1960 Plymouth Valiant

Transmission installation for the 1960 Plymouth Valiant was about 50/50, with 93,303 customers choosing the manual and 100,989 the auto­matic. A carrier-type, Chrysler-built hypoid rear axle was supplied, offering two axle ratios: 3.55 standard for all, with a 3.23 ratio optional with the automatic. A 3.91 ratio was available for export.

The 1960 Plymouth Valiant was a small car, but designed to comfortably seat six passengers.
The 1960 Plymouth Valiant was a small car, but
designed to comfortably seat six passengers.

Torsion-Aire front suspension incorporated Chrysler's well-respected torsion bars combined with 6.50X13 tires. Hotch­­kiss-type rear suspension featured sea-leg shocks and a highly asymmetrical 55-inch leaf spring with 20 inches forward of the axle.

This arrangement played a major part in controlling body roll, acceleration squat, and brake dip. It was an excellent setup, but the irrepressible Tom McCahill found an unusual peculiarity in the car's handling. Reporting in the March 1960 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, McCahill wrote:

"Because the engine is mounted off-center to the right, the characteristics when you make a hard right turn are quite different from those when you make a hard left turn.

"When I first drilled this Valiant over the Daytona International Speedway sports car course, I found it the best-handling American car I've ever driven through a tight turn -- while bending to the right. When I hit a tight curve going to the left, I experienced a very deep plowing effect. Later, in making circling tests on the beach, I found that in left turns I could almost spin the Valiant on its nose in its own length. This is something the average American driver might never notice. ... But on a tough mountain road, if he descends too fast, he'll definitely feel the difference.

"This condition isn't dangerous but it is interesting."

Turning radius was 37.1 feet. Power steering was available for those who wished it, as were power brakes, but these were hardly popular options. Less than eight percent of 1960 Valiants were fitted with power steering (which reduced lock-to-lock travel from 4.5 to 3.5 turns).

Not quite two percent came with power brakes. Valiants employed nine-inch-diameter Bendix duo-servo brakes with a total lining area of 153.5 square inches. Rear-wheel parking brakes were foot-actuated and hand-released.

Beginning in the spring of 1960, customers desiring more power could obtain a "Hyper-Pak" similar to the one that helped Valiants race successfully at Day­tona. The package increased the horsepower from 101 at 4,400 rpm to a "very underrated" 148 at 5,200 rpm. Higher pistons raised compression to a premium-fuel-fed 10.5:1, while timing changes to both intake and exhaust duration increased total valve-opening overlap from eight degrees to 44.

A huge new intake manifold of cast aluminum with "arms" nearly two feet long provided a ram-tube induction effect similar to that being offered on the company's V-8s. A four-barrel Carter AFB-3083-S carburetor was fitted, with either an automatic or manual choke.

The distributor was tweaked to advance more rapidly at low speeds, then flatten off until maximum advance was attained at 6,800 rpm compared to the normal 3,850. A special close-ratio manual gearbox was optional.

Accompanying suspension upgrades included optional heavy-duty 0.89-inch-diameter front torsion bars and two rear-spring alternatives: the sturdier five-leaf Sub­ur­ban springs or heavy-duty six-leaf springs. The wide-base 5.5×13-inch wheels could be had with six brake options -- three different lining grades plus the choice of finned aluminum brake drums with cast-iron liners.

In 1960, all Chrysler Corporation cars save the Imperial switched to unitized body construction, eliminating the customary frame. The corporation was undoubtedly pushed into this quite radical change in the way it constructed its cars by the notoriously less-than-satisfactory quality of its high-finned 1957 offerings.

Instead of the bolted-in forestructure employed on the larger cars, Valiant incorporated a welded-in understructure and stressed front sheetmetal. While performing the same structural functions, the all-welded structure ahead of the cowl was specially designed to facilitate car assembly, with the front rails spaced to receive the engine from beneath in the body-drop operation. The only two bolted-on structural members were the front K-section suspension crossmember and the crossmember that supported the rear of the engine.

The fenders, quarter panels, floor, and roof contributed to the overall stiffness of the body. Internal studies showed the Valiant to be 95 percent stiffer in torsion and 50 percent stiffer in beam than a body-on-frame 1959 Plymouth, partly as a result of the more than 5,300 spot and seam welds employed during construction of the Unibody.

To facilitate the design, Chrysler made extensive use of early computers. Engin­eers also constructed 3/8-scale car-body models consisting of clear plastic pieces "welded" together. The engineers found these plastic miniatures could be twisted and stressed to simulate torsional bending of yet unbuilt full-size prototypes.

Aware of the rust problems that plagued the 1957 bodies, Chrysler made an extra effort to protect its new Unibody cars where corroded metal could lead to structural failure. Each was subject to a comprehensive seven-stage immersion in special cleansing, rinsing, and coating baths.

The final dip involved a newly developed water-reducible zinc-rich primer, which coated every nook and cranny of the lower third of the body. During these procedures, protection for the upper body was provided by a series of six high-pressure sprays.

The exterior was sprayed with two base coats of epoxy paint and wet-sanded by hand. Two baked-on coats of Lustre-Bond enamel followed in one of Valiant's six color choices: red, black, white, and three metallics: medium green, medium blue, and silver. (Red was restricted to the costlier V-200 series.) In spring 1960, two more colors were offered -- light blue and light green, which the stylists contemptuously refer­red to as "kitchen green" and "kitchen blue." No two-tones were available.

For all its unique engineering, the first thing people noticed about the Valiant was its styling. Commendably, one thing can be truly said of the Big Three's 1960 compacts -- park them a block away and you don't need to read a nameplate to distinguish one from another. Since the Valiant was introduced about a month later than its two rivals, there was a bit more of a "tease" about what it was going to look like.

The first photos of the new Valiant frankly flabbergasted many people. It had no fins! Every speculative sketch in Motor Trend or Motor Life showed a Chrysler compact with fins. Suddenly, here was this finless car.

It must be realized that the Valiant was "Exner's baby," or as it was said in Detroit, the Valiant was "100 percent Exner." Virgil Exner, corporate vice president of styling, embraced two distinct design philosophies in his 12-year tenure at Chrysler.

One favored fins as the way of achieving a wedge-shaped profile that Exner likened to the shape of speed, epitomized by jet fighters and hydroplane boats. The other was his "pure automobile" look, exemplified by his successful spate of show cars like the Chrysler K-310, the d'Elegance, and the first DeSoto Adventurer. It was these earlier efforts that Exner chose for inspiration in designing the Valiant.

Maybe fins wouldn't have worked on a smaller car. Furthermore, since the Valiant was to be a prime-market car, the goal was to design a vehicle that, unlike the Falcon, didn't look like a scaled-down big car. "There must be," said Exner at the time, "no impression that Valiant is a smaller version of any other car." Or, as the ads later boasted, the Valiant was "nobody's kid brother."

Continue on to the next page to learn more about the 1960 Valiant's styling.

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