Considered to be 'one of the best all-around domestic cars' by Road & Track magazine, The Plymouth Valiant was manufactured by the Plymouth division of Chrysler Corporation in the U.S. from 1960 until 1976. The Valiant was created to give the company an entry into the compact car market that was emerging in the late 1950s. Build and marketed worldwide in countries that includes Canada, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, Switzerland, Sweden, Brazil and also many other countries in South America and Western Europe. The first generation of the Plymouth Valiant sedan was debuted in 1960 and rose on a 106.5 wheelbase, featured a length of 106.5 inches, a width of 183.7 inches, a height of 53.5 inches and a width of 70.4 inches.
Chrysler president Lester Lum 'Tex' Colbert established a committee to develop a competitor for the growing popular small imports in May of 1957. Chrysler's chief stylist Virgil Exner produced a vehicle that was lighter and smaller than a full-size car without sacrificing and luggage or passenger space. The Valiant was originally dubbed the Falcon after Exner's 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car, but was soon renamed the ‘Valiant' in honor to Henry Ford II's request for the use of the name Ford Falcon. Unveiled at the 44th International Motor Show in London on October 26th, 1959 it was introduced as a 1960 model and was officially considered a distinct brand. The Valiant was advertised with the tagline 'Nobody's kid brother, this one stands on its own four tires.' The Valiant was classified as a Plymouth model from the 1961 model year. From 1961 until 1962 the Dodge Lancer was basically a rebadged Valiant with different trim and styling details.
Less drastic in configuration than GM's compact Chevrolet Corvair, the Valiant featured an air-cooled rear-mounted engine, but was considered by some more aesthetically daring than the also-new Falcon which featured a more conventional look, while the Valiant featured a radical design that continued Exner's Forward Look styling with 'sleek, crisp lines which flowed forward in a wedge or dart shape.' Carried over from Chrysler's Ghia-built D'Elegance and Adventurer concept cars, the flush-sided appearance gave the Valiant additional inches of interior room. At the time of introduction, many automotive publications thought the Valiant's styling was European inspired with its semi-fastback and lengthy hood line. Though the Valiant was all new, specific design elements were linked to other contemporary Chrysler products. Features like the canted tailfins tipped with cat's-eye shaped tail lamps and the simulated spare tire pressing on the deck lid were very similar to those on the Imperial and the 300F. The stamped wheel design, according to Exner was used not only to establish identity with other Chryslers, but to 'dress up the rear deck area without detracting from the look of directed forward motion.'
Allowing for a lower hoodline, the Valiant also featured an all-new 6-cylinder engine; the famous Slant-6, which had its inline cylinders canted 30° to one side. This also allowed for a shorter overall engine and efficient, long-branch individual-runner intake and exhaust manifolds that benefited from Chrysler's pioneering work in tuned intakes. Gaining a reputation for dependability as it was initially engineered as an aluminum block engine with a robust casing, the cast-iron block Slant-6 was made durable yet less-dense with lightweight metal. Between late 1961 and early 1963 over 50,000 die-cast aluminum versions of the 225 cu in engine were produced.
The 1960 Valiant was a perfect example of Chrysler Engineering's leadership in aluminum die casting. Though the aluminum Slant-6 engine block wouldn't make it to production until 1961, the Kokomo, Indiana foundry produced a number of aluminum parts for the 1960 Valiant and was instrumental in reducing the total weight of the vehicle. The 1960 model featured as much as 60 lbs of aluminum in structural and decorative forms, with the majority of the material used in cast form as chassis parts which included the oil pump, water pump and alternator housing. Roughly 60% lighter than corresponding parts of cast iron these cast aluminum parts had the benefit of reduced section thickness where strength was not a vital consideration. The section thickness of cast-iron parts were more often dictated by casting practice which required at least 0.1875 inches to ensure good castings. The exterior decorative parts stamped from aluminums were lighter than similar chromium plated zinc castings. The entire grille and surrounding molding on the Valiant only weighed 3lbs, and if it had been constructed of die-cast zinc (like many grilles of this era) it would have weight an estimated 13 lbs. About 4% of a Valiant's total shipping weight, an estimated 102 lb was saved with the 60 lbs of aluminum parts.
