Thursday, June 2, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Plymouth Valiant Signet

In my last feature I commented that the Coke-bottle shape of the 1967 Plymouth Barracuda made the Valiant look on which it was based look like the box the Barracuda came in. After looking at this 1968 Valiant Signet two-door sedan, see if you don't agree somewhat. Now don't get me wrong, I like a lot of late-sixties Chrysler products including several model years of the Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart twins. But any way you slice them, they are pretty straightforward cars. These were marketed as "senior compacts", smaller and cheaper than other Mopar offerings and also generally plainer to look at with square bodies and relatively little chrome ornamentation, but better equipped and more powerful than a basic economy car like a VW Beetle. Note the "fanned-out" effect on the taillights and the defiant dogleg crease on the lower body that dare to add some character to an otherwise conservative, blocky car. All Valiants up until 1964 were built with a slant-six engine, then the 273 ci V8 was offered as an option. Then, in 1968, the now-venerable 318 V8 joined the Valiant lineup for the first time.

In the San Francisco classic car scene, Valiants are some of the most common old cars I see around town. In fact, most of them don't catch my eye enough to warrant more than a snapshot or two, if that much. This one, however, is one of just 6,265 Valiant Signet two-doors built in 1968, making it the second-rarest '68 Valiant variant after the Barracuda convertible. Honda sold three times as many Civics in the U.S. in May 2011 alone.

The condition of this example is also better than most. It has its share of minor dents, mostly on the corners as one would expect of a car that gets parked on the street in the city. The paint bears the orange peel of a modern Maaco respray of what I assume is code Q Electric Blue Metallic, or close to it. What impresses me about this car is how clean it is. Most Valiants and Darts I see are bland-colored, faded beaters plodding around, frequently driven by people who can't afford something else. This one looks like it's driven by someone who wants it, loves it, and takes care of it. As Valiants go, it's really quite nice.

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