(first posted 11/27/2012) A gastroenterologist once told me that a person’s taste in food changes significantly about every seven years. While that assertion seems odd at first blush, I find it credible based on personal experience. Thus am I challenged to apply the principle of the ever-changing palate to other venues: Specifically, can one’s taste in automobiles evolve in a similar way?
I submit that yes, it can change. As proof, I present Example One of Jason’s Theory: This 1972 Plymouth Scamp.
Introduced for the 1971 model year, the 111″ wheelbase Scamp joined the Valiant sedan and Duster two-door as the third variant of Plymouth’s Valiant series. A total of 49,470 Scamps were built for 1972.
As a ’72 model myself, I have vivid memories of seeing these while I was growing up. I never liked them.
Why did I never like them? This may sound superficial, but I hated the tail lights. I simply could not stand such small, uninspired excuses for tail lights–and stuck into the bumper, no less. They looked cheap, geriatric, and like the afterthought they were.
My disdain even encompassed the Dodge Dart, which donated its 1970 tail treatment to the Scamp.
A child’s mind is a thing of wonder and bewilderment. To wit: Although as a four-year-old too young to know about cognitive dissonance, I nonetheless recall automobiles of that part of my life that simply did not jive with my Scamp-phobia.
My maternal grandparents had a 1970 Chevrolet Impala similar to the Caprice pictured above. Gee, those tail lights are stuck into the bumper, aren’t they? Two clumps of three rectangles? How inspiring!
My parents had a base 1973 Ford Torino, in the same fecal-brown metallic as this one. When I think about it now, my tail-light prejudice doesn’t make much sense, does it?
I admit being in awe when I encountered this particular Scamp about two months ago…but why was I? Perhaps time does indeed heal all wounds. Or perhaps I’ve matured (something truly painful for me to admit). In any case, it was a fine example of a model I hadn’t seen in a very long time. This one is quite nice, wears a great color combination, and is for sale.
Soon after I found the Scamp, the pesky little thing infected my brain. I found that out one evening during our seemingly never-ending relocation process, when my wife and I went to view a new-on-the-market house. The house had been built in the 1940s and had a single-car, tuck-under garage and an unfinished basement. As I stood in that basement, I tried hard to figure out how I could fit both my ’63 Ford Galaxie and the Scamp into the available space if I bought the house. Yes, the infection was that bad.
The little Scamp kept hounding me. I kept telling myself that the little lady cost less than $2,800–barely above its original $2,528 base price–and probably with a slant six attached to the automatic transmission. I was tempted. Common sense told me to forget it since I already own four vehicles, but my pictures to share with you had already been captured. What’s a fellow to do?
Many years ago, Packard’s slogan was “Ask The Man Who Owns One”. It is also very sound advice. Having decided to not pursue the Scamp (dammit!), I thought perhaps sharing the first-hand experience of a Scamp owner could at least illustrate the delights of driving one. After countless hours of title searches and researching various online discussion boards, and dozens upon dozens of phone calls and emails, I came across the former owner of a ’71 Scamp who lives in the Indianapolis area. Yes, I was obsessed with this Scamp.
I drove 30 miles north to I-70, then eastbound and down to Hoosier Land. Obsession knows no limits.
It really is a small world. The gentleman I’d located near Indianapolis turned out to be our very own JPCavanaugh.
Sitting down with a case of ice-cold Coors I’d smuggled in, JP and I discussed all things automotive, and his Scamp in particular. I soon learned that the pretty face of the Scamp concealed a few quirks lurking beneath the veneer.
JP said that his Scamp, like most Mopar products of the time, didn’t like cold weather, often stalling after the choke shut down and before the engine was fully warm. It also was hard to start when it was hot. The distributor was prone to collecting moisture, although JP said a shot of WD-40 every few months worked wonders. I’ve known other Mopar owners who went through the same drill with their cars’ slant six engines.
The ’71 Scamp JP had owned was equipped with 9″ drum brakes at all four wheels, which made panic stops worthy of the name as the front end weaved all over the place. Had JP’s Scamp been equipped with 10″ drums, stopping quickly would have involved a smaller pucker factor. The seat material was as confidence-inspiring as the 9″ drums, with every seam splitting after a few years.
In spite of Mopar’s minimalist approach to sound isolation, he loved how the car drove, and was impressed with some of the finer touches Chrysler had included. JP said that few cars of the time had illuminated ignition switches or offered optional fender-mounted turn signal indicators, but his Scamp had them both. Even the windshield washer was operated by a squeeze bulb exempt from electrical and mechanical foibles.
JP concluded that all in all, the Scamp was a great car for a college kid. It was quite simple to work on and always ran as smooth as a baby’s butt, even after 145,000 miles. In fact, he told me it ran much smoother than the Mustang II driven by a friend of his, much to the friend’s annoyance.
Yes, his Scamp was one of many, each with its own unique history, but with just as many commonalities.
For me, the hook is still set. That blasted little Scamp still permeates my thoughts sometimes, and I know it’s only about 10 minutes away from where I am writing this.
The reason for my sudden infatuation with this Scamp has emerged during this journey of discovery. Many people are content with their experiences and never venture beyond them. Familiarity with compacts is something I never really had, although my knowledge has certainly grown since I began frequenting Curbside Classic. While I still don’t have much first-hand experience, I find myself seeking more as I begin to appreciate the real virtues of compacts from this era.
Sometimes, trying a new flavor makes you realize you’ve been missing out on a really good thing.
Plymouth kept the Scamp until the end of the Valiant’s run in 1976. It was then replaced by a true, bona fide Deadly Sin called Volare. Despite my recent tongue-in-cheek CC about the ’78 Aspen wagon, one’s desire to purchase an Aspen / Volare back in the day should have been akin to eating a green tomato–either let it ripen or avoid it entirely. After all, consuming a green tomato can produce some undesirable outcomes.
Indeed, tastes do change. There was a time when I had absolutely no desire for anything classified as a compact. Now that I’ve discovered a succession of compacts in a short time, the car gods seem to be telling me to pay closer attention–and what better way to evolve my tastes than this Scamp?
I want to thank JPCavanaugh for contributing his personal experiences for this article. After several very descriptive emails, I feel as though I actually have driven a Plymouth Scamp.
I see a car like this and dream wistfully after it. I don’t know why; like you, Jason, I disdained such things when they were common on the streets. And boy, were these things common. As in, it seemed like every third car was a Dart/Valiant.
But now, I love the simple and pleasing lines of that looped front end, and the purposeful slant of the C pillar. And the more I read CC, the more charmed I am by the simple Slant Six.
Like the old song goes, it’s got no power windows, got no power brakes, it ain’t got no power nothin’, but it got what it takes.
Is there an echo in here? 🙂 Very nicely done, Jason. Your invitation for an owner’s impressions brought back a flood of memories. After the automotive equivalent of several one night stands, the Scamper set an ownership record (5 years) that was not equaled until years later.
