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The DeSoto Rebel and Valiant Rebel

by Mike Sealey

The DeSoto Rebel was basically a rebadged Dodge Lancer, sold only in South Africa.

Chrysler and Rambler appear to have sold cars under the Rebel name in South Africa at the same time. (South Africa also appears to be the only offshore market to the best of my knowledge to get the Marlin, sold there under the Rambler name for 1967 only. One news article referred to a carjacking involving what was probably the only Marlin in South Africa at the time, taken on a demonstration ride and taken from the salesman at gunpoint. The thief was apprehended when he ran out of petrol, the Marlin no worse for wear other than a bullet hole in the rear.

Other Chrysler products differed for the South African market, most notably the "Chrysler 383," which in 1969 and 1970 (possibly other years) was a rebadged Dodge Monaco. The Hillman Hunter/Sunbeam Arrow was built as a pickup (called a "bakkie" in South Africa) under the name Dodge Husky. The Hillman Avenger/Plymouth Cricket was built locally, using a South African Peugeot engine to satisfy local content regulations - with a Dodge nameplate ("Dodge Avenger").

[We can learn a bit from] an ad taken from a South African DeSoto brochure. National DeSoto Club members Bob Terpak and J. Francis Wernath each sent copies of the original brochure. Apparently the Rebel was marketed in South Africa from 1961 to 1963.

The car is similar to the 1961 Dodge Lancer it was based on, with DeSoto nameplates. There appears to be a Rebel-specific emblem in the middle of the trunk lid, but it's impossible to see detail; it may have been the DeSoto Diplomat version of the trunk lid handle used on the '56 Plymouth.

A small rectangular badge under the left rear taillight assembly saying "BY CHRYSLER," seen in other photos, are not visible in the catalog art. The driver's door is open, showing 1961 Valiant innards except that the front seat may have been better trimmed.

A shield-like emblem appears to replace the Lancer shield on the hood, possibly the shield without the Lancer name. DeSoto script from the trunk lid appears on the right side of the grille, although mounted in a straight line. This script was not used on any DeSotos sold in North America and may have come from an (export) 1959 Diplomat. Finally, we see the optional Lancer front bumper guards. There is no notation of these bumper guards being available at extra cost, and they may have been standard in the South African market, or possibly only standard on Rebels.

[Daniel Stern wrote: "These photos also show the cars equipped to comply with the unique South African requirement for white front retro reflectors (Americans say "reflectors") on all vehicles, comparable to the red ones long required on the rear of vehicles throughout the world.]"

The ad's text includes:

  • The new Rebel DeSoto Compact...
  • Rebel has the clean, swift looks of the greyhound.
  • Rebel's Economy Slant-Six engine develops 101 h.p. ... power to cruise easily at 80 m.p.h. ... power to top 95 m.p.h.
  • Full six-seater comfort plus Chrysler's famous Torsion-Aire suspension for a smooth, safe ride.
  • Average petrol consumption depends how you drive... but you can get close to 30 miles from a gallon with Rebel under ideal conditions. (Imperial gallons)
Valiant Rebel (by Stephen Makai)

I live in Adelaide South Australia; in 1984, I spotted what appeared to be a 1973/74 Chrysler VJ Valiant Sedan (Australian production). It had "Rebel" badges and a 225 six under the bonnet (though most of the local cars had an Australian 245 or 265 Hemi motor.) The trim and taillights were quite different; the salesman said the car was a South African-assembled import.

About ten years later I saw the same car looking rough in a car park and spoke to the current owner. He had no idea that the car was South African built and rare to Australia, but I gave him my number and said if he would like to sell let me know. He called me a year or so later saying he wanted $2,000 (when you could buy a similar Australian built car for $500.) I called him a while later and he said he sold it to an auto wrecker, who had sold the motor, transmission and few minor parts and crushed the rest!

Mike Sealey added:

I have a DeSoto Rebel ad dated 1961, and am told the Valiant and Lancer appeared at the same time... for Valiant-badged Lancers, these may have existed, not ready to say they didn't anyway, but I have a pic from the August 1962 issue of the South African magazine Auto Parade of what we in the US would call a 1962 Valiant and another of a 1962 Lancer. Australians would recognize this 1962 Valiant as an S-series. I do know Chrysler Canada built a Lancer for export markets, interesting since they didn't sell a Lancer in Canada. Canadian Chrysler expert Bill Watson tells me this car had a 1961/R-type Valiant tail, unlike the domestic Lancer, but without the fake spare tire trunk lid.
For more information, visit Chrysler's South African Web site!

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