Home » Exploring Exciting Overseas Versions of One Of America’s Least Exciting Cars

Exploring Exciting Overseas Versions of One Of America’s Least Exciting Cars

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It’s Valiant Month, people!

To coincide with David’s big rescue mission down under and encourage our brave colleague, Torch suggested that ‘we’ should do something…which really means throw another one on the pile for someone like myself.

Here’s one option- let’s take a look at some bizarre examples of Valiants Around The World that you might be shocked to know exist.

Question- were you ever given the astonishing news that a quiet, middle aged, slightly paunchy and balding cousin of yours is really working in the rackets or employed by the CIA for covert ops? I haven’t either, but that’s sort of how I feel after doing more research on one of the non-Jeep loves of David Tracy’s life.

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The fact that David would drive an example of one that looked every one of its nearly sixty years of age through a Michigan winter confirms this devotion. I guess it’s hard to blame him…any list of World’s Most Indestructible Cars would be incomplete without the A-Body Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant. These cars still have a fervent following despite one critical flaw…the run-of-the-mill models were essentially devoid of excitement.

Considered cool cars today, in period they were anything but. These were purchased almost exclusively by blue-haired bingo players, driven few miles, and then handed down to their Gen X grandkids, like me. Nothing builds character like pulling up between BMWs and Camaro Z28s at a 1980s Northern Virginia high school in a dark green 1971 Dart ‘Swinger’ (I can assure you that name had nothing to do with the typical owner’s lifestyle and seemed to more accurately describe the suspension dynamics). These things were boring as the day is long, and perfectly cast as Ubiquitous Dull Sedan in the Spielberg movie Duel.

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At least that’s what I thought. You would not imagine that a senior citizen librarian’s car could have been sold in intriguing versions overseas, but it was. The Australian utes with fender mounted turn signals that David has travelled halfway across the globe to save are certainly an example of Valiants with cool cred. However, this car has siblings in Europe and South America that might be even more interesting, like the Barreiros Dodge 3700GT.

The 3700GT is allegedly “top-level luxury car” that was made in Spain yet turns out to be a just modified Dart/Valiant. It even has a Leaning Tower of Power under the hood. Yup. You would expect at least a 318 V8 for a ‘high end’ car, but 3700cc equates to 225 cubic inches, so there’s a Slant Six in there.

It likely has the same starter motor that moans DAAAHRR DAR DAR DAR DAR with every turn of the key (‘a dying seal’ as some have described it… or the Highland Park Hummingbird). The doors and roof are identical to the American version, but this version sports big amber rear turn signals and slick looking five-spoke type wheels. Not bad styling for what they had to work with, at least.

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Chrysler of Spain REALLY kicked it up a notch inside. The basic dashboard is the same as the US model, but check out that Nardi wheel, chrome-rimmed round gauges in place of the strip speedo, black rocker switches, tufty leather seats, and four-on-the-floor in a console-with-a-clock. Never saw that in Grandma’s car, right?

 

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Still, the most interesting facts about the 3700GT might revolve around some of this vehicle’s famous owners and appearances in media:

1. The Prime Minister of Spain had one… until he got blown up in it

Spanish Prime Minister Blanco actually used one as his official car. Doesn’t seem like a head of state kind of car, but at least a Valiant is pretty bombproof. Almost.

At some point in 1973 members of a group that wanted the PM dead rented a garden apartment and dug a tunnel hole through the wall and under a street he drove down each day (see schematic). This hole was filled with explosives and detonated as Blanco drove over it, which sent the Dodge sixty feet in the air and over a building, crashing onto an upstairs terrace (people at first thought that the car had dematerialized since they didn’t know where the Hell it was). Here’s a clip from a movie of a pre-CG simulation of the event. It’s almost inconceivable, but it really happened:

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Blanco actually lived for a very brief while afterwards (the balcony landing obviously reduced the impact slightly). The wreck is in a museum (see pic) and I do think that slant six would start if given spark and fuel.

