Given how fundamentally similar most full-sized American cars were, it’s refreshing to see how relatively different their 1960 compacts came out, given that they all had roughly the same brief. The Corvair was of course quite unique. The Falcon was utterly pragmatic, and as minimalist as possible, resulting in the lightest weight and modest dynamic qualities. How best to describe the Valiant?
Certainly different from the other two, most of all in its bold but challenging styling by Virgil Exner. It was also more ambitious, with a longer and heavier body, a bigger engine, and a more capable suspension. The standard floor shift for the manual transmission was an odd throw-back, limiting room in the front seat to two. Its fuel economy was mediocre. As were aspects of its assembly and certain materials. If it hadn’t been for those, Motor Life said “it would rank as one of the most excellent motor cars made in America”.
There’s no critique given of the Valiant’s bold styling. The Motor Life editors were more open-minded than the public, undoubtedly. Their only comment was “The Valiant looks like a big car. It appears to be longer, wider and higher than the other new compacts”. It was four inches longer than the Corvair and three more than the Falcon. Width was actually the same as the Falcon, but three inches less than the slender Corvair. And it was actually an inch lower than the Falcon, but of course still over two inches taller than the very low Corvair.
As to performance, the Valiant was “easily the quickest car in the compact class”, which assumes they excluded the Lark V8 from that category. The tester had the floor-shifted three speed manual, and first was described as “punchy”, “a second gear that winds and winds”, and a well-chosen final drive ratio of 3.55.” That last bit about the axle ratio was undoubtedly a dig at the Falcon’s too high 3.10 ratio, and its resultant sluggishness.
And it probably doesn’t need repeating, but in terms of handling “The Valiant handles very well and probably the best in its class…it will handle as well as a good gran turismo, and when forced into a fast bend, comes out going the same way”. That last line is undoubtedly a dig at the Corvair, with its terminal oversteer.
Fuel consumption was 20.0 mpg for the test, well below that of the Falcon’s, and on par with the automatic transmission Corvair.
As to quality, ML noted that “for too many years, Chrysler cars have run third in quality ratings…in 1959 and 1960 there were substantial improvements in both materials and assembly. But the Valiant, unfortunately, is not off to a good start.” Suddenly it’s 1957, again!
The Valiant’s interior design is “neat, and functional, and a comfortable place to spend long hours behind the wheel”.
Foot room was adequate front and rear, and the rear seat could sit three in a pinch.
The instrument panel was praised for being functional and compact.
The new 170 CID slant six was rated at 101 (gross) hp @4400 rpm. “It is responsive for its 170 cubic inches and propels the car in a fashion that belies its size. The top end potential is probably 100 mph”.
The summation: “The Valiant is unique—there is nothing else quite like it anywhere in the world. And if it is to be compared to anything else, it would be a European vehicle, rather than a domestic one. If it is successful, and the prospects are good, then it may become the first of a whole new trend in automobiles.”
This is an interesting observation, but it didn’t quite turn out as it might have. The ’60-’62 Valiant was a relatively modest seller, with its sales dropping in both 1961 and 1962. The Corvair handily outsold the Valiant and the Lancer combined during those years. But starting with the 1963 restyle, it slowly worked its way into greater success.
But I read “it may become the first of a whole new trend in automobiles” as something the Corvair did instead, by morphing into a genuine sporty car. And of course the Falcon morphed into the madly successful Mustang in response. Yes, there was the Barracuda, but realistically it was a sales dud too, as it was really no more than a Valiant with a big glassy fastback. It came into its own after 1967, but it was always more of a follower than a leader.
But what if Chrysler had turned the Valiant’s excellent underpinnings into a genuine gran turismo? As in a bold new sporty coupe in 1961, instead of the rather awkward hardtop coupe that was just a sedan without the pillars.
Virgil Exner wanted badly to build a genuine sports car; his earlier Falcon almost made it to production. In 1960 he used the new Valiant as a basis for his XNR concept. It was another two seat sports car, with a very hot Hyper-Pak slant six under the hood. Styling was classic Exner, and it was of course not put into production.
But what if Exner had been able to design a more palatable sporty coupe? The Valiant already had the long-hood, short-deck proportions of a pony car. It shouldn’t have been all that expensive.
