By on May 19, 2013


Typically, when you’re talking in antique vehicle terms, one might consider spotting something like this early ‘60’s Plymouth Valiant; a rare sighting in ANY circumstance. To find one largely intact, still operational, and out on the street—well, that puts it on another level!

1962 Plymouth Valiant (3)

As with other U.S. vehicles from this period, these Valiant models certainly weren’t suffering from any shortage of “Styling Funkitude”. This, of course led to their early demise in the field of potential collectability; and subsequently, some premature one-way trips to wrecking yards across the Continent—especially for four-door models, like the case-in-point.

1962 Plymouth Valiant (1)

These days, on the other hand, such styling shenanigans are antitheses to the modern, mass-produced autoconveyance; allowing one the opportunity to afford welcome to such a neighborhood discovery.

1962 Plymouth Valiant (4)

I really appreciate the well-integrated state of maintained original decay this particular unit is experiencing. It definitely is quite the whole package, isn’t it?
1962 Plymouth Valiant (8)

Although this Val’ would have most certainly “made the scene” when it was in San Francisco (note bumper-mounted permit—on what is one of the few suitable mounting spaces available there), it looks pretty much “in context”—BODACIOUSLY so—on an overcast day near Pt. Fermin, CA.
1962 Plymouth Valiant (9)

Phil has written features and columns for a number of automotive periodicals and web-based information companies. He has run a successful Auto Repair Business in the past for many years (See “Memoirs of an Independent Repair Shop Owner” on this ttac site). He can be contacted through this very site, or


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35 Comments on “BODACIOUS BEATERS (and road-going derelicts): REALLY VALIANT!...”

  • avatar

    Thanks for sharing Phil. Beautiful to me.

  • avatar

    My dad had one of these back in the mid-80’s and it was a fun little car. It was interesting seeing the manual shifter on the steering column.

  • avatar

    Mine was traded for an old Soundesign stereo from a fellow swing shift worker while finishing college. It had 90k on it with a push button auto, and transported my daughter home from the hospital. And my golf clubs from the Cedars after my only hole in one to date. The best 5 iron I ever hit. White. Good memories of a damn bullet proof car.

  • avatar

    I remember receiving $25 or $50 in cash from the wrecker driver, given that scrap steel was bringing a decent price @ that time. I promptly spent it on beer.

  • avatar

    ” It was interesting seeing the manual shifter on the steering column.”

    If you think that’s interesting, if it had been an automatic, it would have the Chrysler “ipunch” push-button dash transmission

    • 0 avatar

      Was Chrysler’s push button transmission a reliability nightmare or something?

      Seems to me that in the era of new-fangled trannies, this idea might still be with us.

      • 0 avatar

        I forget the exact details, but I believe it was because the government stated that in 1965 all cars used in government fleets had to have standardized controls. PRNDL wasn’t in every car yet, and some government employees caused problems with their inability to read letters.

        • 0 avatar

          So they didn’t have PRNDL on the buttons?

          • 0 avatar

            The ’64 Fury my friend drove had buttons for Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Second and First. Park was engaged by pulling down a lever.

            There’s a photo of the shifter on this web page:

      • 0 avatar

        Believe it or not, push button shifters are back in vogue, case in point the new Lincoln MKZ. If you can find a photo of the instrument panel, look left of center, and voila. When I read about this two months ago, I almost spilled my martini.

        • 0 avatar

          It may well be illegal. I remember everyone getting in a huff back in 1965 about the PRNDL lever meaning the end of Chrysler’s pushbuttons, because L was neither 2 or 1, which Chrysler DID identify.

          Then the NHTSA was founded and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards started being promulgated.

          FMVSS Standard 102 came into effect in 1968:

          “Standard No. 102 – Transmission Shift Lever Sequence, Starter Interlock, and Transmission Braking Effect – Passenger Cars, Multipurpose Passenger Vehicles, Trucks, and Buses
          (Effective 1-1-68)
          This standard specifies the requirements for the transmission shift lever sequence, a starter interlock, and for a braking effect of automatic transmissions, to reduce the likelihood of shifting errors, starter engagement with vehicle in drive position, and to provide supplemental braking at speeds below 40 km/h (25 mph).”