I always preferred the 72 and earlier models. First, the vent windows went away for 1973. I also thought the trim details were cleaner on the older cars. Your last shot reminds me of how, once upon a time, every single one of these on the road had at least one small piece broken out of that very-exposed plastic grille.
This one is fascinating to me for another reason – I am not sure I have ever seen another one with this color combo. Black Scamps were rare enough, but add the white top and interior, and this was highly unusual. I will also confess that the 70-model wheelcovers look badly “off” to me, but it is probably just my over-familiarity with these. I am just glad that this one is not Tawny Gold Metallic with gold vinyl interior, or I might have had to join you in a convoy on the way back to your place.
I agree, I’m liking the early ones better. I’m speculating that part of it is, uh-hum, the tail lights. For ’74 or ’75 (I looked it up, but am forgetful), they started to share the rump treatment of the sedan. The unique factor had been eroded.
Perhaps this is the understatement of the day, but this Scamp is simply a more memorable car that is, say, the Impala I had parked in the background. Yet, will someone wax poetic about an ’08 Impala in another 36 years? I’m skeptical.
It’s odd, but in the same way that black clothes are supposedly slimming, a coat of black paint seems to make almost any car more appealing. A few months ago, there was a black ’81 AMC Spirit on ebay that actually caught my fancy. I strongly doubt that if it had been any other color, I would have given it even the briefest of glances.
I have to admit it, I’m a Scamp fan. I’ve always wanted one since I saw one in South Carolina (I was 19 at the time!) The brakes, the slick design —everything was all spot on with the Scamp… I wanted to take one back with me to BC and cruise around Kelowna with it! I’m still have the Scamp Fever, and if one is in Auto Trader or Hemmings, I’ll snap one up, It’s that good! That’s why this Canadian’s getting a Scamp!
Just wanted to let you know as I was looking through the article, I was thinking that I used to own a car just like that…… Then I looked at the license plate and realized, THAT IS MY OLD CAR!!!! I sold it in late 2011, and have missed that car ever since…… I just bought a 1975 Dart Swinger last month to replace it. It’s very nice to see it’s still in one piece on the other side of the country!!!!
HI JP, this is my black. In his new home in Puerto Rico.
Very nice! Black was a very uncommon color on these, but it really dresses them up.
Although a Pontiac guy at heart I really LOVE that scamp. It has some nice simple, dare I say classy lines, and looks great in that color combo.
I’d love to have it as a summer commuter. I’ll bet it would make a nice occasional 100 mile round trip summer commute more enjoyable than the generic daily drivers of today.
I’m just not sure how I’d introduce it to the rest of the fleet without them sticking their nose up at it.
1972…the last car model year before the earth spun out of its orbit and began to hurl itself toward the sun…
Man oh man…I’m sorely tempted to call that number and buy the car!
Wifey would kill me, though…
Ahem! You mean ’74, right, Z-man? 🙂
Well…the Colonnades came out with the 1973 MY…in September, 1972. For GM, the end.
Love everything about this critter, right down to the hubcaps and whitewalls.
Like Jason, I might have preferred the more muscle car-ish Duster as a yout, but the talller and airier greenhouse of the Scamp/Swinger appeals to me now.
Swapping in front discs shouldn’t be that difficult. The hot start issue should be fixable with some carb work. I know people put thick gaskets under Thermo-Quads to lift the fuel bowl further from the heat of the engine. (And now I defer to BigOldChryslers because he’ll actually know what he’s talking about. 🙂 )
Doubling up on the carb heat shield gasket works wonders on the slant 6, as the carb/intake sits on top of the exhaust manifold. In colder (northern US) climates, a swap back to stock in the fall is necessary. I have mentioned before the unintended benefit that I found – the car would take a 10 degree timing advance without knocking, leading to improved performance AND fuel mileage.
LOL! I somehow missed reading this article the first time ’round! Yep, there are thick gaskets available for insulating the carb from engine heat. You can also buy metal heat shields that sandwich between the intake and the carb, along with regular gaskets on either side.
Hard start when hot issues on carbureted cars are more common now, thanks I presume to ethanol in the gas. It boils away and the carb is empty next time you go to start the car. You’ve probably experienced this with your 440, ImpCapn. I’d love to try one of the thick gaskets or heat shields on my Windsor due to this problem, but with the high rise manifold the air cleaner is too close to the hood.
There are also vented distributor caps available now, which should help with condensation in the distributor cap. Of course, electronic ignition would help as well.
Could you get a 340 (or later, a 360) in the Scamp? A 340 4bbl/4 speed manual equipped Scamp would have been a hot little number in its day.
Scamp wasn’t the best market for a 340.
Dodge put the 340 into the Swinger hardtop thru 1979. When Dodge added the Demon for 1971, the 340 became a Demon exclusive.
340 in Dodge Dart Swinger (or GTS) thru 1970.
I’ve seen much truth in the statement about how tastes change, in both the automotive and culinary factors. Anyways, nice article, interesting context, and did JPCavanaugh and yourself drink any of the Coors you snuck in or not?
Jason wisely kept the beer to himself, as it was necessary to withstand my droning on and on about the Scamper. Had he shared it with me, this piece would have been a week-long series. 🙂
And you didn’t want to give potentially wrong information to him about your ex-scamper(s?) by clouding up your memory with free booze?
I have twelve empty cans in the back of a red F-150. And, Coors always tastes better east of the Mississippi River.
It’s a long trip back from Indy to Jefferson City, I needed something to drink.
Jason, just wondering: Were you able to open and close the doors, and if so, did it sound like two marshmallows crashing together?
Never has there been a less-secure feeling than closing the doors on these things, although my 1976 Dart Lite sounded a bit better, but my 1970 Duster? Wow. I was afraid I might fall out of it during each right turn!
The doors on these always sounded somewhat better than the Dusters did. This body went back to the 1967 Dart, while the Duster came out in 1970, in the thick of the fuselage era. The subjective feel of the body was one of the reason I preferred these older-style hardtops to the more modern Dusters.
JP, you’re right on this. I had to think a while, but my Father-in-law had a 1974 Dart hardtop like exhibit A above. Yes, the doors were MUCH MORE solid and secure-sounding upon closing.
His car? bright, neon-like green w/dark green vinyl top and green interior! Now that was something! Oh, yes…it had a 318 torqueflite and factory air.
I think he must’ve had that car 4 or 5 years, until he switched back to Ford and bought an ex-Hertz 1978 Fairmont. In metallic brown and orange-ish caramel-like interior. Ford couldn’t pull off the nice saddle tan like GM could!
These doors would occasionally pop open, it used to happen on my buddies 72 scamp, other buddies 74 valiant, and on my 71 sport suburban. It always made driving these old Mopars extra exciting.
This was back in the early 90’s the a bodies were still all over the place.
Zackman, I did not open the doors as they were locked. However this car was astoundingly solid and did NOT look restored.
