The Truth About Cars » canadian vintage cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:01:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » canadian vintage cars What’s Wrong With This Picture? Valiantly Different in Canada Sun, 30 Sep 2012 17:02:25 +0000 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

1963 Dodge Dart GT Convertible - Barrett Jackson Photo 1963 Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 Convertible. Photo: Affordable Classics IMG_0272 IMG_0255 Photo credit: Cars In Depth IMG_0262 IMG_0268 IMG_0269 IMG_0270 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 23
Curbside Classic Canadian Visitor Edition: 1966 (Vauxhall) Envoy Epic Tue, 23 Feb 2010 17:03:19 +0000

The Canadian car market has always been dominated by US makes. But the “special relationship” has also resulted in some curious efforts to maintain a sense of unique identity, or respond to the distinctive characteristics of the market.  We had our Plodges (mixed styling of the Dodge and Plymouth models), Beaumonts (sold at Pontiac dealerships with Chevrolet engines and Pontiac style trim), Meteors, Mercury trucks, Fargo trucks, etc. along with various European makes including Vauxhall. In addition to selling its models under the Vauxhall brand, GM’s British subsidiary also created the Envoy name just for Canada. The Vauxhalls where sold by Pontiac/Buick dealers, and so as not to be left out, the Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers recieved the Envoy badged versions, like this Epic.

For a time Vauxhall was second in sales of imported sedans behind Volkswagen, as were their cousins Opel in the US. Sadly Vauxhalls of the 1960s were particularly enthusastic rusters even by the standards of the day, and that combined with limited parts supply after Vauxhall pulled out of Canada means there aren’t very many left in drivable condition. What examples do exist are various Vauxhalls and Envoys languishing in mostly rural settings. I’ve even come across a couple in scrapyards and storage yards but the more common finds seem to be the larger Victors.

What I’ve found here is a Envoy Epic, which is a badge engineered version of the Vauxhall Viva HA. But it’s more than that. While the normal Viva/Epic had to make do with a 44hp 1057cc four cylinder engine, this one has the name-worthy epic “hot” high compression engine with 60hp, as did the confusingly-named Viva 90. Less than 12,000 Viva SLs (in both Viva and Epic form) were produced, with an unspecified number (but undoubtly low) number of them the hot 90. That makes this one a rare survivor indeed, with both the 90 and SL equipment, plus being a Canadian variant. [You Yanks struggling to relate: think '69 Pontiac GTO The Judge with Ram Air IV. PN]

As for the engineering of the Viva/Epic, it was a highly conventional and straight forward RWD machine, as its role in life was to compete against the likes of the Austin A35, Morris Minor and Ford Anglia. Some pieces where shared with the very similar Opel Kadett A, but the engine, styling and interior was unique. The front suspension used a front transverse leaf spring just like the Opel, and not totally unlike a modern day Corvette uses at the rear. The front cross member easily unbolted with the rack and pinion steering rack and suspension as an entire unit, which made it popular with hot rodders. The rear had a solid rear axle with more leaf springs, but not transverse this time. The basic car came with drum brakes all around while the upper trim levels featured front disc brakes.

I mentioned the 60 hp engine and brakes of the 90, but there were a few other changes over the basic model besides the engine, as the moniker SL stood for Super Luxury. Some assorted extra body trim was part of that lofty definition, and most noticeable was the grill and rear tail light cluster, which featured triple round lights that were considered quite sporty for the day. [Yanks: now think Impala. ED]

Back to this particular example: I actually spotted it a couple years at a tow company storage yard, but now its moved to a muffler shop giving me hope that someone is preparing to get it back on the road. And it may not be the most stellar car, but the world’s automotive diversity is better for its continued existence.

PN’s note: This car happens to be for sale, along with a supercharged Chevy 4.3 motor. Be the envy of your friends with this Epic find!

Curbside Classics will consider guest submissions for cars that are almost certainly not going to ever be found by myself, or are particular historical or cultural significance. Contact me at

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