Garaged Road Toad: 1961 Plymouth Valiant

Veteran automotive journalist Tony DeFeo once wrote that the 1st-generation Valiant represented “the angry drunk with a crayon and napkin school of automotive styling, like no other machine of the era.” Yet the unibody design introduced with the Valiant later became the foundation for every megabuck A, B and E-body Mopar crossing the auction blocks today. This 1961 4-door survivor, listed here on Craigslist for $3,200 is located in Sacramento CA.

According to the seller, this Valiant has been “Garaged and UNSTARTED for over 40 years”. If that is correct, that (and a life in sunny California) explains the absence of rust on this specimen. Being a V200 model, this has additional trim not found on the lower end Valiants of that year.

Not surprisingly, power comes from a raised block 225 cubic inch slant 6, backed by a pushbutton 3-speed Torqueflite. It would be interesting to see if the block is one of the 52,000 aluminum blocks produced between 1963-63. Not that you would especially want that for a driver, as the special gaskets needed for these are very hard to find. But interesting from a historical perspective. The seller states all mechanical systems need a going over, which would be the minimum expected for a 40-year hibernation.

The interior looks to be in very good shape, if not quite original. The white and red scheme definitely has a retro “malt shop” vibe reminiscent of the pre-Beatles era when Valiants first cruised the streets.

Potential buyers should be aware the seller states the title is missing, likely meaning lots of DMV fun. Being a 4-door, the market potential of the car is limited, although the apparent rust-free condition and ease of working on the mechanical systems make this a great “starter” project car. Would you have any interest in hopping on this garaged road toad?


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  1. canadainmarkseh Member

    Cool car even for a 4 door, this would be an easy project there’s not to much work needed to return this car to the road. I’ve always liked the quirky styling on both the Plymouth and the dodge in these models. If I had a place to put it and the means to buy it I’d be on my way to get it. Nice find.

    Like 15
  2. Ron

    I had a 60 model, great little car. Since it is a 61, then why would it have a aluminum block?

    Like 2
    • David Zornig

      It’s a typo.
      Should be “1961-`63”.
      Also they corroded from the inside if the exact special mixture of anti-freeze was not used.

      Like 3

    Paint on the roof appears to have been applied with a roller. At first I thought it was a wrinkled vinyl roof. Whoever wins this will have great satisfaction from fixing that alone. This is a four door I could get behind.

    Like 4
    • Bill Wilkman

      May have originally had a vinyl top covering. Wrinkles may be from residual glue and/or rust.

      Like 1
  4. Andy

    It’s better off as a four door; the two doors share all the bizarre touches and then add weird proportions. I love that “angry drunk” quote. I’ve always thought of these cars as Virgil Exner trying to get fired. That being said, this one sure looks solid.

    Like 11
  5. Rapid Butterfly

    Tony DeFeo! I used to love his writing back in the day. He’s not wrong about the styling of these.

    Like 2
  6. Barney

    If it is a 61 why would it have the 63 aluminum block?

    Like 3
  7. Rodney - GSM

    Is it just me, or does that hand painted roof look like a bad toupee….
    Hard not to love the spare tire bulge on the trunk lid.

    Like 4
  8. Rex Kahrs Member

    Virgil Exner trying to get fired….that is hilarious. Personally I always thought the face of these cars reminded me of some kind of mutant playpus. And even the good platypi look really weird. Then there is the title issue, so I’m out for sure.

    But with that slanty, I bet a few hours changing fluids and wires and a tune-up and that platypus would fire right up! Be sure to watch the mice nesting come flying out of the tailpipe when it does!

    Like 3
    • Brett Parker

      Love the analogy to platypus! Quite appropriate for Australia. Down here in Oz, the R and S series of Valiant’s were a big hit. In early 1962, the 1,000 R’s were sold within a few weeks of reaching Australian shores and there was waiting list for the 10,000 S’s that were sold till May, 1963. We only got the 4 door sedans with the 225 slant six. Thing is, at the time, the Val was putting 145 BHP compared to General Motors Holden EK of 75 and Ford Falcons 85 BHP. Also, the Valiant was assembled here in South Australia and held up really well to conditions over here. Back then, we didn’t have the big wide freeways that you had in the USA, so a six cylinder compact was “the go to vehicle”. Personally love Virgil’s styling (even if it got him sacked) and a Valiant S series is my weekend ride!

  9. David Zornig

    The seat pattern and door panels are not original, nor is the two tone paint, white steering column or black under the hood area, unless it was originally a black car.

    So I’m guessing a 40+ year old restoration.
    Vin# indicates a Los Angeles built car.
    1 of 59,056 V200 4 doors built in `61.
    Heater core likely needs attention too, since it is disconnected from the cooling system.
    Price would be right, if it had a title…
    My `61 V200 hardtop coupe below had sat for 38 years when I got it in 2014.

