CCs For Sale: Argentine Valiants on the Spectrum in Midwinter

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: