I turned 16 early in 1992, and about half a year later I spotted a text-only ad in the back of Cars and Parts magazine:
1965 Dodge Valiant Custom 200 sedan, low miles, never winter driven, excellent condition, $3,000.00 OBO. Stoney Creek. Ont, Canada 416-(nnn)-6609
There’s a feature article on Canadian Valiants in one of the back issues of the Slant-6 News in the complete collection I’d bought, so I knew straight off this “Dodge Valiant” was probably no misprint or clueless-owner fumble. The American Valiant had been its own make only for 1960, its introductory year, before becoming a Plymouth model for ’61. But in Canada, Valiant carried on as a make, rather than a model, all the way through 1966. The ’61-’62 Lancer and ’63-’66 Dart weren’t sold in Canada; Chrysler’s compacts were all Valiants in that market, and they were sold at all Chrysler Corporation dealers.
I called and was soon speaking to the car’s original owner: Mr. Moffat, a recently-retired longtime Chrysler dealer mechanic. He had good answers to all my questions, and promptly sent a stack of photos. Those looked good, too; a whole lot better (and more forthrightly and completely presented) than the red 1961 Valiant. It wasn’t what I originally had in mind—not a ’60-’62, no pushbuttons—but it really did look to be a creampuff (mmmmm, creampuffs).
My sister was in the middle of a summer stock theatre thing in upstate New York, very close to the border with Ontario, which in turn is very close to Stoney Creek. And we were already planning to go visit her there. H’mmm…! A plot hatched, as plots are wont to do; in the middle of our New York visit, mother and dad and I crossed the border in the rentcar and went to see the Valiant. Left to right here are Mr. Moffat, me, the car, and my dad:
In the seller’s driveway we had our first encounter with the notion and actuality of a “winter car”: a ’79ish Diplomat or Caravelle that was just moth-eaten with rust. Even the vinyl top appeared to be rusting! It was a sort of remote sacrificial anode for the Valiant, which was in astoundingly solid, clean, well-kept condition. A ding here and a scuff there, and the bumper chrome wasn’t the world’s shiniest, and there was a sheetmetal screw drilled through the left “Custom 200” nameplate-cum-fenderside-trim to hold it on. These were the kinds of picky little faults I was finding.
The car was very well kept as close as practicable to original, too, with Chryco and Autopar replacement parts widely in evidence. Those were how “Mopar” was translated into Canadian for many years; I think Mopar was phased into Canadian use very gradually starting maybe in the ’80s, finally shoving the other two brands aside in the early-mid ’90s or so.
The seller didn’t budge much on the price; I don’t (and didn’t) blame him. I think we agreed $3,000 including his trove of parts. He let me dig around his grudge in a kind of impromptu Easter egg hunt. And boy, did it ever yield! Lots of maintenance parts—fuel and air filters, points and condensers, caps and rotors, spark plugs. Many repair parts like voltage regulators, switches, gaskets, a new-in-box carburetor for a later-model Slant-6 car (but not late enough to suit the ’79 Caravelle). He was selling the Valiant because he’d got a new 3-season car just before he retired, a 1990 Caprice Classic (“Chrysler wouldn’t sell me what I wanted any more”), and three cars were one too many.
While I was rooting and pawing around on his upper shelves, separating out the Slant-6 gaskets and other flat-pack parts, I –
came– happened upon his porn stash. He and his wife were standing outside the grudge keeping an eye on me, probably chuckling at my enthusiasm. I think he saw me reaching for that shelf, and I think he was trying to think how to steer me away without calling additional attention to what he was trying to distract from, and I think he saw the moment it was too late to try. He and I made an instant eye-contact pact: I’d pretend not to have seen anything, and he’d pretend not to have noticed me not seeing what I didn’t see.
Mother and dad drove the rentcar and I followed in the Valiant, down the highway back toward the States. I don’t recall any substantial hassle at the border, except the Customs agent scoffed that I’d paid more than the car had cost new. We turned in the rentcar and used the Valiant for the rest of the New York visit, and—the second half of the plot—my sister’s friend’s brother and his buds, who needed a ride back to Denver, would have it in the form of driving the Valiant.
