By on May 20, 2012

When you see an immaculate 1974 Valiant four door sedan at a car show, one thing is very clear: There is a story behind this car.

Few people would restore one of these dependable Mopar compacts from the 70s unless there was a good reason.

Lorne and Pat Dawes own one of the nicest 1974 Valiants we have ever seen and they have a family legacy with this little Plymouth. It took a few hours to track down the Dawes at a summer car show, but it was worth the effort.

The car was Lorne’s father’s last car and it served him well in his golden years. The easiest way to illustrate the family connection was to include Lorne’s own words in this story, so the following explains why this car means so much to his entire family.

Valiant Memories August 15,2011

Jan. 22, 1979 – The Valiant was purchased used by my Dad (Davey C. Dawes) from a business acquaintance of mine living in Athabasca. The mileage reading on the car at the time was 29,754.

When Dad purchased the Valiant, Dad, my brother George, (who was a licensed mechanic working for an Edmonton Chrysler dealer) and I drove to Athabasca to view, inspect and decide on the Valiant. After we checked it out and road tested it, we retreated to the local hotel for a cool one to let Dad consider his decision. Dad was very reluctant to replace his 1963 Plymouth Belvedere that served him so very well, but by the same token this would be the newest and most prestigious vehicle he had ever owned. It was also a matter of (I believe ?) about $2,900 plus his Belvedere, which was a lot of money and the loss of the Belvedere. He did like the Valiant, and with a little reassurance from George and I, he made the trade-up deal. Dad lived in Edmonton all his life and retired from the Canadian National Railway after 44 years of service in January 1971.

Dad was very proud of the Valiant and gave it special care and attention. George was always available to attend to any mechanical attention it required. Occasionally, the three of us would meet at George’s home (garage) to enjoy an afternoon of pulling wrenches and more importantly, camaraderie. Very pleasant memories and get-togethers. Dad was always good at keeping records of any work performed on the car, and I have tried to maintain that practice.

The only complaint I recall hearing from Dad about the Valiant was the gas consumption. I suppose going from a slant six to a 318 might give you that opinion. He did however enjoy the pep. Dad enjoyed the Valiant for just short of eight years while logging 30,757 miles on her. His furthest trip in the Valiant was to Victoria B.C. Dad drove the Valiant until he passed away on November 15, 1986.

In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I accepted the Valiant in December of 1986 with a mileage reading of 60,511. (Gas was 30 cents per litre.) For the next five years, my wife Pat and daughter Cheryl used the Valiant logging on an additional 20,000 miles, bringing the odometer up to 79,611. Cheryl obtained her driver’s license using this car and drove it while attending high school on occasion

November of 1991, I decided to park the Valiant until I was in a better position to restore it back to its original condition. My sister Joan had room in her garage and consented to allow me to store the Valiant there for the interim.

In April of 2004, I finally brought her home again to get a start on her. (Gas was 73 cents per litre.) It was a slow start and a long process. With George’s help, we kept plugging away. We started with the mechanical concerns, meanwhile I accumulated any body trim parts I could such as new fender trim, re-chromed bumpers and numerous trips to various auto wreckers seeking marker lights and/or any other enhanced parts. It was important to me to keep it as original as possible. By the spring of 2008, it was ready to go to the body shop where it spent most of the spring and summer. Got her back just in time to put her back together, get a new vinyl roof on her and park it for yet another winter.

Finally, the spring of 2009 comes along and I can start enjoying the fruits of my (our) efforts and expenses. As usual there are always things to address and George was always there to help or at least provide the guidance and reassurance to complete certain mechanical concerns. George was a great brother, friend and resource of information. Sadly he passed in March of 2011, but at least we got in a few cruises and laughs together in / or working on the Valiant. Good times!

You could say the restoration was a tribute to Dad and now includes George.

Now it’s mainly time for cruises and shining, with the odd mechanical or maintenance requirement and fond memories. My wife Pat and I enjoy taking her for a cruise on warm summer days and attending occasional Show & Shines. The Grandkids like to have a ride in it and I enjoy taking them. They are even starting to show some interest in the car and I do hope the pride extends.

Some say; “The Devil is in the Details”. I would suggest that “The Glory is in the Details”.

Lorne Dawes – August 16, 2011

It was easy to understand why this beautiful little four door Valiant has such deep roots in Lorne’s family

We wish the entire family happy motoring for many years to come in their family heirloom.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com

 

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29 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner:1974 Valiant Brougham With A Long Family History Gets A New Lease On Life...”


  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    Nice story, but…

    “Few people would restore one of these dependable Mopar compacts from the 70s unless there was a good reason.”

    …maybe somebody would restore one because they like the cars, with or without a family connection. Not everybody who’s into old cars is infatuated with hot rods and muscle cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually agree with the idea that these and other “more-doors” are well worth a restoration, http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/editorials/684-we-all-have-a-four-door-car-in-our-rear-view-mirror.html but the prevailing attitude in car world is not with either one of us on this point. I always seek out the four door sedans at shows, because there is typically a good story behind most of them.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    That’s a touching story. I only have my father and one uncle left. You don’t know how much you miss someone until their gone. I’m glad I made the effort to spend as much time with my family that I did. Anybody out there lamenting the trip the visit the folks and grumbling about hearing the same stories repeated or having to deal with things on their terms, put it aside and make the time. You will never be sorry you did. I’d give any material thing I own to see my mother walk through my front door one more time…

  • avatar
    DownEaster

    I love these cars both the Dart and Valiant. Probably one of the best and most practical cars ever made. Sitting in the driver’s seat you can see the end of the hood and the back of the trunk. No fancy backup cameras needed. Long lived designed and easy to service. My Dad had a new 1965 Dart bought a month after I was born and my grandmother bought a new 66 Dart a month later. Grandma’s drove until 1988. I had a 66 Dart same color as my Grandmother’s car for my first car and later moved up to a 75 Dart Custom. Mine was a 4-Door that was light green with the vinyl roof. Was a beautiful car. All were slant sixes and unfortunately the slant six lost a lot of horsepower between 66 and 75 due to emission controls. Great car and still one of the best designs out of Detroit. Same basic body style from 1967 to 1976. Thanks for the look and I wish the family the best with their Valiant. Thanks for the look at her!!