    Like 12
  10. Bill Shields

    Dumb question but why would you buy a car that you would want to put back on the road without an ownership?
    I know here in Ontario Canada it is not worth the hassle. I can’t imagine in as my grandma lovingly called you folks “The Excited States of America” it would be easier?

    Like 3
    • Rex Kahrs Member

      Bill, I could not agree more. My experience is this: if you buy a car with no title, then you won’t be able to title the car in your state. I never could make it happen in the 40 years I’ve been messing with old cars. Oh sure, every Hairy, Dick, and Thomas (a shout out to Moxy Fruvous) will tell you it’s no problem, but you’re right, it’s a hassle.

      These days, the “Excited States of America” has turned in to the “United Snakes of America”, (a shout out to Firesign Theater).

      Like 5
      • xrotaryguy

        Took me 2 years of work to title an old Mazda. Huge hassle!

        Like 3
    • Dovi65

      In New York, vehicles 1973 and older never had titles; they were issued paper registration cards. Transfer of ownership is a matter of the registered owner signing the reverse of the card stating the car has been sold. This, along with a bill of sale will get you thru the DMV.

      • canadainmarkseh Member

        In Alberta Canada we still just get a paper registration card that has to be renewed every year. All you have is your drivers licence your bill of sale your insurance slip and your registration. I’ve never herd of this title thing until I started reading about it here on barn finds.

        Like 1
  11. Mark Hoffman

    My dads Boss had a 1960 Valiant his son wrecked it in 1967, and he bought a 67 Dart GT… guess his son influenced him on the new car.

    Like 1
  12. Jaun

    One question. WHY?

  13. JTNC

    I’ll defend the Gen 1 Valiant’s styling. I think it was the “second best” looking of the original 1959-1960 U.S. compacts. Not as brilliantly simple and influential as the Corvair, but distinctive with a bit of a look of motion. The 1960 was cleaner than the 1961 which has a few too many random splashes of chrome. The red top on this car does it no favors.

    Like 3
  14. mikestuff

    When I was a young man, several eons ago, I was reading a magazine one time (I want to say LOOK magazine or maybe Saturday Evening Post, which were very popular then. And before the time of most of you.)
    David Eisenhower, the grandson of Dwight Eisenhower, was graduating from high school. According to the Google, he’s a year older than I am so it would have been about 1966. And yes, I am that old. The magazine had pictures of him and his family at that time, including the former president and Mamie and several dogs, and he was showing off gifts received from his family. The only gift I remember was a Plymouth Valiant, a plain old 4door with black-wall tires.

    Being the car geek that I am, I noticed it was of the first era, 1960-62. I was just amazed that his gift was a car that was already at least 6 years old and thought, wow, couldn’t his family have bought him a new car. And why I remember this 50+ years later, I’ll never know.

    Like 3
    • Jud

      Met David while he was stationed aboard the USS Albany CG-10.

    • chad

      like 2 C more of the ’55 C. Falcon ie the back.

  15. Del

    Love Mopar but this one does nothing foe me.

    Buy it for the engine and transplant to a coupe.

    Car worth maybe 500 bucks

    Like 1
  16. Joe Machado

    OK, ya’ll are messin with Nascar’s winnin 6 Cylinder car, the lowly Valiant 4 Door. In 1960, 7 were entered in Daytona on the Speedway-Road course. Falcons, Corvairs, Americans, etc. wouldn’t ya know it, the good ol boys in the Valiants finished 1-7. Yep! So, Nascar in da infinite wisdom, No Mo of dos here. So, outlaw all of dat. What would have been a 6 cylinder series in Nascar was lop-sided. Oh well, just like the Hemi, or the 69 Daytona etc, lets outlaw those too. Mopar has the advantage, Cheebies cry fowl. You know what happens next. Daytona Joe

    Like 4
  17. Doug

    So ugly they are now becoming sort of cool – not quite as ” appearance challenged” as it’s larger brother, ( the ’62 Belvedere was UGLY ! I can say that because I owned one in “Desert Sand “) but also not available with the V8 like its’ later siblings. I have seen an uptick in these cars recently – there are several that showed up for Hot August Nights this year – 2 with period speed equipment from Offenhauser, with the 4Bbl carb, headers, and finned aluminum valve cover, and one with a B block under the hood.

    Like 1
  18. John McMillan

    I had no issues getting my ’48 MG titled in Georgia after it had sat 45 yrs. It may just depend upon the state.

    Like 1
  19. Will Owen Member

    I liked these a lot at the time, but the Lancer was better for losing that silly fake spare cover on the decklid. Perfection for me would be a Valiant wagon with the three-speed floor shift – a friend in Anchorage had one I got to borrow a few times, and it was one eager ruffian of a car, a precursor to the Volvos I had later.

    As for “Angry drunk with crayon and napkin”, if I were working to undo the ghastly 1958-’59 Dodge and Plymouth critters, I’d wear out a few boxes of crayons and cocktail napkins myself.

