Home » A Pair of Pale Blue Plymouths: 1963 Valiant vs 1984 Turismo Duster

A Pair of Pale Blue Plymouths: 1963 Valiant vs 1984 Turismo Duster

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Good morning! It’s time once again to look at some crappy old cars. On our second day of dead nameplates, it’s Mopar or no car as we look at a couple of Plymouths for Two-Door Tuesday. But before we get into that, let’s see how our Oldsmobiles did:

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The big, impractical, inefficient old tank beat out the modern, sensible minivan. Works for me. We’ll leave the Silhouette to gangsters-turned-movie-producers and head down the road in the old Toronado. My world makes sense again.

Okay. Now it’s time to turn our attention to Chrysler, or whatever their married name is now. (That company has gotten hitched more times than Liz Taylor’s Airstream, I swear.) In 1928, Chrysler Corporation launched a low-priced brand meant to compete with Ford and Chevrolet for frugal car buyers. For nearly three-quarters of a century, that brand, Plymouth, stood for sensible, no-nonsense, sturdy cars that were a good value. And occasional bouts of utter madness like the Barracuda and the Prowler.

Today, we’re going to look at two similar but very different cars from two profitable eras of Plymouth’s long existence. Both are two doors, both are entry-level compacts, and both, completely coincidentally, are light blue. And one is exactly twice the price of the other. Is it worth twice as much? Let’s see.

1963 Plymouth Valiant – $2,400

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Engine/drivetrain: 170 cubic inch (probably) inline 6, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Seligman, AZ

Odometer reading: 82,000 miles

Runs/drives? Ad says “runs good” and “new tires,” so probably

The Plymouth Valiant is a car well-known to fans of our own Editor-In-Chief, David Tracy. He drove one as a winter beater last year and waxed enthusiastic about its charms. Like David’s, this car is powered by Chrysler’s legendary “Slant Six,” but where his had four doors, three pedals, and a gearshift lever sticking out of the steering column, this one has two doors, two pedals, and no gearshift lever at all.

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Instead, it features a Torqueflite automatic transmission with push-button controls. I’ve always known these existed, but I never knew much about them. I always assumed the buttons were electric or vacuum-controlled, but in researching this piece (yes, I research these) I found out that it’s completely mechanical. The buttons move a cable back and forth just like the lever on a normal automatic does. How cool is that?

The ad for this car doesn’t show the shift buttons (on the left side of the instrument panel), so I grabbed this close-up image from Hemmings:

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Image credit: Hemmings.com


The lever on the left is for Park; it works via a separate cable. To start off, you start the engine, lift the park lever, punch “D,” and away you go. To park, punch “N” and flip the park lever down. Neat, huh?

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Overall, this Valiant looks decent. The seller says it has some rust, due to a life on the California coast, but nothing like folks in the Midwest are used to. The Slant Six runs well, and the car has new tires, so we have to assume it’s more or less driveable. Somehow it looks at home in the Arizona desert, but there’s nothing saying it has to stay there.

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This would be a good car to try out that legendary $50 Rust-Oleum paint job on. Keep it baby blue so the sills match, and have a nice cheap cruiser. And that push-button transmission is sure to be a conversation starter at Cars & Coffee.

1984 Plymouth Turismo Duster – $1,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter inline 4, 3 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Fairgrove, MI

Odometer reading: 92,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Ran when parked,” will start on starter fluid

Once upon a time, there was a young boy whose parents were buying a car. They were at a Dodge dealership, buying a gray 600 sedan, and while they were in the little room doing the paperwork, the boy sat in a Shelby Charger and a Rampage pickup truck in the showroom. He became mildly infatuated with the L-body after that, and always wanted one. His brother had a Turismo like this one for his first car; it caught fire in traffic and burned. He bought an Omni 024 in college for next to nothing; it had giant rust holes in the floor, the passenger door flew open every time he turned left, and it stalled out randomly.

That boy sees this 1984 Turismo Duster sitting dead on a trailer, and he knows it’s pretty much a crap car. But he still kinda likes it.

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Long-time Mopar faithful were furious when Chrysler changed the names of the two-door Dodge Omni 024 and Plymouth Horizon TC3 to the Charger and Duster. These front-wheel-drive compacts were about as far from their muscle-car namesakes as they could get. Even a blessing from the legendary Carroll Shelby couldn’t make things entirely right. But whatever they were called, the cars sold well. But they’ve almost entirely vanished, as so many inexpensive “disposable” cars have.

