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In 1960, each of the Big Three automakers finally started producing compact cars. The Chrysler idea was to make a smaller, lighter car that did not sacrifice comfort or much luggage space, but provided superior handling and an efficient engine, benchmarking European cars and enabling the corporation’s re-entry into foreign markets. Styling chief Virgil Exner wanted to make sure the Valiant did “not look small or tiny from a distance,” eschewing oversized fins.
The 1960 Valiant was two feet shorter, one foot narrower, and three inches lower than the 1960 Plymouth; doors were thinner than competitors, so that the interior was larger than cars of similar width, and it had 25 cubic feet of luggage space.
It was not just a scaled-down version of the bigger Plymouth, though, hence the tag-line “not merely a kid brother.”
For an American car, the Valiant was fairly revolutionary. It had an integral body and frame welded into a solid unit — unibody like nearly all 1960 Chryslers — and an industry-first standard alternator, using a new Chrysler design which was far in advance of the alternators optional on earlier cars. The suspension was admittedly Chrysler-conventional: front torsion-bars with unequal-length control arms, rear leaf-springs. Still, Valiant was one of the first cars to have its suspension tested for loads and stress by computer. Well-known auto tester Tom McCahill praised the handling as one of the best he had ever driven right out of the show room, calling it, “one of the smoothest new cars I had ever experienced.”
On the custom side, a Ram-Air, HyperPak equipped Valiant managed to lap Daytona at over 122 mph, beating the Corvair and Falcon by a large margin. (The Hyper-Pak was offered briefly as a dealer-installed option producing 148 horsepower.)
Also see: Chrysler ads • Imported From Detroit • Halftime in America • Year of the Farmer • Bill Cawthon on the Super Bowl ads1960 Valiant • valiant.org (full A-bodies site) • Dodge Dart • CEO Launch Speech • Project Leader’s Engineering Speech
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