On the plane to New York I’d found and circled a Hemmings ad for a complete factory A/C setup out of a ’65 Dart in Texas. At the airport to head back to Denver, I called the seller in Texas and said I’d take it—$300 plus shipping, I think, about 10% of the purchase price of the car. Not a self-contained knee-knocker add-on, this; it was the whole integral HVAC-D system, complete with all underhood and in-car parts. ’65 was the first year it was available in the A-bodies, and it was a late-availability item at that; not many cars were equipped, and a small proportion of those had the six-cylinder engine. So that was quite a find and I added its fortuitous timing to the list with the others as favourable omens.
The drive to Denver went fine, except the brake pedal gave way when they pulled in for gas at one point. They’d been going slowly enough that they could stop the car with the handbrake and the parking pawl; adding brake fluid to the master cylinder brought the pedal back up and they carried on with no further incidents (whew). It wasn’t long, maybe about a week, before the gang arrived in Denver, and the 15-minute trip from our house to theirs felt like it took at least 15 years. But we eventually got there, and smiles were smiled.
My very first car that I bought for $700 in 1968 after receiving my driver’s license; was a 1966 Dodge Dart, with a Slant 6 engine; automatic transmission. It gave me good service until 1972 when I purchased a 1970 Plymouth Duster .
Another great Saturday Valiant article! My Dad bought a 65 Dart new just after i was born. It was a dark blue four door that is probably the same color as Frank’s car above. I’ve been a Dart and Valiant fan ever since! Thanks for making my Saturday morning enjoyable!
Always wonderful to read your work! That smile of yours is practically glowing in some of those early pictures. I couldn’t wait to read about your first running car and l wasn’t disappointed! I’m sorry about Bob. I remember coming out to my best friend at the time who bemoaned “the man he’d lost” and said maybe he’d talk to me again when I’d “come to my senses.” Well, it’s been years and we never did speak again… I hope he came around in that time and was kinder to the next person to confide in him. Still stings thinking about that last conversation.
I’ve been driving a-bodies since my first purchase of a Dart 170-auto in 1986. But I think in the few years described here, you did more mechanical work on the one car than I’ve done in 35 on six! I’m exhausted! And we still don’t know what happened with the car!
Anyway, thanks for the story, I’m working up to changing my ’63 over to HEIV this summer, following some detailed plans someone you know has provided on line …it needs a tune up, and I’ve but one box of old Brooklyn-made points left!
Someone I know, eh? 🤓
another from my youth, 66 273, tflite, ps,,a/c, just bouhjt, ww’s soon added, lovely car from nice little lady
From your youth? Just bought? That black Ford pickup in the background looks pretty recent. Maybe it was a time traveler?
with my viion problems thought these were my earlier picture, i hsd it in the 70’s , a lady doctor bought from me, got it detailed esacgh year until shp closed, one of lasrt timew was in took pics in same spot as orig for caomparison, still looked the same, forgot she put bw back on,why thioughtwere esarlier pics. DougD ever see the purple/white roof 60 Doge Matasdor 2rt in the yard south of Silvera’s (by 80’s THAT car, wrecked aqua ’56 Tbird and green 65 Raiv rear ended had been mine, inACHICO 61 fury 2gh ,62 300 ht and 63 wildcast ht in yard off fair stwere misadvrmtuures. lucky here cars dont rust ogte4n
Small world, I grew up in Stoney Creek. I don’t recall ever seeing your car but you’d think I’d have noticed a well kept Valiant in the mid 80’s during high school.
And as for safety, my friends and I all drove late 60s early 70s cars too. At least yours wasn’t hideously rusty. We saw lots of cars in our junkyard adventures that had crashed and literally come apart at the seams. It was a different time, extra luck required in those days but still safer than a 1930s car.
sorry wroin Stoney crerek one 20 miles awy
Nice essay and pretty funny German word!
I love the story here .
Those were good cars .
Saturday mornings have become my favorite ones of the week. And this was an exceptionally good one. So much to unpack.
You were actually doing what I was doing mentally at that age, endlessly improving the car of my dreams. And yes, sometimes that doesn’t work out so well. And no, I would never have thought about swapping in the wide ratio gears; that one is a bit of a head-scratcher, but you were probably the only one to ever do that. And prove that it wasn’t a good idea.
I can only imagine the conversations with Bob. I met a somewhat similar guy in Asuza, CA who had a whole big storage lot of Peugeot 404s and his garage was jammed with perfectly organized shelves of parts. Mind boggling. But he wouldn’t sell you a thing unless you met his approval. Meaning you had to prove you were a genuine 404 aficionado. I passed muster. But there was no way he’d consider selling me the 404 Cabriolet rotting in the broiling sun. I wonder what happened to them all; he was getting quite old. His last name was Light. Can’t remember his first right now.