And if that loop front bumper had been put to good use, it might have presaged certain Mopar coupes ten years later. A guy can dream, eh?
But yes, the Valiant had the best underpinnings of the three to potentially create “the first of a whole new trend in automobiles.”
Off on a road trip with the new Valiant. And the author gets pulled over by an Ohio State trooper, who just wants to check it out. Now that doesn’t happen anymore.
One undisputed win over the other two: the Valiant has by far the biggest and most usable luggage compartment, with the spare under the floor of the trunk. And the handling came in for more lavish praise “magnificent“. The ride is on the firm side, which undoubtedly has to do with its handling prowess. And the brakes are “better than any car in its class“. But fuel economy was still middling, at 20.2 mpg for the 607 mile trip.
The author has some doubts about the engine’s 101 hp rating: “but it is generally believed that the rating is low, and the true figure is 10 to 15 hp more”. Now that’s an interesting observation, as the 170’s rating did suddenly jump up to 115 hp in 1967, without any apparent changes (although I’ve been told there were some minor ones). Still, the fact is that the 170 was a little dynamo, especially if it was uncorked with a bigger car and some headers.
The optional Hyper-Pak, which included a new intake, a four barrel carb, and a split header bumped power to 148 hp, more than enough for the Valiants to trounce the Falcons and Corvairs in NASCAR’s new compact stock car class. Even a stock 170 could rev to 6000 after a good tune-up. I certainly learned to make the most of it in my father’s ’68 Dart.
It is interesting to contrast the view from 1960 with the view from today (or even 1970). When the car was new, it was seen as stylish. Of course, look at what else was around in 1960 and the car looks clean and modern. But we all know that Bill Mitchell and the guys at Ford took styling in a completely different direction, leaving Exner’s vision all alone on a dead-end street.
It is also interesting how their impression of the car was “European”. Really, it seems to me that they took the best of Europe and of America in this car – a first-rate chassis and space-efficiency of a good European car of the day and the power of an American one. Chrysler solved the problem of the 3 speed stick the old fashioned way – by mating it to the kind of engine that didn’t need the extra gear (unlike Ford or Chevrolet). Also, it seems like the editors recognized (without saying) that a well executed “traditional” layout was superior to a compromised version of an innovative setup as in the Corvair.
Yes, the Corvair outsold it, but every Chevrolet vastly outsold every comparable offering from Chrysler in those days. Swap labels and showrooms and I suspect the results would be reversed. And Valiant was hurt by its styling. It was unique and modern (for a very brief time) but it was not beautiful. As Falcon proved, conventional is an easy sell.
The Valiant’s 3 speed floor shifter was a much more pleasing and direct shifting unit when compared to the slow and sloppy (even when brand new) 3 speed column shifting unit in the Falcon.
The Valiant got caught up in the reorganization of Chrysler’s dealer body. The corporation’s attempt to market it as a separate marque didn’t help matters.
For 1960, Chrysler took the Plymouth franchise away from its Dodge dealers, and gave them the full-size Dart as a replacement. Meanwhile, it tried to establish the Valiant as a separate marque, with the tagline, “Nobody’s Kid Brother.” But it was only sold through dealers with Plymouth franchises. So was it a Plymouth? There was no question that the Corvair was a Chevrolet, and the Falcon a Ford.
The full-size 1960 Plymouth sold poorly – it was handily beaten by the new Dodge Dart in sales – so to boost Plymouth’s sales tally, the corporation added Valiant’s sales to those of the full-size Plymouth for 1960. For 1961, Chrysler gave in to the inevitable and sold it as the Plymouth Valiant. Which is what it should have done from the beginning.
My family owned two 1960 Valiants, one in 1963-65 and the other around 1967.
They were always referred to as “Plymouth Valiant.”
As a kid, the lack of Plymouth badging never registered with me…it was a PLYMOUTH Valiant.
It was only in the last ten years that I learned the fascinating story behind the marketing of the 1960 model and it all makes sense, especially once I read the backstories of turmoil and restructuring at ChryCo.
Now, it’s fascinating to me to think back on how my parents and grandparents referred to those 1960 models so soon after the fact.
It is interesting how the body is sculpted to maximize interior volume. How much was lost in space and aerodynamic efficiency when Valiants moved to more conventional and boxy styling?