I have long fantasized about preparing a 1963 Valiant 2 dr hardtop with a 225 for attacking the salt at Bonneville.
There is a great website for performance Slant Sixes at:
A true classic car….just watch out for torsion bar anchors that “tear out” from hidden rust.
Very nice little car there. I liked these right up until the crash bumper era.
There are just two details amiss here. First off a brown Scamp needs the “Salt Shaker” hubcaps, you can see them on the blue Valiant ad.
Also I don’t like the way the rear quarter panel looks unsupported on A bodies. Have a look at the first photo, the quarter is just hanging there with nothing behind it.
Anyway, minor quibbles indeed. Somebody buy that!
Actually, the “salt shaker” or “flying saucer” wheelcover was a 71-only design. 72 moved the holes to the outer rim.
This is the nicest Scamp I’ve ever seen & it actually looks sharp. I never cared for the Duster bodystyles or this body after they ruined the front & rear ends in ’73/’74. I totally ignore them at the scrapyard since there were so few option variations. Not offering a clock is unforgivable.
I do like the wheelcovers, color combination & “Scamp” scripts though. The taillights remind me very much of the Matadors of the same year.
Here are those wheelcovers I think you are talking about. Very nice design & I think I have one somewhere. Having collected hubcaps for 35 years I will say that they are extremely difficult to find.
I remember those wheel covers. They were used on Dusters, Valiants and Satellites in 1971. As a kid I thought that they were the ugliest wheel covers I’d ever seen, and my opinion hasn’t changed much over the years. The 1972 design was a MAJOR improvement.
🙂 These and the ’73-4 big Ford base wheelcover make me think “Alien Spacecraft”. Terrible design though as they are easily damaged while on the car as well as while they’re being installed. Even the correct wheelcover mallet will ding these.
Agreed – I always hated the 73-4 Ford WCs as completely without any design interest at all. Now the 71 Mopar flying saucer was a favorite of mine (and was what was fitted to my own Scamp).
I’ve also seen these hubcaps on non-muscle versions of the Barracuda, at least in ads and brochures.
We had a 1971 Scamp. My mother got it new in 1971 with dealer installed air. When she got a new Horizon in 1978, it became my father’s car. When he got a new Lancer in 1985, my sister received the Scamp. My mother bought a Porsche in 1986, the Lancer having undone over fifty years of family loyalty to Mopars in a few months. At that point my sister took the Horizon and the Scamp was all mine. It was cosmetically awful. When it was only 1,000 miles old, it was hit by a car carrier while at the dealer for its first break-in oil change. They rebuilt the right quarter panel out of bondo and painted it a different blue than the rest of the car. My mother backed it into a fire hydrant. My sister never saw a wall or barrier that she didn’t want to test the strength of with that car. My dates’ parents didn’t like the looks of the Scamp, but it was a fun car on the days when it was running. For all of its bullet-proof reputation, ours was a shop rat in its last year and we sold it for $200 with less than 100,000 miles.
Following along until I got to the Lancer. I think that was also the name of the Dodge version of the Valiant until the next one came out and the recycled the Dart name. Turns out that 1985 Lancer was the name reused again (first in the 50’s maybe?) on a sort of Mazda 626ish looking second generation K car. I always like those.
Count me in on the love for the best American car of the era.
The Best American car of this Era? Really? Bold statement….I wouldn’t count this within the top 50 American cars of this era. In fact I would probably take ANY other American car from 1972 before a “ScampliantDart”
What about the 9 inch drum brakes and rear leaf springs? Isn’t that a Deadly Sin already by 1970? Or is that honor reserved only for GM cars?
Not to mention the ultra lazy badge engineering, of course, since regular engineering was already out the window.
Are you taking me seriously again?
Honestly sometimes I can’t tell.
That’s the whole idea. Sometimes even I can’t tell.
Perhaps he was using the metric of customer satisfaction. I understand if it is considered a reprehensible index by champions of Detroit.
I, too, would never give a Scamp or a Swinger a second thought in the 1970’s. Now, they look sweet to me. $ 2,795 would be a small price to pay for some wonderful nostalgia.
The feature car must have had work done to it, especially the interior. I never saw one that the original seats hadn’t been tattered.
A friend’s mother had a Swinger, the A/C was aftermarket from the dealer. Was factory air available?
A/C was available per the brochure. However, I believe that the vents were all in a narrow band that hung under the bottom of the metal dash. In my area, a/c was rare in these, particularly the earlier ones.
Yes, vents across the bottom of the dash with the factory air. But I think it was probably integrated with the heater/vent system. Very common in these in Arizona where I was a kid at the time. I wouldn’t want to own any car of any age without air now.
Back in the early ’90s when I was still in high school, my grandmother had a crazy friend with a very clean big bumpered Dodge Dart Swinger hardtop. I have no idea what it had in it but I’m sure it was a slant six or possibly a 318. One day the crazy friend was at her house and I had to run across town for some reason or another. The crazy lady asked me if I wanted to drive her Dart. I said “No!” and got into my 1980 Mercury Cougar XR-7 (with a lo-po 302 V8) and ran the errand in it instead. Now I completely regret not driving that Dart. I thought the car was terribly uncool at the time but now they’re pretty awesome. I kick myself every time I think about it.
Jason — it’s funny you mention taillights. Taillights and hubcaps were my first childhood obsessions. My four-year-old eyes studied all the gorgeous cars while I was being carted around.
I always associated “nicer” cars as those with longer taillights. The truly exotica were those having six tail AND brake lights such as the original Cougars & ’66-’71 Thunderbirds. My favorite non-exotica taillights were the ’66 – ’73 big Chevrolets and ’67-’68 Mustangs.
The ’65 to ’69 Big Fords intrigued me — how did Ford put the backup light in the middle of the taillight?
The above Torino is one of my favorites as it’s one of the few designs that integrated the reflex into the taillight lense itself thus eliminating the cheap looking separate “reflector part” you see on nearly all vehicles. The ’71 big Fords, ’71/2 big Mercuries, & ’73 Grand Ville are other nice examples of this.
The rear styling of cars is just as “important” to me as the front but it seems like the automakers started placing less emphasis on the rear ends in the mid eighties. I think the last beautiful rear view is the Acura NSX. Everything else is just a mass of blobs.
Junqueboi I can relate!
I know many will chuckle when I mension it, but I was obsessed with headlights and general lighting all together.
I can still remember the first time I saw the “6” headlight (two fogs in the grill) treatment on the 6000 STE’s back in 83ish. For whatever reason I was in love.
When my parents bought an 89 6000 STE with the 6 (grill fogs changed to giant parking lights) headlights plus the factory under bumper fog lights I was in love. Very distinctive at night. Lets not forget the Fiero GT with the light up “Pontiac” in the rear panel also. Must be why I’m obsessed with the dead brand as a whole.
Thanks — I feel better when there’s at least one other person on the planet that shares some of my odd attractions.