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This Duster looks pretty well-preserved, give or take a little Midwestern rust. It features the ubiquitous 2.2 liter four and three-speed automatic that powered a bazillion K-cars; it’s not exciting, but it’s sturdy. This one isn’t running at the moment due to sitting, but it shouldn’t be too hard to revive, especially since the seller has gotten it to cough to life on starter fluid.

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There are so few of these left that seeing one for sale, even out of commission, is kind of neat, even if you’re not much of a fan. It’s a reminder of another time, another world, a time when small, pokey cars were the norm and the music was way better. I wouldn’t actually want this car, I don’t think, but it’s fun to think about.

And that’s what we’ve got for you to choose from today: a couple of blue automatic Plymouths. Both are kinda cool time capsules, and either one would turn heads. Which one would you rather have?



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52 Responses

  1. I’d go the Duster basically because it’s weird looking, I’ve never heard of it before and because I already have a pushbutton auto Valiant of that body shape, except mine’s a ute. Plus I have a pushbutton auto 1962 Valiant sedan, so I probably don’t need another! (I even have a hard-to-find V8 pushbutton auto transmission stashed away in case I want to V8 swap one of them!)

  2. No contest. Valiant all day. Learned to drive in a 69 Valiant 100. Pushbutton is cool if you keep it original. Slant six runs as is, can be given performance heads if you want to break stuff, or (if you are me) you can stuff it with an injected LA, A/C, modern wiring and sound (plus sound deadening), modern brakes and suspension upgrades, upholstery, and have a sweet looking weekend cruiser.

  3. I would also add there are probably more early 60s Valiants still rolling around than early 80s Turismos (or whatever). 60s stuff tended to be over engineered and simple, though certainly not perfect. Early 80s carb cars were kind of a square peg in a round hole solution to emissions regs.

  4. My mind had an 84 Plymouth Turismo. It wasn’t…terrible for it’s time,but it certainly wasn’t good. I have no nostalgic yearning to experience it again. The car she had before that was a 74 Valiant, light blue with a slant six. Didn’t exactly love that car either, but I would take the sixties version of it over the not quite yet out of the malaise fog yet Turismo.

  5. My grandfather’s last car was a Valiant of a similar vintage with a bad bright red paint job. I tried to convince my father that it would be a neat first car for me when my grandfather passed, but it was not to be. I was only thirteen when “Pap-paw” loosed this mortal coil at a ripe old age of 78. He was driving that car when he dropped dead slowly approaching a stop sign. His passenger, my step-grandmother, was not injured.

  6. The rusty door on the Duster makes me vote Valiant. I love hearing the Slant Six referred to as The Leaning Tower of Power. Always loved that Rampage pickup more than the cars.

  7. The Valiant because the first car I rode in was a 64 Valiant with a pushbutton automatic and because the Omni/Horizon was shite even by malaise standards.

  8. My parents had that Valiant. Was my first car. Thought it was embarrassingly ugly at the time but these days I’ve seen restored versions and damn, they really do clean up nice. Was dependable as hell until I totalled it. (Hey, teenager.) Valiant all the way!

  9. Both ugly as sin, but perhaps the Valiant more so. But rebuilding and 84 carb and chasing the vacuum leaks is not fun and likely would far exceed the price of the car if it was farmed out. The Valiant is at least interesting see still running though. I think that old girl would be my preference, but neither would hit my radar if not for autopian.

  10. The valiant is a pretty handsome little car, whereas that generation duster, despite the correctness of hatchback > sedan, has struck me as ugly for as far back as I can remember cars. The fascia in particular is just so unpleasant. That said, I unironically dig the duster’s seats. Can’t speak to whether or not they’re comfortable, but they look pretty rad.

    I did have a buddy in high school who found a valiant almost exactly like that (maybe a 64?) long abandoned at the back of an elderly neighbor’s garage. Said neighbor gave it to my buddy for a token dollar or so, just to make it gone. It was fun to poke around in the engine bay, although he had absolutely zero clue how to go about even starting to diagnose the car’s issues and I also wasn’t bringing anything of value to the table. I think his parents eventually had it towed for scrap after having their patience exhausted

    1. I had the opposite reaction to the Duster at first. The picture at the top made it look a lot like an ’85 Mustang, which isn’t at all a Mustang I like, but not the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. But then I saw the profile, and what horrors exist aft of the doors. Bleah, what a misbegotten eyesore. I would have picked the Valiant anyway (even though its own face is ugly enough to stop a clock), but seeing the ass-end of that Duster sealed the deal.

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