The Plymouth Valiant's A-body platform utilized 'unit-body' or 'unibody' construction instead of 'body-on-frame' construction. Rather than bolted-in forestructure used in other unibody designs, the Valiant incorporated a welded-in front understructure and stressed front sheet metal. Contributing to the high bending and over-all stiffness of the body shell were the fenders, quarter panels, floor and roof. A unit wheelbase comparison showed the Valiant to be 50% stiffer in beam and 95% stiffer in torsion than a 1959 Plymouth with separate body-on-frame construction. Reducing body shake, dynamic testing showed that high structural resonant frequencies were attained, indicating greater damping.
The front suspension of the Valiant consisted of unequal length control arms with torsion bars, while the rear suspension utilized a live axle supported by asymmetric leaf springs. Chrysler continued on with this design through the entire production life of the Valiant and other A-body models with revisions to the suspension components themselves for the '62, '67, '68 and '73 models.
In the first three model years, the first-generation Valiant's existed in four distinct configurations; early 1960, late 1960, 1961 and 1962. The base-model V100 vehicles received relatively minimal ornamentation. Early 1960 model, specifically the V200 highline cars, featured all-encompassing brightwork and ornamentation. Deleted from the Valiant this was an 8 inch chrome spear on top of each front fender, an inner reveal ring on the deck lid's spare tire stamping, stainless steel windshield and backlight reveal moldings and a 'V200' nameplate on the dashboard. The moldings were replaced with less expensive flexible mylar-faced plastic locking strips. Early and late V200s featured a continuous stainless steel molding that followed the tailfin crease as it swept down in front of the rear wheel before continuing forward along the power break line in both doors and the front fender. A central grille badge doubled as the hood release and the radiator grille was brite-dipped stamped aluminum. Placed in the center of the deck lid's spare-tire stamping and on each front fender were script 'Valiant' callouts. Mechanical updates were made during the 1960 model year to improve lubrication of the two rear connecting rods, cold starting and idling, voltage regulator function, acceleration, and to prevent breakage of the front and rear manifold mounting studs.
Available in the V100 and V200 Valiant, the four-door station wagon, assembled only at the Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck could be found in both two-seat and three-seat models. Both models were found to be the lowest priced four-door station wagons in America. The two-seat Valiant wagon was $60 under both the four-door Lark and Rambler station wagons and the three-seater model was $186 below the Rambler four-door.
The Valiant station wagons had 72.3 ft³ of cargo space, yet it only required two less feet of space than a full-size Plymouth. Rather than Captive-Aire tires was a locking luggage compartment on the two-seat models. The compartment, which was located in the cargo deck, doubled as a spare tire storage space for models that were equipped with standard tires in which case the lock was optional. Standard equipment on the three seat models were Captive-Aire tires which didn't require a spare. Useful for keeping insects out when on vacation and camping trips was an optional aluminum tail gate window screens.
All new 2-door models were debuted for 1961 but no changes were made to the 4-door sedan and wagon sheetmetal. Especially on the V200 interior and exterior trim were updated to provide model year identification, a mild form of planned obsolescence. The radiator grille stamping from the previous year was carried over, but for this year it was painted with a pattern of black squares. The central grill ornament was still pulled from the bottom to release the hood, but now it faced an emblem having a white field with the blue-and-red stylized 'V' Valiant logo instead of the 1960's red field with golf script 'Valiant' callout. Side trim was updated with a 10 inch stainless spear placed at the rear of each tailfin crease, the front fender/door crease capped with a long stainless spear and a hockey stick-shaped trim applied to the lower break line.
The tailfins were topped with three transverse chrome strips and a large horizontal emblem that contained a round plastic 'V200' callout centered in the deck lid's spare-tire stamping. Placed in round housings, matching round 'V200' callouts were put at the midpoint of the front fender spears. The inside of the Valiant's instrument cluster was largely carried over, but the 1960's black gauges with white callouts gave way to 1961's white gauges with black callouts.
The 1961 Valiant received new carburetors, the availability of positive crankcase ventilation, the availability of dealer-installed air conditioning, the transfer of the alternator from the left side of the engine to the right, and numerous revisions throughout most of the Valiant's systems and components. Late during this year the larger 3.7 L Stant-6 engine became available in the Valiant. Its use had been expanded earlier in the year from the larger Dodges and Plymouths to the Valiant-sized Dodge Lancer.
