When I was younger, being the practical and thrifty chap I was (or could be, some of the time), instead of daydreaming about exotic cars I would ponder what I would drive if I suddenly found myself in drastically less fortunate circumstance. Yes, I was doing this while behind the wheel of my new Mercedes 300E. It pays to have contingency plans, and a Valiant from more or less this vintage was part of mine.
I still have occassional thoughts like that. I used to roll by this very fine old converted classic PD-4104 in a warehouse parking lot right next to the Amazon creek bike path, and I’d think to myself: this is what I’d do; find an old bus, make it habitable, and pay someone a bit of rent to park it and a some electricity. Anything other than paying rent…says the landlord.
And when it came to the cheapest way to drive, my thoughts invariably went to an old Valiant, or comparable Dart. Almost indestructible, with a little bit of care and feeding.
There was a young single mom who was a family friend and who worked at the tv station in LA, and she really needed some cheap wheels. I helped her find an old White Valiant, and I dubber if “The Kelvinator”, as it was about as simple, functional and reliable as an old refrigerator. She drove that thing for years, and it never let her down. A stripped sedan with the slant six, Torqueflite, and nothing else; fewer things to break. She didn’t even mind the armstrong steering, as she was a pretty feisty sort anyway.
Of course my thoughts about my Valiant were a wee bit more ambitious: a bit of warming up of the engine, with a two-barrel carb, and something other than the stock three-speed transmission, which had at least one gear to few. A four speed swap eventually gave way to a five speed, in my fervent MM’ing.
Veteran CC Cohort Mike Hayes, whose finds in the Seattle are have graced our pages for years, didn’t get a shot of the interior to let us know if this is an automatic or manual. But we know what’s under the hood: either the 170 or 225 cu.in slant six. From my long experience with these cars, if it’s a 170, it’s most likely a manual; if it’s a 225, the odds favor the Torqueflite. I think thta’s how the the dealers invariably ordered their stock of these. If you wanted a 170 automatic (you didn’t, really) or a 225 manual, you were going to have to order it.
Although efforts were made to disguise it some, there’s still a lot of Virgil Exner’s influence in these cars. As in just about all of it. He oversaw the complete re-design of the ’63s, and according to the lore, the only thing that Elwood Engel changed when he took over from Exner on the Valiant was push up the end of the top edge of the rear fender some, to minimize the visual impact of the still-sloping (but not nearly as much) rear trunk lid.
It was a successful re-design that completely changed the visual impact of the goofy 1960-1962 Valiant, and turned it into a totally innocuous (visually) compact sedan that exuded thrift and practicality from every pore. Just the ting for a fallback-mobile. You never know…