  • avatar
    65corvair

    It is a nice looking car. Chrysler did a better job with the bumbers than most other cars companies. At least the Darts and Valiants. They look like they belong. Basic transportation at it’s best. Hope the new Dart live up to its namesake.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Good story and good job.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Nice story. Makes me nostoligic for compacts powered by small V8s.

  • avatar
    jimboy

    My foster mother had a ’74 Valiant as her last car, unfortunately we lost her in 1979 from cancer, but the car stayed in the family as my sisters car. It was subsequently sold. I previously inherited her original ’63 Valiant, which was later restored. The ’74 had a tendency to stall on a sharp corner in the rain?? we never knew why. Otherwise 2 great cars. thanks for the memories!

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      My HS girlfriend had a 1974 Dodge Dart sedan (not too much different than the feature car) that also had the stalling issue. Damned near killed me a couple of times more than her father wanted to…

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Many of the mid 70′s slant sixes came from the factory with the float level set too low, causing stalling during left hand turns. It was an easy fix on the carter BBD, normally took no more than 10 minutes.

  • avatar
    SilverHawk

    +1 on wishing the family many more years of happy motoring in their heirloom. I have previously mentioned my association with these cars, and I have always considered them an inexpensive way to enjoy the world of vintage motoring. The long wheelbase sedans & hardtops seem to resist the ravages of time better than the short wheelbase coupes, but enthusiasts gravitate toward the coupes because of the well known performance variants. However, I’m seeing more restored sedans & hardtops in my area of late, and it’s really great to see them on the road again. I hope the trend continues.

  • avatar
    rwitt62

    When I had just turned 16 and received my driver’s license, my mom’s car was in the shop and we got the latest model Valiant with the police package and V-8 engine as a loaner car. And my parents gave it to me to drive for a few days! It was the most fun I have ever had driving a car ever. It was light, nimble, solid, and went like a bat out of hell. If Chrysler put this car on the market in it’s original form, I would buy it in an instant. It was that good.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The hood ornament on this car indicates that this Valiant is the SE model which had nicer trim and a ritzier interior than most.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    I’m for restoring the “standard cars” Muscle cars, etc are everywhere.
    Liker the people in the artice, I restored a car that was in my family for 35 of it’s 37 years on this earth.

    It’s a 1975 Dodge Coronet Crestwood Wagon ! Now, how many do you see of them? Almost none! And it always draws comments from strangers when I drive it. From “That’s Cool” to the more common “Hey, My mom and/or dad had one of those!”

    That’s why the “unique cars” are the best (and the HARDEST to restore!)

    I posted a photo of it (and my ’07 Dodge Magnum) at: http://i50.tinypic.com/333ejkh.jpg

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Polishdon, we would be very interested in your wagon story. That history is unique and worth a look from us as a future car story. You can find me at jim@mystarcollectorcar.com if you have any interest in sharing your story on our site. Click on my name if you want to look around our site.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “I’m for restoring the “standard cars” Muscle cars, etc are everywhere.”

      I agree 100%. While the “collectible” cars are nice to look at, the “standard cars” do something special – they bring back memories.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      IMHO, your 1975 is better looking than your 2007!

  • avatar
    John

    For an Edmonton car it’s missing one crucial detail – the plug for a block heater sticking out the front grille.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Likey the car and the story. I’m a sucker for old Mopars…

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Usually at car shows/cruise ins, the non-muscle car owners are the friendliest. The muscleheads are ‘know it alls’ and diss you if you don’t own a ‘fast ride’.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Muscle car owners are generally nice guys, but they do tend to get irritated more than others when an ignorant person walks up and starts saying dumb things.

  • avatar
    grandprix

    My Dad had a 1974 Valiant 4 dr,light green with dark vinyl roof.Bought it new& ran like a top for about 2 years. I bought a nearly identical 1974 Dodge Dart. Both cars were sharp,comfortable & rode well on the highway. But they both developed driveability problems like stalling on left turns, hesitation and numerous water
    leaks. Didn’t buy another Chrysler product until we needed a minivan.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    @ Jim Sunderland: Thanks very much for sharing this story. I love hearing about the intersection of cars and families like this.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    http://ayearofsongs.org/blg/2010/01/18/slant-six-valiant/
    here is a story about a guy and his valiant.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    My bro had a 73 Duster 340, it has the exact front clip, except is a 2 door coupe. The power was enormous for a car like that!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I wasn’t going to bother with this article, but finally decided to read it – must have been because I saw a comment from Geozinger…

    Besides the fact I always liked these cars, this model being the top level certainly deserves its restoration.

    I always wanted to restore dad’s 1966 Chevy Impala sports sedan, as that was one gorgeous car. No, it wasn’t a V8, just a 250 powerglide, but man, it was fore-engine red with black cloth-and-vinyl interior and before I entered the service in 1969, I washed and waxed it all the time for him. I also got to drive it almost as much as I wanted.

    Unfortunately, when I came home four years later, the car was pretty much a basket case – rust had taken its toll as well as being pretty much neglected. Having other priorities, I used it for a trade-in for a beautiful 1972 Nova. My parents got my 1970 Duster I had just bought. That car served them well, too, until after dad died.

    Very nice article.


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