This was perfect for an extended breakfast read as my 68 year-old back is a bit sore from my automotive labors in the driveway yesterday, installing the lift kit for my xB. I got one front side done. It was a bit of a bitch. The backs are supposed to be easy, so I saved them for last. Kind of like eating the spinach first…
I know a guy with a shed that was like that but his passion was the Hillman Superminx endless supply of brand new and good used parts a lot of it unobtainium stuff and though I did buy parts from him I never knew just what he actually had…..
Untill he finally sold me his 66 Superminx wagon and all the parts came with it now they are my problem to store and dispose of the surplus I’ll never need problem is its a limited market survivor wagons number in a handfull over here and they were tough reliable old things that didnt rust too badly so a big supply of spare wagon unique panels are going to be hard to sell.
One of Bob’s stories that stuck with me from his counterman days was how he’d deal with attempts to steal parts: “Okeh, a carburetor, ten dollars, an alternator, ten dollars, and take those parts out of your pockets and put them on the counter so I can see them…thank you, two turn signal lenses, five dollars each, so we’re $30 and tax makes $32.57. From forty, here’s your $7.43 in change”, then he’d pick up the heavy deadblow hammer he kept behind the counter, smash whatever parts had been pocketed or otherwise snuck, and deadpan “Looks like those might be defective. Sorry, no refunds.”
Like your 404 guy, Bob had no patience for people he considered timewasters or otherwise unworthy—even if they wanted to buy parts from his extensive stash; especially if that’s what they led with—so I appreciated his longhand letters and long conversations. But as I say, the friendship ended several times. He went silent after a phone call when I mentioned seeing a rebuilt engine being offered for sale in what I thought might be his vicinity and asked if it was nearby; he’d been well into his nightly bottle of bourbon and misremembered it as my asking him to go buy an engine and deliver it to me. There was no convincing him otherwise. Eventually he “forgave” me, but didn’t really erase the black mark from my permanent record, as it seemed.
There was another very active longtime Slant-6 clubber elsewhere in the bay area, who built amazing project after amazing project while holding down a full-time job and being a present and involved husband and father. When Bob perceived from him a concerned eyebrow raised in re constant drinking, he summarily and permanently ended that many-decade friendship.
Bob wasn’t a bad person. He was badly damaged, and in case it’s not obvious, I have my suspicions about what warped his personality so badly, but we’ll never know.
Thanks for the compliment! I will try to carry on upholding the standard I’ve set. This is the first extensive, deadlined, non-technical writing I’ve done in a very long time, and it’s exercising muscles I’d forgot exist.
(And here I thought off-roading in your xB was an April Fools’ bit!)
(And here I thought off-roading in your xB was an April Fools’ bit!)
All too real.
I’ve certainly enjoyed all your articles, a huge undertaking on your part, and greatly appreciated by us all.
I’ll give you my take on the “Made in Detroit by Idiots”
“Made in Trollhattan by Trolls” was a Saab slogan (official or unofficial, I know not).
Perhaps a bit of ‘merican sarcasm?
There was an official sticker, but there have been some unofficial ones also.
I had a 65 Aussie Valiant an AP6 the model was called nothing like your one either to look at or general condition mine was a well beaten rust bucket, 225 slant six engine that ran beautifully and 3 on the tree.
Bought for $20 with a broken rear uni joint a replacement tailshaft was found in the local rubbish dump and installed and the car was pressed into service as work transport, they were good cars the old slant six Valiants but I prefer the later cars from the 70s with the hemi six and owned several, always well thought of by Kiwis the Aussies didnt seem to get it their preference seemed to be Holdens and Falcons due to the illusion that the were true blue Australian cars,(the power of advertising).
I think the VH-on Valiants were shunned by the market because of their styling rather than not being perceived as being less ‘true blue’. Thanks to a massive advertising campaign we all knew the Hemi engine was Australian, and anyone who read the car magazines knew this was an Aussie-only body, but the ‘fuselage’ Valiants just looked so much bigger than the Holden and Falcon, with such small windows. At a time when people were already feeling the Holden and Falcon were getting too big, the even-bigger-looking Valiant was a hard sell.