For 1962 the Valiant received an extensive facelift that included the radiator grille flattened and made shorter. The hood release was relocated to a knob at the top of the grille frame. The central grille emblem was removed except on the top of the line Signet 200 2-door hardtop model which received a black-painted grille with a round central emblem incorporating the red-and-blue stylized 'V' Valiant emblem. The Signet 200 featured pleated, leather-like buck seats, custom tailored interior trim, unique trunk lid emblem, deep-pile carpeting, different headlamp frames and special side moldings. The 1962 Valiant was America's lowest-priced hardtop with bucket seats.
The fender and hood stampings remained very similar to the 1960 and 1961 models, and the cat's-eye tail lamps were deleted at the rear. A wraparound stainless trim was added to the tailfins and below this were new round tail lamps set into stamped aluminum bezels. These took the place of optional reversing lamps, which for 1962 flanked the license plate below the rear bumper. The spare-tire stamping was deleted from the deck lid and now featured a smooth stamping with a small central ridge at its trailing edge. A large round emblem surrounding an oblong block-letter 'VALIANT' callout on a black field was added on V200 deck lis. Similar block-letter/black-field callouts were now placed on each front fender. On the Signet, the deck lid featured a smaller round emblem surrounding the red-and-blue stylized-V Valiant logo.
The V200 side trim returned to the 1960 concept, following the tailfin crease and lower body break crease. The 1962 trim was more massive and contained an oblong triple window effect at the rear of the body break crease. The front fenders on the Signets featured an open-centered double spear connected at the front and back, within which was a secondary body paint color.
The Valiants for this year received a brand new instrument cluster. Similar to the larger 1962 Plymouth models, the new Valiant cluster was highly touted for its clean design and easy legibility. Placed to the left of the luster was a large round speedometer with separate round gauges for fuel level, engine temperature and charging system condition in a row to the right of the speedometer. A brand new shallower-dish steering wheel was introduced this year. Automatic transmission pushbuttons were placed in a column at the left edge of the panel, and heater pushbuttons were in a column at the right edge.
The 1962 Valiant underwent massive mechanical updates which included the electrical system being heavily upgraded with a new starter, new alternator, more fuses, and printed circuit boards instead of individual wires for the instrument cluster. The carburetors were improved yet again and the manual transmission gearshift was moved from the floor to the steering column. New 45° shear engine mounts replaced the earlier vertical-sheer items, exhaust systems were made of more corrosion-resistance materials, and the axle ratios were altered for better fuel economy. Manual steering ratio was changed from 20:1 to 24:1, and both power and manual steering gearboxes were all new, and the manual was now housed in aluminum rather than iron. Since they needed lubrication only ever 32,000 miles, most of the front suspension components were redesigned.
The second generation of the Plymouth Valiant was introduced in 1963 with a 0.5 inch shorter wheelbase and featured a wide, flat hood, a flat square rear deck and the roofline was flatter and sharpened in profile. The upper belt feature line ran from the rear body to the front fender tip in a gentle sweep and at the front fender it ‘veed' back and down to the trailing edge of the front fender. The grille was a variation of the inverted trapezoid shape that distinguished contemporary Chryslers, with a fine mesh insert.
Promotional highlights for this generation included advances in body structure, numerous accessories and a new spring-staged choke. The Valiant was available as a 2-door coupe or hardtop, a 4-door sedan and a station wagon. The hardtop and convertible with either manual or optional power-operated top were offered only in the high V200 and premium Signet trim levels. The optional 3.7 L stant-6 engine was originally offered with the die-cast aluminum block that was introduced in late 1961, but early in the 196 model year the aluminum block was discontinued. Both the 170 and 225 engines were then available only with iron blocks. Plymouth's first-ever vinyl-covered roof became available as a sales option on the Signet in December of 1962. The 1963 Valiant was much better received by the public and sales soared to 225,056 for the year.
Still flying high were their sales success for 1962, the Valiant moved into 1964 with design changes that gave better economy, reliability and performance. Changes this year included a restyled front end that featured a new grill with horizontal bars and a 'Valiant' medallion placed at the center of the grille where the bars formed a flat bulge. New vertical tail lamps replaced the earlier horizontal items. Replaced with a Valiant script located at the right-hand corner, the ring-style rear deck decoration was no longer used. Very few styling changes were made to the 1965 Valiant, but the 1966 models featured a split grille with fine-patterned insert; new front fenders, new rear fenders on the sedans, heavier rear bumper, new beveled-edge rear deck lid and a new roofline with a large backlight.