I’m not sure if any of them were wind-tunnel tested. In terms of space utilization note how much the doors continue to taper outwards below the base of the windows. They likely just flattened those out to give the car a box-atop-a-box look without reducing interior space or making expensive changes to the understructure of the unibody.
Certainly the original styling dated quickly, but the basic mechanicals lasted more than fifteen years and Chrysler would’ve been wise to continue and refine them even longer rather than start from scratch with the F-Body program only to do it again one design cycle later with the K-cars.
Those hubcaps are ugly, even with trim rings. Here’s an example where they really do look like poverty caps. The manufacturers went a long way in making hubcaps look a lot better in the later sixties (especially Chrysler).
Something’s weird about those interior pics. In the first shot, the car looks to have a floor shift, albeit an automatic (you can just make out the shift pattern on the knob). But in the next pic, the floor shift is missing, and it has the period-correct automatic push-buttons to the left of the instrument cluster.
The pic of the spare trunk shows the spare tire very low, seemingly where the gas tank would normally be. Was the gas tank forward of that? If so, Chrysler was way ahead in mounting the gas tank in a position not as likely to rupture and explode when pushed into the rear axle in a rear end collision, a la Pinto.
And it’s worth noting that the Valiant so dominated the new NASCAR compact class that, IIRC, it only lasted for two races. The televised inaugural race was quite boring with the viewers treated to watching a bunch of Valiants run around a circle track for a couple of hours.
Those interior shots are from 2 different cars. The first is a manual shifted car with no radio, the second is a more highly optioned automatic.
The hell you say! Those flying-saucer hubcaps are cool and excellent, with or without a trim ring. I’ve got one made into a clock. They’re a whole lot more interesting than many/most of the much plainer subsequent centre caps.
There were no floorshift automatics in ’60 Valiants—offhand, I can’t think of an automatic with a floor-mounted shifter in any 1960 car, and Chrysler Corp’s first floor-shift automatics were in a few sporty ’64 models. The car pictured here with a floor shifter has a 3-speed manual transmission.
The fuel tank is indeed ahead of the spare tire well.
The Corvette pioneered the floorshift automatic and I think it was still the only one in 1960.
I think those hubcaps look best without trim rings
.I like them with the wheels in body color and whitewalls
I’ve never figured out what question Chrysler was trying to answer. The other two questions are clear. GM was answering “Can you make a VW?” which was the wrong question. Ford was answering “Can you make a Rambler?” which was the right question.
Valiant didn’t seem to be an answer or a copy of anything people wanted. Like all ’60 Chrysler products, it was technically superior, but most people don’t want technical excellence. The Slant Six turned out to be a real answer to the real desire for durability, but that wasn’t obvious at first.
How about, “Can you make a Studebaker?”.
I read that McNamara drew the design for the Falcon on a napkin – in under a minute – just the same Ford, but shrunken
Chrysler claimed the Valiant was the first car developed using computers extensively – thousands of hours
I love the way the Valiant looks, the Falcon looks dumpy
and it was
Tom McCahill was very impressed w/ the Valiant – he did notice that the slant six made the Valiant handle a little differently when making a right or left turn – but still proclaimed it the top of its class
From what I’ve read, McNamara listed a series of specifications and performance metrics on the napkin, which he then handed to a subordinate with instructions that those were the targets that the new small Ford was to meet.
If I had been new car shopping in the fall of 1959:
I would had judged the Falcon too dull & plain looking and Ice Wagon SLOW (automatic transmission equipped).
I would had judged the Corvair too plain & cheap looking inside (where you do spend most of your driving time).
The Valiant would had been my choice based on: Acceleration, engine, suspension, the superior THREE speed Torqueflite automatic transmission and the option of power steering for the wife or arthritis suffers.
By 1965, with the introduction of the second generation Corvair; I would go for it.
So can we all agree the Valiant was the winner here? 😀
In my driveway, at least.
I wonder if American cars would have maintained their prestige if the Valiant had been received better. It was so much more ambitious and bold than the frumpy, pedestrian Falcon. The Corvair was obsolete during conception, the glory days of air cooling and rear engines coming to an end with Detroit’s engine casting methods and Issigonis’ packaging innovations. It would be impossible to minimize the styling brilliance of the Corvair though, such was its influence world-wide.
