By on February 24, 2010

This CC Outtake is not about the Valiant per se; I’ve got the ultimate A-Body in the works for that (and we did a Duster 340 already), and it’s coming soon too. This is about what cars are worthy to be considered a Valiant successor. From the looks of this photo, this household thinks highly of the Mazda 626 to supplant the now rarely-used Plymouth. Well, they’re in good company; the 626 cultivated a rep for reliability, right from the beginning. In the eighties and nineties it was held in particularly high regard in Germany, and was the best selling Japanese car for a few years there, in part to its excellent showing in the ADAC Pannenstatistik. It was at the top of that list in 1994 and 1995. 

Edward’s first car was a gen1 RWD 626 bought from the St. Vinny’s lot for a couple of hundred bucks. Sadly, it was a sedan and not the rather handsome coupe. It was a tough little beast, and the engines in these vintage Mazdas have a rep of being every bit the equal of Toyota’s R20 and R22 for indestructibility. Old Mazda pickups with that torquey but only 75 horsepower producing engine are still in ample supply on the streets hereabouts. It was definitely   a Valiant ersatz-mobile. The later ones I don’t have much experience with. Anybody?

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34 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: A Valiant Successor?...”

  • avatar

    A friend at work has one nicknamed “Crumpy”. It has high mileage and has been hit multiple times, he just pockets the claim. I think he is up to 200% profit on the car already.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if this helps, but I had a ’86 626 4-door, 90-hp 2.0-litre four, 3-speed automatic. It was a completely different-feeling animal from the ’86 323 it replaced. Where the 323 was a frisky little thing, eager to turn in, absolutely a blast to drive, the 626 was a dull, stolid thing, completely bereft of any personality. It was the Camry of its era. I remember it feeling solid and well-built, though (with perhaps better cabin materials than my current Mazda 6). Aside from stylistic resemblances one wouldn’t think they came from the same car company.

    As for the Valiant, my friends and I tried to sabotage our 6th-grade teacher’s Plymouth, hoping she would die a fiery death. Didn’t work out as planned.

  • avatar

    I had an 82 626 coupe. Nice car for it’s day. Always got complements on it. Folding back seat was perfect for the drive-ins. However, it blew a head gasket at 76k then a rod at 95k. Not exactly a lot of miles, especially considering the Chevy LUV that I already owned is still running to this day!

  • avatar

    This particular generation of 626 was a dud. Compared to the very competent and sporty previous generation it was very vanilla. I did appreciate that you could get the V6 with a stick though.

    I always liked the swinging vents in the middle of the dash too.

    Seen any 929’s on your journeys aroundOregon?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Yes! I know there’s an early boxy one around somewhere, and a couple of the later curvaceous ones. One of these days.

    • 0 avatar

      I always admired this 626 and the generation before it. I, too, enjoyed the V6/five-speed combo, though they were rare enough I could only find one (high-mileage, beat-up, dealer wanted shockingly high price for it). Mazda dealers always told me the 4-cyl/auto combo ran through transmissions every 60,000 miles like clockwork, and constituted 75% of those around, so I eventually gave up.

      The previous version had an interesting 2.0L V6 and four-wheel steering in other markets, notably Japan. We got the 2.5 V6 and none of the gadgets, but it always struck me as an attractive vehicle, in the vein of my 7th-gen Galant. Japan knew what was happening in the ’90s, too bad many of them lost the plot after the turn of the millenium (Millenia?).

      Second-gen 929 lives one street over from me. Bad cosmetic condition, but it sounds great when starting. The 626 had the trick center dash vents, while the 929 had the interesting self-venting, solar-powered moonroof. Mazda really must’ve been concerned about ventilation in the ’90s…

  • avatar

    From experience, Valiant (and Falcon) owners pretty much turned into Corolla owners. This had everything to do with the Volaré and Fairmont.

    • 0 avatar


      My mom replaced a Valiant with a Corolla, and the Corolla with a Focus.

      The Corolla is a bit smaller than a Valiant, hence my suggestion of the old skool Camry as a successor. The current Camry is bigger, plusher, and doesn’t seem bulletproof and overbuilt (even without the current recalls) enough to be a true Valiant successor…

    • 0 avatar

      Close. My father went from a Chevy Celebrity with the iron duke 4. After 3 radiators and finally throwing a rod well before 100k miles he bought a ’97? Camry and still has it. I think the fan resistor is the only failure he’s had in 11 years.

