CC For Sale: 1966 Plymouth Valiant – Chili And A Baked Potato

The process of buying or selling an old car, or any car, can really run a person through the wringer.  The internet has paradoxically made the process somehow worse while making the process of finding cars easier than ever.  As a seller, you deal with online flakes asking “Is this still available?” and then ghosting you as fast as a game of “ding, dong, ditch.”  As a buyer, you must assume that the seller knows nothing about cars or is hiding everything by taking the fuzziest pictures this side of Zapruder.  Sometimes the old ways are the best ways, and putting hands on a vehicle for sale is still the best way to buy, and this ’66 Valiant would have made the process easy.

My lovely bride and I made the annual September (weather and schedule permitting) sojourn to the “Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Races” at Mid-Michigan Motorplex in idyllic Stanton, MI.  At Stanton, flawlessly restored muscle cars endure a lashing that can only compare to the lashing they endured when new, at the hands of their (mostly) much younger-at-the-time owners.  As fun as that scene can be, the parking lot is where the average meat-and-potatoes car lover can ogle machinery that is a little more on-brand, such as our featured Valiant.

Until about 10 years ago, Chrysler A-Bodies, especially Valiant sedans, populated the mildewy basement of my mid-’60s automotive reveries.  I thought they were watching-the-Wheel-and-falling-asleep-with-the-remote-in-your-hand ordinary, Wendy’s-chili-and-a-baked-potato geriatric.  But then something happened.

I broke all the time-honored rules of buying and selling and on a wagon-wanting whim purchased my 1965 “Dirty” Dart sight unseen from the other end of the country, and it changed my car-loving lifestyle for the better.  Due to increasingly exorbitant labor costs and a shift in antique-car-owning paradigms, it’s become much more acceptable to show up in an old car with iffy paint and rust.  Although I’m not really a “patina” guy, I’m very much more NOT a wipe your car down and sit with it for seven hours guy.  And although I work on my own cars and do just about everything, my bodywork is not always straight and I don’t care if it looks like a squid once lived under the hood and found something startling.

Cars such as my Dart and our featured Valiant have become not only acceptable drivers, but many people PREFER these cars over much nicer examples.  People go stark raving crazy over the Dart.  And, in spite of that nuisance, I’ve learned to like Chrysler A-Bodies and even appreciate their unpretentious styling.  They’re nowhere near the top of my list of favorites, but I don’t regret buying the Dart for a minute.

Therefore, if I didn’t already have the Dart, I might have considered buying this similar-but-slightly-worse Valiant.  Its three-grand asking price might be a little much, but the owner may have been willing to deal, and maybe they would have even delivered it to my house.  It could be used as I use mine, as a nice day “cold weather” driver for that time of year when I wouldn’t drive my nicer cars.  It could be used as a daily driver (not in the salt, I hope).  It could be a “hop up” project for someone needing a light shell.  It could be a “fixer-upper.”  It could be a no-excuses old car for anybody who likes old cars.  There are so many possibilities.

But nothing in life is free.  Lower quarter rust is almost a given in the Midwest, and Valiants and Darts all seem to suffer from Calcium Chloride perforation in their hindquarters, as does this one.  Fun fact: The hubcaps are the same as my Dart’s except that the “Fratzog” in the center is replaced by a “V.”

The interior is dirty but redeemable, and I like to think that it’s a 225/Torqueflite car, which would be just about perfect with its (most likely) 2.94 gears.  My Dart has the A-903 three-speed, and its 3.23 gears make it a little buzzy on the highway, although the engine noise is to some extent drowned out by wind and road and other avenues of ensuring permanent tinnitus.  My Dart already had a replacement seat cover, but I’d replace the upholstery and carpet in this one if I bought it.  Everything else would get a good scrubbing or my wife wouldn’t ride in it.  In fact, she’d probably do the scrubbing.

The passenger quarter looks worse than the driver’s side.  The visible rust would be the most conspicuous objection to my owning the Valiant.  The rust repair itself would pose no grave threats to our coexistence, but matching the new paint to the old would require a defter touch with a spray gun than I currently possess.  On the other hand, a light Comet or steel wool scrub over the fresh paint (ouch) might balance things out well enough.

Regardless, how lucky would it be to stumble on the perfect old car for sale in a parking lot?  It’s never happened to me before.  No driving hours to be disappointed, no flaky sellers who misrepresent the fact that they used aluminum foil to repair a floorpan, no rolling the dice and wincing as the car rolls off a sketchy trailer all the way from Sandy, Oregon…Oh, why can’t a ’63 Riviera show up in like fashion in my travels?

Still, fun old cars are out there, and even though old cars prices are still high (in my opinion), there are yet some affordable options, especially if you prefer the sedate, unfussy side of life.  And there’s nothing wrong with watching the Wheel on a weeknight.