I still regret that my cousin with the 1965 Dodge Dart 270 station wagon did not tell me he was selling it because his wife thought it was too ugly. It was a hand-me-down from his Dad who got it as a hand-me-down from his father–in-law. Lots of family history, there! That was a car on which I had done a valve job, too (it had a 273 V-8, not a Slant Six). When it got hit in the left quarter, and State Farm gave up on finding a replacement, I found a Dart 170 wagon in a yard 40 miles away. The car got fresh paint but had nonmatching trim on that quarter panel until it was sold.
They are status-conscious BMW people now. I think one of their BMWs is uglier than a 1965 Dodge Dart.
Oh, so much here. Yes, I too cringe at some of my early automotive jobs. “Leave it the hell alone” did not come easily to me either. Like on my 59 Fury – the temp slider had the “hot” arrow pointing in the direction that was the opposite of hot. So of course I had to fix it. In the end the thing worked exactly the same way, but now the only way to switch away from “defroster” mode was to manually push a rod under the dash because my repair of the brittle 20 year old plastic piece that vacuum hoses attached to was not good enough to make the vacuum controls work as they should have.
And yes, while the logical side of me knows that the direct drive starter is better (faster cranking which is huge on cold days or on a weak battery) I was disappointed that my 59 lacked the reduction gear starter that defined Mopars in my mind.
I also love the old stylized parts logo that used the DDCP letters (which included DeSoto but ignored Imperial). The 20 year old belts and hoses under the hood of my 66 Fury still used that logo, which had to have been about the end of the line for it.
Your heater control Schlimmbesserung is a very close match for my headstrong insistence that it wasn’t enough for stuff to function; it had to be all the way correct, damn the expense and collateral damage.
Let’s resolve that starter conflict for you, though: the direct-drive starter is not better. Aside from being heavier (though there’s that), it applies less torque while a cold engine requires more, and it draws more current while a cold battery provides less. Its current draw drops the line voltage, weakening the ignition system’s output. The gear-reduction starter applies more torque while drawing less current, resulting in more likely starts in any event—especially with a less-than-perfect battery or ignition system.
The gear-reduction starter’s tradeoff of more torque at slower speed is a good one; cranking speed is irrelevant.
That DPCD logo—Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, DeSoto—did indeed stay on a lot of parts long (’70s!) after DeSoto’s demise. I’ve seen people try to retroactively shoehorn Imperial in by pointing to the tall part of the “P”; no sale here on that one. And where’s the V for Valiant? This is invidious discrimination! 🤓
Great story. I remember that yard back west off of Santa Fe. Walking through it was like traveling back in time. There still is a motorcycle scrap yard off of Union and Santa Fe which can be interesting.
Another broken stud story: In autoshop I decided to “rebuild” my ’62 Greenbrier’s engine. Of course I promptly snapped one of the head studs and, much to the autoshop teacher’s dismay, decided to put it back together w/o replacing that stud. Six months later on a cold morning start that cylinder’s head gasket gave away and I drove it like that for another year, with what sounded like a minor exhaust leak. Of course the stale air heater was blowing those combustion byproducts into the cabin whenever I used the heater.
My next car, a 65 Monza convertible blew a fuse and I decided to wrap the blown fuse with aluminum foil, just until I got around to buying a new one. Lots of smoke coming from under the dashboard on the way home from school one day.
It sounds like you had a lot more common sense than I had at 17 years old.
I’ve kind of whipped myself mercilessly here, but I wasn’t a complete screwup. Far from it, actually; I managed to keep two thirty-year-old cars running and driving well most of the time. I might sift in a little balance in the next instalments.
There used to be a whole bunch of yards off Santa Fe—remember Svigel’s? And there was Erie Auto Parts and another I forget the name of in Dacono, and Seven Sons, and …
You actually successfully repaired cars at that age; I broke them.
I remember an import yard up in Erie or thereabouts. It was a good yard with a ton of air cooled VW stock. Svigel’s I think was the one with the fake helicopter out front but it wasn’t nearly as interesting as that other yard on the south side at the end of that same road.
Denver metro area real estate prices are at nose-bleed levels so independent scrap yards have pretty much disappeared, replaced by houses and condos and big box stores.. A few big, hi-turnover corporate yards remain but the more interesting yards are in Wyoming and Utah.
Schlimmbesserung — that’s a great word! I too suffered from the malady at a young age. I recall making things worse with my model cars in a failed attempts to “improve” them. Like scraping off the spray paint on a front fender by using sewing scissors. Or trying to fix a slightly wobbly wheel by making it a loose, more wobbly wheel.
That’s sad about Bob. I had a friend in college whose father threw him out of the house (for good) after he came out.
