Car Collector's Corner:1974 Valiant Brougham With A Long Family History Gets A New Lease On Life

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland

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.

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J Sutherland
J Sutherland

Online collector car writer/webmaster and enthusiast

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  • Blowfish Blowfish on May 21, 2012

    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!

  • Zackman Zackman on May 21, 2012

    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.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.