    • 0 avatar

      psar + .71

      Not a whole point, as my family’s ’71 Scamp was replaced by an ’84 Camry.

  • avatar

    Paul, you helped a friend buy a Valiant successor recently:

    Not sure what the nearest modern equivalent would be – and we won’t know for sure for a few years. Perhaps a Fusion?

  • avatar

    One of my Mazdas was an ’86 626. Good, solid car, like the ’84 626 it replaced. Two years later I had new car fever again and liked the ’88 626. My wife took one look at a 929 with the gorgeous dark blue leather interior, and that was it. Darn nice car, but went off the market in a few years because Mazda was up against Acura and the other new luxury Japanese brands.

  • avatar

    I had an 86 626 GT turbo coupe. It was a nice car. Turbo gave it some pep, still got good mileage. Had an oscillating center dash fan which was cool. It also had auto adjusting shocks, to prevent brake dive, sport, auto and normal settings I believe. Still worked when I got rid of it in 99. And it had headlight washers, which most people hadn’t seen before. I can’t forget the graphic equalizer either. It was a good car, what can I say? Way better than the later Probe with which it shared a platform (Flat Rock) – mine was made in Japan. I knew if there were problems, engineers would be falling on swords (or so I thought).

  • avatar

    I had an 82 626 and it was a fun drive. Great handling and plenty of pep for me until it started going through head gaskets after 88K. After the 3rd failure, my mechanic said not to bother anymore. Said that 2.0L ran too hot.

  • avatar

    Valiant was a Prince of a car.

  • avatar

    I have been wondering where the A-body CCs have been. There must be tons of them out there. I still see them from time to time in NYC. Those /6 motors were unbreakable.

  • avatar

    A co-worker of mine bought a ’96 ice blue metallic 626 a few years used. I always thought is was a terribly dull car, despite its overall quality.

  • avatar

    My friend had a ’95. Had some cool features, like the “swing” for the center A/C vents and the selector for the HVAC that allowed for a lot of flexibility…way more than the lame corporate Ford selector in my same year Probe GT. Speaking of which, I used to get some negative comments when I told people I bought a Probe, yet if I said a MX-6, nobody made negative comments. Learned a lot about people’s perceptions…should also note that all of the iterations of these cars had poor automatics…

  • avatar

    I see the Valiant, which looks like a nice example of either a ’63 or ’64, (I could tell if I could see the front), in front of the big jelly bean, but where’s the Mazda?

    • 0 avatar

      That Valiant in the picture is a 64. 63s had horizontal tail lights. 65s had a round back up loight at the bottome of the 64 style tail and 6s were squared off versions of the 64.

      The 63 has several unique odd ball styling “cues”that separate it from the rest of the generation: the grille, bumper, tail lights with the wrap around aluminum trim corners.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I consider late-1980s to early-1990s Honda Civics to be my Valiant replacement. My daily driver is a 1989 Civic sedan in underwear white. Plain as can be but reliable, economical and practical. Will drive it til it drops.

    I used to have a 1989 Corolla but consider the Civic to be a much better car in so many ways . . . kind of like the Valiant stood head and shoulders above the Chevy II (particularly the 1962-67s).

  • avatar

    IMO, the second generation 626 (’83-’87) was every bit as nice as the first generation Camry it competed with. The 5-door was fabulously roomy and looked even better in the third generation (’88-’91), at least until they axed it in ’90.

    Funny. The five door sedan body style wasn’t always pretty but was brilliantly practical. It had limited popularity in the ’80s (anyone recall that rare 5-door first gen Camry?). I suppose its now making an UGLY comeback in the guise of the X6, ZDX, Crosstour and Panamerica.

  • avatar

    I always liked the 626 (except the one pictured). I had a couple of ’94’s, an auto V6 then a 5 speed V6. ups: looked great, pretty reliable, and the auto one saved our lives when we got hit head on. downs: premium fuel, 24mpgs, AND low on power (only 162hp IIRC). the 5 speed was pretty wide ratio also.
    by comparison, I had a ’02 Saturn L200 5 speed/ecotec that would run circles around the V6 626, had much better tranny ratios, regular fuel, handled better AND got 34mpgs.
    btw, those swinging vents were neat, but didn’t make up for Mazda’s inferior A/C systems.