          I don’t see where buttons are allowed, or ridiculous gizmos like the current BMW 7 series wand which require dexterity to operate. The idea was to make it simple for the pancake flippers of this world.

          Perhaps someone can enlighten us? Have the standards changed?

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            Corvair’s with automatic transmissions(Power-glide) had the lever on the dash which lacked the Park function. Just neutral IIRC you had to engage the parking brake.

          • 0 avatar

            They must have changed, at least in part. Both cars I’ve owned (’12 Mustang and ’93 Camry) both had PRND21 with nary an L to be found

        • 0 avatar


          Damn son you’re right. Wonder what took so long? The idea seems like it should be a cinch, especially in subcompacts where interior space is at a premium.

  • avatar

    It was probably more the push-button transmissions and early issues with the slant six that did some of these in, they were sorted out with time.

    As much as I like the square practical Valiants I’ve always liked the bizzaro 50’s meets the 60’s models like this one, it looks best in wagon Dodge Lancer form.

    With the styling direction that modern cars are going I think the early ValiantsLancers were ahead of their time, that and using buttons over fairly basic tasks (shifting, starting, etc).

  • avatar

    I was still seeing these as daily drivers regularly in the ’80s. There were very few other cars from 1960-1962 still on the road in any form. Maybe you’d see the odd full sized Chevy every few months, but they made 20 times as many of those. A few were bound to survive.

  • avatar

    Sorry but this isn’t a case of maintained decay. This vehicle has had a make over at some point in it’s life. That is clear coat/base coat paint that is failing so it wasn’t painted that long ago, relative to it’s age. The way the chrome is coming off the bumpers in sheets and how well it looks in the places it is intact indicates that the bumpers have been re-chromed. They too were either done not that long ago, after CARB took away some of the chemicals used in the process, or they were just done by a cut rate shop. All in all I’d say this car got a serious make over no earlier than the 90’s.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent analysis. The clear coat is coming off like a lot of late 80s GMs that were factory painted with early versions of BC/CC.

      BC/CC refinish really wasn’t widespread until the 90s so the California sun has worked its “magic” on this repaint likely over 15-20 yrs.

      As for the re-chrome, that service is getting harder and harder to find.
      Two sources I’ve used here in Indiana have closed up in the last year and the next guy has a 4 month backlog. You can buy a new bumper for a classic from China for 1/3 the price of re-chroming.

      • 0 avatar

        Those Chinese bumpers will likely loose their chrome or start rusting like crazy in only a couple of years and even brand new it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the chrome done in the old days.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Furthermore, this car did not come in that horrible red.

      I love these Valiants, and consider them the epitome of automotive art deco. But the original (1960) is better.

  • avatar

    No toilet seat?

    • 0 avatar

      Toilet seat was gone by 1962. What’s more, that may be a Canadian ‘Chrysler’ Valiant. The American Plymouth Valiant had the split blue/red triangle in the trunk circle emblem. The one with the ‘VALIANT’ word in the circle might have only been used on the Canadian Chrysler Valiant.

  • avatar

    The push button automatic was lovingly referred to as ‘typewriter drive’.For those of you that don’t know what a typewriter is,well,your not old enough to read this ;}> Chrysler had been using the ‘push button’ auto since the mid to late 50’s,and was cable operated,not electronic.The parking brake was a lever next to the typewriter drive.Very reliable.

    The slant 6 was as close to being ‘bullet proof’ as any engine could be,and economical for the times.My last one was a 225 ci,with 3 on the tree in a brand new 1974 Dodge B100 van.I still remember 23mpg all day long running on regular leaded.Would load it up on weekends with the wife,two kids,and all our camping gear and haulass for some remote area and we had a ball.Extremely reliable.