So the American consumers were faced with choosing between an lovely antique Chevy, a price tag from Ford, and a car sized to serve small families efficiently while advancing American road-holding and needing only fit and finish tweaks to measure up to European executive saloons. Had consumers chosen well, and Chrysler solved their parts acquisition and assembly issues, maybe US cars wouldn’t have become dinosaurs. Instead the Mustang sold by being a pretty wrapper on a minimum viable product, and Detroit stopped worrying about advancing the substance of their offerings.
“minimum viable product”
THANK YOU for that. It’s a concept I’ve had for years, but never had a proper name for.
I owned a ’61 V 200 , one of the best cars I have ever had (I am 82 and have had a few!).Wonderful pushbutton tranny w/the park engage, carefully copied with the h/vac controls opposite.Very roomy, great trunk,enough power.I opened it up ONCE on a quiet Vermont road going past 90 I let up the gas.Only added what were then bumpers similar to those of NYC cabs to protect that tender curved back metal, too close to the standard bumper.Quite well put together overall. Gas mileage?remember the cost per gallon back then, not a concern.Small details were well worked out.
Also owned a ’61 – back when it was 10 years old. Mine had the 3 speed on the floor. Could eat Corvairs, Falcons and Ramblers on the straights and most anything else on the curves. Great car, but being Wisconsin, it was rusting something terrible. Had to junk it when the front seat started falling through what was left of the floor boards. Because it was worth so little, I figured I might as well have some fun before scrapping it. Me and a friend spent a weekend dishing out every sort of abuse. Couldn’t kill the thing. That little six was ticking a bit by Monday, but it made it to the scrapyard under its own power. By that time, the driveshaft was scraping the middle of the front seat frame and we had lost the exhaust running over stuff. Amazing we didn’t gas ourselves.
The Valiant was haunted by the ghosts of Mopars past. According to the May 1960 Popular Mechanics Owners Report on the Valiant, 20 percent of owners complained of poor workmanship, and 19.6 percent complained of water leaks. Those are high percentages, even for an all-new car during that era.
If the 1957 Mopar owned by your friends, family or co-workers was already rusting, and had been plagued by water leaks from the beginning, and your friend’s spiffy new Valiant was leaking, too, that wouldn’t encourage you to give the Valiant a chance. Lots of potential buyers aren’t going to put up with serious water leaks, even with the car’s handling and performance besting its direct competitors.
And the combination of quality woes (even if only perceived) and the “out-front” styling would be enough to deter lots of people. People will buy an odd looking car that is really great, or a beautiful car that has a questionable record, but generally not both at the same time.
Just think – ten years earlier Chrysler had been No. 2 of the big three and must have had a lot of former owners who would have been well-disposed to the cars if they could have shaken the quality woes.
It didn’t help that Chrysler had to rush development of the Valiant in order to introduce it in the fall of 1959. The corporation thus repeated the major mistake it made with the 1957 line, although in this case it was trying to match a deadline set by the competition.
One of the few older domestic CC’s that I have some behind-the-wheel experience with, though very little. Our neighbors when I was growing up, who were there when my parents moved in in 1953, and were still there until the patriarch, a wonderful man, an engineer who walked everywhere and hated to drive, passed away just a year or two ago. Unusual in Berkeley, they were a domestic car family until the end. Their first car that I remember was a ‘53 Chevy, later joined by a Valiant of this generation. They kept the Valiant a long time, and I had a chance to drive it a few times after getting my license in the early seventies. I still have memories of the push button transmission and Park toggle, the smoothness of the slant six compared to the fours I was used to, and the slow slow slow unassisted steering.
A few years after the Valiant joined the family, the ‘53 Chevy was replaced by a ‘64 Chevy, and then a ‘72 LTD. I’m pretty sure the Valiant stuck around until after I left home in ‘78, but eventually it was gone and at some point in the late eighties or early nineties, the LTD was replaced by an Escort. Five cars in sixty years, and I think the Valiant lasted the longest.
The first-generation Valiant’s twin, the repackaged Dodge Lancer (for 1961) looked several degrees better: More coherent front end with less-prominent neantherthal “eyebrows” and the headlights integrated into the grille area; no toilet seat trunk lid, and no goofy cat’s eye tail lights. An example of a rebadge that improves upon the original, IMO.