  • avatar

    that generation 626 was pretty dull. Personally, I loved the previous generation, curvaceous 626.

    I have always liked Mazda’s so last year I picked up a 2002 Millenia with 70k miles for my daily driver. Same 2.5 V6 and auto from that generation 626. In less than a year, it’s needed a new transmission, new radiator, and the CEL is permanently lit with an EGR malfunction code that nobody can figure out. So I don’t share the opinion that Mazda’s are reliable.

  • avatar

    Fellow teacher had a 626 he had picked up in high school (the kid graduated in the late 90s) and it seemed to refuse to die, drove it from Ohio to New Mexico to start a new job and drove it to work for 3 more years and 100s of 1000s of miles before selling it in 2005. He moved back to OH when he got married, but I still see the car kicking around town occasionally.

  • avatar

    I owned a 90 MX-6 and Ford ProbeGT, both purchased 2nd hand 5X,000 miles on the clock, both sold with about 130K on the clock. Both 2dr versions on the 626 platform.

    The MX-6 was the base model, (2.2 and 5spd ) picked up in 93. No frills, it had been an accident and repainted (didn’t know it at the time of purchase) and water would occasionally show up in the interior from the floor board as a result. I kept it until 99. I beat the crap out of it. I replaced the power steering pump at 100K.
    A fuse blew. Thats it. The 2.2 motor, while not a power house was never felt anemic. I sold it because had the new car itch, otherwise I probably could have kept it.
    Replaced it with the 95 ProbeGt.
    Great car. Engine was smooth, handling superb…I loved driving it and had no regrets passing up on a Mustang or Camaro.
    From 99 to 2007, the car only asked for fresh fluids and a cat back exhaust system. The only “issue” with it was that it liked to tap when the engine hadn’t warmed up.
    The Mazda 2.5 V6 was a much nicer engine than the Duratec 2.5 V6 available in the Contour. I would go as far to say that its smoother than the 3.0 duratec in our current Mazda6. Sounded great through the borla exhaust I had.

    Geez, most of my driving life has been spent in cars built out of the same factory.

  • avatar

    The 90s 626s are a different animal – they use extremely crappy Ford sourced automatic (I suspect the same one as the Taurus or maybe the Contour) and generally can be found extremely cheap with a dead transmission. Still pretty nice if you can find a rare 5spd version.

    The 80s ones do seem to run forever.

  • avatar

    I don’t know beans about Mazdas, but I had a ton of Valiants years ago. Two of them turned into drag racing cars, with which I won a lot of trophies.

    Others provided lots of fun miles, when fitted with the right parts. One even got a Corvette IRS (not a good idea – don’t try this at home).

    A few were convertibles. A nice convetible package, just the right size.

    Frankly, I don’t think there is anything to replace the Valiant.

    FWIW, I went from the last Valiant to a 72 Chrysler Imperial. Not a good idea. That turned out to be the next-to-last Chrysler for me.


  • avatar

    Wow, two cars in which I have personal experience! NICE!

    My cousin lives in Durango, CO… their new house forced them to sell their famous “Tan Sedan” which was a ’66 Valiant. Slant 6, and I believe a 3-sp auto but it might have been just two. The car had turned over 300K and was still running and looking great. But, their new house was on a mountain and the car just could not get up the rutted drive. Too steep. So, the bought a Subaru Forester in the middle 90’s.

    As for the 626… my mom had one the same color, but it was a ES V-6. GREAT car. A friend of mine bought it when she bought her Saab. I drove it from WI to Chicago for him and still remember how well that car drove!

    • 0 avatar

      It would’ve been a 3-speed automatic; unlike Ford and GM, Chrysler didn’t ever stick their compact-car buyers with a pathetic 2-speed automatic transmission.

      I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what Paul considers the ultimate A-body.

  • avatar


    The 626 Coupe screams a early Peugeot coupe.

    Related somehow?

  • avatar

    I consider my Accord to be the logical successor of my parents’ ’70 Valiant. Both really fine cars, similar size, economical, reliable, with good acceleration and handlng for their respective eras.

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