1962 Valiant

The 1962 Valiant was better looking than its predecessor. Sedans and wagons were given an all-bright grille texture with five vertical flutes. The grille was ringed by a frame with an expanded header accented with black-painted block letters.

The 1962 Valiant added the luxury Signet 200 to its line.
The 1962 Valiant added the
luxury Signet 200 to its line.

All models featured new circular taillights placed below the rear fender blades. The lower-bodyside trim of the 1961 V-200s was replaced by a variant of the original 1960 molding. It featured a wider ribbed horizontal leg that included three reflective rectangles ahead of the rear wheel openings.

By substituting Lancer's simpler stamping, the decklid lost its contro­versial simulated-tire impression, but gained an odd assortment of nameplates. V-200s sported a large chrome diecast circle bisected by a wider horizontal crossbar in which "VALIANT" was spelled out, with vertical chrome spears projecting above and below the circle, a complement to the new V-200-only hood centerline molding. V-100s made do with just the decklid crossbar. Suburban tailgates, however, used a circle and crossbar sans the vertical spears.

Six two-tone treatments were made available, with roofs in a lighter color. Then, beginning February 1, 1962, buyers could opt for new "spring special" two- and four-door sedans with a "Color Sweep" ($19.95 extra) in eight two-tone combinations, with the lighter color below the bodyside moldings.

Inside, the twin-dial instrument cluster and bonnet were replaced by a hooded, rectangular, black leather-grain instrument "board." Underneath, the tangle of wiring was replaced by a new printed-circuit board, a sheet of phenolic resin embedded with copper-foil strips serving as electrical circuits. An all-vinyl interior in three color choices was a new option on V-200 four-door sedans.

Strategic substitution of lighter components resulted in an overall weight reduction of 50 pounds; this was in addition to the 60-pound reduction accomplished in 1961. Other engineering enhancements included an aluminized exhaust system, faster and easier steering, and a gas tank enlarged to 14 gallons.

A V-200 two-door sedan was added to the line, but the biggest news was a new two-door hardtop, a top-of-the-line variant named Signet 200 that displaced the V-200 hardtop. The Signet apparently was an 11th-hour addition; an internal company booklet from March 1961 detailing the 1962 Valiant product line makes no mention of the Signet.

Mimicking Corvair's astonishingly successful Monza and the Falcon Futura, the Signet was Valiant's entry into the "bucket-seat brigade." Available in blue, green, red, or cocoa, the Signet's attractive saddle-grain vinyl interior featured a bench rear seat with twin buckets up front. Six-passenger seating was becoming less essential as fully 10 percent of American automobiles in 1962 were equipped with bucket seats.

The Signet was further enhanced by distinctive exterior cues: a blacked-out grille sporting a large vee-in-a-ring center ornament (reprised on the decklid); special wheel covers; and a dechromed body featuring bright-outlined spears of color (keyed to the interior) on the front body blades. The interior and exterior enhancements made the Signet the handsomest of any of the 1960-1962 iterations. Priced at $2,230, 25,586 were built, an increase of 7,000 units compared to the 1961 V-200 hardtop.

Surprisingly, the advent of the bucket-seat Signet was accompanied by the introduction of a column shift on cars with manual transmissions. A new, shallower steering wheel was required to provide adequate clearance to the shift lever.

In customers' hands, the Valiant's original floor shift had never been completely satisfactory, despite a rework in 1961, when the gearbox was mounted upright instead of at the previous 30-degree incline to the left. Ironically, in just a few years, a floor-mounted shift lever in a console placed between the front seats would become the sine qua non of any car claiming a sporty demeanor.

To learn more about 1962 Valiant production, see the next page.

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