The all new Chrysler-built A833 four-speed manual transmission was available with a Hurst shifter. A new option was the Sure-Grip limited slip differential which was advertised as a bad-weather safety feature and also offered traction benefits in performance driving.
The Plymouth Valiant was very popular in the U.S., Canada and various other markets outside of North America. Plymouth supported a successful team of Valiant two-door sedans in the 1965 and 1966 SCCA Manufacturers Rally Championships.
Halfway through 1964 Chrysler debuted an all-new 4.5 L V8 engine as optional equipment in all Valiants. A compact V8 engine, the first in Chrysler's LA engine range that last until 2022, specifically engineered to fit in the compact A-body engine compartment. Chrysler Valiants with the optional 273 engine came with V-shaped emblems at the sides of the cowl. The Valiant with the 180 bhp became the lowest-priced V8 automobile worldwide. For 1965 a much more popular 235 bhp version of the 273 called the Commando 273 was made available with 10.5:1 compression, a 4 bbl carburetor, solid tappets and other modifications.
Previously almost identically to the 1961-1962 Valiants, the Dodge Lancer was replaced in 1962 by the Dart. The Dart was available in all of the same body styles as the Valiant, except there was no Dodge equivalent of the Barracuda. Except for the wagons, all Darts used a larger 111 inch wheelbase. The wagon used the Valiant's 106 inch wheelbase.
For the 1967 model year the Valiant underwent a complete redesign and the convertibles and station wagons were dropped from the line. This third generation model range included 2 and 4 door sedans on a newly lengthened 108 inch wheelbase and the design was straightforward and rectilinear. The body sides were sculptured mildly with a tapering lower feature line that widened toward the wheels, and the new fenders had a vertical slab look. The grille on this generation was vertically split and subdivided horizontally. The vertical taillights were segmented and featured a fanned-out look. Horsepower rating for the 2.8 L Slant-6 engine was raised from 101 bhp to 115 bhp by the installation of the slightly bigger camshaft introduced on the 225 in 1965, together with Carter BBS and Holley 1920 carburetors using the larger 1.875 inch throttle bore earlier reserved for the 225, instead of the smaller 1.5625 inch carburetors formerly used on the 170 engine.
The horizontal division bar was removed from the grille for the 1968 model. A fine cross hatched insert was framed by a segmented chrome surround. The model nameplates were relocated from the rear fender to the front fender. A Valiant option for the first time was the 5.2 L, 230 bhp V8 engine.
An all new one-piece, full-width grille, new taillights and trim were featured for 1969. The standard engine remained the same, though refinements in the Chrysler Clean Air System produced better operating economy from the 6-cylinder engines. The brake adjustors were improved, a more efficient power steering pump was added and improvements to the optional Sure-Grip differential were made.
The Valiant carried over to 1970 with only minor updates including a new black plastic grille sculptured differently from 1969's metal item. The central portion jutted out flush with the forward edge of the hood, while the remaining portion of the grill was set back from the front plane. The two-door sedan was dropped and was replaced by the new Duster coupe. All models except export Valiant models lost the base 170 engine and were replaced by a new 3.2 L version of the Slant-6. The 198 gave much better performance than the 170 and was much cheaper to make, since it used the same cylinder block as the 225. For 1971 the Valiant remained basically the same with only minor revisions that included removal of the center grill emblem and a new kind of finish treatment on the grille surround. Rather than the earlier argent silver treatment it now had a blacked-out look. The exterior and interior trim were slightly updated for the 1970 and 1971 models and there were engineering updates made for improved drive-ability, better soundproofing and decreased emissions made for compliance with regulations mandated by the newly-created Environmental Protection Agency implementing new devices such as an EGR valve and an activated charcoal filter. Sales record for this year soared with 256,930 calendar year deliveries, so there was very little motivation to change it for 1972. Only minor updates that included taillights and the grille were changed for this year, and new surface mount sidemarker lamp-reflector units replaced the more expensive earlier flush-mount items. 1972 proved to be the best year for the Plymouth Valiant with a total of 30,373 models sold. Starting in 1971, a badge-engineered version of the 111 inch wheelbase Dodge Dart Swinger called the Valiant Scamp was offered. The Scamp used the Dart Swinger 2-door hardtop body shell with Valiant front sheetmetal and dual tail lamps brought over from the 1970 Dodge Dart.