Your seat belt story reminds me of my 75 Buick that I had purchased from the original owner. As per that era of GM it had the dual retractor single buckle system with the positioning loop on the seat. She was a rather petite woman and found the shoulder harness portion incompatible with her. So she very carefully undid the stitching that attached it to the buckle piece. She then neatly folded up the portion that was left sticking out and sort of stuffed it in the opening. So one of the first things I did to it was find some heavy duty thread, I think it was billed as for carpet, in as close of a color as I could find. It did appear to be very similar in diameter too. I then carefully stitched them back in place doing my best to follow the witness marks left by the original stitching. Thankfully I never put them to the test.
Your picture of the Rotor and box is interesting. DR stands for Delco-Remy which would indicate the original mfg. Plugging that into the cross reference shows that number does indeed fit GM cars (and IH’s which is why the number seemed familiar). However it does not look like the rotor pictured next to the box. The rotor pictured next to the box looks like it is from a Ford 4cy. FF was the prefix from Ford stuff while AL for Auto-Lite meant they were for a Chrysler.
Nuh-uh, you’re looking at the wrong part and putting too much weight on prefixes that only look like they’re a uniform system. They aren’t. DR is the Standard brand’s prefix in many but not all cases for a GM application, but Echlin uses an RR prefix for most of those parts. An “AL” Echlin or Standard part often but not always means a part for a Prestolite (AutoLite) system, MO (Echlin) or CH (Standard) is often but not always for a Chrysler product, etc. This rotor’s Interchanges include Standard № FD-308, Ford № E6FZ-12200-A and a bunch of others, Echlin MO35 and FA154, Chrysler № 33003389 (obviously) and 56027075 and 5142594AA. GM and AC-Delco do not appear to offer this part. Applications are:
• Aerostar ’86-’97
• Bronco ’84-’92
• Bronco II ’85-’90
• E150-250-350 ’84-’96
• Escort ’86-’90
• EXP ’86-’88
• F150 ’84-’97
• F250-350 ’84-’96
• LTD ’84-’86
• Mustang ’84-’90
• Probe ’90-’92
• Ranger ’85-’94
• Taurus ’86-’95
• Tempo ’84-’94
• Thunderbird ’84-’95
• Chicory ’87-’96
• Comanche ’87-’92
• Grand Chicory ’93-’94
• Wagoneer ’87-’90
• Wrangler ’91-’94
• Continental ’88-’94
• B3000 ’94
• Capri ’84-’86
• Cougar ’84-’95
• Lynx ’86-’87
• Marquis ’84-’86
• Sable ’86-’95
• Topaz ’84-’94
• Scorpio ’88-’89
• XR4Ti ’85-’89
Not a single GM application in the bunch!
Standard wasn’t the only brand that used DR to denote it was a GM product even though they could be found on other brands too.
Filko for example and it is for some GMs as well as some Ramblers and IHC who bought their distributors (and other parts) from GM.
Meanwhile Niehoff was one of the others that used the DR prefix but their 143 is a dimmer switch. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Niehoff-Dimmer-Switch-DR-143-55-56-Chevrolet-56-57-Hudson-1956-Nash-NOS/154404930892?hash=item23f340454c:g:iv8AAOSw-npgR-2X
I agree pictured appears to be a “Ford” rotor.
Chrysler did source Ford ignitions in the AMC era, so that would make sense.
The pictured rotor wouldn’t fit a Slant-6 application with “real” Chrysler ignition. I’m not saying that fit was implied for the rotor, I haven’t ready every word nor comment.
“DR” may indicate Distributor Rotor in the numbering scheme, or it may not.
The “Chryco” name appeared in 1938, when Chrysler of Canada started making their own engines. Engine numbers ended with the letter “C” to show it was made in Canada.
Chrysler of Canada pushed Chryco parts through the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. With free trade between and Canada and the U.S., Chrysler Canada began selling Mopar parts in Canada instead of Chryco.
And from 1938 Chrysler of Canada started pushing parts for non-Chrysler cars and trucks. Everything from engine parts, tune-up parts, to even sheet metal parts. In the 1950’s you could buy rocker panels for your Meteor or Pontiac Pathfinder at your Chryco dealer.
And Chrysler of Canada started selling all parts to service stations, brake shops, etc., across Canada. That part of Chrysler’s business was separated under the name Autopar. Pioneer Dodge in Mission B.C. still has their “Autopar – Chryco” sign.
