves much to be desired, however. It’s too low and fuel manages to leak fuel for days after a fillup. Maybe that’s just my beater, but a fuel door would have been a nice addition here.
I couldn’t resist including a brochure image of the sedan with its turquoise wagon counterpart; the Dirty Dart has indeed weaseled its way into my heart. Honestly, I have always thought that the Valiant sedan was one of the plainest and homeliest vehicles of the 1965 model year, but time and ownership of it’s Dodge-branded wagon counterpart have changed my mind to some extent. Of course, the wagon was the only Dart to share body panels with the Plymouth; other Dart models wore unique body panels on a five-inch longer wheelbase.
While I still prefer the Dart’s arguably bolder front end and grill treatment, I’ve learned to appreciate the Valiant’s simplicity and honesty. Unless you bought one from a junkyard (as I did), it’s not going to mess with you. It’s not that kind of car.
It’s possible that this Valiant has recently undergone a restoration; after all, it has no license plate, it’s at a car show, and it’s in beautiful condition. Restoring a Valiant is a labor of love, because one will never recoup the investment. Luckily for owners and hipsters alike, Darts and Valiants make cool beaters; however, they make equally cool car show fodder. There is almost no ostentatious ornamentation from this perspective, just clean lines.
Adding to the freshly restored vibe are the uniform panel gaps and flawless trim. The Valiant wins a point from the Dart in the battle of bodyside jewelry; even the Dart 270 wore a bulky strip that ran the length of the car, roughly bisecting it. The Valiant’s trim fills in the body’s natural lines before slimming down at the vent window to travel the remainder of the car’s length.
Under that shiny, undecorated hood undoubtedly sits a slant six, either a 170 or a 225. Let’s hope it’s the 225; the 170 felt really borderline on power in my Dart (to be fair, it was worn out), and the 225 has greatly improved the driving experience. It rarely feels underpowered.
This Valiant was ordered with the excellent Torqueflite automatic, unlike my Dart, which runs the standard A-903 three-speed manual (which the original owner ordered with air conditioning). The Torqueflite is almost certainly an upgrade; a three-speed manual is fun for awhile, but I’m always wishing there was a gear between second and third, like, well…like a four-speed would have. The Torqueflite’s first and second gears are far taller than the three-speed’s, and the gear spacing is much closer, making the driving experience far more fluid (pun intended).
The moral of the story is that the Dirty Dart is demanding that I notice cars I rarely gave a second thought. The lovely featured Valiant makes the Dart look a little rough, but they’re both fun cars that are still inexpensive. Parts are quite difficult to find for ’63-’66 A-Bodies, especially body, interior, and trim parts. The initial purchase price is easily compounded if the car needs work, but that’s the case with almost any old car.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still rather have a Riviera (and still will, someday), but these little Chrysler compacts have broadened my horizons.