I’ve all but quit trawling local-ish ads for interesting old cars—anyone who’s recovered from Mad Car Disease and Elevated Collectserall knows it sure as hell can hurt to “just look”—but I don’t see (as) much harm in perusing ads from countries practically off-limits (which would include the USA right now, but that’s not what I meant).
The other day I spotted these photos, with unusually artful composition, of this nice red Valiant II (which is how you say “1962 Valiant” in Argentinian Spanish) on MercadoLibre (which is how you say “eBay”). I don’t know that the seller was necessarily trying to be artful, but these caught my eye by being different to the usual basic front-back-sides-corners-seats-doors-dashboard-engine-trunk checklist. And I don’t recognise it, but this is a pretty intriguing photobomb, eh?
One of the fun things about pics of familiar-model cars in foreign countries is the more you look, the more you see. Some of the differences are because of different local customs—a metric speedometer, for one easy example. Some of the differences are because the people in charge of local assembly and specification made their own choices. The American, Canadian, and everywhere-elsian ’60-’61 Valiants—the high-trim V200s—had a stainless steel spear gussying up the crease line from the middle of the front door to the front corner of the fender. That was deleted for ’62 Valiants, but not in Argentina, where it was taken one better: on some of the Argentinian cars, including this one, that stainless trim doesn’t stop at the leading edge of the fenderside; instead of a spear it’s a band that turns the corner, follows the crease inboard along the front edge of the fender like an eyebrow, and ties into the grille surround trim. Cool! I’ve only ever seen this trim variant on the Argentinian cars, and I think it works really well.
We see a “Valiant II” callout (the Valiant I having been the ’60-’61 model). There’s also a Pentastar, indicating this car was sold after Chrysler adopted that new corporate logo in late 1962. That was a thing in a variety of countries where vehicles were identified by model and production or first-registration date rather than by American-style model years; Valiants like this were sold as new 1963s in Argentina, Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere, so the Pentastar isn’t such an anomaly as it might seem.
Other differences are a result of local parts, used sometimes in response to what’s cost-effectively available during car assembly and ownership; sometimes in response to local-content laws, and sometimes in response to local preference. The Argentinian Valiants had headlamps made at the local Cibié factory, for example, carburetors made by Argentinian outfits called Argelite and Caresa more or less under licence from Holley, generators and then alternators from someone other than Chrysler, a lot of them had oil-bath air cleaners (this one doesn’t), and so on.
Local conditions drive other differences. This car has two pairs of bumper guards, an upsy pair (like the American ones) and a downsy pair (local Argentinian); others have prominent guard rails that sprout upward from the ends of the bumper bar and follow its contour, a few inches above, to better protect lights and trim.
Like all of them down there (to the best of my imperfect knowledge) it’s got a 170 cubic inch (2.8 litre) engine—Argentina was likely on the list of countries that got what the parts cattledogs describe simply as “export” low-compression pistons, to cope with low-octane gasoline—and a 3-on-the-tree. Speaking of gasoline, it looks like at least some Argentinian gas stations have attendants who fill up your tank in uniform.
It’s a pretty nice car, this, and it’s offered at $8,500 USD. Oh, that’s another thing: sellers can choose to list a price in American Dollars (formatted weirdly as “U$S”) or in Argentinian Pesos, which use the same $ character. As I type this, the exchange is roughly 100,000 Pesos = 1,370 US Dollars.
With that in mind, let’s jump closer to the other end of the spectrum and take a look at this Valiant III: a 1963 Dodge Dart with Valiant badges and, at least on later-production cars, a very attractive variant of the 1964 Dart grille. This particular Valiant III is, ah, well-used.
The quarter panels are held together (for the moment) by layers of paint.
The needle’s broken off the 180 km/h speedometer, and we see the English-language ’63 Dart instrument cluster was used.
It’s a hard-knock life, with drill bits. That central roundheaded momentary pushbutton stands an outside chance of being original; similar switches were factory-installed on similar-year Valiants sold in the UK to allow easy headlamp flashing. Beyond that: this is how cars get fixed when necessity, time, and ingenuity are in better supply than money and original parts.
Zooming out, we see the original steering wheel has gone, as has the column shifter. Carpet? LOLnope.
Further out: seats from elsewhat.
And now back in: there’s a Valiant Astrophonic radio. That doesn’t match the American “Transaudio” callout, though the rest of the radio’s apparent details are the same, including the American civil-defence symbols. I don’t think this radio was used up North, and so why doesn’t it say “Astrofónico”? Anyway, what’s below it is a Spanish-language version of the American heater control, word for word: “TIRAR PARA CALEF DESEMP” (“pull for heat def”) at left, “TEMPERATURA” in the middle, and “DESEMPAÑADOR” (“defroster”) on the right.