Good call on the Lancer cleaning up the Valiant’s front and rear.
Still, one can’t help but wonder how much better sales might have been if the first gen A-body had looked like the 1963 car (also an Exner design,).
I (still) wouldn’t want to live in a world where the ’60-’62 Valiant-Lancer cars looked like the ’63 Drabmobiles.
1 The 63 threw the baby out with the bath water, they took a “too expressive” design and made it so deliberately dull that the Falcon and Rambler were more interesting to look at. It was hardly the subdued class of some toned down designs of the era(61 continental)
The Lancer replacing Dart was good though, but other than the Barracuda and Duster the Valiant line was Rambler level dorky to the end.
not a Valiant but do you remember the Mannix Dart GTS?
hot hot hot
somewhat modified, but the regular Dart GTS w/ the 340 was better than any Falcon I remember
as Ford dropped the Falcon more or less in favor of the fair-haired Mustang
Yep, I said the Dart was good after 63, it was the Valiant line settled into being a plain pillared sedan with unexpressive styling. Even the Falcon had a hardtop Futura until 1966, you had to go to Dodge and get a Dart to find the equivalent of that in an A body.
Edit, for some reason the plus symbol disappeared from my above post, which was “plus 1”
the first Charger was a V8 Dart
weird that the Valiant Duster 340 is so highly regarded today while the Dart version, the Demon or Sport, never did well
I guess the Duster occupied that space first and the Dodge never caught on
The Valiant line included a hardtop and convertible through 1966. The Falcon lost all but pillared styles after ’65.
I’m ambivalent about the Lancer’s front end treatment, as I don’t think the front end is the weak or weird point on the Valiant design, its in the rear and arguably the body sculpting. The rear of the Lancer is much improved without the toilet seat and round taillights that deemphasize the stubby little fins, it’s still weird looking but not a dealbreaker
For ’62, the Valiant had a one year design that cleaned up the look. While I love me some cat eyes, I find the 62 refresh a good compromise in style.
I forgot about the 62s, good catch. Interestingly the comet post Paul just put up today got me thinking about cats eye taillights and the 62 Comets similarly went to rounds under the old fin lines they were positioned.
Definitely an improvement over Valiant. I captured this one in SoCal traffic years back – from an angle that shows the cleaner details that David notes.
I never realized until now how Lark-esque the Valiant’s front end was.
I remember reading that piece. Fascinating. A little like the ’49 Ford and ’50 Studebaker.
For 1967 all Slant-6s got a revised combustion chamber shape to eliminate dead/quenchout zones for more complete combustion. This was touted as an emissions-reduction measure, but surely also would have improved output a bit. The marquee upgrade to the 170 for 1967 was that it got the 225’s larger carburetor, with their 1.6875″ throttle bore. The difference was minor—previously the 170s had a carburetor with a 1.5625″ throttle bore. So an 8% larger throttle bore, surely not enough to unleash 14 more horses.
Given the demonstrably fictitious nature of published horsepower figures at that time, at least from Chrysler, it seems most likely the original 101 and the later 115 were strategic, marketing-friendly figures close enough to a dyno test’s results not to be too implausible.
I knew you’d chime in on this, as you had mentioned this once before. As to combustion chamber changes, it’s questionable whether it would have increased performance. The 225’s rating certainly didn’t go up, FWIW. But the bigger carb bore would have, but as you noted, not likely a full 15% increase.
The original 170’s 101 hp rating is a bit suspect. Maybe they were wanting to be sure it was a bit more if either the Falcon or Corvair came out with 100 hp?
But it’s all speculation. I’m more inclined to think that hp ratings for the sixes and low-end V8s back then were fairly accurate, as there was generally little or no incentive to either boost or sandbag them.