    ” It was interesting seeing the manual shifter on the steering column.”
    Lol,that was so common back in the day,and very easy to use.It was also referred to as “3 on th’ tree”.I used to drive around in a 59 MB with a manual “4 on the tree” with a auto hydraulic clutch used for shifting only.Worked pretty good too until it got real cold.

  • avatar

    My father-in-law owns a restored Valiant that he’s used for drag racing. My wife and I drove it away when we were married. It’s a fun car with it’s push button automatic. It actually has out raced some of the V8s it’s been put up against.


  • avatar

    Oh, this brings back memories. First car I ever drove was the family second car, a ’61 Valiant with the 170″ slant six and Torqueflite. I loved that car. My brother ended up trading it for a ’60 Mercedes 220S with a four-on-the-tree, but that’s another story. Every Chrysler product with an automatic between ’56 and ’64 had the famous typewriter drive. The only exceptions I’ve seen are the few that had a floor-shifted automatic, like ’64 Sport Furies and the earliest Barracudas. This was true for the familiar 3-speed Torqueflites, and the 2-speed Powerflites that were around until about 1960.

    To my knowledge, the cable-actuated pushbuttons were not at all troublesome.

    • 0 avatar

      The M-B manual four-on-the-tree was fairly common on 220S’s. I used to chauffeur my aunt around during the summer in a black ’58 220S with that shifter that my uncle bought for her(even though she hadn’t gotten her license to that point). Later in that summer, we got another 220S, a ’61 with the newer,squarer body, but same shifter. No problem with either car.

      As for Chrysler Motors push button automatics, I never experienced any issues with those that I drove, and never heard of anyone else having trouble, either.

  • avatar

    This beauty needs the toilet seat on the rear deck to suit me. The 1963-4 Valiant was one of the most reliable vehicles of its time using the same bullet-proof slant six. According to Consumer Reports the only thing that ever broke was their water pumps. I drove a 1963 and a 1964 to very nearly the end of their useful economic lives – about 150,000 miles each. The only repairs were the water pumps.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Another serious cult car!especially here in Australia. When first released they sold out immediately (only 1000 were imported) the next year they bought in a few thousand more an sold them straight away too. The big thing that made them popular ,besides the styling was thev 225 six which would burn off the local Fords and holdens . Heres a link to give an idea of current prices paid for them here..

  • avatar

    The button trans was very reliable.
    My ’66 Saab had 4-on-the-tree also.
    It never hung up like my ’63 Nova shifter- I would sometimes jump out at a light, pop the hood and jiggle the linkage to free it up.

  • avatar
    al w

    The only transmission-related problem that I recall on my father’s ’57 Dodge that I learned to drive on was that he would occasionally pull the “2” button off its track while fiddling with the buttons while waiting for a stop light to change.

    To start those cars, you turned the key to the “run” position and pushed the “N” button all the way in until the engine started. So much for a “transmission interlock.”

  • avatar

    Lovelovelove this. What I wouldn’t give to have my robins-egg blue ’61 Valiant back. A far better car than all your Kia Souls, front wheel drive sedans and SUVs put together.

  • avatar

    Chrysler wasn’t the only car maker with push-button trans gear selector. The Ford Edsel had push-button trans as well…the buttons were located in the center of the steering wheel, I believe Ford called it “Teletouch”.

    • 0 avatar

      Push button automatic trans was the shiznit, although when I first bought my Valiant my right arm kept searching for a column mounted shift lever that wasn’t there…took a while to retrain myself to look for the buttons on the far left side of the dash.

  • avatar

    Sweet old B Body ! .

    I wasn’t a fan when they were in production but practical experience made me a fanboi forever more.

    Cheap , durable and oh so reliable , these fine , good driving and riding cars sold by the boat load to the more conservative minded buyers when new .

    Not even antsy teenagers could screw up those weird & wonderful push button tranny controls , Dodge trucks used them too .

    There’s still quite a lot of oddball oldies in and around San Pedro , Ca. where this one lives .


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