There’s a decal on the dashboard that reminds me of the remarkable wall-of-text prayer I found affixed to the driver’s sunvisor of a ’66 Dart in the wrecking yard years ago, which beseeched heavenly blessing in exhaustive detail for the driver, the passengers and all their belongings, the car and all its component parts, the trip, the road, etc. (It was around the time of this Sally Field-Phil Hartman sketch on Saturday Night Live, which can actually still be watched if you’re in the States or take steps to convince the internet you are).
Door glass bears maker’s mark “California” and…that’s it. No safety certification or type-approval marks, because no regulations to comply with. Is this even safety glass? I’d hopefully want to guess so, but many cars—including these—didn’t have American-type laminated windshields well into the 1970s and possibly beyond, so who knows?
But elsewhere on the doors, here’s something interesting: replacement armrests looking hand-carved from wood. Probably no fun to rest an elbow on for long, but about the right size and shape. Also visible: exhaust dumpout below the rear door, retrofitted front shoulder belt (or remains of same, anyhow).
This might be another 170, or it might be the 225 cubic inch (3.7 litre) engine, probably with lower-than-original low compression. But the valve cover is cromado, there’s what might be a later, exotic alternator, a local carburetor, some remains of an inscrutable, brakelike-lookin’ valve-and-tubing-to-nowhere setup on the left inner fender, lots of added electrical wiring, um, most of an air cleaner, and a fuel filter well positioned directly above the ignition distributor—that’ll want attention if this engine will be put in running condition again one day.
If the rest of the metal’s anywhere near so rusty as the quarters—and that’s probably the case—this would be a giant restoration project. The price equates to about $550, or about 6½ per cent of the red Valiant II’s price.
Now, those were just two points on the spectrum; going up a step shows its greater width. At the moment there are some really sharp cars listed—some original, some restored, some modified, some restified, and some rustified. Get a load of this screaming yellow honker, also wearing the Argentina-only wraparound fender crease trim (and showing by corroded comparison why America used sealed-beam headlamps):
And on a Valiant III in much finer condition, check out the grille I was talking about (perched above a nonstock mini-bumper transplanted off something else, in my view to the detriment):
And finally, because there’s really nothing such as enough early-Valiant eye candy, get a gander at these Valiant IIs; the more you look, the more you see:
I think that those brake-lookin’ tubbing are remains of a CNG convertion kit. Almost every big American car that survived the 90s and 2000s had one of this installed. CNG costed around 20% of the price of gasoline. Nowadays the difference is not so acute but I still worth it if you use your car everyday.
In 1968 the Valiant line was replaced by the “Dodge grande” (big Dodge). An American design for Argentina, Spain (Dodge 3700) and IIRC South Africa using the underpinnings of the Dart. The 225 ci Slant Six has an excelente reputation in Argentina for being reliable and easily modded.
From what I saw on this Argentinian site, http://argentochrysler.com.ar/sedan.htm along with the Spanish Wikipedia entry, there was briefly a “Dodge Valiant” along with the Coronado, Argentine Polara and the GTX coupe, the Hillman Minx based Dodge 1500 who continued as a VW model when Chrysler sold its South American operations to VW.
Yes, the Dodge Valiant was briefly offered as the ‘poverty spec’ (bench seats, no trim, dog-dish hubcaps).
In 1968 four versions were presented: Valiant (base), Polara (mid), Coronado (luxury) and GT (sporty). The first and the latter were dropped by 1970. Polara and Coronado were manufactured with a minor 1972 re-styling up to 1980. Total production of the big Dodge line accounts for 38.553 units in 12 years.
Attached a picture of the Dodge Valiant. Very few survive.
CNG conversion: that makes perfect sense and I bet you’re right that’s what we see the remains of here.
The Dodge Coronado-Polara-GTX (Argentina) and 3700GT (Spain): I’m under the impression it was designed in Argentina, not in America, but I could be wrong about that and perhaps it wasn’t 100% one or the other. Either way, it’s an interesting car: dimensionally it’s the narrower A-body used through ’66 in North America, not the wider ’67-up.
(The South African Valiants were all American- or Australian-bodied; the Argentinian body was not offered in RSA.)
As you suspected it was a joint design. I will try to translate the words of Mario Mariño, an engineer of Chrysler Fevre who was deeply involved in the development of this models:
The development of the Dodge was made in Argentina. This cars were small for USA, and didn’t enjoy any public acceptance; we, on the other hand, were looking at medium-large sized cars. We said the problem was the size of the car.
The design of the body was made in the United States. The rest of the development was made locally. The process was going back and forth with Detroit for almost two years: the try out was made there as well as here. In 1968, when I was in the USA, they could “live” our taste in cars.
Extracted from the book “Un siglo de autos argetinos. De la promoción industrial a la reconversión automotriz. Fábricas de capital extranjero” by Gustavo Feder.
Hey, cool! I will have to find a copy of that book.
Surprised to read that they were based on the narrow pre 67 body,
My copy of World Cars 1973 lists the width of the Argentina Polara at 73.23″ and the GTX at 74.92″ (maybe wider hips on the GTX).
