By on September 30, 2012

Photo credit: Cars In Depth

If you’re an average Mopar enthusiast you may be wondering what the front of a Plymouth Valiant is doing on a 1963 Dodge Dart. Unlike urban legends about cars with front ends from one brand and rear ends from another of that automaker’s brands that was being built on the same assembly line, and unlike custom car mashups, this was factory built and sold by authorized dealers.

If you were born after the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show you can be excused for not knowing this, but  Dodge Darts and Plymouth Valiants weren’t always badge engineered twins. In 1963 they were more like bigger and smaller brothers, with an odd Canadian cousin in the family.

The Dart brand had previously been used by Dodge for both full size and intermediate cars but by the early 1960s compact cars were a growing segment of the market. AMC was selling record numbers of Ramblers, VW was on it’s way to importing a half million Beetles a year, and GM and Ford were both introducing compact cars like the Pontiac Tempest, the Chevy II and the Falcon. When Plymouth dealers got the compact Valiant, Dodge dealers got a more luxurious version and it was decided to use the Lancer nameplate. For whatever reason, the 1961-62 Lancer didn’t thrive, perhaps because it was just a badge engineered Valiant. Today it’s hard to realize it, what with Hyundai Genesis trying to compete with Mercedes Benz, but in the late ’50s and early ’60s there were fairly rigid class distinctions between car brands. Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth were not embarrassed to reference themselves as the “low priced three” and if you could afford to drive something more aspirational (though they didn’t use that term back then) you didn’t want your ride confused with an economy car. Alfred Sloan’s business model reigned supreme, and not just at General Motors. For the 1963 model year, Dodge’s compact was renamed the Dart and to distinguish it from the Valiant it was given a 5″ longer wheelbase, 111 inches, a different roofline and unique rear passenger windows. So an average Mopar fan would notice that this is a long wheelbase 1963 car with a Dart’s sheet metal from the cowl back but it’s wearing the front clip of a Valiant. Is it a Dodge or is it a Plymouth?

1963 Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 Convertible. Photo: Affordable Classics1963 Plymouth Valiant Convertible (U.S. Market)

An average Mopar fan might notice the difference and scratch his head, but a serious Mopar fan, or one located in the Great White North, would know that actually it’s not either a Dodge or a Plymouth, it’s a “Valiant”, made exclusively for the Canadian market and sold at both Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge dealers in Canada. Chrysler had previously marketed the Valiant as it’s own brand in Canada, so it could sell it through both Chrysler-Plymouth-Fargo and DeSoto-Dodge sales channels. It’s not unusual for the American car companies to use slightly different branding in Canada. Beaumonts may look like Pontiacs and even carry the arrowhead logo, but you won’t find the word Pontiac anywhere on those cars. There are Canadian Ford Monarchs that don’t say Mercury anywhere on the cars. So this is a Valiant.

1963 Dodge Dart GT Convertible - Barrett Jackson Photo1963 Dodge Dart Convertible

With the Valiant brand established in Canada, it made sense to continue with that nameplate. They were already selling the identical car in both Canadian sales channels, so it didn’t make sense to sell two different wheelbase variants. Since it was sold in Chrysler-Plymouth dealers the Valiant name was identified somewhat by Canadian consumers with Chrysler, an upscale brand. In the 1960s larger equated to more luxurious so using the  longer wheelbase car made sense. Using the longer wheelbase Dart necessarily meant using its rear end sheet metal. Swapping out front clips is a simple process, everything bolts on. Changing the rear end of a car’s sheet meta, though,l means welding on different quarter panels and other panels plus labor to finish the seams. That’s assuming the stock Valiant rear panels would mate up to the Dart midsection without modifications.  They might have had to stamp completely different rear “Valiant” panels for everything to go together properly.  The Dart wasn’t being sold in Canada so why spend the money if nobody would notice the difference? The Canadian Valiant also had a Valiant instrument cluster, which was different from the Dart’s, Valiant hubcaps, Valiant trim on the interior door panels, and seats embossed with the Valiant crest. On the rear deck lid, instead of a plastic insert inscribed with”Dodge GT”, on the stainless steel panel between the backup lights there’s a black plastic insert with “Signet” flanked by two Valiant crests.

Of course, making a unique model for Canadians, a relatively small market, costs more money than selling them a car identical to the American model, so the unique Canadian Valiant was fairly short lived. Also, in 1965, the United States and Canada signed the U.S.-Canada Automotive Trade Pact, a precursor to NAFTA, which was the death knell for unique Canadian variants of American cars. When the compact Mopars were restyled with the “fuselage” look for 1967, the wheelbases of Darts and Valiants were rationalized and Canadians got Valiants that were identical, save for no Plymouth logos, to what Americans were buying.