I remember this 1966 Valiant from a couple of decades ago. Very nice condition for the age. At the same time this 1966 was shown to the world, I was driving a 1963 Valiant V-200 sedan – white with rust. Had a small jealous streak as the 1966 was indeed a beauty!
Thanks for this history, Bill!
My Dad bought a 1949 Ford in the late 50’s. It had a little decal in the corner of the windshield that read “Made in Detroit by Idiots.” That is my first memory of seeing the phrase. I’m sure Dad removed the decal quickly as he was a blue collar worker in an iron/steel foundry and would later be an active member of the United Steelworkers of America. These decals and bumper stickers were pretty common in the Midwest around that time. As were the stories about Coke bottles left inside doors and other worker sabotage on assembly lines. What was perceived as the increasingly poor quality of US cars was a constant subject of discussion – I have an old collection of Motor Trends from the period and you can see it there with increasing frequency in the late 50’s and on into the 60’s. I think there also was antipathy toward the UAW and other unions as corruption in some (but far from all) labor leadership was revealed in investigations at the time.
The pictures of your car remind me of how good-looking these “Darts” were. My aunt had an ice blue 64 that I thought was very handsome. My English teacher in high school traded in her 63 (similar color to yours) for a new 67 hardtop in white with a black vinyl top. Nice looking car but IMO not nearly as attractive or a well integrated design as the original. Great Saturday read – looking forward to the sequel.
Have you ever seen the 1986 movie “Gung Ho” with Michael Keaton ?
That – pretty much – reflects Average Joes impressions on how american cars were built. In a hurry, from untrained, unskilled workers, pressed to get the numbers up on the cars that leave the factory. Latest on delivery first parts fall off. If not in the factory already.
And this is still today the impression on most europeans. The most US cars we get to see are the obnoxious Jeeps and Corvettes and Cadillacs or Mustangs. The top of the line – and *they* have a good build-quality, since they are expensive. We barely got to see the bread-and-butter-cars, except from some castrated Mustang II in the mid-70s or some V6 Buicks, low-end Fords, few TranSports or such. And those were by far *not* impressively made.
The two Chryslers I owned were mid-range and so-so. Some potential for optimization, dusted designs and signs of a generous quality control. A japanese quality control manager had committed suicide rather than pushing the car out of the factory in that condition. It needed some rework on both of them to get rid of squeaking interior parts or adjust doors to matching gap levels (which the local dealer did on the red one – and which did the previous owner on the silver one).
And low- to midrange US-cars of the late 80s *still* had some stuff installed european automakers hadn’t used for a decade or longer – like the pull-switch for the lights. The entire dashboard looks pretty dated when the car was new. But – okay – it is from the US. They like that sort of stuff over there … 😉
My first car back in 1978 was a beige 1967 Opel Kadett 2-door limo. I once joked, that the pre-war-era for german automakers essentially ended in 1973 with the presentation of the VW Golf. The Kadett was … very basic. 1100cc / 45 hp / 4-speed manual with a looooong gearstick – half a meter. At least the 2nd half 1967 model had coil springs on the rear axle already, no more leaf springs.
But apart from that: even it was an entry-level model it had an outstanding built-quality. My dad – who drove the car half a year before I got my driving license once complaint about a funny noise. All on that by-then 11 year old car was rock-solid, however dated and less fancy and with no comfort features, but solid. He said it was a noise like a marble rolling around.
One day I lifted up the rear bench. And there it was: a 1 inch glass marble.
It’s not always the automotive workers that louse things up.
Sometimes previous owners kids are also good in that.
Peter from Germany
Your car sputtering to a stop reminded me of when that happened with my Cougar. Had to be in the first year I had it and so one day I went to change the coolant and hoses. For the life of me I couldn’t get the bypass hose off and for whatever reason it didn’t cross my mind to cut it off. So I left it, changed the other two, and filled up the radiator.
Then the next day, maybe, I am on Highway 8 west bound in San Diego passing through Hotel Circle. I’m going to meet someone there as my new job is first to follow him through supermarkets. This is 1970 and I am 16. Right as I get to Hotel Circle the engine stops on the freeway and I manage to coast to the right hand shoulder. Get out, open the hood, and see coolant all over. The bypass hose split open.
What to do? No cell phones or anything else so I leave the car and jump the fence, hike down the embankment, and walk to where I was to me this co-worker. I get him to drive me the 10 miles back to my home where I pick up that bypass hose along with Prestone and water. He drives me back and drops me off next to my car on the shoulder. I open the hood, replace the hose, and fill her up as cars whiz by. A CHP Officer stops, walks around, and asks what I am doing. I tell him and he’s like Ok and then drives off.
