Plymouth Valiant Signet

From Plymouth press: In the 1950s, when a market for small imported cars rapidly developed, Chrysler decided to create an American-built compact car. The development project was code-named “Falcon” after the 1955 Chrysler Falcon two-seat concept car (the name would later be registered by Ford for that company’s first compact). The result of this project was the Valiant. First appearing in 1960, the car was advertised as “the Valiant by Chrysler Corporation.” For the 1961 model year, the name was assigned to Plymouth; a Dodge version was called the Lancer.

With cylinders in line but canted at a thirty-degree angle, the Valiant’s Slant-Six engine earned a storied reputation for durability. It also displayed Chrysler’s early leadership in aluminum die-casting; more than 50,000 aluminum versions of the Slant-Six were produced between 1961 and 1963 (not to mention the transmission’s aluminum casing). From the initial success of the Slant-Six, Valiants were later offered with 273 cu. in. (1964) and 318 cu. in. (1967) V-8 engines. Valiant derivatives like the Duster and the Barracuda could be purchased with 340 cu. in., 383 cu. in., 426 cu. in. Hemi and 440 cu. in. V-8 engines.

With the addition of a “Hyper-Pak” dealer tuning kit, the Valiant became a remarkable performance car. The eight examples entered in the initial NASCAR compact stock-car race at Daytona (Fla.) in 1960 finished first through eighth, trouncing even European imports and V-8 models. Following a repeat performance the following year, NASCAR cancelled the series.

In 1963 the Valiant was restyled and its Dodge counterpart renamed the Dart. Its numerous derivatives include the Plymouth Barracuda, the 1970-76 Plymouth Duster and Dodge Swinger, the 1971-76 Plymouth Scamp, and the 1971-72 Dodge Demon — not to mention memorable Chrysler muscle cars of the Seventies, including the Dodge Challenger and the Plymouth Barracuda.

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