Denny Gibson had a dream: to tour the old Lincoln Highway end to end across the United States in 2013, when it turned 100 years old. Denny loves the old roads, and what better road to honor than the first coast-to-coast highway in the United States. Moreover, Denny wanted to drive it in a vintage automobile. This 1963 Plymouth Valiant V200 convertible turned out to be that automobile.
It’s not that the car had to be a ’63 Valiant. Denny’s first thought, quickly discarded as impractical, was to drive a 100-year-old car on the 100-year-old road. But if a centenarian automobile wouldn’t do, perhaps a half-centenarian would. So Denny set out to buy a car built in 1963. This Valiant was a practical choice. It sold in good volume, so parts wouldn’t be impossible to find. And it was a Slant Six/Torqueflite car, a well-known, bulletproof combination, so parts would hopefully not be needed too often.
Denny bought this Valiant in late 2010 from an elected official who used it only in parades. As such, it ran reasonably well, but there was evidence of a slow fluid leak somewhere, the convertible top was pretty rotted, and there were some ominous rattles. But Denny drove it home–160 miles away. Over the next couple years, Denny got the car ready for the trip. Some body sag was corrected by adding some subframe connectors. That leak turned out to be oil; a new rear main seal solved that. The front end seemed a little loose, but everything was tight enough, and an alignment helped a lot. A brittle fuel line was replaced, some minor miscellaneous stuff was attended to and a new top was fitted.
Denny set out on his trip on June 19, 2013, driving from his Ohio home toward New York City, where the tour would begin. He joined a number of other old-car owners; it would be a caravan of sorts. There were two caravans, actually; the other started in San Francisco. The two would meet in the middle, in Kearney, Nebraska, the Lincoln Highway town where a 100th anniversary celebration would be held.
After the celebration, Denny continued west in his Valiant, determined to see the other side of the country. And he made it. He drove his Valiant in Times Square, across long stretches of modern US 30, and along some old brick and gravel roads that at one time carried the Lincoln Highway. There were some tense moments in this 50-year-old Valiant. The brake lights didn’t always work. The fuel pump failed somewhere in Nebraska. And there was a near accident in San Francisco when someone turned in front of him. (Adrenaline had as much to do with stopping in time as the unassisted drum brakes did.)
Denny’s trip lasted 35 days and covered 7,300 miles, from Ohio to New York to San Francisco and back to Ohio. It was the trip of a lifetime, but now it’s time for someone else to own this hardy automobile. Denny’s listed it on eBay; you can check it out here. But move fast, as the listing ends this coming Monday, and there’s a Buy It Now option. And if you’re interested in learning more about Denny’s trip, you can check out his Web site here. He even wrote a book with even more details; check it out here.
Related reading: another 1963 Valiant, here.