I’m ready to start the car and it won’t start. What now? So I open the hood to check ignition. Pop the distributor cap and see a broken rotor somehow. Great now what? So I hope the fence again and walk to a gas station on Hotel Circle Way and see if they have a rotor. They do, I buy it, walk back, hop the fence and install it. Start the car and off I go. Only took about two hours of time. That is the only time the Cougar ever broke down and it broken down because of me. Oh, and ever since I cut those stupid bypass hoses off when I change them out as they always seem to adhere tightly.
I’m surprised no one identified the origin of “Made In Detroit By Idiots” I’m pretty sure it first appeared in MAD magazine. MAD would produce quarterly special editions that would have bonus features like sheets of pre-perforated brightly colored lick and paste stickers bearing witty, snotty, clever and hilarious phrases, slogans puns Etc. Many were of two-part phrases, the first part in large easy to read letters and the second part in smaller letters that forced you to look closer. One of these said proudly:
“MADE IN DETROIT”
I’ve owned lots of Darts and Valiants with both V8s and /6s. I’ve currently got a 65 Dart GT convertible with the HP273 also a 65 Barracuda with 4speed about to receive a built 360, just working out the details of scattershield, external balance flywheel and clutch.
The German language is very good for devising new words. I don’t speak much of it but it seems that can keep adding bits on to a word until you have the word you want. The fun is when you attempt to translate it into another language like English and you get some really interesting and evocative juxtapositions. Schlimmbesserung is an excellent word and I have performed it or have been he who provides it. For me it is usually the result of “just enough knowledge to be dangerous” or knowing just enough to be convinced you have the answer but not having enough experience to know about other possibilities thereby committing yourself to a particular plan of action that leads to failure/disaster. Only then does it occur that you may have been wrong from the very beginning.
I learned some things from this article. I too have salvaged a factory in dash air unit from a 65 Dart. I did not know about the linkage differences although I was planning to install it into a V8 car. Keep writing, man. I can’t wait to read more of your MOPAR A-body stuff.
By the way, is the “Bob” who owned the Valiant wagon from the Bay Area the same Bob who started the Slant 6 Club?I remember finding their flyer under my windshield wiper and ended up meeting the founder of the Bay Area chapter but don’t remember his name. I didn’t join but went to one of their shows. Do you remember what wrecking yard he worked at? Our paths may have crossed there as well.
Mad Magazine, eh? I can believe it.
The V8 ’64-’66 A-bodies got the same cable-type accelerators and throttle linkages as the factory-air ’65-’66s, so you won’t have to deal with that particular rework, though there will be many others. Beyond that, there are ways of improving the system, and ways of making it worse.
The Bay Area was the centroid of the Slant-6 club, which was started in 1980 by Harry Aunes, in the Bay Area. He sold the club to Jack Poehler, of Oregon, in 1985. If I recall correctly, Bob worked for Phelps Auto Wrecking. You might’ve met Doug Dutra, who was a prime mover behind the Bay Area chapter activities—and still is, despite his shop, seven of his eight cars, all his tools and parts, many years of photos and engineering drawings, and a whole lot else having been lost to the recent fires. The pic attached to this comment is what’s left of an aluminum 225 he had on a stand in the shop. X-(
Oh no! That’s terrible. I loved reading some of his articles.
Where did you see his stuff? Over the years, Doug Dutra has put out a vast amount of consistently dependable, unusually high quality advice and expertise, gained by immense experience, on just about every subject related to Slant-6s and A-bodies in everything from grocery-getters to screaming racers. He’s the one who got sought out to rebuild the engine for the XNR.
He’s a peach of a guy, friendly and happy to help out and almost impossible to piss off—even with thoughtless or unreasonable questions. He answered my phone call (at dinnertime, I think), talked me down off my panic, and got me sorted out when my first Slant-6 tappet clearance adjustment went awry—I had been paying such careful attention to alternating 0.010″ and 0.020″ feeler gauges that I’d overlooked the two intakes side-by-side in the middle of the engine, so I’d got half the clearances backward. As soon as I described what the engine was doing, he knew exactly what was wrong, from having answered the same question for many others before. That was among the experiences that inspired my own years of answering questions and helping solve problems in the Slant-6 forums. I’m glad I had Dutra’s counterexample to temper the “Snippy Awards” example Bob set!