Those STEs were very cool. The driving lights were so similar in size and shape to the headlights that it actually made the cars appear as having six headlights. They also gave off a real bright yellow light which you don’t see often.
Back in the late 80’s my stepmother bought a brownish/lavenderish ’84 Sunbird LE Convertible and it also had the yellow driving lights. Although the front of the car didn’t really appeal to me, the driving lights were real cool because they were shaped to fill the inboard area of the grilles. If I was into customizing those lights might look neat on a ’77 or ’78 Firebird nose.
I always preferred the Notchback Fieros but really really liked the lighted “Pontiac” on the GTs — the idea was used on the Sunfires later on.
My dream vehicle was a ’69 or ’70 Cougar XR7 until 1989 when I got my first car which was a rusty light blue ’78 Firebird Esprit. Pontiac has been my favorite marque since then — pretty much anything they built from the mid 60’s to the early 90’s floats my boat (except the RWD X-bodies & Astres).
I wasn’t born until 1973, but I have often pondered about how quad headlights were perceived when they debuted on American cars in 1957. Were they considered grotesque? Bizarre? Ugly? An abomination? I can imagine seeing a car with 4 headlights being really strange after only seeing cars with 2 headlights all my life. I was alive when rectangular headlights made their debut in 1975 but I was too young to remember but I wonder the same thing about the rectangular headlights that were so popular in the ’70s and ’80s. I started noticing cars in the late ’70s so by then, rectangular headlights were the norm. How were quad headlights and rectangular headlights first viewed upon their debuts? I don’t remember a lot about composite headlights in the early ’80s because I didn’t pay much attention to the cars they came with. I was more interested (and still am) in cars from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s.
My grandfather had the Dodge Dart Swinger version. It was the first car I drove on public roads, in Virginia, when I was 15 before I got my permit at the end of that summer back home in California. Green inside and out, slant-six and automatic. But seriously …. Scamp? Swinger? What were they thinking with those names??!! Anyway, I think the Plymouth front end is crisp and clean, and agree there’s a dissonance with the amorphous Dodge rear end.
I guess my problem with these as potential daily drivers, given more modern alternatives, is that I have this silly predilection for feeling like the steering wheel is actually attached to the wheels, which is not an area where vintage Chryslers with power steering distinguish themselves. Admittedly, a lot of domestics of that era are no better, but it’s more frustrating with the A-bodies because the package is otherwise a sensible size and not a bad handler by contemporary standards. With a full-size land yacht, finger-light, numb steering is sort of part of the trip, but something the size of the Dart and Valiant seems like it should do better.
Omitting power steering is not really a solution. I’ve driven Valiants with non-power steering and while it’s not quite as numb as the power, the ratio is so slow that it feels similarly disconnected, just in a different way.
Just curious … is that a modern assessment, or your experience in the ’60’s and ’70’s? I actually did spend some time behind the wheel of various Mopars of the time, with both PS and manual steering, and I thought their steering was much better than any non hi-po Ford or GM. In the late ’70’s I remember being allowed to drive a State University fleet car on a class field trip (can’t imagine today’s insurance regs allowing that!) and being very impressed with the steering and overall handling of what was probably a ’74-’76 Satellite. Perhaps it had the cop car options 🙂 I also put in a few miles on a friend’s non-PS ’64 Dart and though the steering was very slow (6 turns lock-to-lock) it was manageable and road feel was OK. My car at the time was either a Fiesta or Scirocco so I had some decent standard to compare it with.
My mother’s ’73 Coronet wagon’s steering was decidedly better than her ’65. At the time, it felt reasonably decent, for American PS, although GM had raised the bar.
My father had a ’68 Dart with the 170, three-speed manual, and no PS. The steering was pretty slow, which was probably a necessity for old ladies parking requirements. But it had so much more feel than the ’65 Coronet wagon, which was totally numb, as if it had no actual connection to the wheels whatsoever.
Any way you look at it, steering on most American cars of the era was no joy. It was one of the (many) things that really drove folks to imports.
It’s admittedly a modern assessment; I wasn’t old enough to drive in the ’70s.
Again, it’s not that the Chrysler A-bodies were necessarily worse than their domestic contemporaries in terms of steering feel or road manners, it’s more a matter of expectation. When confronting something like, say, an early-’70s B-body Buick, you know what you’re getting into even before you start the engine: Don your life jacket and ask the steward to send you up an iced tea before getting under way, so you can wash down the Dramamine. I certainly wouldn’t be silly enough to expect a ’71 LeSabre to handle like an M5 (or, for that matter, a modern Toyota Avalon).
The issue with the Valiant and Dart is that they can fool you to a point. They’re not that different in size or weight from a modern D-segment sedan (Accord/Camry/Mondeo) and as long as the shocks and tires have been changed in living memory, the A-bodies don’t feel like they should come with a crow’s nest, a captain’s gig, and a contingent of Marines. Then you turn the wheel and the sea shanties start. The handling is decent, really, it’s just that for the uninitiated, the steering — power or not — ends up making you wonder if something has fallen off. (Since I knew someone at one point with a much-modified ’60s Mini whose steering rack once decided to go ashore without leave in the middle of rush hour traffic, this was not a wholly unreasonable fear.) And then of course there were the brakes, at least unless the original owner popped for front discs.
I will freely admit, though, that the Valiant would be a sensible backup to some of the things whose road manners would tempt me more, sillier choices like an Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 or Rover 3500S. I can easily imagine hopping into the Valiant for the umpteenth parts run to repair a down-in-the-mouth Dolomite Sprint and practically hearing the Plymouth sigh in resigned exasperation. Some people never learn…
Chrysler’s “Full Time” power steering was the culprit. I recall reading years ago that there was a patent set to expire in 1952 on a system that provided boost only upon steering input. This allowed road feel on center. GM used this system beginning in 1952, but Chrysler jumped to the front of the line by introducing power steering on its 1951 models. Chrysler got around the patent by providing power boost all the time. They called it “Full Time Power Steering” like it was a great feature, when in truth, it was a compromise to work around a patent. Chrysler kept this system until well into the 70s. My 77 New Yorker was the first Mopar I drove that had some steering feel.
Power steering in these was especially light. Driving position was usually with two fingers on the bottom of the wheel. Parking spinning the wheel with an index finger under one of the spokes. I actually kind of came to like it.
That “issue” is coming back with the new electric power steering they are putting in modern appliances.
My Cruze is guilty of having the crappy electric setup. That is one thing I would option out of if given the choice. Going between an 02 Firehawk and an 11 Cruze in the same day is an eye opener…sometimes if feels as if I will need two hands to make a turn in the Bird.
My 2007 Honda Fit has an electric power steering setup, and it is actually quite good. I actually like it quite a bit better than the hydraulic power steering in my Kia Sedona. Perhaps there is fairly wide variation in the quality of these early electric systems, just as there was in hydraulic systems in the 1960s.
