Plymouth introduced the Valiant line in 1960 as a new compact entry-level model. For this year only, Chrysler management brought the Valiant to market as its own brand, but eventually settled on Plymouth even though the car was actually built by Dodge.
The new Valiant was groundbreaking in several ways, including a unitized body design and the use of torsion bars in the front suspension. The new car also featured 12-volt electrical system and the slant-six engine that would power Chrysler products for a generation.
The 1960 Valiant was available as a four-door sedan or station wagon, with optional third row seating for up to nine passengers in the wagon. Production was divided into the low-line V-100 series and the high-line V-200, although the differences were minimal. All V-100 cars came with gray cloth upholstery, whereas V-200 cars had a choice of interiors and some extra chrome on the outside.
The first iteration of the Slant-six engine displaced 170.9 cubic inches and produced 101 hp. The engine was named for its canted position in the engine bay, allowing a taller engine to fit under a lower hood. Early 1960 models used an iron engine block, but an aluminum block was adopted mid-year. Buyers could opt for a “Hyper-Pack” that raised output to 148 hp with a four-barrel carburetor and a 10.5:1 compression ratio head. A three-speed floor-shift manual transmission was standard, but an automatic option was available.
In 1961, Chrysler officially made the Valiant a Plymouth model. A two-door post sedan was offered in the base V-100 trim, and a two-door hardtop was offered in the V-200 trim. The nine-passenger wagon was dropped, but the big news for this year was the mid-year addition of an optional 225 cubic inch version of the Slant-six engine, rated at 148 hp. This option replaced the Hyper-Pack.
For 1962, Plymouth renamed the two-door hardtop as a “Valiant Signet” and replaced the hole in the V-200 line with a two-door post sedan, but otherwise left the successful Valiant alone. Optional engine power dropped slightly to 145 hp in the 225 cubic inch Slant-six, but the standard six-cylinder continued at 101 hp. Transmission options were also unchanged. Plymouth was gearing up for a full redesign on the Valiant for 1963.
Slant-six aficionados will be drawn to these early Valiant models for their interesting styling and revolutionary design. As a rule, the 225 cubic inch aluminum engines will be preferred, but for collectible status it’s hard to beat the Hyper-Pack. About 300,000 Valiants were produced in this period, so buyers will have plenty to choose from at good prices.