Monday, November 14, 2016

Plymouth Valiant Begets Dodge Lancer

Detroit's Big Three car makers launched lines of compact (in the American context) cars for the 1960 model year.  I wrote about Chrysler Corporation's version, the Plymouth Valiant, here.  (To be historically accurate, for 1960 the car was simply "Valiant," becoming the Plymouth Valiant for 1961.)

In a move to spread the tooling costs of the Valiant over more cars sold, Chrysler added a facelifted Valiant to its product line in the form of the 1961 Dodge Lancer (Wikipedia entry here).  Valiants and Lancers using the Virgil Exner influenced styling continued through the 1962 model year.


This is an entry-level 1960 Valiant four-door sedan.

Here is a press-release photo and caption announcing the 1961 Dodge Lancer: click to enlarge.  The car is a two-door hardtop coupe, the Plymouth Valiant also getting this new model for 1961.  Note that it has fixed side windows towards the rear that are the same as those seen on the Valiant four-door.  To create the coupe, the B-pillars were eliminated from the greenhouse and the front doors lengthened while, of course, the rear doors were eliminated.  As for distinctive Lancer features, the front fender blade was given a reverse-slanted bend at its rear.  The grille/headlights/bumper ensemble was replaced, creating a more conventional (for the times) wider appearance compared to the Valiant's taller, more classical grille.  This change required a small area of different sheet metal at the front of the hood.

Rear 3/4 view of a 1960 Valiant.

This RD Classics photo of the rear aspect of a 1961 Lancer reveals that even fewer changes were made here in the transformation from Valiant to Lancer.  Aside from different side chrome trim, the Lancer got a different bumper and restyled rear fender tips and tail lights.  The greatest change was the elimination of the faux- spare tire cover from the trunk lid: this required revised body stamping, probably in the form of a fewer pass or two plus separate stampings for the cover.

All things considered, the Valiant was a quirky design.  The Lancer, on net, was a reasonable clean-up job.  The grille area relates better to the rest of the front.  Eliminating the spare tire cover motif on the trunk was an important improvement. The tiny blades/fins detailing atop the aft part of the rear fenders was a minus: the Valiant's treatment here was cleaner and better.

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