I think Porsches are now electric, so obviously they can be as good as hydraulic.
Does the 2011 Cruze have the same type of electric power steering as the Chevy HHR? I have a 2010 HHR and I understand the power steering is some sort of electric system of some sort but I don’t know the specifics or if there is more than one type of electric power steering system. The steering on the HHR isn’t bad at all.
Speaking of power steering, I’m sure some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention the whine of Ford power steering pumps from the ’70s up into the ’90s. They would all eventually start making this sound whether the pump was damaged or not. Usually it worked just fine, it just made that infamous buzzing noise. I don’t know exactly what years Ford used this design, but my ’62 Galaxie 500 has a totally different design (that didn’t buzz) and our ’95 Taurus did have the “buzzing” power steering pump. I wonder why Ford went so many years without redesigning a part that had such an obvious design flaw in it.
Swinger was a very 60’s name and appealed to ounger buyers. By 1975-76, it was dated. Like old TV variety shows, with tap dancing, at that time.
Scamp name never caught on, and the Duster far overshadows it. Better to just say ‘Valient 2 door’.
I was 15 when I experienced my Grandpa’s Swinger, and he was 72 – I think I was too young, and he was too old, for the name to have any appeal. Especially as we had old family photos of him with pre-war Citroens in China, and a Model A in the States, which were much cooler.
Great piece Jason and no need to apologize for your taillight prejudice. I have a similar disdain for cars that don’t have a passenger side rearview mirror…not for any safety reasons, but something always seems off or not symmetrical to me about a car with only one rearview mirror.
It’s interesting to hear different people’s pet peeves & weird attractions. That could be an interesting (& long — maybe too long) CC thread.
I can relate to your childhood feelings on the Scamp! Although in my case it was the Chrysler-Australia built version, pictured below. I hated the rear wheel-arch shape, hated the indicators in the top of the front fenders, hated the concave rear window, hated the sharp-edged styling… In fact, as a youngster, the Valiant sedan and hardtop scared me – oddly the station wagon didn’t!. The only more scary car was the MkIII Ford Zephyr with it’s evil fins and menacing appearance.
Now, two or three decades later, my vehicular taste has indeed changed! MkIII Zephyrs are fine (MkIII Zodiacs are now sublime), I like the Valiant sedan, and the Valiant hardtop is awesome! It’s lines are so long and sleek looking, with those stylish indicators in the guards, the interesting and appealing rear wheel-arch, the unusual and oh-so-cool concave rear window… The change in taste was gradual, so I don’t know when ‘love’ took over from ‘hate’, but the Valiant is definitely the first car where it happened. 🙂 But then again, the Scamp’s front and rear treatment don’t do it any favours – the Australian Valiant is much better I feel.
NZS, your pictures of the Valiant are awesome. It’s been said here before, but I’ll add to it: I love seeing cars from your part of the planet.
About 8 years ago, I knew a gentleman who emigrated to Australia. On a preliminary trip there, he brought back a trader magazine. I was in awe of how similar the vehicles looked, yet always with a very interesting twist upon what I was accustomed to. You are correct, the versions Down Under were more attractive in some cases.
It’s the same but opposite here – I love seeing the US versions of familiar vehicles! The US versions of pre 1990ish cars are generally much better specced than ours. I occasionally buy a copy of the latest US trader magazines, just to dream some.
Because New Zealand is the land of the used overseas import (which can generally remain LHD if ex-US), we have quite a varied assortment of old to brand new ex-US stock here too. So when I jumped on trademe to find Valiant pics, I found the NZ-new car above (http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/used-cars/chrysler/vf/auction-536986687.htm) as well as an ex-US Scamp nearby: http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/used-cars/chrysler/plymouth/auction-535882766.htm.
I have had a ’69 VF sedan since October 2004 and never once thought about ripping out the 225 and manual box to replace them a 318/904 implant oddly enough. That factory combo is known to me due to my father’s VG wagon at the time, but the 160 hp slant six has it’s own ‘feel’ which is somehow ‘slimmer trimmer fitter lighter’ and better handling, and it DOES have enough power too actually. Possibly the manual drum brakes would struggle to stop the big lump of 318 iron sitting between them..so the 225 it remains.. 🙂
I had a 71 hardtop. The funnest car i ever had, although that did have something to do with that time in my life. Never had any grief with it; base model 245 solid beater. I loved its lines and proportioning.
Three years too late, but Jason – buy this car.
Wow, great find Jason. I always liked these cars, though I’ve never ridden in one. This one has an excellent color combo too. It is well known that I’m a sucker for a white interior! I don’t blame you at all for wanting to buy it. It could keep your Galaxie 500 company!
I am still sorely tempted to call the guy. I’m ten minutes from it. Do I? Do I not? I’m thinking a slant 6 will be easier on fuel than a 352.
True that. It seems pretty low risk. And if you regret it (I doubt it), we’ll let you auction it off here at CC 🙂
Damn, now I’m getting really tempted to go back and see if it’s still there.
I may have to play hooky tomorrow afternoon.
There is a phone number on the sign in the windshield.
That car is super. Do it, you’ll be a happy man.
Do it. I paid $2200 for my ’74 Dart back in September. While it’s a nice car for the money, this one has some more desirable aspects ; 2 door, no rust (or so it seems), pre-battering ram bumpers. Same asking price. I only ran a couple tanks through mine before putting it away for the winter, but it was getting close to 20 in mixed driving.
And as much as I would hate it, there always seem to be people who want to spend crazy money for these so that they can paint it lime green and stuff a 340 in it.
I’m a fairly simple guy; when the Scamp came out I was in 7th grade so very impressionable. A classmate named Linus – his dad sold Plymouths. I dreamed of the metallic green model, pretty basic.
A couple of years later I was actually able to by my first car – a ’66 Belvedere I, 225, three on the tree. Former phone company car – I paid $15 for it and it lasted all summer.
In keeping with the idea of changing tastes, maybe it should have been called the Scampi?
Go on, Get IT!
I drive a 71 Dart every day and fix it up a bit at a time…
IT ALWAYS starts and drives great…
Beautiful vehicle. I came across this page while trying to find more info about it, which it helped out a lot, thank you for that :). We have one and are trying to sell it, and I must say, your page of this really makes me not want to get rid of it >.< But I was wondering if someone can help me out on trying to get the word out. If possible.
Nice story! The Scamp is indeed a infectious little creature!
Here’s mine. With a dash of Toyota 2jZ power!
Simple cars that you can do anything with! They have better than economy car underpinnings and that helps a ton when you want to make them perform.
Everything you said JP is true. That no road feel sacks a huge bit of fun. Even my modded gearbox is just OK and can’t keep up with my pro touring modifications.
Some might cringe at my modding this car. But saving a non-op car from the crusher makes me feel good, like I’m recycling! The car is on Facebook under Scrapyard Scamp if you dare to see more! I wanted to save and mod a car that wasn’t loved like a Camaro or Mustang.
