By on January 20, 2013

Chrysler A-bodies are much like VW Type 1 Beetles when it comes to junkyard populations— they’ve been showing up in self-serve junkyards in a steady stream for more than 30 years, and you can usually find one or two in the larger yards. Like old Beetles, I don’t photograph most of the ones I see (though we have seen this ’68 Valiant Signet sedan, this ’64 Valiant wagon, and this ’66 Dart sedan in this series so far). The make-your-neighbors-hate-you band stickers on the decklid of this one caught my eye during a recent trip to my favorite Denver-area yard, and so I broke out the camera.
This generation of Valiant/Dart sedan was once among the most common motor vehicles on American roads, which made it a natural choice for Dennis Weaver’s car in the 1971 film Duel. You still saw quite a few of them around, well into the 1990s, but at some point the beater-Valiant demographic switched over to beater Corollas.
You could get the ’73 Valiant sedan with a 318-cubic-inch V8, or even the 340, but almost every A-body sedan shopper went for the good old quadrillion-mile Slant Six engine. Come to think of it, there were no bad engine choices for this car.
Slant Six A-bodies with air conditioning were rare indeed, and someone had already grabbed the AC compressor by the time I found this car.
I don’t bother getting 5-digit odometer shots, especially when you can’t tell an 80,000-mile car from a 480,000-mile one.


In honor of the musical tastes of this car’s last owner, let’s hear one of my favorite Melvins songs.

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25 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Plymouth Valiant...”


  • avatar
    olddavid

    When I was young, the OEM transport companies were obligated to purchase any in-transit damaged vehicle which they then disposed of by sealed bid. We went to Louisville to inspect 20 or so cars of this vintage that were victims of a derailment. The Charger was a new fast-back at the time, so being a teenager, I chose to drive one of those back to the Northwest, while my Father drove a Valiant. The 383 in my car would pass everything but a gas station while Dad’s slant six could have stopped at every other one. We ended up with the local Chrysler- Plymouth franchise as a result of our experience. As usual, thanks for the memories.

  • avatar
    roger628

    340-360s were never offered in anything other than the Duster 340-360.
    The only exception to this was a handful of ’76 Valiant A38 police packages that had a 360, real sleepers.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in those days, I’ll bet your friendly Dodge-Plymouth dealer could have fiddled the paperwork to get a 340 Valiant built.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You win the bet. My uncle ordered the police pursuit model with the 340 and heavy duty everything, and also sprung for every convenience option available to mass-produced models. He waited 5 weeks for it as a special order, but he got it. The factory must have thought it was a police chief’s car.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      Very true – I had a 1976 Dart Pursuit. It was a mover.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      The 340 was also offered in the Dart and Demon as well as the Duster, but no 340 powered Valiants or Scamps are known to have been built according to Galen Govier, the ultimate authority on Mopar production facts and figures.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Although I’m more a Foreign car kinda guy , I rather fondly remember all those WPC A Body cars as they were very easy to make into good road cars that handled well for American rigs .

    I remember working on lots and lots of 360 powered Police Cars , mostly ” Metro ” (means not black & white) , none were A Bodies .

    Dodge light duty trucks also had the 360 2BBLL / auto as a standard fleet rig so ‘ roger628 ‘s comments are nowhere near correct .

    I saw three similar vintage A Body junkers in VGC at the Wilmington Ecology Yard around New Years as I was stripping a Metropolitan Nash FHC and a ’51 DeSoto LWB Taxi for parts .

    Keep these fun and informative reports coming ! .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      roger628

      I was referring to engine availability within the A-body line, not corporate wide.
      As far as the implication that there were no A-Body police 360s,

      http://copcardotcom.fotki.com/miscellaneous_photo/vehicle_manufacture/plymouth/1976plymouth06.html

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        _MY_ bad , apologies .

        Back in the day , the WPC Corp sold boatloads of various branded A Body vehicles , all the Mechanics I knew, hated them as did a large segment of the general public in spite of how many were sold .

        I never quite understood this as I kept many of these fine cars running decades after they were just cheap used cars and the happy folks who drove them liked the ride and handling as well as the good operating economy they provided .

        Roomy too , unlike to-day’s econoboxes are .

        I guess the fairly stodgy WPC styling was the major fault , just like it was during the ’46 ~ 54 cars , I like them too , especially the Business Coupes , my only fault with them was the flathead engine that didn’t like high RPM’s and the extremely limited overdrive option .

        This particular car doesn’t look too used up to me , just nasty from the kiddie stickers that always mean death to any vehicle you see them on .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    fredtal

    The problem I had with this vintage of slant six, step on the gas, wait 2 seconds and then a surge of power. A pain to drive smoothly. I blamed the smog system, my poor mechanical skills and lack of money to have it done right.