This 1963 Valiant Signet 200 was photographed at the 2012 Orphan Car Show, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It’s owned by Terry and Marge Metcalf of Ontario. The Signet trim line was equivalent to a Dart GT in the States so this is as fancy as a Canadian Valiant got. If I understand the story correctly, Terry’s family had one when he was a kid and he resolved to find one to own. After searching high and low across Canada and the US for one, his wife spotted this car parked in a driveway not far from their own home and they bought it and restored it. The restoration was easier than with some Canada only cars. With the exception of that trim on the back of the car, you can find parts – what isn’t identical to a ’63 Dart you can retrieve from a ’63 American market Valiant.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading– RJS

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23 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture? Valiantly Different in Canada...”


  • avatar
    willbodine

    In Canada, when is a Plymouth not a Dodge? When it’s a Plodge.

  • avatar
    millmech

    Dartmouth?

  • avatar
    tiredoldmechanic

    There were several of these in our family over the years. I had a ’64 Signet 2 door hardtop with buckets and a 273 for a winter car one year and my brother had a very nice ’66 Signet equipped the same way. I hadn’t realized until quite recently that they were actually badge engineered Darts. My ’64 was a beater but the ’66 was a beauty and I’d love to have it today. Basically a Dart GT with slightly modified trim.
    These cars are a rare sight today but they were literally everywhere up until the late ’80s.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    But that means Canadians missed out on one of the best parts of the ’63 Dart, that very Turbine Car-esque grille and headlight design.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    In an amusing coincidence, I had just finished reading an article about a custom “Road Bee” mashup before visiting here and clicking on your link.

    Ah, here’s an online reference to the project: http://www.purevisiondesign.com/rides/projects/road-bee.html

  • avatar

    The Dodge Kingsway did that too. It was a Dodge front end on a Plymouth.

    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5263/5628489925_952632b7de.jpg

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    My grandfather had a Canadian market full-sized 1959 Dodge station wagon. Being Canadian, it was actually a Dodge front end clip on a shorter wheelbase Plymouth body. It seems odd that they did the opposite with the Valiant, but then it is odd that they made them different in the first place.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Mid-sixties full-size Canadian Pontiacs, called Parisiennes, mated a U.S. “wide track” Pontiac body with a noticeably too narrow Chevrolet chassis and powertrain. It didn’t look right but you couldn’t put it together until you saw a U.S. Pontiac Bonneville.

    • 0 avatar
      roger628

      There is widespread misconception about the differences in track width between Canadian and US model Pontiacs. This was largely true of the 1959-60 models. The 1959 Chevy (upon which the Canadian Pontiac was based) had a track width of 60.3″ front and 59.3″ rear. The US Pontiac was 64″ front and rear. Yes, this was significant, and yes, the Pontiac body didn’t look right on the Chevy frame. Fast forward to ’61, and we have the Chevy at 60.3″ front and 59.3″ rear, while the US Pontiac actually got narrower, at 62.5 front and rear.
      Yes, it was slightly wider, but not enough to make the Canadian versions look as knock-kneed as is the folklore.
      By 1965, the gap had narrowed to the Chevy at 62.5″ front and 62.4″ rear, while the US Pontiac was 63″ front and rear. Rather insignificant. In conclusion, the drastic difference in track width really only applied to the ’59-’60 cars, the ’61 to ’64 cars less so, and insignificant by ’65. After 1960, the term “Wide-Track” was largely an empty slogan.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Australian Chrysler Valiants were very different again having the famous 265 cu in triple weber engine in the Valiant Charger. Good for low 14 high 13 second time straight off the showroom floor. Yes they could turn right and left reasonably well too.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Valiant_Charger

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Beaumont didn’t really use Pontiac’s logo, it was a similar shape, but it was a silver triangle with a red pointed square on top containing two maple leaves. Similar enough to Pontiac to let people know the cars were a product of Pontiac Division, but different enough to let people know it was its own brand.

    Valiant was really only its own stand-alone marque for 1960, after that, it was folded into Plymouth for 1961 in the US and essentially became a Chrysler for Canada. The cars were marketed in Canada as “Valiant by Chrysler” and sold through all the corporation’s dealers. Not quite it’s own brand, but not fully a Chrysler either.

