09 February 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #16

This was supposed to appear last week, but I had snow fatigue and just couldn't get myself in the mood to do it. I spent some of the extra time thinking about what car I wanted to feature next. I went back over the cars I've already written about and, inspired in part by my entry on small wagons, decided on a Plymouth Valiant.

The Valiant was the practical, economical, boring compact bought by frugal people who were not interested in frills. It was the antithesis of where the auto industry was going in the early 1970s, but that's part of its appeal. The early Valiants (1960-62) were pretty weird looking, definitely an acquired taste. The second generation (1963-66) was much better looking, plain and simple but still attractive. The third generation (1967-76) was the best looking one, which is part of the reason it lasted so long. (Economics and the changing car market played a large part as well.)
1970 Plymouth Duster (Old Car Brochures)
Back in FG #8 I talked about how the Barracuda was created from the Valiant. By 1970 it got its own body designation, growing in size along with its competition. That left an opening in Plymouth's lineup for a smaller, less expensive sporty car, which led to the introduction of the Duster, a coupe again based on the Valiant that proved to be very popular. I like Dusters, and I knew people who had them in high school, but I don't feel strongly enough about them to want to include one in the Fantasy Garage.

There's also the question of why I wouldn't want a Dodge Dart instead of a Valiant. Darts were built on a longer wheelbase and were generally better equipped and had nicer trim. Honestly, it's kind of a coin flip; I'd be perfectly happy with a Dart, but I guess I lean toward Valiants just because they are slightly more humble.
So then, which one? My first instinct was to go with a four-door sedan, inspired in part by the car from the old movie Duel (which, if you haven't seen it, is worth the time; it's a 1971 TV movie directed by Steven Spielberg). But I decided on a Scamp, which was a two-door hardtop added to the Valiant line for 1971 due mainly to the success of its cousin the Dart Swinger. These were just cute names for a nicer trim level intended to attract customers who might otherwise choose a larger car. They had more standard features and nicer interiors, and that cool concave rear window. I think bucket seats were also available, which would be a nice choice.

(Story on a '72 Scamp with lots of photos at Curbside Classic.)

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