Hang around a Goodguys autocross sometime, and you might run into some crazy old man with a ratty old 1969 Valiant who claims that Greening Auto Company (GAC) built it. How on earth could a highly distinguished shop that's won multiple Ridler awards possibly be involved with a worn-down A-Body littered with dings, dents, creases, and surface rust throughout its misaligned body panels? At 64 years of age, car owner Don Montgomery is too young to be completely senile, so something just doesn't add up. Closely inspecting the Mopar in question, however, reveals that this old man isn't crazy at all. He's telling the truth. Despite the Valiant's weathered appearance, it packs a 550hp Gen III Hemi, a six-speed stick, an Art Morrison chassis, and eight throttle stacks conspicuously sticking through the hood. Disguising all this technological greatness in such an inconspicuous wrapper is as bizarre and disconcerting as it is undeniably interesting and utterly badass.
Pea green Valiants with wrinkly skin are the kinds of cars that people walk right past at shows, and that's exactly what happens with Don's Mopar. The difference is that it makes those same people do double, triple, and quadruple takes as they try figure out what the car's all about. One of the most startling visual cues is the Valiant's ludicrously pissed-off stance that tucks the upper third of the wheels deep into the fenders and quarter-panels. The car's roof stands just 52 inches off the ground, yet the car retains full suspension travel and rides like a late-model down the freeway. Underhood, what looks like a beautifully dressed Gen I Fire Power Hemi augmented with a fistful of Weber carbs is actually a 392ci Gen III Hemi with modern Holley EFI. Likewise, with diamond-pattern leather stitching, plush wool carpet, and custom CNC-machined trim bits everywhere, the car's interior looks like something heisted straight out of a Bentley. "The body is just a façade for what's really behind it. The Valiant is old on the surface, but all modern beneath the curtain," Grant Salter of GAC explains. "The body looks the exact same as when it first came to our shop, and we didn't fix any of the sheetmetal. Even compared to the Ridler-winning cars that we've done, this old Valiant was the hardest to build. The sheetmetal has 40 years of patina, so if you accidently damage it there's no way you can find a matching body panel."
Sure, the finished product is unique, but the burning question everyone wants to know is why anyone would take such an unusual approach to building a cutting-edge g-Machine. Don credits the original concept to his friend Paul Davis, who pulled the Valiant out of a field in Arizona a few years back. As a desert-dwelling car with all-original sheetmetal, some minor dings and surface rust were the only blemishes on its skin. "We were sitting on the tailgate of Paul's truck throwing back some beer, and he said he planned on leaving the body in patina but installing an updated suspension and a Hemi. I loved the idea, and after some more beer and coaxing, he agreed to sell me the car," Don recalls. "I ran the idea by Jesse and Jeff Greening, and they both said, ‘You want to do what?' The more I bugged them about it, the more I was able to convince them that it could be a cool car. When they came out to my shop to pick the car up, we threw back a few more beers and planned out the complete build."
Although GAC left the original sheetmetal completely untouched, they took some creative liberties to give the Valiant a much more aggressive demeanor. In addition to narrowing up the bumpers, team Greening cut out trapezoidal openings and fitted vertical fins into them. Up front, the oil cooler sits behind the center opening, while the outer openings feed air to the brake ducts. In the rear, the bumper openings are flanked by exhaust outlets on each side. To give the A-Body's face a much more menacing appearance, GAC installed a custom insert into the grille that's highlighted by horizontal slats and a pair of vents. The one-off headlights feature integrated turn signals and custom LED marker lights that make it look like the car is indignantly furrowing its eyebrows, further earning the name "Pissed Off." The taillights, fender scoops, and front and rear spoilers are custom GAC pieces as well. As for the paint, none was applied. "We just washed the body really good with a degreaser, then sprayed it in satin clear," Grant explains. While each individual aesthetic tweak is somewhat subtle, collectively the net result is a car that looks dramatically different from a stock Valiant. Grandma wouldn't drive this A-Body. She'd be scared of it.
In order to get the most shock out of the deception provided by the patina, the Valiant had to kick as much heinie as possible on the street and at the track. To accomplish this, GAC ordered an Art Morrison chassis pimped out with aluminum front control arms and spindles, a four-link setup out back, and RideTech coilovers at each corner. Instead of simply bolting it to the body, GAC cut out the entire floor and channeled the chassis 3 inches into the body to achieve the aforementioned ludicrously aggressive stance. Gargantuan Baer 14.25-inch rotors and six-piston calipers are tasked with scrubbing off the speed, and custom GAC 18-/19-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear rubber stick it all to the pavement. "I didn't want a car that just looked good. It had to be a real driver. By channeling the chassis, the car has a good stance and still rides very well," Don reports.
Although the Valiant's new chassis begged for a punishingly brutal motor, it made little sense to stuff a 600-pound Elephant motor inside the nose of an A-Body. Instead, GAC ordered a 392ci Moper Performance Gen III Hemi. It's bolted to a Tremec T56 Magnum transmission, which sends power back to a Strange 9-inch rearend. To mate the Eight Stack individual-runner throttle bodies to the cylinder heads, GAC machined a custom lower intake manifold. A Holley Dominator EFI system controls the fuel and spark, and the result is 478 pissed-off rear-wheel horsepower on the chassis dyno.
As undeniably interesting and utterly badass as Don's Valiant may be, rat rodders will claim that they've been playing up patina since way before this Mopar came along. While there's no disputing that fact, the other inconvenient truth for them is that the performance of most patina'd-out machines is just as ugly as their cobbled-together sheetmetal and suspension bits. That's simply not the case with Don's fully modernized g-Machine, which ran lap times in the top third of the field on its first outing at the Nashville Goodguys autocross last spring. Believe it or not, it turns out that crazy old dude raving about a worn-out Valiant supposedly built by a Ridler-winning shop was telling the truth after all. Can you handle it?
After spending over 40 years being ignored in the desert, you might get a little angry too.