I could of bought a nice used C6 for the same money and had no labor to sink in but it done now. BTW, it’s pretty darn fun to scream around in!
This is a great shot of one of these cars in action.
These cars always look best without the vinyl roofs.
I love the way the trailing edge of the c pillar wraps around giving a tapered effect when viewed from this angle.
I had an 1969 Australian model as my 1st car.
318 TorqueFlite, very fast in a straight line, not so good when the roads got twisty.
About 25 years ago now I bought a ’74 Scamp. (I think of it as a Valiant, really). It had a gem of a 318 V-8, front disk brakes, factory air and just a bit more trim than your typical Valiant. Regardless of the funny Chrysler steering, it handled very well and had more than enough guts.
Like many Chryslers of the time, it had quirks that were often just plain odd. One that comes to mind is that when it rained water would collect somewhere behind the dashboard and, every now and then, drop half a cupfull or so of water right smack onto my right ankle. Since this was the gas pedal foot I had no choice; when it rained I got a wet foot.
Someone above mentioned the torsion bars ripping out of a rusted frame. It never happened to me. But I’ve often wondered if this wasn’t a weakness of the front torsion bar suspension. It’s a neat idea. But I can’t help thinking a coil spring isn’t a simpler way to go.
Anyway, I’ve now reached the point that I’ve owned quite a number of cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles, etc,. There is not a single one –including a ’68 Firebird 350– that I miss more than the Valiant. Maybe my old ’67 Ford 100 pickup. It was pretty sweet, too. But no…..I miss the Valiant more.
It’s now two years later than your original post. I hope you bought that Scamp.
I would have been highly tempted as well.
And the price sounds like a steal.
“Introduced for the 1971 model year, the 111″ wheelbase Scamp joined the Valiant sedan and Duster two-door as the third variant of Plymouth’s Valiant series.”
Sooooo….it’s a Valiant variant then.
I believe that principle is true with many things. Tastes in everything changes. What you may like now, you may dislike later. 30+ yrs ago, I preferred Japanese cars, Toyotas, Datsuns (Nissan), Subaru, and Mitsubishi. Today, I’m more interested in American cars of 30-40 yrs ago or earlier.
Nothing’s changed for me, in that the size of my 63 Valiant Signet, it’s simplicity and room have been the ideal for my car purchases over the last 35 years. Even the 72 would be bigger than I’d want to go, but an Avenger seems to be about the same length.
But given the bloated and inefficient larger offerings on the market at the time, there was no more sensible choice on the market at the time. Their virtues are still relevant today.
The 68-75 A bodies all seemed too anonymous in their styling at the time, but given the crimes against sheetmetal being committed today, they look downright elegant, well proportioned and clean.
I’ve ridden in a four door avocado green with green vinyl top as a friend’s passenger and an identical one in my driver’s ed classes.
Solid, honest value, easy to repair, economical no nonsense cars. The A bodies were one of Chrysler’s best efforts.
The A-bodies having missed the long hood/short deck bandwagon, although it dinged the pre-70 Barracuda badly, worked in the sedans’ favor and didn’t hold back the Duster/Demon/Dart Sport. The 111″ hardtop coupes were the slowest sellers of the three and it makes me wonder why they weren’t phased out.
Put us all out of our misery and buy it! Now, if you have not done so already. Here in Australia you would have to pay at least $10k for a clapped out edition of the local version and then you would spend twice as much again to put it right. You are lucky to have the opportunity, especially at that price!
Now here is my theory about why so many of us – myself included – didn’t like them then, but do now……I reckon it was the people we knew who bought them new!
Case in point: here we didn’t have all the variants, just Chrysler Valiants which were available in three body styles by the late 60’s, 4 door sedan, hardtop 2 door and a wagon. Their competitors were the Falcon and the GM Holden. Holden did not offer a 2 door hardtop, Ford did for a while until 1965 and again from 1972. Holden was the really big seller, the Falcon was next then the valiant a distant third – they were priced in this order too, with the Valiant being most expensive, albeit by a very small margin.
As a pre-teenager, it seemed to me that Holdens were the “old reliable” but slightly boring choice, Falcon was for people who wanted something a bit more stylish and with a greater array of options and the Valiant….well people who bought those either enjoyed telling you it cost them a bit more, or they were old! I recall at a typical 60’s summer poolside party at our place (complete with bikini clad go go dancers in cages!) a neighbour telling my father he bought the Valiant “sure it cost more, but it’s like a Mercedes – even looks like one”. My fathers reply was something like “why not just get a Mercedes then?” which sort of ended the discussion.
Then there was the old guy up the road who had a Valiant wagon. A nicer guy you could not find anywhere – he used to stop and give me a lift if he saw me walking home from school. I was always grateful for the lift, but thought the car was boring, in an old folks kind of way.
So there you have it – as a child, I thought Valiants were for old people and those who had something to prove (but did not want to fork out for a Mercdes!).
Now I look at that Scamp and think what a lovely expression of the late 60’s era. Now, if I get one of those cars and park it by the pool all I need are some go-go dancers…….
My two semester college car was a ’75 model, cloth interior with a fold down armrest front seat, Mopar’s under rated 318 V8 engine, Torqueflite tranny, factory A/C, power disc brakes, dark green with beige interior and black vinyl top. A rather “loaded” car with options.
With 130K on it it was “well broke in to the saddle”. But properly tuned up it started quickly, idled smooth and was a peppy performer (for 1982). Multiple, patient, repeated fussing with the automatic choke linkage FINALLY got rid of the often mentioned hesitation/dying problem when not quite warmed up. If I stayed close to the double nickel speed limit (plus 5 perhaps) it gave 18 to 20 mpg on my all interstate run to/from home on college weekends.
Yes, the power steering was quite numb and “old lady easy”. But same generation Mavericks, and Torinos of the same era were little (if any) better. Novas and other GM cars has much better power steering, of course. It always seemed like GM was one generation ahead of Mopar and FoMoCo with it’s power steering back then. After a while I “got used” to the power assist.
The factory A/C, SO very necessary in perpetually Hot & Humid New Orleans, was the same narrow width band of vents at the bottom of the dashboard this basic Mopar Valiant/Dart body had used since…1965?? (IDK). It was integrated with the dashboard HVAC controls & worked quickly & frigidly after being topped off with the old R11 Freon. Even with it’s generous window area the interior always stayed cooled and dehumidified. With a new fan clutch, flushed out radiator and a 180 degree thermostat this car NEVER overheated, regardless of exterior temperature or traffic jams.
The brakes stopped ok in a straight line (power assisted disc on front, drums on rear), but did have a rear wheels lock up that required delicate brake pedal modulation to avoid. Eventually I adapted my right foot to do so.
I liked the large, square speedometer and the water temp & amp meter that was not available, even as an option on the Novas and Mavericks of this time period.
