Curbside Classic: 1970 Plymouth Valiant – Edna Gets Her Car Tuned-Up

Edna was a fixture in her small, Midwestern town.  For many, many moons she had been the music teacher at the local public school.  She was also known for her 1970 Plymouth Valiant.

Several people wondered if Edna had actually ever driven her Plymouth Valiant anywhere outside their town of 450 persons.  They had never seen it move except on the coldest and wettest days when Edna would not walk across the small town to get to the school.  In the summer time, Edna could be seen working in her large garden, and the Plymouth sat unattended in Edna’s carport.

Or so people thought.

Edna did drive her car a little bit.  But every so often, she could tell that it didn’t seem to run as well or as smoothly as she thought it should.  To her, it just didn’t seem to have the pep she thought the 225 cubic inch (3.7-liter) slant six should possess.  That is when she sought a tune-up for her Valiant.

Edna’s late husband, the town barber, had known every man in the community.  And there was only one person her late husband would trust to work on his car – Gerald, a man who lived way out in the woods off a series of gravel roads.  So on those occasions when the Valiant was sputtering, Edna would call Gerald.  Gerald had the magic touch.

One morning, Edna called Gerald.  She told him she was going to make the 90 minute trip to see her daughter and she thought the Valiant would benefit from one of his tune-ups.  Gerald said he would be by later in the morning to retrieve it.

Just before lunch, Gerald pulled up in his old Ford one-ton truck with his helper Randy.  Edna handed Gerald the keys and he drove it back to his shop with Randy following in the Ford.  Edna was right, Gerald thought to himself, it’s not running very well.  Once back at the shop, the process began.

“Randy, you do such a good job on these tune-ups.  Have at it, make Edna proud,” Gerald knowingly said.  He had never told Randy what to do, but he knew exactly what Randy would do.  Gerald was no dummy.

“Okay, boss, you got it!  It’ll take me a few hours, you know,” Randy said.

“Oh, that’s not a problem, Randy.  Take the time you need.  You do seem to have a knack for Edna’s car.”

Randy opened the hood on Edna’s car.  He shook his head at what he viewed.  Randy, owner of a ’71 Road Runner, saw no earthly reason why anyone would waste their time with a pedestrian six cylinder.  But Randy did know enough to realize that Chrysler’s slant six was an engine that taunted you to abuse it.  Randy knew Edna certainly abused her engine by never driving it any distance with any frequency.

One by one, Randy pulled out each spark plug to check for carbon.  When all was okay, he pulled the car out to the gas pumps.  Randy carefully put together what he called “The Edna Concoction”.  It consisted of one part regular gasoline, four parts racing fuel, and a quart of fuel treatment.  Firing the Valiant up again, Randy eased out toward the paved road.

As soon as the car was fully on dry pavement, Randy grinned devilishly and shoved his foot to the firewall.  The old slant six paused, lurched, and then coughed.  After a brief moment of hesitation, it took off as best it could muster.  Randy kept his foot on the floor waiting for “The Edna Concoction” to get thoroughly sloshed around in the fuel tank and go to work.  Randy kept his foot on the floor as the old slant six was working its way out of its carbon induced misery.  As Randy looked down, the speedometer hit 40 mph, then 50, then 60, and kept climbing toward 70.  As soon as it hit 70, Randy slammed on the brakes.

When the old Valiant was almost to a stop, Randy grinned again and shoved his foot to the floor to repeat the process.  His method was to do this about 12 to 15 times then turn around and drive as fast as the old Valiant was capable for the trip back toward town.  Just shy of getting there, Randy would turn around to perform this operation two more times.  By the end of the third trip, Randy could really tell the difference.  He never told Gerald what he did.

As Randy pulled back to the shop, Gerald smiled to himself, figuring Randy probably had had the exhaust manifold on the engine cherry red for quite a while.  Gerald had always been of the opinion there was nothing Randy could do to damage Edna’s slant six as that engine was as close to indestructible as ever there was.  Gerald also knew that Edna’s Valiant needed to be driven and Randy was taking out his frustrations with Edna on her car.  Edna had given Randy many a paddling for his blatantly singing falsetto and changing the lyrics during his years of her music classes.

Gerald figured it was a win-win for everyone involved.

Randy relished the thought of getting something over on Miss Edna.

Edna was never the wiser.  She just knew her Valiant ran a lot better.

Edna’s Valiant was one of 50,810 Valiant sedans Plymouth built in 1970, a volume of just over one-quarter the number of Dusters that were sold.  About the only option Edna had on her car was the 145 gross horsepower 225 (3.7 liter) slant six; a 125 gross horsepower 198 cubic inch (3.3 liter) slant six was standard.  The nearly equally trusty and ready for torture 318 cubic inch (5.2 liter) V8 was also optional on the 108″ wheelbase Valiant; this engine was rated at 230 gross horsepower.

At a base price of $2250, the Valiant was still a car that could be purchased for less than a dollar per pound as it weighed 2835 pounds (or about 1285 kilograms).

I got really excited when I found this car, because inspiration hit immediately.  It was found outside of a car show I was attending here in Jefferson City.  Upon spotting it, I scurried across the capital lawn to snap a few pictures.  Oddly, it left a bigger positive impression on me than any of the modified cars in attendance – or maybe not so oddly.  This Valiant was unabashedly pure in what it was intended to be and nobody has altered it or hijacked its intended purpose.  After seeing so many cars that had been modified within an inch of their existence, this was a breath of fresh air.