  • avatar
    Glen.H

    In Oz we also got the Plymouth Fury rebadged as a Dodge Phoenix. The sheetmetal was all Fury, but the interior was sourced from the Monaco for a more upmarket feel.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    More unusual Australian Chrysler Valiants
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1e/Dodge_VE_utility.jpg/800px-Dodge_VE_utility.jpg

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/Chrysler_VG_Valiant_Regal_770_Hardtop.jpg/800px-Chrysler_VG_Valiant_Regal_770_Hardtop.jpg
    This model had the Hemi 6(not slant 6) engine.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Chrysler_CH_Hardtop.JPG/800px-Chrysler_CH_Hardtop.JPG

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Great account of the Canadian Mopars.

    In the 1950’s as a kid, I noticed the full size cars from Canada, including GM and Ford variations, as we vacationed in Canada. In the 1960’s the only different car I remember was seeing the Vauxhall Cresta, big brother to the Victor that we got in the States, while in Victoria, BC. I only recognized it as a kid because I had a Matchbook toy version at home.

    Recently, the NY Times, in their August 31 2012 issue, did a one page story about Canadian variations in general, and a profile of a retired Ottawa woman who bought her 1957 Monarch Lucerne (what would be the Canadian equivalent of the Mercury Monterey) in the last several years.

    For folks interested in the Canadian auto industry and their versions of our cars, there are two pretty good books on the subject. One is ‘Canadian Cars, 1946-1984′ written by R. Perry Zavitz in paperback. The other is ‘Cars of Canada’, written by Hugh Durnford and Glenn Baechler, a hardback that covers up to 1973. Both may be found on eBay, as well as the used book sites http://www.alibris.com and
    http://www.bibliofind.com .

    • 0 avatar

      There were a couple of Monarch Lucernes, a ’58 and a ’62, at the Orphan Car Show.

      The Canadian market was very price sensitive so they were able to slice the brands a bit thinner. Canadian Ford dealers got the Monarch line, Mercuries rebranded as Fords, and Canadian Mercury dealers got the Meteor line, which were Fords with some Mercury trim and features. The Ranchero was originally marketed in Canada through Mercury Meteor dealers.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Thanks for bringing up Mercury trucks in Canada. I remember seeing what looked like regular Ford pickups, but with ‘Mercury’ stamped into the tailgate where you would expect to see ‘Ford’ in the States.

        As far as the Canadian Ranchero is concerned, I was able to find a picture of the brochure for the ‘Meteor Ranchero and Meteor Custom Ranchero’ for the 1957 model year. According to the brochure, the car was built by the Mercury-Lincoln-Meteor Division, Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited. The difference in appearance seems to be the center of the grille has a big ‘V’ with a four-point starburst above it.

        I didn’t see a comparable version for the 1958 and newer Ranchero’s, but that doesn’t mean they may not have been made, just that the book editor didn’t find brochures for them. They certainly made Meteor versions of full size Fords as well as Falcons at least through 1961. It would be great to hear from a auto history buff that knows more about the Canadian side of the market.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I love learning from you alls ! .

    A buddy has a 196? Signet Convertible , it’s very nice and he drives it hard , far and wide .

    Pick-A-Part in Monrovia , Ca. , on Peck Road & Live Oak , has a very good 1964 Pymouth B Body Convertible they’re going to put in the yard next week (10/5 I *think*) .

    I’d buy it but I don’t need it nor have the $$ , it seems a shame to let this rare car get stripped & crushed , it has top and everything .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    When I worked at a Pontiac dealer in Alberta in the 90s, GM Canada introduced Daewoos and Isuzus branded as “Asuna” (with two dots over the “u”).
    We used to joke that “Ah-soon-ahs” our customers figure out these cars are crap, GM will kill the brand. They did, but not before some people got stuck with those things.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Back in the 80’s, my local Chrysler dealer had some cars on display at the local mall. I noticed that the Reliant had one Reliant tail light and one Aries tail light. I don’t think it was done on purpose, however.

    This was stateside, lest anyone think it was some 80’s version of the Dartmouth of the 60’s. ;)

  • avatar
    1000songs

    Awesome – I wonder how many TTAC readers can relate as well as I can?

    I own a Canadian made 1964 Plymouth Valiant Convertible. Originally a slant 6, now with a 273 V8, and affectionately known in some circles as a “Vart”, she is exactly as described above.

  • avatar
    DougD

    That Valiant looks totally normal to me. Grandfather had a 64 Signet with the same body style, taillights etc.

    I had wondered why American Valiants had the wrong taillights, but that explains it…


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