Mopar’s “reference standard” TorqueFlite automatic shifted quickly, but not roughly, with perfect part throttle downshifts available with a slight throttle nudge. Mavericks seemed to shift slower/softer and “slurrrped” into gear changes by comparison. And as for the 2 speed “slip ‘n slide” PowerGlides on the late 1960’s/early 1970’s Novas……well, what CAN I say….
It was an honest 4 passenger car, with no back seat complaints, had a huge trunk capacity that belied it’s trim exterior size.
It’s top-of-fender mounted turn signals always received “what-the-hell-is-THAT” comments from non-car buff people.
In spite of Mopar’s troubled reputation and it’s V8 engine, when I foolishly sold it in 1983 the first serious person who looked at it bought it, with only a token $50.00 concession off my asking price.
One of the “I-Wish-I-Wudda-Kept-It” cars that I have owned.
My first car was a ’72 Dart Swinger, white with a black top. The 318 V8 made the car a blast to drive.
Great article that brought back fond memories.
I somehow missed reading this article until now. Starting with the rant about the taillights, my first thought was, “They’re almost the same as a contemporary Torino”, which you eventually concluded as well.
My beef is with typical Chevy taillights… generic looking round lights that often look like an afterthought and could’ve been installed in the body with a hole saw.
I did most of my learning to drive in a white over black Swinger with black interior and a 318. The driving school owner was the guy who taught me and because my parents were making me wait until I was 17 (That plan went away when my dad wrecked his ’69 Caddy after passing out from heart troubles and blasting a power pole, causing a fair chunk of Toledo ‘s power to go out, and he lost his insurance) they kept me from bugging them too much by booking hour upon hour of driving lessons. We would get into one of the Scamps and drive all over the area. One time, we ended up eating at some Chinese place in Detroit. He would just navigate after about the fifth time we went out, making a couple of comments when I did something wrong, “Your parents are just wasting money at this point, you’re beyond ready to get your license!”. A day after my dad wrecked his car, I took the test in one of the Scamps, and passed with no problem. I always kind of wanted one, but the Duster was better looking to me, and I liked the B-bodies better yet, so the Scamp wasn’t even on my radar.
Great article and great car. I assume most guys and gals of a “certain age” have a Valiant/Duster/Dart/Demon beater story. Mine was a B5 blue 68 Signet, slant 6, Torqueflight. As I look back on the series of cars I had prior to going into the service – 64 Fairlane, 69 Delta 88, 72 Firebird, 74 Charger, it is that Valiant that sticks with me today – because unlike every one of those other cars, that Valiant never let me down – always started, always ran…..
And if I could have any of of them today, I’d pick that Valiant.
Oh, what three years’ perspective will do. The daughter in college is all over getting her first car, and despite all of my practical advice, keeps insisting that she wants something “old and cool”. I am going to hang tough here, but if I were to crack, something like this would be just the ticket. Solid, 3 point belts/head rests, and a zero learning curve for Dad when the inevitable repair for an old car comes along. And it wouldn’t be impossible to sell when she comes to her senses.
So are you saying she’s like her father when it comes to enjoying and wanting to drive the older (and more interesting) iron? 🙂
I had a 69 Valiant Signet, with a white interior, and it looks like Chrysler didn’t spend a dime on any changes until the Valiant Brougham arrived a few years after this Scamp.
Living in Florida, I never had the starting problems these were notorious for, or they were never bad enough for me to remember.
What I do remember about my Valiant was something “shared” with most domestic cars of this period: a looseness about the straight-ahead to the steering.
The rear end reminds me of the 1970 or 71 AMC Matador.
Some one from Chrysler was looking over the AMC fence when designing the rear end.
Totally. I’m glad someone else said this.
Count me in as one who used to dislike these cars as a teen in high school. My buddy had a 1974 brown Scamp with the same basic interior as this car. The manual drum brakes relegated it to death trap status in my eyes, the engine ticked and clattered incessantly, it loved to stall in the morning and ran like crap until fully warmed up. The bench seat was not at all comfortable or supportive, wind leaks were everywhere, the grille was missing several slats, the power steering was terrible and flaccid and had zero feedback and rust holes were all over the rear quarters.
Fast forward 2years later when said friend got a full time job after high school while attending college part time and he still had that same car. But it was a much improved one. He had an old timer adjust the valves (Slant sixes didn’t get hydraulics until 1981) and carburetor, put some new suspension components in, upgraded the tires, had the seat re-done and replaced the rear quarters. He also replaced all the door seals and trunk seal with new Felpro gaskets from JC Whitney. It drove and felt like a totally different car. I could swear he dropped a V8 underhood as this didn’t sound or feel like any Slant six I had ever driven before. It was as smooth as silk with no clicks or ticks and really moved that car out well. The steering and handling were better. Wind noise was down and the car looked really sharp with the new painted rear quarters and all it’s wheels covers in place. Even the seats seemed a lot better but that was not surprising considering that the person that did the re-upholstering also replaced the shot cushioning. Instead of sinking down in the seat you sat right up with a much better view.
Needless to say my opinion of these changed quite a bit after my friend performed the above upgrades and I now look on them with much more fondness! That plus one of my favorite 70’s movies features a certain burnt orange sedan version of this car in all it’s Duel glory. Whats not to like?
Great piece, Jason, and great collaborative effort with Mr. Cavanaugh. Completely agree with the premise that while I wouldn’t have looked at this car twice when I was a teen or 20-something, I like it a lot now – especially in this color combo and shape it’s in.
I recently spotted (and photographed) a black, similar-era Dodge Dart Swinger – which I hope to write up – and it struck me that even with limited sheetmetal differentiation between the Dodge and the Plymouth, they appear to have completely different personalities. While the Plymouth looks friendly and likeable, the Dodge looks like it would be waiting to pick a fight with you after school – which is in keeping with their divisional identities within Chrysler Corporation. I’ve got more research to do for that entry, but I look forward to writing it as a companion piece to your fine entry here.
Definitely a great article. I’ve never driven a Scamp/Valiant, though I’ve spent quite a bit of time in its platform-mate Dart, as my Dad owned one (a ’74? sedan) in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I was too young to remember it, but perhaps it’s in my DNA somewhere…
The styling of these hardtops is great in so many ways, but that concave rear window treatment might be my favorite detail.
Loved the article! Enjoyed all of the comments too. Neighbor had a well kept light green one of these back in the late 70’s and would wave to us as she drove by our bus stop in the am. I too like these way more now than I did back then.
I have two scamps, always been a B body guy until one day last year, my son was looking for a dart and came across a 1972 Scamp with 25000 original miles on it.
We bought it for $2200 and the bottom was mint and the interior was mint! Some rust on front lower fender and opposite rear lower quarter. B1 blue with white vinyl top, B5 hounds tooth interior. Slant six auto. Ran perfect. Working on the body now. Keeping this one stock.