Here’s why I regard the figures as perhaps less than completely truthful: the 225 1bbl engine’s published rating was 145 bhp and 215 lb·ft from 1960 clear through 1971. That’s with nominal compression ratios that varied from 8.2 to 8.5, three different camshafts installed with various timing, dozens of different ignition advance curves, dozens of different carburetors, and around 8 significantly different emission control packages. Given that the 170’s published power changed from 101 bhp to 115 bhp in 1967 when it was given the 225-sized carburetor and the upgraded camshaft the 225 had received for 1965 (forgot to mention that bit—240° intake duration, 236° exhaust duration, 16° overlap, 0.395″ lift versus 232°/228°/8°/0.365″), the published numbers look too convenient to be called closer than approximate. They’re also suspiciously round in the case of the 225, and the “101” figure for the 170 reads to me like a literal one-up for the marketability of “more than a hundred”.
GM did thorough tests of a 1961 225 engine and came up with horsepower and torque figures that very closely matched those published by Chrysler for the 225 in truck and industrial applications, configured and equipped just about identically to the passenger car engine in all the ways that mattered to output. Those numbers were both lower and less round (didn’t end in tidy little 5s) than the numbers Chrysler published for the same engine in cars. That looks to me like it was decided that the only real purpose of a horsepower number on a passenger car is to sell the car, while people specifying industrial-commercial engines have a genuine need to know what they’re actually getting.
Well of course any two random engines off the line would likely vary in their output by up to 5 hp or so.
The 225 truck engine was rated at 140 hp, so if that’s what GM got on the dyno, that was close enough.
I don’t mean the A100-D100 types; I’m talking about the big trucks and industrial applications, wherein the 225 was rated at 127 horsepower—within 1 hp of what GM found on the ’61 passenger car motor they tested.
I just perused a Dodge Medium duty ruck brochure. As I remembered, the “225 Premium”, which is the heavy duty version, was rated at 140 gross hp. Unfortunately, no net hp rating was given. I suspect that would likely have been about 118-120 hp. (My Ford 240 six was rated at 155/129 gross/net). Net hp was provided to truck operators back then for obvious reasons. Not necessarily in the brochure, but on the manufacturer’s plate.
I also found the slantsix.org posting where you mentioned about Chrysler testing the 225 at GM’s testing facilities. But I saw a bunch or orange (or red) flags with that.
First off, there was zero reason for Chrysler to go to GM as Chrysler absolutely had plenty of dyno facilities.
Second, you say “gross hp, with air cleaner removed”. I can assure that gross hp, as per the SAE standards, involved a whole lot more than removing the air cleaner. No fan, no alternator, no exhaust system (open headers), or any other peripherals, and perhaps most importantly, the ignition advanced (from stock setting) to the maximum that the engine could take. Essentially it’s how a specially-prepared drag race engine would be set up.
There’s no indication as to precisely how that engine was set up. So without documentation of that as well as to which SAE standard (yes, there were standards for these hp tests), I cannot take the results fro it to be meaningful.
Dyno tests, unless done to a consistent standard (including adjustments for air density) are unfortunately meaningless except for relative purposes, meaning to use to compare the relative impact of what various modifications have on the power output.
Here’s my take: although it’s known that manufacturers fudged on advertised gross hp ratings on some of the high-performance V8 engines in the late ’60s, specifically because of serious backlash from insurance companies, I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume that all hp numbers are bunk. Far from it. I’m more inclined to believe them, unless I have a good reason to not do so, and there’s usually some good evidence in those situations.
The 225 /6 consistently performed about as well or better in similar sized cars against the sixes from the competition. Why would the 226 make only 127 gross hp when the Chevy 230 made 145 gross, and the 240 Ford 155? Yet the 225 was highly competitive as it had a relatively well-breathing 12 port head and a better than average intake manifold.
As to the 127 hp industrial 225 (I’ve been able to find zero reference to a 127 hp truck 225), industrial engines by their nature were typically set up to run at a lower power peak, since they might well have to run at that day in and day out. There’s a number of ways to accomplish that, even if the “basic specs” look the same. One would have to dig a bit deeper into that.
What are your sources about that GM dyno test? It doesn’t pass the smell test, with me anyway.
I always found it interesting that the horsepower and torque numbers were identical on the 2 bbl versions of the 1966 318 poly and the 1967 318 LA, right down to the rpm peaks. 230 @ 4400, 340 @ 2400. I always figured there was more input from sales and advertising than from engineering in those figures (that went back to 1959).
I agree, that’s another good example. The industrial-commercial 318-2bbl, configured very similarly to the passcar motor, was rated 210 rather than 230.
