Cohort Classic: 1962 Valiant V200 Station Wagon — Late Jet-Age Era Wagon

Valiant V200 wagon photos from the Cohort, by Hyperpack. 

I’ve been meaning to feature this Valiant V200 wagon for some time but never got around to it until now. As I mentioned in a post from last year, count me in as a fan of the provocative ideas Exner was pursuing with Chrysler’s Valiant compact line. Lots of surface treatment and innovative packaging for a public not quite ready for it. Of course, the model’s Ex-ccentric detailing didn’t help matters in the sales department. And as we know, such Ex-travagant flourishes became Exner’s undoing in the end.

So, even if I’ve developed a liking for these early Valiants, I don’t blame buyers for serving themselves a good helping of Ford’s vanilla-plain Falcons instead. Still, this wagon find will aid in covering additional thoughts on the styling of these early Valiants.

Before we get into matters, I’ll deal with this wagon’s provenance first. These images were uploaded to the Cohort by Hyperpack at the end of 2023, featuring a large family collection consisting of mostly Mopar goods.

At the time, some of the collection was being sold, some scrapped, some moved, and a few were to remain in the family. The Valiant wagon appeared numerous times in those shots, often lovingly featured. As such, I’m pretty certain the vehicle is a ‘keeper.’

Back to styling matters. As I said in my previous piece, most agree that Exner’s goods spoke mostly to a designer’s soul. In the case of the Valiant, the model carried modern and dynamic proportions, all quite hard to appreciate under the car’s sculpted surfaces and intersecting lines. There’s hardly a part of the car without some kind of surface treatment. And as busy as all those elements seem, there’s much thinking behind them. Stuff that a designer can admire, but overwhelming and off-putting to the general public.

Yet, busy ‘surface treatment’ has become the norm for quite a while in the auto industry. Funnily, some of that can be appreciated in this image from my ’61 Valiant entry of last year. If squinting, one could almost extend some of the black Hyundai’s surface treatment lines to the Valiant’s.

As time proved, Exner’s artistic approach often felt the urge to take the public to places they weren’t willing to go. If it took 50 years or so for buyers to embrace what the artist offered, so what? In time, your artistic ego would feel vindicated.

So, after GM and Ford caught on with Exner’s fintastic 1957 jet-age offerings, the artist went through a period of exploration in search of a new groundbreaking statement. And that statement appeared in the form of the Valiant; the fuselage body, the long-hood short deck proportions, and his favored aviation motifs featured as pronounced side wings. Many of these novel concepts, mixed in with some of the prewar styling cues he enjoyed.

As busy as this all looks, much cerebral thinking is at play between the seemingly disjointed elements. Particularly if seen in profile. Stuff I went into some detail before:

If we forget about its three-dimensional reality (just try, please) the intersecting lines of the Valiant clearly show the ideas behind this ‘design for designers.’ Specially in profile. The front fender wing connects to the rear one, adding movement and continuity. A subdued character line below the windows’ edge connects with the rear fender flare. The whole cabin was visually pushed almost 1/3 into the body (an effect achieved by moving the windshield back, close to the dashboard’s edge), resulting in a more dynamic profile. Finally, the rear sculpted fender ‘adds’ volume to the compact vehicle, breaking up the shape in what would be an otherwise plain rear quarter.

Still, for all that’s ‘right’ –from a designer’s cerebral approach– the car’s rear is the busiest and least coherent.

The wagon’s body removes those controversial and less accomplished bits. First, the odd-looking droopy trunk is gone. Plus, no place to add Exner’s favorite and most incongruous fixation; the ‘toilet seat’ (gone in the sedan as well for ’62). Cleaning the design some for ’62, is the tail lights’ new location. The angry-looking countenance of the ’60-’61 ones gone for good, while the new round units complement some minor detailing, like the Valiant’s circular logo and gas cap.

The wagon also adds some interesting complementary design elements to its rear section, like the 2 protruding roof winglets paired with the extruding rear wheel/fender side wings. The whole thing is a play of straights, curves and diagonals; in three dimensions.

With the wagon’s greenhouse incorporated fuselage-like with the rest of the body, the vehicle’s overall shape is more integrated and modern than Ford’s and Chevy’s offerings at the time.

So the Valiant’s jet-age styling, against the far more conventional two-box bodies of Ford and Chevrolet. Nice looking, and sober offerings in comparison; the kind of image that comes to mind when the words ‘station wagon’ are mentioned.

In this shot, the Valiant’s integrated greenhouse is clearer, and one can sense that the whole compartment has the feel of a fighter plane cabin. However, the multiple door pillars ruin the illusion to some degree.

Talking about those pillars, they do disrupt the intended ‘lightness’ behind the roof’s overall silhouette. Yet, under the right lighting, the desired illusion can be seen; with the roof appearing to float in the air. An effect aided by the window openings and back-slanted C-pillar, the latter arranged in a cantilever manner.

It’s a feel of ‘lightness’ rather popular with some mid-century architecture. Do you see it?

Ah yes, there it is. That intended ‘lightness’. Concrete and metal soaring into the heights, apparently sustained by air. In the mid-20th century, glass and airy openness were your friends.

Or so was the idea being sold, before we eventually reverted to our current caves.

One can say that the Valiant was Exner offering the Jet-Age to the general public; again. And by the early ’60s that whole fad had run its course. An era of tasteful restrained styling was coming, to cleanse everyone’s palette after such excess.

As for the Valiant, after a mildly successful first year, the model’s sales diminished in ’61 and ’62. For 1962, the V200 wagon managed just about 8K sales; numbers that paled against its Falcon counterpart. By ’63 Elwood Engel would arrive to clean up Exner’s work and offer a cleaner interpretation of the Valiant line.

But sales aside, what counts is that this Valiant wagon seems to have found a faithful owner that will keep it running for some time to come. A remnant of a Jet-Age that didn’t quite come to be, and yet, slivers of it managed to find their way to our present.


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1961 Plymouth Valiant — Follow The Leader? The Dilemmas Of Art Vs. Commerce

Automotive Design & History: 1962 Plymouth & Dodge – The Real Reason They Were Downsized

Cohort Pic(k) Of The Day: 1960 Valiant – Better Than The Competition Except In Build Quality And Styling Coherence

Car Show Classic: 1960 Plymouth Valiant V-200 – No, It’s Not A Plymouth, Not Yet

Curbside Classic: 1960-62 Plymouth Valiant – No One’s Kid Brother

Vintage Motor Life Reviews: 1960 Valiant – “It Will Corner As Well As A Grand Turismo” But “Some Defects Of Assembly”