Lakebed Classic: The Remains of the [Updated with answer]

Original post: There’s enough evidence here to ID the make, model, and year of these car remains found in a dry lakebed. The actual, singular year, not a year range. Do you see it? Show your work (state what supports your answer). No peeking at the comments on YouTube!

And now, the exciting conclusion: Several guesses were correct, but none identified the evidence showing it is was a 1960 Valiant, not a 1961.

Firstly, take a look at that Slant-6 engine (0:00, 0:06, 0:10, 0:15, 0:36). It’s a lump of rust…except the intake manifold, which has none. That’s because it’s aluminum. In its first year of 1960, the Slant-6 had an aluminum intake manifold. Chrysler bought them from nine different foundries—some sandcast, some semipermanent-mould cast—and still couldn’t get enough of them to meet projected demand for Slant-6 engines, so for 1961 an iron intake was substituted. Barring the ’60-’61 long-ram Hyper-Pak intake, there wouldn’t be another factory aluminum intake on a Slant-6 engine until the 1976 Plymouth Feather Duster & Dodge Dart Lite.

There were comments on the cat’s-eye taillamps (0:55) and the stainless steel hoop from the spare-tire deck lid (0:50), but those are common to ’60 and ’61 Valiants. We can’t really tell if this was a basic V-100 model or a de luxe V-200, because while early-production V-200s also got a smaller inner trim ring on the deck lid, it was deleted along with the front fendertop “shark fin” trim before very much of the ’60 model year had passed.

There was a comment about the instrument cluster housing (0:40, 1:01), but that’s not injection-moulded plastic—the faceplate was, but it’s not present. The housing is actually cast metal covered with surprisingly durable and protective white (likely lead) paint. And in this instrument cluster lies the other clue that this was a ’60: note the three tunnels  above the central blue gauge light bulb dome. The central one’s for the high-beam indicator, flanked by left and right turn signal pilot lights. The cluster and circuitry was cost-reduced by perhaps 1.3¢ for ’61 by dint of a single turn signal pilot that flashed whether a left or right was being indicated; ’61 clusters have only two of the three tunnels we see here.

So there it is: your (over)dose of early A-body and Slant-6 minutiæ for the week!