Valiant. Speak the name to anyone who grew up in the Sixties and it will almost certainly prompt a ton of memories, both good and bad: “Oh, my Aunt Becky and Uncle Sid had one, it was the toughest car they ever had!” Or, “I drove one in high school, got it for $100 off a shady used car lot and it was the dullest, slowest car I ever owned!” In approximately 95% of these circumstances, these memories will be prefaced by the words Plymouth Valiant–and indeed, Valiants were Plymouths from 1961 through 1976–but not in its inaugural year in 1960. Yes, 1960, a Buck Rogers year for sure! It was also The Year Of The Compacts: Corvair, Falcon, and of course, Valiant.
Chrysler Corporation’s response to the mini-import boom of the late 1950s-chiefly led by the ubiquitous Volkswagen-was much more, um,
stylish distinctive than the shrunken-full-size-Galaxie Ford Falcon and outré, VW-reminiscent, rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair. Virgil Exner was clearly the father of the Valiant, proven by its wild sheetmetal. From every angle, though, it was its own car-definitely not a Mini-Me Fury or Polara.
Of the three new Detroit compacts, it was also the hottest number. That lovely Slant Six engine–which made its debut in this car and would go in to wide acclaim well into the 1980s–got the Valiant up to speed in no time, especially when equipped with the Hyper-Pak engine option. Some Valiants even went racing.
The 1960 Valiant was every bit a product of the Chrysler Corporation, with the unit construction shared with their bigger brethren, a torsion bar front suspension and optional push-button automatic. A floor-mounted three-speed stick was standard equipment. Valiants came in two flavors: V-100 and V-200.
The V-100 was the base model, also known as the cheapskate special, ha ha. With little chrome trim and a drab gray interior (shades of 2018-literally), but it still had that lovely, brand-new engine, crazy Exner styling (either a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view) and plenty of interior room.
At first only sedans were available. Later in the model year a station wagon was added, but no two doors were available until 1961. Even then, it was clearly derived from the four-door sedan, with the same roof panel.
And just look at all that glass area. Yes, you used to be able to see things from the driver’s seat. What a concept. Today’s buyers seem to crave mini-loophole windows and combovers-oops, I mean crossovers. But I digress. Let’s get back to the subject at hand, shall we?
The finest Valiant money could buy was the uplevel V-200, which offered much nicer upholstery with vinyl bolsters and nylon inserts, in a choice of three colors. Two-tone door cards were also added. Outside, V-200s got bright side moldings that wrapped around the flared rear wheel arches, as well as bright window trim. A V-100 sedan started at $2,033, and the V-200 at $2,110.
As mentioned earlier, soon after the sedans made their debut, V-100 and V-200 station wagons were added to the lineup. These little haulers arguably were even more eccentrically styled than the sedans; sadly, though, the Exner “toilet seat” fake spare tire trim was not available on the wagons, which were available as six-passenger V-100 and V-200 models and a nine-passenger V-200. The nine-seat wagon was the most expensive ’60 Valiant, at $2,546, and also the rarest: Just 4,675 were built. Try and find any 1960-62 Valiant wagon now! I’ve never seen one. And I go to a lot of car shows.
This pristine ’60 V-200, one of 106,515 built, was seen at the AACA Grand National meet held in Moline, IL in June 2013. Living ten minutes away from the event guaranteed my attendance. Despite rain that never entirely went away, I saw plenty of cool cars. This V-200 is the first 1960-62 Valiant I’ve ever seen in the metal. The styling is certainly polarizing, but I love ’em!
That race-car grille is a big plus to me. It was not until recently that I realized the Valiant badge on the grille did double duty as a hood release. Functional and attractive.
The Valiant stood alone in 1960–but for that year only. In 1961, it officially became a Plymouth. Plymouth needed the extra sales, as Dodge’s full-size, Plymouth-based 1960 Dart had led many Plymouth loyalists to abandon to purchase their family rival: While 1960 and 1961 were not good years for big-Plymouth sales, the Valiant was a bright spot, and would continue to be for years to come.