Junkyard Find: 1973 Plymouth Valiant

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Jan 25, 2013

    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.

    • JimC2 JimC2 on Jul 13, 2013

      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.)

  • Nick Nick on Jan 29, 2013

    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.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X '19 Nissan Frontier @78000 miles has been oil changes ( eng/ diffs/ tranny/ transfer). Still on original brakes and second set of tires.
  • ChristianWimmer I have a 2018 Mercedes A250 with almost 80,000 km on the clock and a vintage ‘89 Mercedes 500SL R129 with almost 300,000 km.The A250 has had zero issues but the yearly servicing costs are typically expensive from this brand - as expected. Basic yearly service costs around 400 Euros whereas a more comprehensive servicing with new brake pads, spark plugs plus TÜV etc. is in the 1000+ Euro region.The 500SL servicing costs were expensive when it was serviced at a Benz dealer, but they won’t touch this classic anymore. I have it serviced by a mechanic from another Benz dealership who also owns an R129 300SL-24 and he’ll do basic maintenance on it for a mere 150 Euros. I only drive the 500SL about 2000 km a year so running costs are low although the fuel costs are insane here. The 500SL has had two previous owners with full service history. It’s been a reliable car according to the records. The roof folding mechanism needs so adjusting and oiling from time to time but that’s normal.
  • Theflyersfan I wonder how many people recalled these after watching EuroCrash. There's someone one street over that has a similar yellow one of these, and you can tell he loves that car. It was just a tough sell - too expensive, way too heavy, zero passenger space, limited cargo bed, but for a chunk of the population, looked awesome. This was always meant to be a one and done car. Hopefully some are still running 20 years from now so we have a "remember when?" moment with them.
  • Lorenzo A friend bought one of these new. Six months later he traded it in for a Chrysler PT Cruiser. He already had a 1998 Corvette, so I thought he just wanted more passenger space. It turned out someone broke into the SSR and stole $1500 of tools, without even breaking the lock. He figured nobody breaks into a PT Cruiser, but he had a custom trunk lock installed.
  • Jeff Not bad just oil changes and tire rotations. Most of the recalls on my Maverick have been fixed with programming. Did have to buy 1 new tire for my Maverick got a nail in the sidewall.