As 2022 came to a close, I had received an invite to a New Year’s Eve party for the first time in several years. The pandemic was still very much a concern as 2020 wrapped up, and while my social media news feeds made me aware of a few gatherings taking place to ring in 2021, there was nowhere near the amount of partying going on at that time as there had been in years past. At the end of 2021, the Omicron variant had reared its ugly head, which I’m sure had put the kibosh on the NYE plans of many. The end of 2022 just over a couple of weeks ago seemed like the first “normal” year-end since 2019. A lot can happen in three years.
Marketing gave the illustrated test Valiant a tough, durable appearance…
which was not dissimilar from that of our featured car.
Following a voluntary decision to initially take a break from alcohol back in February of 2020, this eventually morphed into the decision to cut it loose on a permanent basis, as I’ve made reference to a few times here at CC. Even though my alcohol consumption had previously been limited to only weekends and holidays (almost exclusively), it didn’t take too long for me to find all the intrinsic benefits of complete abstinence, none the least of which was more money in my pocket. Drinking isn’t a problem until it becomes a problem, as it has been said. Before you stop reading, understand that this isn’t about me drink-shaming anyone or advocating for a second wave of prohibition. I love being around my friends, whether they drink alcohol or not, and I find value in those social interactions. You do you.
As previously spotted in Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, October 25, 2009.
There’s that whole period after you’ve made a life decision like quitting alcohol where you and your friends are feeling each other out. Have you talked to Joe lately? Is he going to be all intense and weird now that he’s not drinking anymore? This goes both ways, as I’ve had to evaluate if I would be able to handle being around certain individuals absent a certain level of intoxication to make their personalities more palatable. (Life lesson: If this is ever the case, you don’t need such people around you. Show them the door.)
I also didn’t want to come across as someone who was “repenting” of all the good times I had ever had while imbibing at bars with friends. I’m sure I’ve made mention of a few of those nights even here at CC. Even while on my Las Vegas vacations (sober) during the past couple of years with some of my oldest friends, we’ll still occasionally laugh so hard at some of our old adventures that I’ve come close to snorting my mocktail out of my nostrils in a burst of laughter. Nowadays, though, an accurate distillation of where I am at present is a much calmer, toned-down place that’s still full of fun, adventure, and contentment.
It took bravery to declutter certain aspects of my social life, risking exclusion, and to stick with those decisions, not knowing how those around me at the time would react to my new choices. I needn’t have worried. Some people fell away, and it didn’t take too long to figure out which individuals had wanted me around only as a party-pal. My social circle did get smaller, for sure, but the quality of those remaining relationships improved or deepened in ways I hadn’t fully anticipated at the beginning of that process.
Roughly three years ago, I had written about how the ’62 Plymouth Valiant appeared to be doing too much. Hidden under that wild, out-there styling was a package that was well-engineered, reliable, likable, and efficient. Even after my fourth or fifth shot of Jameson, I was still a really nice guy. Honest. Empaths make the best drinking partners because we care and listen, and everybody in the bar has got a story. It’s why many people drink.
Enter the second-generation ’63 Valiant, radically toned down, on a 106-inch wheelbase that was half an inch shorter than the outgoing model. It featured a much more rectilinear shape and details than the curvy, first-generation “Forward Look” cars. Powerplants were carried over, with two Slant Six engines displacing 170 and 225 cubes, rated at 101 and 145 horsepower, respectively. Both the standard manual transmission and optional TorqueFlite automatic had three forward gears. Our featured car is one of about 30,900 top-line Valiant Signet 200 hardtop coupes sold that year, representing about 13.7% of total production.
Buyers responded well to the new, more minimalist ’63 design to the tune of just over 225,000 units, up 43% (~67,900) from the prior year. Even if the outgoing Valiant was in its third year by ’62, increased sales of 251,000 for ’64 showed that the new model’s popularity was no fluke, aided as it was by the addition of an newly available, 273-cubic inch V8 with 180 horsepower, as well as the Barracuda fastback (23,400 units) that was still technically part of the Valiant line that year.
Coincidentally, Barracuda sales would almost triple for ’65, to 64,600 units. Though the Barracuda never posed any significant sales threat to the Ford Mustang, I think it’s noteworthy that ’65 Mustang fastback sales, at 77,000 for its slightly abbreviated model year run, were only 20% higher than those of the single-body-style Barracuda. Getting back to the Valiant, ’65 sales were again respectable, at 167,000, even with the Barracuda broken out into its own production numbers that year.
In a few, significant ways, transformations in my own life over the past few years have mirrored that of the ’62 Valiant into the more conservative-looking ’63. No longer prone to “doing too much” in social settings, I have found that most people have responded warmly to who, what, and where I find myself today, regardless of whether or in what capacity they had known me before. Even as I think about individuals whom I have admired, quiet confidence often resonates much more effectively with me than loud revelry. To my fellow “practiced extroverts” who know how to turn it on and off in social settings, understand that you have an ally in me. And to anyone considering making any kind of positive change in this new year, consider me the (imperfect) proof that anything is possible. Just be brave. Be valiant.
Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, October 11, 2014.
Brochure photos were as courtesy of www.oldcarbrochures.org.