2nd Scamp I purchased out of NY. 1971 white with black vinyl top. This one peaked my curiosity? Bucket seat, floor shifter with AC Slant six, auto. Mint bottom, very nice exterior, black interior needs a little TLC, not much. Paid $2500 for it this year. Ran poorly, this one is getting my Stroker 416, 727, A body 8 3/4″ with 3:55’s. I love both of these Scamps and intend to drive them and enjoy them for quite some time.
One reason compacts of this era are more appealing now than they were when they were new is because back then, they were considered small cars. Today, they would be considered mid-sized to large cars. The 1971 Plymouth Scamp was a mere 3 inches shorter than the 2018 Honda Accord and the wheelbase is .4 inches shorter. These were not small cars by today’s standards. They were considered tinny and cheap and small in their day but now they are considered rather large cars and that is part of the reason the attitudes towards cars like this has changed over the years.
Plymouth engineers in the late 1960s started developing a coupe version of the Valiant in a clandestine way and the development was done with very little money and hidden from the bigwigs. When the development team revealed what they had built, management signed off on it and the 1970 Duster was born. The Duster was really a de facto replacement for the smaller A body Barracuda from ’64-’69 rather than an all-new model. Nearly 200,000 of them were sold in 1970 and Dodge decided it wanted in on the action. Of course, back in those days Dodge got what Dodge wanted and the 1971 Demon was born. After a couple of years, some religious wackos threw a hissy fit about the “Demon” name and it was changed to the anodyne “Dart Sport”. How does this fit into the Scamp story? Since Dodge got its Duster Plymouth got a version of the two door hardtop Dart in 1971 which was known as the Scamp. The Dart was based on a 111″ wheelbase while the Valiant was based on a 108″ wheelbase. The Demon/Dart Sport had the 108″ wheelbase of the Valiant while the Scamp had the 111″ wheelbase, betraying its Dodge roots.
Gotta love the scamp!
Aside from the obvious problems with putting a safety device made of easily-broken plastic in such a too-low, hit-prone location, these A-body items’ recessed design makes them collect snow. Wrong way to do it!
That said, I’ve long preferred the ’70 Dart and ’71-’73 Scamp rear bumper and one-per-side taillights (one relatively large lamp per side) over the ’71-’73 Dart setup (two miniature ones per side).
Fun bit of trivia: the ’70 Dart lamps and the ’71-’73 Scamp lamps are interchangeable as assemblies or just the lenses, but they’re not the same. The ’70 housings are made of potmetal and have fresnel optics in the lens—round bullseye magnifier in line with the bulb, surrounded by concentric rings focused to gather and diffract the light coming directly off the filament; this is in addition to the light collected and sent out by the reflector bowl behind the bulb. The ’71-’73 housings are plastic, with conventional spreader optics; the reflector bowl behind the lens does the whole job of collecting the bulb’s light.
That certainly answered all my questions about Valiant/Dart rear lamps 😉
How Jason didn’t buy it at it’s $2795 price, which was a screaming deal, is beyond me.
I’ve been an appreciative nerd for the 71-72 Scamps since they were new. Although the taillamps in the bumper styling bothered me a bit on Chevys and Fords, I ate it up on the Scamp. I thought then and now that they were a very clean looking transport. Perhaps in the same ilk as a 242 Volvo. “I’m cool enough and not trying to impress”.
Two different friends had Scamps from that era as new cars. As a result, I spent a fair amount of time riding in one. I recall that I drove them both on a couple of occasions. One, a slightly warmed over 318, the other a slant. Not ill-handling cars, but basic coupe stuff. 9-inch drums were unforgivable, at least at the same level as the 10-inch rear drums on my ’82 D150.
Later in the ’70’s, I had a ’70 Coronet for a couple of years and my Dad had a ’73 Sebring Satellite. Those cars were actually nice handling cars for their size and solid highway runners. Both were 318 coupes. The Coronet seemed more stiffly sprung. I was upset with Chrysler for some time for putting an A904 trans behind my ’70 318. That failed at about 80k mi. Inexplicably, it did have an 8.75 rear differential. I suppose that was for convenience, also covering the new 360 and the 383.
The 9-inch drums were passably adequate on the lightweight ’60-’62 A-bodies in ’60s traffic, but not on these heavier ’70s models even in ’70s traffic, let alone later than that.
Never much liked the Scamp. Maybe it was the name. In the rebranding 1971 trade-off between the Scamp and Demon, Plymouth got the short end of the stick. While the Demon was a satisfying redo of the Duster, the Scamp fell short when compared to the Swinger. Seems like the Scamp got with much less effort. The Scamp’s Swinger-like taillights didn’t help when the Demon got a more distinctive rear end when compared to the Duster.
I’d love to see overall 2-door A-body sales figures between 1970 and 1971 to see if the addition of the Scamp and Demon actually made a difference between the two years. I’d be willing to bet they didn’t.
With that said, there was one bright spot in 1974 when the Valiant Brougham edition appeared on the Scamp. A Brougham-edition for the much sportier Duster certainly wouldn’t have been appropriate.
Properly optioned (318 V8 engine, torqueflite automatic, power steering, power front disc brakes, upscale interior, 3.23 final drive ratio) these Scamps/Swingers were quite pleasant and peppy to drive out in the real world.
A well balanced car with room inside for 4 full sized Americans and a trunk that was surprisingly large inside.
My neighbors had a 72+ Scamp in line green. We had a 72 Chevy Kingswood wagon. On day my mother was backing the Chevy out of the driveway and just tapped the door of the Scamp. The door folded up like tissue paper. The Chevy has a tiny speck of green paint on the bumper. Hmm. It wasn’t until 30+ years later that my sister admitted they it was her that was driving the Chevy and not my mother. They both keep that secret from my father, my brothers and me for all that time. The women stuck together
So my cousin sent me this article. I’ve owned a 72 Scamp since I was 14. I am now 32. The Scamp was more in line with the budget than even the Dusters or Darts at the time. I fell in love when my neighbors friend had one with baby moons. Mine came with hubcaps and a 2bbl 318. It’s since gotten a rebuilt drivetrain (still 318) and some black rallyes. Always liked the body lines and actually the taillights were one of my favorite parts of it Jason lol. I do have a love/hate with the scamps and it’s just the fact no one knows what it is. I generally tell people I have a Dart. Then if they know cars I have to say well it’s actually a Scamp. Thanks for the article.
The Scamp wasn’t as popular as Dart Swinger, with Duster outselling Demon/Dart Sport. Hence why ” …no one knows what [Scamp] is …”. Hardly saw any Scamps [more like a Valiant 2 door really] in Chicago area compared to Dusters and Swingers.
Back then, some Dodge dealers simply advertised them as “Swingers”. My aunt wanted a new ’73, but uncle liked full size cars and bought a used ’69 Fury. I remember an exchange “Honey, here’s an ad for a new Swinger for $XX99” He replied, “And they add $100 for a steering wheel!”.