Home Car Stories 20 Years + 1975 PLYMOUTH Valiant Custom
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Written by Double Dragon
Saturday, 11 September 2010 11:33

1975 PLYMOUTH Valiant Custom


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown


One of my childhood pals lived in a house under permanent renovation. His mother died young leaving three sons for the dad to deal with. The walls had exposed studs that created passageways between the partially finished rooms full of random tools. The place eventually became a full-fledged frat house hangout for the eldest son who adorned the walls with Alice Cooper posters. When the eldest turned 16 he bought a 20 year old running Cadillac for 25 bucks. Even back then that boggled the mind. In the 1970s a single hubcap for that car cost as much as the entire car.

The most interesting quirk of the house for a young kid was a real car that served as the boys' play car. The family car, a Plymouth Valiant had refused to start one cold morning. The dad called a cab to work and arrived home in a new car at dinnertime. The Valiant sat there slowly working its way into the middle of the earth. The seats were frayed and eaten by rodents, while weather eroded the car via missing side windows.

My pal and I spent hours in that car 'driving places'. The missing glass in the speedometer allowed us to vary our 'speed' by moving the needle across the dial. It took the imagination of kids to make the leap of faith that this inert hunk of metal was once a mobile, functional car.

75 valiant

My friends' dad was not typical of the usual Valiant owner. Most owners of Valiants are pragmatic types who keep their cars on the road forever. The same types of people now buy Toyotas second hand and drive them for 300,000 miles. They don't baby their cars and don't need to. The basic mechanicals of the Valiant were so strong that it could carry on forever, assuming of course that it wasn't left for dead in a driveway when the battery wore down! The Valiant is valued for its reliability and economy but not its looks. They seem to be rarely washed or parked indoors.

The reputation of the Valiant and its Dodge equivalent, the Dart were such that if the nameplates hadn't been messed with in the 1970s, the line may have carried on forever the way Checker cabs and VW Bugs did. The first Valiant was a 1960 model. Right from the start, the car had a 170 cubic inch slant six engine. The name referred to the 30 degree angle of the cylinder bank. This created a lower engine for better hood clearance as well as allowing long intake manifolds to curve gently across the engine bay which improved fuel mixture. This produced more horsepower AND economy out of every gallon of gas.

The Valiants used the Chrysler pushbutton controls for the automatic transmissions equipped cars until consumer wariness caused Chrysler to revert back to a conventional column shift. The most distinctive memories that I have of driving one of these early 1960s Valiants was pressing the button to the left of the steering column to put it in drive. The non power steering that took a million revolutions to get you round a corner is the second most prominent memory. These cars had rather strange styling at first, becoming aesthetically more appealing as the car evolved.

In 1964 the Valiant became the basis for the Barracuda which differed from the Valiant by virtue of a huge rear glass fastback window. Eventually, the need for a true pony car look and a large engine swallowing engine bay forced Chrysler to create the E bodied Barracuda for 1970. In 1970 the Valiant no longer had the Barracuda in its lineup, restricting it to an economy car and creating the great hit, The Duster. As muscle cars died, Chrysler began tinkering with luxury cars.

In 1975 the Charger was becoming just another Cordoba while content laden inexpensive cars were being flogged on the luxury plan as well. The OOCC Valiant fits into the new 'luxury' emphasis loaded onto mid 1970s cars. The 'Custom' has plusher interior, more chrome and a vinyl roof in conjunction with economy. The Oct 1974 issue of POPULAR SCIENCE predicted that a 1975 Plymouth Valiant with 225 and automatic running through a 2.76:1 axle was good for 16.5 MPG overall.

The PS figures are likely closer to reality than EPA which operates under ideal conditions. The EPA figure back then was derived from a 31 minute stop start 'city cycle' on dynamometer averaging 20 MPH and a 'highway' run of 12 minutes at an average of 49 MPH. The EPA rating for the 1975 Valiant 225 was 18 City MPG/ 23 Hwy MPG.

The OOCC 1975 Valiant Custom has lived the typical life of most Valiants. The first owner drove it to and from work. It was a utilitarian driver bought from Lakeview Chrysler Plymouth Ltd in New Westminster, BC, Canada just as the new 1976 models were being released. The build date for the Valiant Custom is 8-75C which translates to late August in the Hamtramck, Michigan assembly plant (indicated by the letter B in the seventh position of the VIN).

75 valiant dealer sticker

The August 21, 1975 broadcast sheet lists quite a few options on top of the Valiant Custom package. This is a real change of direction for the formerly spartan Valiant line. The Valiant began life as a basic economy car and stayed simple and frugal for a decade. By the mid 1970s Valiants were beginning to appear on lots 'loaded' as people attempted to get fuel economy plus some comfort.

The OOCC Valiant Custom is a high price vehicle as attested by the 'H' (for high price) in the second VIN position. The Valiant Custom has rear armrests, interior map lights, ashtray lamps, trunk lights and dress up items like vinyl roof, wheel moldings and pinstripes. It has the Fuel Pacer light mounted on the driver's fender as well as power steering and automatic transmission. The Valiant Custom also has front and rear bumper guards. Being a Canadian car it wasn't ordered with A/C.

The first owner's husband worked at Lakeview Chrysler which ensured that the maintenance was done properly. The Valiant was parked under a fibreglass roof in a closed carport. In 1999 the front driver's fender was hit and creased by a backing up on the Lakeview Chrysler parking lot. This damage would later flourish as rust. After 24 years of ownership the first owner sold the car to owner number two.


75 valiant build sheet

The second owner also lives in New Westminster. Owner Two needed cheap transportation and parked the car outside. He didn't invest beyond bare necessities. An example of how far things were stretched came to light when a friend convinced him to take a trip in 2005. The tires were so old with dry rot that two of them immediately came apart the instant the car was subjected to highway cruising speeds. To read the entertaining story of that road trip, see the ROLLING ROCK 2005 CALIFORNIA story in the Destinations area of the Travel Section of this site. There is also a summary of MPG to be found in the GAS LOGS section of the Travel Section.

Being parked outside for years in Lower Mainland weather is tough on cars. The Valiant Custom front fenders reveal the wages of constant rain. They are perforated with holes as if they were hit by a shotgun. In this picture, you can see the optional 'Fuel Pacer" light. This light on the driver's fender shines an orange glow whenever engine vacuum indicates that the car is under heavy acceleration. Around this time, GM was putting fuel mileage gauges into their cars, too.

75 valiant fender vacuum

The shot below allows you to see the vacuum line and electrical connections that make the fuel light work. You can also see more perforation of the fender, this time along the leading edge where the hood closes.

75 valiant engine vac light

The rear window leaks into the trunk which in turn causes sitting water trapped in the trunk to rust out the bottom of the quarter panels. Likewise, seams in the trunk have begun to weaken and develop pinholes.


The interior is holding up well except for several nuisance issues. The glove box requires a magical touch to remain closed and rattles when driving. The driver's seatbelt inertia reel sticks and makes the buckling and unbuckling process a hassle. Water is getting into the front floor through leaks in the windshield wiper grommets. But for a car parked outside in rain for 8 years, it's holding up pretty well. The engine is solid, starts every time and runs well, still getting reasonable gas mileage for a car with a comfortable, roomy interior. third owner had the car in an indoor parkade but the damage was already done and rust continued to spread. After 10 years of ownership he parted the Valiant out in 2017.


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 April 2019 08:04 )