Ron Silva learned about A-Body Mopars' superior power-to-weight ratio a long time ago. After selling the '71 Demon that he'd had for 11 years in the summer of 2005, he took some time off from playing with cars. Thankfully, that didn't last too long and after about a year he got the desire to build another all-around street-driven Mopar A-Body. Ron was planning a Pro Touring machine, but toned down a bit, using less exotic parts. That plan, though, quickly morphed into a dual-purpose build with an emphasis on a dragstrip car mimicking his old Demon.
Building a Valiant had been on Ron's mind-specifically the '67-69 two-door sedan body style-for years. He really wanted a '69 Valiant in the worst way because the style of the one-year-only grille reminded him of a billet tubular version, which he felt was way ahead of its time. Ron looked for a suitable candidate for quite some time until he finally found one listed on eBay in Florida, and did pretty much all he could possibly do to get an accurate description with the exception of flying out to see it. After numerous conversations with the seller, he took a chance, bought it, and had it shipped home.
To say he was shocked when it got there is an understatement. The guy who was always glad to talk with him and answered all his questions suddenly wouldn't take his calls. The "low-mileage six-cylinder cream puff" was completely rusty and totally unusable for the buildup Ron had in mind. He ended up repairing some things and sold it at a $1,000 loss.
The experience didn't dissuade him from searching the Internet, and it wasn't long before he found this '67 Valiant on eBay, but this time he vowed to never buy without seeing the car in person. Luckily, this car was only about an hour away in Wildomar, California. It was a six-cylinder automatic car that needed a complete restoration. The interior was completely trashed (the only interior pieces that would end up getting used in the build were the rear seat frame and the metal part of the dash). It also needed three floorpans. But the rest of the car was completely California-desert rust-free, and the body was reasonably straight as evident by the faded original paint still covering the sheetmetal. An added bonus was that it was a non-undercoat car, and that was a must-have for Ron.
The seller was nice enough to divulge his reserve price, and the more Ron thought about the car, the more he knew he needed to buy it. So a $1,800 bid was made to meet the reserve price in the last 10 seconds, and the Valiant was his. Ron still had his heart set on a '69, so when the '67 got home, he let it sit for a whole year-all the while still searching for a good '69 Valiant to buy. He tried everywhere and didn't find anything that he felt was worth the asking price.
Tired of looking, Ron finally gave up and made the decision to build the running and driving '67 he already had. Once the decision was made, it was full speed ahead, and Ron worked on the Valiant every day (except for maybe five, Ron says) for 23 months.
Right from the start, he wanted a car that would win a car show, but still lay down a good number at the track. The Valiant was taken down to a bare shell so that Ron could get at every piece of it to replace, rebuild, lighten, or improve. The major modifications to the undercarriage were boxing the front framerails and giving the K-member a trim to lighten it up, and then boxing it to give it some strength back.
When it came time to set up the rearend, Ron stuck the rear wheels and tires in the wheelhouses and measured across with a tape measurer. A call to Mark Williams Enterprises got the Valiant rolling with a completely TIG-welded 9-inch with chromoly .250 wall tubes and chromoly billet ends. The rearend is filled with all the best lightweight parts, including a Currie chromoly Trac-9 center with 4.10:1 gears. It wasn't cheap, but Ron doesn't like to worry about parts breaking and with that in mind, he also ordered an aluminum MMC driveshaft from Mark Williams as a little extra insurance.
The body was left almost stock with the exception of the VFN fiberglass hood and front bumper, and the removal of the gas door. The 15x10 rear wheels that Ron set up his rearend with necessitated mini-tubbing the rear about 3 inches per side, and stretching the front edge of the wheel arches an inch. The front fender openings were also opened up three- quarters of an inch.
Once Ron figured he'd done as much as he could with the body, it went to George Hernandez at Pollo's Auto Body & Restoration in Upland, California, rolling on a dolly he borrowed from his friends Doug and Bryan Sloan. George worked the sheetmetal until it was as good as new.
Ron obsessed over choosing a color for a year. He knew he wanted the ease of maintenance of a modern basecoat/clearcoat paint so he kept his eyes focused on late-model cars. He considered a lighter green metallic, but once the blue interior choice was made, the green was out. Silver seemed like a good choice, but Ron soon discovered there were a lot out there. He found two bright silvers on a couple of late-model vehicles, but when they were compared to a generic PPG silver, he ended up preferring the PPG color best. With the color decision done, George blew the Valiant apart for the final time and coated it in PPG Mack Silver.