Truck engines, especially the V8s, were invariably tuned for a lower power peak and fatter torque peak. They typically used a different camshaft, or other ways of accomplishing that. You’ll see that in all of the Big 3’s truck V8s, and sometimes the HD sixes had a somewhat lower rating too.
They did not want to encourage revving these engines any higher than necessary for long periods, for obvious reasons. These engines were often driven flat out much of the time, so it was essentially a way to govern them without a genuine governor.
Except I wasn’t guessing when I said “configured the same in all the ways that mattered”. Same camshaft with same timing, for example, and same compression ratio, and otherwise like that—this is known, not assumed.
Which one; the 225 or 318?
If you’re talking about the 225, the 5hp difference is within the variance of production engines. So it’s essentially meaningless.
Valiant is my favorite solely based on it acknowledging the excesses of the big cars, without conceding to the critics of them. This is the most Americana of the compact big three, with brash expressive style and providing a reason to downsize in the enhanced driving experience that isn’t just for practical reasons. A Falcon is a junior companion to the big Ford and looks it, the Corvair is something entirely different, almost the anthesis of its full sized companion, for better or worse depending on your point of view. The Valiant on the other hand truly seems to make the big 60 Plymouth a dinosaur in the line, it offers truly original style(even if very period and instantly dated) performance, engineering and comfort the big cars promise in their marketing but actually arguably delivers it.
Unfortunately I can’t help but think this styling would have worked better a year or two earlier, and in duality the quality issues probably needed a year or two later to work out before being sold to the public
In case anybody’s interested, Consumer Reports rated all the 1960 compacts in terms of suitability for family use, driving characteristics, and overall quality. They are ranked in this order, from best to worst:
Rambler Super 6
Rambler Rebel V-8
Studebaker Lark 6, V-8
So Rambler Super beats Valiant by a nose. Valiant was handicapped by poor assembly quality.
About the Corvair, they said: “The poor man’s Thunderbird. The Corvair is a personal car, a ‘fun’ car, or a winter traction car; but gets low marks as a family sedan.”
Incidentally, Rambler was 3rd place in sales for 1960, knocking out Plymouth. That’s quite an achievement considering how moribund Nash and Hudson were just a few years earlier.
Wasn’t Consumer Reports’ main beef with the Corvair was that it was so low that average-height or taller adults had to fold themselves into pretzels to get into or out of the car? I know we discussed just in the last week how space-inefficient GM’s large ’59-60 cars were, but CR wasn’t fond of them either.
I don’t know if Chrysler could have produced Valiants at the quantity Ford produced Falcons, and we don’t know what the quality of those would have been either. So, even if the first generation Valiant didn’t look like a flying tumor and instead looked like the 1963 versions, we can’t know if they would have been a huge hit in 1960. It’s history.
If I was in the market, I would have been concerned over the new technology behind the Corvair, the old technology behind the Falcon and the sheer ugliness of the Valiant. It would have been smart to wait to see if the Valiant had the quality of a 1957, or of a 1959. Lord knows a couple of years made a huge difference.
I probably would have bought a Rambler Classic or a Lark.
Indeed, in the preceeding comment, it’s mentioned that Consumer Reports ranked the Rambler as the #1 compact, followed by the Valiant and Falcon. While Consumer Reports ratings are always suspect, I wonder how Chrysler’s bad quality reputation and sheer bizarre, fifties’ styling of the Valiant kept potential customers from even setting foot inside a Plymouth showroom and choosing the Ford or GM product, instead.
For those who did actually cross-shop the new Big Three 1960 compacts, I can’t imagine anyone going with the Falcon or Corvair over the Valiant. Even then, for that market segment, a Rambler might still have been a better overall choice.
that’s smart thinking. FWIW, Consumer Reports has always thought of cars as appliances; they seemed immune for a long time to the idea of car as personality extension. On that basis, if they thought the Valiant had the best mechanicals, space utilization and economy, they would have picked it as #1 regardless of styling. My guess is that CR had quality concerns about it.
I agree with those that think the Valiant’s styling has held up the best, especially next to the sad sack 1960 Falcon.
I may be in the minority here, but sixty years on I find that the Valiant styling has held up best. The Falcon was born frumpy, and the first-gen Corvair is plain and its theme has become familiar, perhaps through much European imitation.
