(first posted 8-1-2013) Valiant. Just saying the name to anyone who grew up in the Sixties will likely bring forth a ton of memories, both good and bad: “Oh, my Aunt Hilda had one, it was the toughest car she ever had”, or, “I drove one in high school and it was the slowest, most boring car I ever owned.” Oftentimes, these memories are prefaced by the words Plymouth Valiant–and indeed, Valiants were Plymouths from 1961-76–but not in the inaugural year!
Yes, Chrysler Corporation’s response to the mini-import boom of the late 1950s was much more, um,
stylish distinctive than the oh-so-vanilla Ford Falcon and outré, rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair. Virgil Exner was clearly the father of the Valiant, to which its looks attest, despite front styling intentionally reminiscent of the 1959 Studebaker Lark. From every angle, though, it really was its own car.
Of the three new Detroit compacts, it was also the hottest number. That lovely Slant Six engine–which made its debut in this car–got the Valiant up to speed in no time, especially when equipped with the Hyper-Pak engine option. Some Valiants even went racing.
The 1960 Valiant was every bit a product of the Chrysler Corporation, with its unit construction (shared with their big cars that year), torsion bar front suspension and optional push-button automatic (a floor-mounted three-speed stick was standard equipment). Valiants came in two flavors: V-100 and V-200.
The V-100 was the base model, with little chrome trim and a drab gray interior (shades of 2013!), but it still had that lovely, brand-new engine, crazy Exner styling (either a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view) and plenty of interior room. And just look at all that glass area. Yes, you used to be able to see things from the driver’s seat!
The finest Valiant money could buy was the uplevel V-200, which offered much nicer upholstery with vinyl bolsters and nylon inserts, in a choice of three colors. Two-tone door cards were also added. Outside, V-200s got bright side moldings that wrapped around the flared rear wheel arches, as well as bright window trim. A V-100 sedan started at $2,033, and the V-200 at $2,110.
Soon after the sedans made their debut, V-100 and V-200 station wagons were added to the lineup. These little haulers arguably were even more eccentrically styled than the sedans; sadly, though, the Exner “toilet seat” fake spare tire trim was not available on the wagons, which were available as six-passenger V-100 and V-200 models and a nine-passenger V-200. The nine-seat wagon was the most expensive ’60 Valiant, at $2,546, and also the rarest: Just 4,675 were built.
This pristine ’60 V-200, one of 106,515 built, was seen at the AACA Grand National meet held in Moline, IL. Living ten minutes away from the event guaranteed my attendance. Despite rain that never entirely went away, I saw plenty of cool cars. This V-200 is the first 1960-62 Valiant I had ever seen in the metal. The styling is certainly polarizing, but I love ’em!
That race-car grille is a big plus to me. It was not until recently that I realized the Valiant badge on the grille was a hood release. A neat detail, about which I probably read here on CC!
The Valiant stood alone in 1960–but only for that year. In 1961, it officially became a Plymouth. Plymouth needed the extra sales, as Dodge’s full-size, Plymouth-based 1960 Dart had led many Plymouth loyalists to abandon the marque: While 1960 and 1961 were not good years for big-Plymouth sales, the Valiant was a bright spot, and would continue to be for years to come.