The vent wing windows were deleted from the Scamp in 1973 and all models were given a new grille and front bumpers that were able to withstand damage at a 5 mph impact. New steel beams were also added inside the doors to protect vehicle occupants in side-impact collisions as mandated by NHTSA. All adding mass to the Valiant were the door beams, new bumpers and their impact-absorbing mounts and a rubber-booted telescoping system attached to the car's structure. The engines were also being progressively detuned to comply with increasingly-stringent emissions regulations. Unfortunately performance and economy suffered because of this.
Throughout the early 1970s, the Valiant was responsible for more than 40% of Plymouth's total sales volume and these models also had considerable success in foreign markets. Worldwide, Chrysler affiliates and subsidiaries sold American or Canadian-made Valiants from kits, and also as locally-designed and engineered Valiants and Valiant-based vehicles that incorporated a mix of North American and local design and components.
The fourth generation of the Plymouth Valiant was debuted in 1974 with a wheelbase of 111.0 inches as the 108 inch wheelbase variant of the A-body sedan was dropped and the Valiant sedan became a rebadged Dart. The increased size resulted in new rear fender contours and thicker C-pillars. At this point the only differences between the Valiant and the Dart were just cosmetic. The '73 grille and front sheetmetal remained for 1974, but the front bumper's rubber guards were chromed. Adding even more weight to the Valiant were the U.S. Federal 5 mph bumper standards applied to the rear bumper this year.
New this year was the Valiant Brougham and its twin, the Dodge Dart Special Edition. It was available in two or four door models and they were a compact luxury vehicle that was meant as an attractive alternative to bigger luxury vehicles following the 1973 oil crisis. The Brougham featured very impressive chrome trim deep cut-pile carpeting, a vinyl top, velour cloth upholstery, color-eyed or simulate wire wheel covers, interior door padding and a unique selection of paint and trim combinations. Many of the equipment that was optional on the regular Valiant became standard on the Brougham such as power steering, air conditioning, power disc brakes, electric rear window defroster, cruise control and an AM/FM radio.
Plymouth Valiants were basically just carried over for 1975 with a slightly updated grille. With the exception that California and certain high-altitude models received catalytic converters and now required unleaded gasoline. For buyers with increasing interest in fuel economy, this year's model featured several new items that included radial tires and a 'Fuel Pacer' system that lit a warning light to tell the driver he was driving uneconomically. It also included an option for Chrysler's A8330D 4speed manual transmission, the first 4-speed Chrysler had offered with a 6-cylinder engine in the North American market since 1965.
The following year the Valiant remained mostly unchanged except for amber lights replacing the clear front park/turn signal lights and the parking brake pull-handle changing to a foot pedal. In 1976 the Valiant was offered as a Code A38 police package vehicle and offered three basic engine sizes. The E24 was California emission standards, the E25, Federal 225 ci 1 bbl Slant-6 E44 318 ci, 2 bbl (0.32 m3) V-8; E58 360 ci, 4 bbl (0.64 m3) V-8 with single (California) or dual (Federal) exhaust. Chrysler recommended the E58 for police service since it was the only one that featured 'added endurance features to improve durability'. E58 produced 175 net hp in California trim and 220 net hp in Federal form. The E58 dual exhaust engine without the catalytic converters proved to be a very speedy Valiant squad car. Equipped this was the compact Chrysler hit the quarter mile in just 16.4 seconds with trap speeds of 84.6 mph and could easily catch all of the ‘performance vehicles' of the day.
The Seattle Police Department using a Valiant A38 announced a 46% drop in the preventable accident rate among police officers and according to a Motor Trend police survey, the A38 Valiant featured much better evasive capabilities, improved visibility, and much easier to drive than full-size squad cars. A special handling package included front and rear anti-sway bars was applied to the A38 Valiant, but unfortunately the Valiant wasn't physically durable enough. It lacked additional frame welds and rear cross-member reinforcement's standards on all other Mopar A38 packages. Also very unfortunate, the front K-frame of the Valiant was prone to failure under severe police use.
Introduced mid-year 1976, the Plymouth Volaré and Dodge Aspen F-body cars replaced the Valiant and Dart, respectively. Production of the A-body was moved to the St. Louis Assembly while Hamtramck Assembly was dedicated solely to the new F-body. Unfortunately they didn't maintain their predecessors' reputation for quality and durability and in fact reversed it. This adjustment hurt Chrysler's reputation and profitability and did contribute to its near-bankruptcy in 1979-1980.