The key here is that there were plenty of Corvair copies. No one copied the Valiant or Falcon.
The Chevy II/Nova sure copied the Falcon. So too, to a lesser extent, did other American small sedans in the early-to-mid 1960s.
I was referring more to the Falcon’s styling, of which the Chevy II looked nothing like.
In terms of detailing I agree (both the Falcon and Chevy II used elements of their big brothers(the 60 Ford and 62 Chevy) but the proportions are remarkably similar, and under the skin even more so. The Corvair influenced cars had details but never those low proportions
I agree , G Poon, the Valiant could have been quite beautiful, imagine curved side glass which would have helped clean up the awkward A pillar windshield area.
And a proper coupe roof for the Hardtop.
For looks, I like the Falcon, particularly the wagons. But in about 1966-7 I had a 1960 Valiant, sort of ugly green. Automatic transmission. As I recall, it was trouble free (except when someone on the Army base opened the hood and stole the battery!). The car was, as I recall somewhat tinny(like, to my recall, say, a 1949 Ford) The gas mileage was not great, but 29.9 Cent gas. The car was stark, but functional
Bizarre styling, just bizarre.
So ugly, it is beautiful!
For me, the Val remains an odd-looking bugger, and time has neither improved it or disimproved. It’s left as it was, a sort-of discarded fashion thing from a snapshot in time.
Perhaps Ed Cole was right after all. To style a big car small, you needed a bit of radicalism in in construction: the glasshouse on this thing is just too tall, though admittedly that’s amongst a list of the other of its problems for many. (Personally, I’ve always thought it ok. Odd, but ok).
Perhaps it could be said that the Corvair and Valiant both well under-estimated the conservatism of the potential buyers, one too mechanically weird, the other normalcy too weirdly clothed?
I’ve driven a ’60-shape Val, as Australianized – not much – and as restored, and it was sweet, but to be honest, not noticeably better handling than a Falc of the era.
But it certainly went better, so my question to all – well, Daniel Stern I guess – is, why was the Chryco slant clearly so much better than anything GM or Ford offered? Longevity and perhaps Torqueflite aside, why was the unit so bloody good, because even an Oz GM or Ford nutter of the most minimally formed, er, cranial operational apparatus, even they’d have to concede that?
On my long-term CC project list is a comprehensive article about the Slant-6 engine; watch for it!
I have a strong affinity for the original Valiant. This is a very interesting article considering how the new 1960 compact models from the “big three” came out. This car was beautiful, even though Virgil Exner designs were typically unusual. This is the only example that comes to mind where a car’s styling looks better on the “junior” model that a full-sized car. Yes, it does look like a big car, but it has that sensible size that Detroit Inc. which sold their wares at the butcher’s rates did not want the American buyer to be too interested in the cheaper cuts. This ’60 looks more modern than any of the other Chrysler products of that year. This car is a true classic.
My 1961 Valiant was a piece of junk! I drove it for 6 years mostly in Suffolk County and I always dreaded for fall to arrive with big rainstorms because the Valiant would not drive in the rain. Water would splash up from the front wheels and drown the distributor cap resulting in mid puddle stalls! Chrysler’s answer was a better distributor cap and rotor that did not do much to improve driving in the rain. The gas cap leaked gasoline all over the rear fender causing the paint to stain badly, no fix was ever found. My Valiant had the smaller 6 cylinder engine. I would say that between the Valiant and a 20 year later Toronado it was a toss up. After the Toronado disaster I bought a Toyota Cressida I drove for 10 years and later my daughter drove it to College, it was a revelation that a car could be well built to last. Not even a light bulb failed on that Cressida. The terrible Toronado lost paint off the body and I was told not to drive on gravel roads!! Gravel roads in Suffolk County?? In later years I drive a Jeep Cherokee without any problems even though it does not have a great rating, after 5 years of driving it 60,000 miles it has yet to give me problems. Knock on wood! American cars lost sales in great numbers to Japan and for good reason, the Japanese Cars worked! I also owned 2 different Camry’s that worked very well for me. That was before the Lexus made an appearance later on. Never owned one but I heard good reports about them. I found the dealers who sold the Valiant and the Toronado an arrogant lot blaming the cars problems on ME!!