Yesterday, I drove the 1968 Plymouth Valiant to Outlaw Motorsports in Riverside, California, to drop it off for what I expect to be a yearlong visit. The guys at Outlaw (www.OutlawMS.com) are the same ones who did an awesome job on Project Nova with the bodywork, paint, wiring, rollbar, interior, and so much more. Back when I drove the Nova to Outlaw in the spring of 2011, it was a total basket case. I remember thinking it was practically a miracle that it even drove, along with wanting a tetanus shot every time I got out of the damn thing. That project went from zero to hero while it was under the Outlaw roof, and along with you guys, I learned a lot of cool stuff while documenting the transformation.
I have complete confidence that Outlaw will come through with flying colors on the Valiant, and we will come away with a much better understanding of one of America’s most beloved, yet most misunderstood, classics. I’m talking about the secret life of Mopars. As a novice Mopar guy, I’m still trying to figure out if the mystique is a function of the mechanical genius and styling ethos of the cars themselves, or if it has more to do with the movie and TV lore, and the psychological makeup of the typical Mopar guy. I say that last thing because I’m under no illusion that most of you are Mopar guys—the odds favor that you’re a Chevy, BOP, or Ford guy. Therefore, I gotta ask you this rhetorical question: Have you ever wondered what makes the Mopar guy tick?
It’s a fair statement to make that people who like muscle cars are among the most stubborn, thickheaded, opinionated, old-school humans on the planet. (Did I just describe myself, or what?) Now, take that recipe and add a quart of vinegar, a handful of horseradish, and a pound of habanero peppers. Now you’ve got the typical Mopar owner. You can see why I’m a bit circumspect in approaching this Valiant project—we’re about to throw a bunch of killer RMS suspension and Wilwood brakes at this thing, and we live in a hobby where you get a public stoning for putting 17-inch wheels on an original Hemi car. (I really sympathize with manufacturers of Mopar handling stuff—they fight an uphill battle for sure.) The thing that will get me through to the other side, however, is the comfort in knowing that most of you guys are actually not Mopar owners. You will be my companion as I negotiate the Chrysler underworld, uncovering their secrets and dispatching the myths. Whether we arrive at a satisfactory explanation for the Mopar psyche is still unknown—I’ll need to stare a bit longer into the mysterious blue pentagram for an answer.
…add a quart of vinegar, a handful of horseradish, and a pound of habanero peppers. Now you’ve got the typical Mopar owner. You ...
Clearly, we’re up against some conflicting goals with the Valiant. On one hand, we want to show readers what kind of cutting-edge stuff is out there for Mopars. Things like great suspension, effective disc brakes, rock solid rearends, lightweight alloy engines, razor sharp steering—stuff Mopars aren’t always known for. At the same time, we’d like to stay somewhat in the aesthetic wheelhouse of the Mopar universe—it’d be nice to not be strung up from a tree limb as an infidel while we’re visiting Moparistan, although I’m not holding out much hope for that.
This is going to sound funny, but this Plymouth Valiant project is more for the non-Mopar guys than for the Mopar faithful. Yeah, it’s for them too, but the bouncers at Club PHR are only letting in the Mopar guys who are of the open-minded, fun-loving variety. All others will be tossed out on their head, so keep you chalk-marking, paint-dabbing, date-coding, Protect-O-Plating comments to yourself. We’re going to have ourselves a little fun with this here A-Body. That said, we don’t want an all-out insurrection, so we’ll be keeping the stealth look, at least for the time being. We like the nondescript 15-inch steelie wheels with po-po caps, the 45 years worth of parking lot dings, and we think the survivor paint patina is cool, as is the flat hood. (That old chalky paint was brought back to life by Mothers products back in the Nov. ’12 issue, saving us thousands.) We’ve calculated the largest Wilwood disc brakes we can use to retain the steelies, and our all-aluminum 500ci Indy Wedge has a fairly low intake with the dual-quad Mod Man, so we’re hoping to forego any sort of cowl hood or hoodscoop.
Normally at this early point in a project, we lay out a list of lofty performance goals, and talk about the specifics of how we’ll be getting there, rationalizing all the cool goodies we’re going to get. The only thing I’m going to posit at this point is that we’ll consider it a success if it can lay rubber from a rolling start, and keep laying patch as you click through all three gears of a built TCI StreetFighter TorqueFlite 727. It’s pure bucket-list stuff: 2,700-pound Mopar A-Body, a pissed-off 657hp all-aluminum Wedge, bellowing Flowmaster exhaust, your right foot, and a pair of 600-foot-long black stripes painted by a couple of angry 15-inch tires. I imagine the video will be pretty cool. Of course, to survive a car like that, you will also need it to stop and turn with a modicum of dignity. Once we accomplish this, we’ll see if we want to climb any other mountains with the Violent Valiant—the Mopar community permitting!