For 1970, Plymouth introduced a brand-new semi-fastback sporty model, the 2-door fastback Plymouth Valiant Duster. The same method that spawned the '64 Barracuda was employed for the Duster. The Plymouth was designed to use the same front end sheetmetal, running gear, and 108 inch wheelbase as the Valiant, but it was given a whole new look by utilizing a modified fastback configuration with radically-curved side glass featuring only half the curvature radius of conventional side glass. Since 1968 the 5.6 L V8 engine with 10.5.1 compression, 275 bhp and 340 lb ft of torque had been available for special order in Valiants and Barracudas, the 340 was offered as a regular production option in the Duster 340; Plymouth's equivalent to the Dodge Demon 340 and the Dodge Dart Swinger 340. The Plymouth Duster was an instantaneous hit as a sporty alternative to the now larger and more pricy Barracuda.
For 1972 the Duster didn't undergo many changes except for new surface-mount sidemarker lights replacing the previous flush-mount items, the tail lamps becoming larger one-piece units. The power rating of the 340 V8 was reduced from 275 bhp to 245 hp mainly due to a reduction in compression ratio from 10.2:1 to 8.5:1, as well as changing the intake valves from 2.02 inch to 1.88 inch. Even on unchanged engines, all horsepower rating number decreased for 1972 because of a new rating protocol. In 1972 Chrysler's electronic ignition became standard on the 340 models.
The following year the Duster received a new hood, front fenders, grille, bumpers and taillights. The taillights on earlier years were mounted from the inside and had a flush appearance. Beginning in 1971 the taillights were mounted from the outside and were trimmed in chrome and they remained unchanged through 1976. Brand new U.S. safety regulations demanded 5-mile-per-hour front bumper impact protection that was accomplished through a shock absorbing and stronger bumper rail with rubber guards. Introduced this year were simpler single-piston disc brake calipers that replaced the Kelsey Hayes four-piston calipers. Disc brake-equipped Dusters now featured more common 5 lugs on 4.5' wheel bolt pattern. The 225-powered vehicles kept the 5 lugs on 4' pattern on vehicles with the standard drum brakes. Electronic ignition became standard throughout the line.
For 1973 a new, metal sunroof was made optional. The rear window/defogger was upgraded to an electric-grid style for this year and replaced the previous recessed package shelf air blower. For 1974 the Plymouth replaced the 340 with a 5.9 L version of the corporate LA-series V8, with lower performance due to U.S. government-imposed emissions regulations. The '74 'E58' 360 engine produced 245 hp. New this year was retractable front seat belts. This year turned out to be the best sales year for the Duster with a total of 281,378 Duster-bodied cars produced.
Not much was changed for the 1975 Duster except for a new grille with a return of the Plymouth 3-pointed ‘spear' affixed to the grille's center, catalytic converters added to 225 Slant Six and 318 V8 models because of the addition of a secondary air injection system, more commonly called a 'smog pump'. For 1976 the Dusters grille mounted parking lamp/turn signal lenses were in amber and the interior rear view mirror was mounted directly to the windshield. The parking/emergency brake was now foot-operated and disc brakes became a ‘mandatory' option on all models built after January 1, 1976.
The Duster name was later revived for optional trim packages on certain versions of the 1979-1980 Plymouth Volare, 1985-1987 Plymouth Turismo and the 1992-1994 Plymouth Sundance. The Duster competed with Ford's smaller semi-fastback Maverick compact that was also introduced in 1970 and the slightly larger semi-fastback Chevrolet Nova whose design was introduced in 1968. Chrysler managers used the Duster nameplate only for the 2-door coupe while the Maverick and Nova were offered in a 4-door configuration. The traditional Valiant name remained on the 4-door sedan and 2-door hardtop. The Duster was a result from the Plymouths planning staff's desire to use their allotted 1970 restyling money for something different than the usual two and four-door Valiants. The Valiant platform was used with front end sheetmetal the same, but a completely different cowl back. The Duster was created to fill the slot of the Valiant based Barracuda and while the Barracuda moved from its a-body platform to the new E-body platform in 1970, this left a hole in Plymouth's lineup for a sporty, inexpensive compact.
