When Chrysler introduced the Valiant for the 1960 model year, the automotive world had no idea that this new compact would become one of the most successful products in the company’s history. Valiants and its A-Body siblings were built and sold by the millions around the world, with production continuing into the early 1980s (in Australia and South America). The sales pinnacle for the Valiant in the U.S. was 1964, and today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those cars: an upscale V-200 station wagon, found in a Denver-area wrecking yard a few weeks back.
The Valiant began life as its own marque, became a Plymouth for 1961, left Plymouth for 1962, then returned as a Plymouth model until American Valiant production ceased in 1976, and the Volaré took its place. You’ll barely see any mention of the Plymouth brand in the 1964 Valiant brochure, and Plymouth badging on the ’64s was minimal.
You could get the 1964 Valiant wagon as the base V-100, starting at $2,273, or as the nicer V-200 with its $2,388 price tag (that’s about $21,150 and $22,220 in 2022 dollars). Valiant coupes and convertibles could be had with the even swankier (by cheap small-car standards) Signet trim level.
As Ford showed us in the middle 2000s, numbers are just classier if you spell them out on emblems.
In the middle 1960s, substituting an automatic for the base three-on-the-tree column-shift manual transmission jacked up the price of an affordable car by an eye-watering amount. The Torqueflite three-speed automatic and its slick-looking push-button shifter cost 172 bucks extra (around $1,600 today), which made the car more than 7% costlier. A four-on-the-floor manual was available for the first time in a new Valiant that year, but it cost $180.
Also new for the 1964 Valiant was a V8 option (a 273-cubic-incher rated at 180 horsepower), but this car has the good old Slant-6. If it’s the engine that came with the car when it rolled off the assembly line, it’s a 101-horse example with 170 cubic inches… but these cars are notorious for getting engine swaps early and often and I didn’t check the block casting numbers.
The cassette deck tells us that it was being driven as recently as the late 1980s through middle 1990s.
There’s some rust in the usual spots, about what this car would have acquired by 1967 if it had stayed in Michigan.
This car could have been restored, though the expense for rust repair and interior refurbishment wouldn’t have been a good investment from a financial standpoint. It was purchased last fall for $500 at the same auction that gave us last week’s 1981 Chevy Citation Junkyard Gem and should yield at least that much in parts sales and scrap metal.
Both 1964 and 1977 are tied as the years when the largest number of distinct models of new station wagons were available for sale in the United States, and Chrysler’s Plymouth Division offered three different sizes of wagon that year: the small Valiant, the midsize Belvedere/Savoy, and the big Fury. Of course, even Rambler had three different wagons in ’64, and obscure players such as Hillman and Humber had a couple apiece that year.