(With people like Dutra around, I have no interest and see no point in wasting time listening to some self-impressed dillweed spouting fetid nonsense about Slant-6s on YouTube)
Links to his articles at Valiant.org (IIRC), which I found via allpar. I am a pretty serious (virtual reality) /6 aficionado, and his articles on hopping it up were the best. He’s one of those gems; it was obvious from just his articles.
I haven’t met Doug but hope to one of these days. I know he is a contributor at the “For A Bodies Only” website which I frequent. I always read his posts with great interest. I’m very sorry to learn he was wiped out but fortunately he escaped, injury free I hope. These fires are no joke.
Harry Aunes name rings a bell. I might still have that original Slant6 Club handbill stashed away in a folder. I tend to hang onto stuff like that forever. If I ever find it I’ll send you a copy.
I did occasional business with Phelps Auto Wreckers in San Leandro but didn’t know anyone there personally. Bob’s method of stamping the receipt for “special” customers wasn’t unique, my friend Robert Kennedy, the owner of (now closed) All-Auto in San Francisco used a nearly identical check-out procedure. He added his own flourishes all designed to prolong or intensify the discomfort and humiliation of the guilty party. It made you squirm to see it unleashed to some poor devil.
Most junkyard owners I’ve known have similar, effective customer service tools. The others cultivate hostile, repugnant personalities that keep everyone else at arms length and afraid of “setting the old bastard off'”
H’mmm. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen much (any?) of Doug at FABO, but he is one of the anchors of slantsix.org , where he goes by “Doc” and “Doctor Dodge”.
I sure wouldn’t mind hearing more detailed stories of “customer service” tactics for would-be thieves; some of mine are here.
Hmm, about three years back my upholstery guy bought a 63 Valiant convertible out of Berkeley. He tends to do that when the right one arises and then sells it for maybe a thousand more. He actually asked me if I wanted it. Anyway, he found an older fellow in the South San Francisco area who had a basement full of parts, many NOS, for Valiants and Darts of the first half of the 60s he told me. With the amount of parts he said he had this much older fellow must be on your radar.
I don’t know who that might be. Could be any of numerous people who were involved in the Slant-6 Club in that area over the years, or someone who wasn’t.
Thats some quality read, right up there with the most remarkable of the COAL series here, chapeau!
One tiny nitpick though, the actual expression in day-to-day use would be “Verschlimmbesserung”, we do love us some prefixes indeed.
As for “Built in Detroit by idiots” – I did encouter that phrase quite early and expected it to be more commonly known back home, there are plaques of it, after all.
Thanks, Herman. This page mentions both forms of the word, but this seems to confirm your correction, so I’m fixing the title and text of this post accordingly.
So much history and great stories! .
RE : Bob
In 1967 one of the new inmates was ‘Tommy’ ~ a 12 year old bewildered kid who’d been summarily kicked out of his family’s house when he told them he was queer ~ “gay” wasn’t the same meaning back then .
I wasn’t going to comment on this but it’s sad and wrong to kick your own children out for being fundamentally different ~ I have little doubt anyone chooses to be gay .
O.K. then : cellmates .
I still don’t get what you’re describing. An actual prison, a school, a mental institution, a cafeteria, a car wash…?
I loved your asbestos I could joke! Top class.
»bows, doffs cap«
What a great write up. I could see myself going down the ill conceived modification to improve my vehicles had I had a place to do so and parents that could have indulged a bit. I was certainly a theoretical master mechanic, at least in my head.
Believe it or not, “Made in Wolfsburg by Elves”—the precursor, I thought, to “Made in Trollhatten by Trolls”—has no presence at all on the Web. What gives ?
Try “Made in der forest by der elves ” that’s that the decals said back when .
There were many more….
Not “Made in Wolfsburg by Wolves”?
Yes, I do believe that both my ‘ 66 Dodge Dart , purchased in 1968, (with peeling paint ) was originally painted in dark navy blue paint from the factory, as well as your father’s Dart ; in what is officially called ” DT8332 ” Dodge Dark Blue ; with a Dupont Paint Code # of 4757 & 181-97800 and an Acme-Rogers Paint Co. Code # of #5060; and a Ditzler Paint Code of # 13040.
In 1969, I had my ’66 Dart re-painted in the same color as original ; based on these color codes at a local to me -then- auto body shop. Here is a ’66 Dodge Polara with that same ’66 Dodge Dark Blue .