    • 0 avatar

      That problem was mostly thanks to the lower-than-low-bidder Carter BBD carb that Chrysler probably paid 19 cents per unit for back then. Really hard to keep that junk carb in tune.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        DISAGREE ! flat spots are almost always cause by improper tuning ~ for example , these fine engines used solid lifters requiring periodic adjustment , even on the truck duty automatics , until the 1981 model year and I’ve _never_ touched one that didn’t have tight (usually zero clearance) valves in it .

        Ignition timing too has a major effect on off idle performance .

        I’m not saying they’re powerhouses but never *any* hesitation when properly maintained .

        -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      This was a good thing if given to a teenager, though at the time I loathed it. But, it was a car.

  • avatar

    +1 for Biafra

    In High School, I had a blue ’73 Valiant such as this. Faded blue, lovingly called the Blue Bomber Mark II as my father previously owned a Ford Granada that first earned the Blue Bomber nickname.

    The car was reliable as anything, until I handed it down to dad as a winter beater who promptly killed “the indestructible slant-6″ in it.

    Go dad! :)

  • avatar
    doug-g

    After her husband died, my aunt bought the Dodge Dart version in 1971. I remember thinking at the time that it was just a nice, simple, no-nonsense car. I never drove it, but always appreciated it. I think Chrysler products combined were the best selling compacts back then.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    My first car was a 1972 Plymouth Valiant, 318 v8, auto. I learned everything automotive on this car: bodywork, replacing carbs, fuel pumps, brakes, etc. It was a tough car and got pretty decent mileage. They always reminded me of the 66-67 Chevy Nova.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Mine was the 2 door version(Scamp) with the 318, it was a sweet ride, but I was so stupid trading it in for a god-awful 80 Buick Skylark, thinking I was moving up, what a dumbass!! One of my biggest regrets ever.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I have a fair amount of experience with these cars. One of my girlfriends in HS had a 1975 Valiant 4 door similar to this, it had slant six with the crappy carb that stalled on every. freakin. left. turn. There were a couple of occasions I thought for sure we were going to the afterlife together, whether we wanted to or not.

    Additionally, I did have a 1975 Dodge Dart Sport, with 360 & Torqueflite. That was a fun car. Too bad I was 18 years old and incredibly stupid with such machinery. I encountered black ice traversing a bridge in NE Ohio one fine winter evening. I spun the car, bouncing off of both sides of the bridge and smashing the whole body of the car (with the exception of the roof!) into useless junk…

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Holy cow! I’d never heard of anyone else with that problem. My mother’s 1976 Dodge Coronet did exactly the same thing you describe. I’ve mentioned it to many people over the years, even automotive technicians, and none of them had ever heard of a car doing that.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You’ve got to be kidding! I had that problem in my ’63 Dart! As Murilee mentioned, it was the cheapo Carter carb, though it was much more prevalent in the ’70s with all the smog vacuum lines added. It took a quality carb mechanic to keep them from developing the left turn malaise.

        It was just the opposite in my 283 ’65 Impala, but on that left turn, the driver side engine mount broke and I made the turn across three lanes in zero-point-two seconds. I was just smart enough to turn off the ignition and stomp on the brakes, and just lucky enough that there were no other cars anywhere near that intersection.

        Hesitation? A minor irritant.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      mine did also never found a fix for it!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Beginning around 1975 or so a pretty large number of slant sixes left the factory with the float level in the carb set too low, causing the problem you guys described. The fix took about 5 minutes, which consisted of removing the top of the carb and adjusting the float. You didn’t even have to remove the carb from the engine. The carter BBD carb was a model of simplicity and very easy to keep in tune if you half knew what you were doing.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    It’s early, I meant to say you removed the “front float cover from the carb. You can easily see the one in the photo above. See the big square thing on the front of the carb? That is the float housing. You remove the 4 screws holding it in place, take it off the carb and adjust your float, then slap it back on. Presto! No more stalling in left hand turns.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      To adjust the float in the Holley 1945 (single barrel on some slant 6es), I remember removing the top of the carb. Maybe that’s what you were thinking ;)

      (My carb didn’t really need the adjustment, I was young and I wanted to tinker with it.)

  • avatar
    Nick

    These cars make the best sleepers. Last summer there was one parked down the street (a 4 dr no less), and apart from the two largish exhausts pipes and the wider than stock tires it looked like the proverbial little old lady car. Then the owner started what, as it turned out, was a solid roller, Demon-carbed 360 stroked to 408 small block. It kicked ass.


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