    • chrlsful

      went that same route – took 40 yrs as all 4 were durable – dart waggys to same in volvos

  20. Carl

    The present owner needs to get a title then I would buy it. My daughter and I had disagreement I had given her a car she left in my drive and lost the title and now nothing can be done with it but to cut it up for scrap

  21. Roger

    OMG! That’s the same car our local high school used for Drivers Ed. in 1962. Students hated it and said the design was inspired by pulling apart a huge wad of chewing gum. The school bought it because it was the cheapest car available from the local car dealers.

    Like 2
  22. Kevin McCabe

    Dave Zornig and Bill Shields have it right about this car, both what’s right and wrong with it as well as the futility of trying to get an ownership. WITH a title, it might be $3200. WITHOUT a title it’s a $320 car. OR, if you’ve got a really ratty car that needs a ton of work, buy it to use as a “donor body”.

  23. Joe Machado

    I have NEVER been refused a new title when one was lost on any vehicle, ever. Even a vehicle from another state. Even a vehicle from a wrecking yard, salvage. I found out over 50 years ago, the person behind the counter at DMV interprets rules differently than the next window. I use a woman who used to work for them and knows what to keep and what to loose. Knows what to say and what not to say. All they want is money. They work for you, not the other way around. Daytona Joe

    Like 4
  24. ramblergarage

    looks like it is a 4 door pillerless hardtop.

  25. Will Owen Member

    Check for rust big time then! Valiants in general had bad rust problems, but the hardtops and convertibles got a well-deserved reputation for rusting badly enough to collapse in the middle. I drove a convertible that was for sale up the street; not only was most of the floor gone in back, it kinda snaked its way down the street. Scary.

  26. Qabbott

    I wonder what the original color was? I would love to get a ’61 wagon!

    Like 1
  27. Jett

    I think this is a cool car—why the hate on for four-doors? It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face, IMO. Given a choice between this and a ‘61 Plymouth Pioneer wagon, I’d edge ever so slightly to the wagon, though.

    Like 1
  28. Carey Hill

    cool car- dare to be different!…. looks I think- especially the frontal treatment was likely a knee jerk reaction to the sudden unexpected popularity of the 59 Studebaker Lark..which caught the big three napping on affordable basic transport . and the increasing popularity of Mercedes Benz imports

  29. Joe Machado

    Woops, 61 Plymouth wagons were Savoy, Belvedere, Fury. 61 Dodge wagons were Seneca, Pioneer, Polara. Of all our cars, I have a 61 Savoy wagon and my son has for 60, a Polara D500 4 door hardtop wagon and a 60 Pioneer wagon. He has 2 60 Polara D500 Ram Induction convertibles. One being a Pilot car. Some four door hardtops back then had nicer rooflines than two door hardtops. As for rust, we have several that never rusted over the years. 61 Imperials, a LeBaron, and convert. 61 Phoenix convert, 70 Charger RT, 69 Daytona. Others had spots at bottom of front fenders, nothing big. Cars we have from other states the floors had to be replaced. Here in the desert, other things go bad. Interiors, steering wheels, paint. Chrome will look new after fifty years still.

  30. charlie Member

    Pre 1999 cars do not get a title in NH, you can’t get one, you don’t need one, just a bill of sale. In CA you can register and drive a car without a title, but you can’t sell it, but, you can get a title through a mysterious process only a few people at the DMV understand or have the patience for. (After you take a number and wait an hour, at least at the local one, “you’ll have to come back when ……. is here, she knows how to do it”. Local DMV’s do not have a local phone number and they can’t or won’t tell you their number or when ……. will be in, so you go back, look in the door, and if she is sitting at her station you wait an hour and then some more until she is free. ….. goes through the last title held by someone on the car in whichever state the car last had a title, by using the VIN, through some computer system she has, and then does something, and you pay (no credit cards but checks, cash and debit cards OK – something weird about that) she finds it, and a month later a CA title comes in the mail. When I bought the car in NH, I got the seller’s title signed over to me, but dumb me, I did not make a copy of it, and NH took it from me, and did not give me one, since the car was a 1993 and they CAN NOT issue titles for cars older than 1999. So, a car with no title can be made good in CA, and if a pre-1999, which most of the cars here are, it is fine in NH. (In CA, as long as you have the time to spend at the DMV.)

    Like 1
  31. F. John Vacek

    We are lucky enough to have two of them. A 2 door post and a wagon named Wilma. The are the star of the show wherever they go.

    Like 1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      What a cool looking wagon, John!

  32. D.P.

    If it hasn’t been established yet for sure, it is a 61. My dad bought one of these as my sisters first car, but I can’t remember if it was a 2 or 4 door. Being my dad, and how he thought, it was most likely a 4 door.
    It was a cool little car until she wrecked it.., twice, the second totaling it. But I remember the push button trans selector, and thought that was SO cool at 3 or 4 years old.
    I would love to have a 2 door model, just because I LIKE 2 door cars. I would want to do a rest-mod to it, but alas I don’t have, or make the income to do it.

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