Many years ago I was out on a date with an artist, a hipster before anyone had thought of the term. I’ve long forgotten her name but not her style. Upon discovering that I knew something about cars, she announced that her current dream car was a 1960 Plymouth Valiant. Really, I asked, surprised and a bit intrigued. She liked tail fins, you see, and the Valiant was the cheapest car she knew of that had them.
By the late-1950s, Detroit had taken note of the Import Invasion. Sales of imported cars, led by the diminutive Volkswagen Beetle, had topped 100,000. It wasn’t until the 1960 model year that the Big Three finally had their own new compacts ready to do battle. General Motors unveiled the technically advanced, but not, as it turned out, fully developed, rear-engined Corvair. Ford offered up the simple and austere, yet strangely handsome Falcon. Chrysler’s response was the high-style Valiant, the only one sporting honest to god tail fins.
All three of Detroit’s import fighters were about 4/5ths the size and price of their standard sized siblings. The Plymouth, however, had two features that set it apart. The first was the Valiant's voluptuousness. It had not one but two flowing pairs of the aforementioned fins.
The second standout was the soon to be legendary “Slant Six” engine. Engineers tilted the motor 30 degrees to the right. This positioning allowed for better lubrication, a lower hood line, and a pretty cool nickname. The Slant Six would provide bullet-proof reliability to the frugalest of Chryslers for the next quarter century.
The Slant Six came in several sizes and power levels. The top dog on the option list was the special order Ram Air HyperPak, with a 4bbl carb and 148hp, and could propel a Valiant to 122mph. To showcase the HyperPak, Exner penned his eponymously named XNR sports car. He couldn’t make the case for getting the XNR into production. Even so, looking at those luscious lines makes me think that Ex, unlike yours truly, would have gotten a second date with my fin-loving femme.
Copyright@2018 by Mal Pearson