When the Valiant returned to Ron's garage, he started assembling the pieces, continuing to keep the Valiant's weight in mind. The steering column center shaft was drilled and the centerlink, door hinges, and K-member bolts were through-drilled. The front bumper bolts, nuts, and washers are aluminum, as are the hoodpins and jam nuts. The bolts that secure the front bumper bracket to the frame are 1/2-inch titanium. The front wheel studs and flange nuts as well as some of the suspension bolts are titanium.
As hard as Ron worked to get weight out of the car, he's also a firm believer in proper weight bias front-to-rear, and welded 90 pounds in behind the back bumper to get better weight transfer. The total weight of the car with a full interior and full exhaust out the back ended up being 2,900 pounds, and that is with the iron-headed crate motor and ballast in the back. The car actually has 100 pounds more on the back tires than the front with the driver in place.
The Valiant was converted to '68-up stainless window moldings and gaskets. The grille, headlight bezels, taillight housings, and all the window moldings were restored by the "King of Trim" in North Hollywood, California. The center grille insignia, taillight, backup light, park light lenses and door handles are NOS.
Ron wasn't able to find new glass for the doors, so he figured he'd continue saving weight and use Lexan, which has been holding up very well so far.
An important part of the design and buildup was keeping the interior looking as stock as possible, but still providing Ron the protection needed to make the passes down the track. Although he wanted to save weight, he still wanted a full interior with a back seat, carpet, door panels, and headliner. The front bench seat was replaced with a pair of buckets from Summit Racing and an Art Morrison five-point chromoly rollbar was installed. Ron bought a reproduction two-tone blue cover for the back seat and enough extra material to have Raul's Auto Trim in Ontario, California, cover the new front buckets to match.
Along the way every electrical switch was replaced, and every wiring harness was streamlined and modified to suit his needs. For instance, there's an engine oil pressure switch that is wired into an ignition-on circuit that serves as a permissive for the fuel pump and ignition to run.
A big tach would have taken away from the interior's stock appearance, so Ron used an adjustable rpm switch wired into the MSD ignition that turns on the brake system warning light in the dash at a predetermined rpm as a shift light. All the lighting and related wiring was upgraded to use halogen headlights and LEDs for the brake lights, reverse lights, park lights, and even all the lights in the instrument panel.
Underhood, Ron made no effort at all to lighten anything on the current engine. His plan all along was to build the car to handle a future "good engine" to be built whenever the car is sorted out and time and money permit. Ron's last car had a 474ci R3/W9 small-block that was fast on the track and mild enough to drive around with. Ron hopes to do something similar in the future, and in preparation for the extra power he had Dave Smith at Pro Trans build an all-out 904 trans that will handle the future power upgrade.
Ron's best times (11.08 seconds at 117.8 mph with a 1.49-second 60-foot) were achieved in Woodburn, Oregon, at their annual 2009 Mopar race. It was the middle of July, and it was hot. Back closer to home and with cooler weather, it has 60-footed in the 1.45s. Ron swears by the crate motors and feels they keep running better and better for the first few months and cites the one in his Demon that went quicker every pass for the first 25 passes. Ron feels pretty confident that the Valiant will see 10.99 with a crate motor fairly soon, and with his attention to detail we've no doubt he'll do it.
Almost every opportunity was...
Almost every opportunity was taken to get a little weight out of the interior and still retain a mostly stock look. Radio and heater delete plates were used, and the original steering wheel was replaced with a lighter Speedway Motors aluminum three-spoke unit accented with the original horn button. The only non-factory gauge is the Auto Meter oil pressure gauge mounted underdash. The original ammeter gauge was converted to a voltmeter.
Throughout the Valiant are...
Throughout the Valiant are custom brackets, which have received the same lightening treatment, made to hold the hard lines and various components.
Even the most mundane of the...
Even the most mundane of the factory parts weren't able to escape the hole saw in an effort to shed some weight.
Custom brackets mount a pair...
Custom brackets mount a pair of polyethylene buckets sourced from Summit Racing and covered in the stock two-tone blue vinyl to blend with the rest of the interior.
The clean but all-business...
The clean but all-business attitude continues into the trunk and helps with the weight bias. The aluminum fuel cell, built by Triangle Engineering, balances out the fire extinguisher to the left and the Optima battery and toolbox to the right. The wheelwells were widened approximately 3 inches, but still look almost like they came that way from the factory.