2. A member of the Clash had one

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Legendary rocker Joe Strummer bought an old 3700GT when he was producing an album post-Clash in Madrid around 1986. However, he left it in a parking garage and supposedly forgot where he put it and was never seen again. There was a movie about Strummer’s Spanish exile called I Need A Dodge.

A guy from The Only Band That Matters…in a Valiant? Next you’re gonna tell me that Jack White drives a Toyota Avalon.

3. There is one in Batman

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The Joker’s goons drove a menacing-looking purple and green sedan in the 1989 Batman movie. It’s also a 3700GT.

This make and model is confirmed, since last January the Missouri State Highway Patrol inexplicably put out a cell phone alert for this car. The following alert appeared briefly on the phones of the state’s residents:

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The message describing the Spanish Dodge with the UKIDME plate was quickly followed up by a message that there was no alert and that “this was meant to be a test message.” But was it? Where exactly is Gotham City, Missouri? Near Branson?

Still, the state didn’t seem to offer much more information other than that about this “test;” if you make a quip about the Joker getting away, you will not be the first.

Who knew? It’s always the shy, quiet ones that you have to look out for. Maybe it’s a good thing that people abroad can respect a car that shallow losers like myself did not.

However, there are still more unique Valiants overseas that we can explore later, and when we do, it’ll be way up north.

 

Sources: ICMD, IMDB, history.info, escuderia.com, hotcars.com, Wikipedia, Classic Auto Mall, Jalopnik, adeyinkamakinde.blogspot.com. CNN

 

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33 Responses

  1. Hi I was sent a link to this as a friend thought I may be interested. I own a Chrysler Spain Dodge 3700GT. Mine is a ’77 but was modified for it’s first owner in 1981. They were not popular cars in Spain and very few were privatly owned. Mine was converted into a hearse and worked in the same town in North Western Spain until the funeral directors retirement in the late 90’s. He kept hold of the hearse in his basement meaning to restore it sometime until I found it and imported it to the UK. They are pretty easy cars to live with until you need parts. A lot will interchange with various years of Dart, but when you get to the Spanish market parts they may look similar but tend to be totally different. Lights are all by Hella and are metric sizes and even the fuel tank is slightly different with a different diameter filler neck. I have currently got it in the workshop converting the interior into a sort of day van / micro camper.

  2. ExAutoJourno- not gonna disagree with you about the IKA Torino, coolest Rambler ever. I mean, how many Valiants ran at the Nürburgring with Fangio looking on?

    1. JaredTheGeek- that does sound cool, which is amazing since back in the early eighties you simply could NOT be less cool than driving a brown-on-brown sedan.

  3. 1963-64 Valiants in canada were different. dart body Valiant front clip. Mexico also had its own Valiant. 1963-1969 Valiant Acapulco (sweeet 2 door hardtop design actually)

  4. At that time, most of the population were driving around in SEAT 600s, which were FIAT cars produced under license. They had (you guessed it) a 633cc engine and was a bit over 3 meters long. Other cars included the Citroën 2CV, the SEAT 133 and 124 (also FIATs, the latter one manufactured until 2012 as a LADA ), and the SEAT , so yeah, the Barreiros Dodge definitely WAS a “top-level luxury car”.

    1. Funny to mention the Lada Zhiguli in the same line – I always considered the Valiant/Dart and GM’s T-cars (Chevette) to be possibly the most Soviet-like American cars, and I do kind of mean that as a compliment.

      ABC used to use black Checker Marathons as stand-ins for Soviet sedans in their made for TV movies, but that was probably because the Valiant was too common and recognizable, I mean, slap a GAZ Volga badge on the front and it would blend in pretty well.

    2. Rixelieu- I would believe that. It is pretty funny how this was considered a ‘compact’ car in the US! And I’m not joking.. I think they did a great job with what they had to work with, especially inside.

    3. Santana also made some interesting Land Rover variations including the first turbo diesels and gas and diesel six cylinder engines made by extending the standard 4 cylinder engine. This led to a model called the Cazador that anticipated the Defender and was followed by the Anibal which became the Iveco Massif.