Wikipedia lists the 1967 US A body at 71.6″
And looking at underhood shots of the GTX online clearly show the pre 67 (I think) looking firewall and the across the car torsion hood springs of the earlier models.
These cars fascinate me, I think the Argentina GTX is one of the most beautiful Chrysler coupes of that era.
I never realized those were on the original narrower chassis, but they do proportionally different compared to Australian Valiants on unique bodys based on the 66+ archetecture.
Styling certainly looks American, in fact it looks a whole lot like the 1969 Swinger concept
I love how the rectangle headlamps complemented the front end. Shame that Americans waited until 1984 model year to liberate the FMVSS 108 headlamp regulations…
That car is a Brazilian Dodge Charger based on the 1967 Dart. It is completely different from the Argentine cars
Actually, with the pressure and tank requirements for CNG motor fuel, I’d seriously doubt it was a CNG conversion (at one time, “in a former life,” I was a fleet manager at a local natural Gas Distribution company, where we had converted about 300 of our 930 vehicle fleet to CNG). It’s far more likely to be a LPG (Propane) conversion, which runs at far lower pressure and readily stores in liquid form. Either system requires coolant heat at the Regulator, but as CNG tanks run at much higher pressure and the pressure drop to run in a “mixer,” you’re FAR MORE LIKELY to experience freezing in the orifice that meters the Methane. Propane stored as liquid freezes at -36 Fahrenheit, the bypass heat can usually Provide enough heat for the regulator To feed the mixer properly for operation. Propane is much easier to store, not requiring a special tank that operates at 3600 PSIG. And finally, it’s much more forgiving than Methane, which has a very narrow range between its upper and lower explosive limits (air/fuel ratios are very precise – it’s hard to ignite).
Good point. There was something nagging at me about this bit of the conversation, and now you mention it, it was LPG vs. CNG.
Thanks for the tour to explain all the bits that are unique to these.
I agree that the eyebrow is an improvement. There’s also a chrome piece blending the grille into the hood center, which I’ve never seen on a US model. Also an improvement.
The down-low heater controls are odd, since the US Dart had the same three controls in the dashboard above the radio. They were fairly dangerous there, could put an eye out in a fast stop.
Incidentally, the $ was originally the symbol for Pesos. It was a big P with a little s riding on top. We adopted it from Spain, then changed the name to dollar, after the silver Thaler from Austria.
I like that chrome spear on the hood, too; I’ve previously seen it on Australian models.
The under-dash heater control is exactly the same (except for Spanish versus English) as the US and Canadian ’63 Valiant and Dart setup. The controls were moved to the dash for ’64, and changed from pull/turn knobs to slide levers for ’65. Impact dangers—amongst many other kinds—abounded in all cars of that era, though some (Volvo, e.g.) were ahead of the rest in designing and engineering for safety.
Interesting history on the Peso/Dollar symbol and etymology!
The first Valiant is awesome, it looks well loved and has so much character, also the colour looks period correct unlike the yellow car.. Thanks for this alternate Valiant universe, I’ve always loved the slightly wacky styling on these early cars.
I know very little about foreign market cars. That said, the first car, the red Valiant II, appears to be wearing ‘78-up Ford Fairmont wheel covers. Which leads me to surmise the rims have been upped from 13” to 14” diameter. And those tires! Don’t see bias ply too much anymore, especially with those ribbed sidewalls.
Just my observation.
They’re standard-issue ’62 Valiant full wheel covers—same down there as up here. Slightly different variants also used on ’61 Valiants, ’61 Lancers, and ’62 Lancers. All 13″; to the best of my knowledge no 14″ version of this cover was used. The Australian cars with 14″ wheels used the very attractive North American ’60-’62 Valiant flying-saucer centre cap with a trim ring.
I think you’re thinking of this Ford wheel cover.
You are correct, Sir! (voiced in a Phil Hartman parody of Ed McMahon)
They’re similar. I thought the one on the Valiant II was a bit too ‘pointy’ at its center.
This is terrific! I often check out Japanese and Australian car-sale sites, but now I’ll have to add South America to my list. Those thousands of miles definitely help reduce the potential of succumbing to an impulse buy.
That Valiant II is an awfully nice car, too.
The Mexican site is http://www.mercadolibre.com.mx , and the Brazilian version is http://www.mercadolivre.com.br . There may be others as well.
Thanks! I’ve bookmarked them for future enjoyment.
Uruguay is also pretty much dollarized, even if we are nowhere near Argentina ‘s inflation and depreciation rate. Cars and real estate are always offered in USD. Savings are stored in USD. High value monetary transactions are recorded in both local and USD currencies. Middle class usually has double bank accounts and credit cards are also billable in two currencies.
I still want a Valiant with the ‘toilet-seat’ trunk-lid!
Happy Motoring, Mark