Curbside Classic: 1974 Plymouth Valiant – “I Just Bought It Yesterday” – Another Young Generation Falls For the Immortal A Body

This is my favorite kind of curbside classic, a twofer in the most poignant way. Not only is the venerable Mopar A- Body (Valiant, Dart, etc.) one of my all time favorites, but this one was just bought the day before by a young guy, for $900 at the St. Vinny’s donation lot. Yippie!!

He’s now joined several previous generations of young adults who fell for the honest simplicity, economy and durable longevity of the A Body, from the time they were new and as soon as they became the cheap used car of choice. Will his generation be the last?

Here’s the enthusiastic new owner and his friend. I found them in the parking lot of Friendly Market, our little neighborhood market and cafe. That means he almost certainly lives nearby, and I’ll get to enjoy the distinctive thrum of a slant six pushing against a Torqueflite, hopefully for some years to come. That’s a cheerful thought, in these less than always cheerful times.

In fact, finding this car and its owner, and hearing how he saw it at St. Vinny’s for sale for $1500, and got it for $900 during the current unpleasantness was a nice mood-booster. The future belongs to them, and life isn’t going to come to a dead halt because of a virus; at least not for them. The old Valiant might come to dead halt one of these days, but it’s in good hands, as his dad has owned a number of old Mopars, and the sacred knowledge of how to keep them running is being passed on to the next generation. Got a spare ballast resistor?

This car is so familiar to me, as way back in about 1979 or 1980, a good friend of ours, a single mom who worked at the little tv station with us in LA needed cheap wheels, and asked me for advice. I helped her find a used Valiant just like this one, except a couple of years younger. It was a stripper, its white paint dulled by the So Cal sunshine. I told her these cars were as reliable as an old refrigerator. And the car was instantly dubbed “The Kelvinator”. I can’t remember if it was her or me that said it first, but it stuck. She even found an old Kelvinator emblem. It served her and her new daughter very well for quite a few years, like almost a decade.

My social distancing was not quite up to spec when I asked if I could get a shot of the interior. A familiar sight, and only lightly changed from my father’s 1968 Dart, except that this one is a lot more cheerful than his black interior was.

I approve of the automatic; it really makes for a more pleasant combination than with the miserable balky non-synchro first gear manual his Dart had. I’ve driven plenty of the 225/TF cars, and it’s quite a pleasant combination, and gives up little or nothing performance-wise. Not that anyone is going to be buying one of these nowadays for its performance potential, although that was once a much more common thing.

Strictly speaking, the 198 inch slant six was standard, but they were hardly ever seen matched up with the TF automatic. And by the mid ’70s, manuals were becoming more rare, although the overdrive versions made a bit of a comeback after the energy crisis.

The cloth upholstery in this one is not the basic stripper version; someone paid extra for the optional deluxe interior. And the leg room looks quite fine, although judging that from a picture can be deceptive, depending on the front seat is set. But the 1974 Valiant did get an additional 1.2″ of leg and knee room in the rear, since it now shared the same 111″ wheelbase body with the Dart. In fact, the differences between the two were now less than ever. You can clearly see that extra length from that gap between the rear of the door and the seat back cushion; in the older Valiant the gap was minimal.

And with that, we bid them goodbye. This car has found the perfect new home, which makes me feel really good. Old Valiants are like puppies at the pound that never age. Who could resist its charms?