  5. Waitaminute, I had a ’69 Dart Swinger with a 340, a 4 speed, and a 3.91 rearend that was a helluva car.
    Sure, it didn’t like turning all that much, but it was powerful and roomy and good-looking with Cragar SS wheels and that cute bumble bee stripe around the trunk. I wouldn’t mind having one now if I could put a decent suspension on it.

    1. I do not doubt the 340 4 speed was a hoot!

      But we had a grandma-spec (literally!) Slant 6/Auto ’69 and ’71 models. Bench seat up front, I think drum brakes all around (at least on the 1969). Reliable as Hell (and I’ve had few cars with A/C as cold) but they were NOT exciting cars.

  6. Spain has a whole bunch of interesting weird cars back then. Did you know Barreiros also made licenced copies of industrial Perkins diesel engines? And they stuck them in almost everything made in Spain. You could get a Jeep CJ3, Jeep Commando, Seat 131, 132, 1500, Chrysler 180, and probably a few others with a 50-60 hp diesel. Slower than a sloth, but also indestructible!

  7. What is the point of this article? Is David on his way to Spain with his toolbox to get Blanco’s ride back on the road and drive it to some obscure bullfight?

    1. andyindividual- If David can get either of those Aussie Valiant utes running again, I think Blanco’s car would be a cakewalk. I mean, beyond the minor accident damage, it’s been stored indoors for fifty years.

  8. Back a few years (or was it decades) we flew into Oregon in a small private plane to go Xcountry skiing for the weekend near Mt. Bachelor. The local airport rental company was, and I kid you not, Rent-A-Wreck. We rented a Valiant for the weekend. As I was the one with the most snow driving experience, I got to drive! Woohoo! No snow tires or chains of course. As we drove up some small road into snow country we ended up on the snow-packed road and we kept going. We passed a few 4x4s off the side of the road in the ditch of course, but I kept going. Found a place to park, and we went skiing for the day, and it was great. By the end of the day the road had gotten rutted by the bigger vehicles with bigger tires. Our wheels couldn’t fit in the tracks, so I managed to get one wheel on the snow/pavement, and the other up on top of the snow pack. We took off and managed to high-center a few times, but we used skis and poles to dig ourselves out and continued. At the last one I told the others that this was the last dig-out. Once I get going, I’m going faster and not stopping. We bounced and bounded down the hill, again passing more trucks and such stranded on the side of the road! That Valiant was exceptional!

    1. I believe it was the tan 1969 one we had that dropped a valve coming back from a ski trip, and it had no problem getting home. Ran rough but honestly 5 cylinders versus 6 it didn’t make that much difference…performance was not this thing’s strong suit anyway.

  9. Just chiming in to chuckle at the age old tradition of having hilariously named or themed test campaigns for system testing.
    Also, at the age old tradition of someone new accidentally broadcasting the test as real to however many people.

  10. My very first car, (Mom’s) was a 1962 Valiant with the push button transmission. Sumbitch would spin out on spit. Overheated repeatedly throughout it’s stay with me. Still for a high school and first couple months of college it was sort of likable, kinda. No, I never loved that piece of shit.

  11. When I was in drivers Ed in high school (1980??) we got shown a B&W film of the world conquering Valiant Rally cars. Not sure showing me film clips of Nordic drivers drifting my moms car around gravel, dirt, and tarmac turns was a really good idea but they did it.

  12. I have owned 5. 1960 sedan 170 s/6 with pushbuttons, 1st car I drove, 1966 2dr post, with 273/auto and no options, 1971 Duster 230hp 318, 1973 150hp 318 swinger hardtop, bought from an old couple, should have kept it, and a 1976 150hp 318 swinger, heavy and drove like an Imperial. All were hard to start in the winters and ran great. They really were everywhere and cheap in the 1980’s. The Dodge 3700 GT uses Argentinian sheet metal. Check out the Polara, Dodge GTX and Brazilian Dart Chargers, Mexican Super bee’s and South African Demons with 383’s…

  13. Very interesting. But David, exploding Prime Ministers, rockers, Dennis Weavers and Batmen aside, I think I’d still prefer an IKA Torino….

    Unless I could find the Valiant allegedly designed as a collaboration between Chrysler and NSU. You all know about that one, right?

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