Numerous variants of the Duster were available including model names that included Feather Duster, Silver Duster, Gold Duster, Space Duster, Duster Twister, 340 Duster and 360 Duster. Each various model targeted customers seeking economy, cargo capacity or performance. The Duster was all Valiant from the cowl forward, but the rest of the car was completely different. The design incorporated a semi-fastback roof and a unique rear valance with twin horizontal taillights. For 1970 there was only a small Valiant badge on the front fenders just above the Duster badge and was only available in two models; the standard Duster and a performance-oriented Duster 340. Engine options were 3.2 L and 3.7 L versions of Chrysler's Slant Six as well as the .2 L and 5.6 L LA-series V8s.
The Duster was a huge success for Plymouth, so much that in 1971 Dodge requested and received their own version; the Demon. In response, Plymouth was given a version of the Dodge Dart Swinger 2-door hardtop named the Plymouth Scamp. Only minor changes were made to the Duster for 1971 which included the 'Plymouth' grille logotype and the 'Valiant' fender badges deleted.
The fastback Duster 340 and new for 1971 Duster Twister models received an aggressive 'shark tooth' grille. The Twister was a ‘performance appearance package' that was produced in reaction to increasing premiums on muscle cars, many of which were calculated using the car's power-to-weight ratio as an actuarial gauge. The largest engine available was the 5.2 L V8 and the Twister featured 'dust swirl' side stripes and Twister decals, Rallye road wheels, twin hood scoops, dual racing mirrors, flat-back hood paint with strobe stripes and plaid cloth-and-vinyl trim interior available in four colors. Halfway through the year, a Gold Duster trim package was added to the lineup and came with either the 225 Slant Six or the 318 V8. It came with special 'Gold Duster' badging, gold stripes on the sides and rear, pleated wall-to-wall carpeting, all-vinyl seats, wheel covers, whitewalls, wheel covers, a canopy vinyl roof and a deluxe insulation package. This option was offered through 1975 and total sales came to 217,192 of which 24,817 were equipped with the 340 engine.
In 1974 Chrysler increased the displacement of its highest performance small block V8 engine from 5.6 L to 5.9 L. The 360 was rated at 245 hp and placed in the Duster 360. Unfortunately the 1974 Duster was almost 150 lbs heavier than the 1971 model due to the heavier bumpers, side-impact door beams, emission control equipment and added soundproofing. 0-60 mph and quarter mile times increased roughly two seconds compared to those for the 1970 Duster even with all of the performance options like the four-speed manual transmission, Hurst shifter and Sure-Grip differential with 3.55:1 axle ratio. High performance interest wasn't very popular though with higher fuel prices and performance-car insurance surcharges.
Under a standalone 'Valiant' marque, Chrysler Canada marketed the Valiant at Dodge and Plymouth dealers. Very similar to its American counterpart except for the badge on the trunk lid read 'by Chrysler' instead of 'Plymouth, the Canadian 1960-62 featured minor differences in interior and exterior trim. The alternator was an additional cost option in Canada through 1962 while it was standard equipment in America.
Available as factory and/or dealer installed options was an anti-ice system for the carburetor's throttle body, engine block heater, electric car interior heater, battery warmer and other cold-climate items. Air conditioning was first offered in the US 1961 models, but it wasn't available in Canada until 1966. Some Canadian-made Auto-Lite electrical components were used in lieu of the American-production Chrysler-built components. The Windsor, Ontario plant produced left and right hand drive export Valiants as knock down kits. In the Plodge tradition, for 1963 and 1964 the Canadian Valiant used the U.S. Dodge Dart body and 111 inch wheelbase with US Valiant front sheetmetal.
Chrysler Canada sold both the 106 inch wheelbase and the 111 inch wheelbase A-body vehicles for 1965, all badged as Valiants, and all with the US Dart dashboard and instrument cluster. The shorter Valiant was dropped from the Canadian market for 1966 and all Valiants were rebadged US Darts. Dubbed the Valiant Barracuda, the Canadian version was constructed in 1964 and 1965 but was imported for 1966. It had no Plymouth markings, much like the Valiant. With the U.S. – Canada Auto Pact of 1965, Chrysler could ship cars and parts both ways over the border and in 1967 the company began importing Plymouth Valiants and Dodge Darts from Detroit, as well as exporting Darts and Valiants from Windsor to the U.S.
Today the Valiant is a very collectible car, especially early models as they are more unique and few have survived today. Until recently sedans were not considered as attractive as pony cars for collectors; now excellent examples receive high appraisal values today.By Jessica Donaldson