a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, July 16, 2012

My "dream" car

A 1970s Plymouth Valiant similar to models I once owned and photographed recently in the Pittsburgh area. (Mike Jones photo)

By Scott Beveridge

A reoccurring dream takes me back to my 20s and the first car I purchased.

It puts me behind the wheel again of a 1975 Plymouth Valiant that has returned to my life three decades after it went to a scrapyard, yet, it's looking as good as nearly new.

In the dream I still have my 2009 Ford Focus sedan, which is nearly as boring of a ride as the one conjured up in stage 5, or rapid eye movement sleep, when a brain is in gear while the body is partially paralyzed.

Yet, I prefer in this fantasy to drive that avocado Valiant sedan to work and play, while looking over my shoulder for the police because its inspection and registration stickers are illegal.

I pass several police officers in cruisers and they don't take notice of my old car. It's engine purrs perfectly so I give up worrying about a traffic violation and travel happily on down the road.

The morning greets me with a smile that soon disappears upon the realization that only my imagination had conjured my "dream car."

In reality the vehicle was anything but a chick magnet. I purchased it for maybe $1,400 in 1979 when I was raking in big tips as the main bartender at Mon Valley Country Club in Monongahela, Pa.. 

Club member Jim Hamilton owned the nearby Lazzari Motors Inc. car dealership at the Forward Township side of the old Monongahela Bridge, and he promised me a good deal over whatever it was he was drinking. And he soon delivered one in the form of an extremely dependable car about a sexy then as the 2012 Ford Transit Connect is today.

That Valiant needed little more attention than a few drops of oil when its engine started knocking and a change of spark plugs every 50,000 miles.

The car's slant six engine was so reliable and easy to work on that its lasting power likely prompted Plymouth to discontinue making the model in order to sell more cars. So other drivers of that vehicle said at the time.

Everyone who drove that car for long eventually had to have its rusted out rear quater panels repaired.

I drove mine so long that a hole formed in the floorboard around the switch on the driver's side floor that controlled the headlight's high beams. That problem was easily fixed with a one-foot square of sheet metal, drill and handful of pop rivets to piece together the floor and keep rain water on the road from creeping up my pantlegs.

The car was eventually retired  in 1982 after its odometer had rolled over some 200,000 miles on its engine. But, the car had proven so dependable that I bought another of the same color and style from a guy who had mostly kept it in his garage.

That car lasted longer on the road, retiring in 1988, but not before I pulled from it a souvenir chrome nameplate from one of its front fenders.

I pulled the logo out the other day after a friend began to pester me about trying to find an old Valiant to purchase and restore, possibly as an excuse to convince him to also buy an old car.

God only knows why he wants one of those ugly 1980 Chevy El Caminos and would even drive to North Carolina to buy one of them. In his defense, those cars are in demand by collectors, according to another friend who collects old cars.

Stange as it seems the vintage Valiants have become collectible, too.

It's rare to see one the road or at an antique car show around here.

And, too my surprise people have been bidding more money today for Valiants on eBay than what I paid for the used ones of my youth.

One souped-up Valiant can be found on YouTube in a drag race with a much-cooler automobile. Another video shows one burning some mean tire rubber to the point where it looks as if its about to catch fire.

Hell someone even once posted on eBay a 1970s chrome Plymouth Valiant logo, different from the one in the photo, below, listing its sale price at  $199.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined my old man car one day becoming a hot ride.

A chrome decoration pulled as a souviner from one of my old Plymouth Valiants.


MJ said...

Don't worry... We'll have our classic car drag race down Jefferson Avenue one of these days!

MJ said...

This Valiant has your name on it... http://raleigh.craigslist.org/cto/3139845694.html

Let's make a North Carolina run and get our dream cars... http://eastnc.craigslist.org/ctd/3115381512.html

Unknown said...

I used to own 2 or 3 Dodge versions of the Valiant, the Dart. They were basically the same car except for some minor trim differences and the badging (nameplates). One day on the way home from work in my 1975 Dart, I started to hear a knocking noise from the trunk like someone was trying to get out. I pulled over in West Elizabeth and opened the truck lid and saw the left rear spring shackle sticking through a hole in the floor. It was hitting the bottom of the deck lid every time I hit a bump. The Dart was traded in the next morning for IIRC my 1978 Ford Fiesta, which turned out to be my favorite car that I have owned.