Saab Once Built Weird Versions Of The Plymouth Valiant To Sell As Cop Cars

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With David still wrenching away on Valiants down under, we’re still looking at highly enigmatic overseas versions of one of America’s most bread-and-butter sedans, the Plymouth Valiant. So we’ve found mild mannered Plymouth Valiants-in-disguise living in Spain, but these were not the only Chrysler A-Body expats to flee to Europe. Here’s another one: Valiant cop cars. In Sweden.

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It’s strange enough to see Valiants existing in the Land of the Midnight Sun, and as police cruisers no less. However, it gets stranger; these cars were actually ASSEMBLED there, by SAAB! That’s right: the key-on-the-floor, freewheel-equipped, egg-shaped car maker building a meat-and-potatoes American car. For whatever reason, SAAB built CKD (completely knocked down) kits, which were primarily used as cop cars because, in the words of one source, they did not have a car equivalent to a Volvo Amazon or 144 to offer for such use.

Oh, and did you think they put a 318 under the hood? They didn’t. No, there’s a Slant 6 in there, just like in Aunt Janet’s car.

Damn, they all showed up for the infamous Stockholm Syndrome robbery!

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Inside, it gets stranger. When building later Valiants, it looks like SAAB installed their own door handles inside, put in a center console, and blessedly added their own donut-hole-headrest seats in place of the Plymouth’s standard fare, which, from my experience, were some of the worst seats that I have ever experienced in a motor vehicle.

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Out front, however, things get really bizarre:

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What’s with the front end? It looks like a person with their eyelids removed.  Apparently headlight wipers and washers became mandatory in Sweden, so to make the A-Body compliant they had to add them.  They dealt with the issue of the trim around the lights not clearing the wipers by simply shitcanning the bezels, resulting in this odd, unfinished, creepy look:

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Come on, SAAB!  You gave us the push/pull broom headlight washer and you do THIS?

I knew that American cars were once popular in Scandinavia, but it’s hard to imagine SAAB executives negotiating for Leaning Tower Of Power-equipped sedans.

Still, it’s nice to see a few poor Valiants getting a chance to break free from their typical life of transporting eighty-year-olds to church at 30MPH. Flying over frost heaves while chasing guys stealing crates of lutefisk and krumkake, these Mopars dealt with abuse even sixteen-year old me couldn’t inflict on them (believe me, I TRIED to kill this thing) yet lived to tell the tale.

sources: wikipedia, Hemmings, The Local, the samba

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33 Responses

  1. For all my love of Mopar, my completely irrational level of reverence for the 225 Slant 6 and the 318 V-8, and my tolerance for countless malaise-era models, I just can’t muster any love for the Plymouth Valiant (although Darts are great in my book and a ’68 Dart convertible is a bucket list car for me – not pretending my opinion is rational). My parents had a ’75 Valiant similar to the police car shown above that has no headlight bezels and it was a giant piece of junk that perhaps fortunately got totaled after two years when an elderly gentleman who should not have had a license rear ended my mom and me. I hated that car. It got replaced by a ’77 Dodge Aspen wagon which was also objectively pretty crappy but for which I have a lot more nostalgia and fondness (I learned to drive in the Aspen, and learned to drive stick in my dad’s ’77 Dodge pickup with 3-on-the-tree). If you ever have a Mopar from that era make sure you have a spare ballast resistor with you!

      1. Dave- they were the same cars, and after around 1973 they pretty much gave up and kept essentially all of the same sheet metal save for some trim. But in the sixties, there was a certain style difference to the outside, if only very skin deep.

    1. Origami- I agree with you one the Valiant versus Dart. The Valiant was actually marketed as a no-frills car for that type of buyer, and by design not much to get excited about. Also, I agree that later Darts (and the replacement) were not nearly as good as the earlier ones..in fact they were pretty bad. Both sets of grandparents that gave us Darts (’69 and ’71) had later cars as well (’75 318 Dart and ’77 Aspen 225) and they were horrible cars.

  2. “I knew that American cars were once popular in Scandinavia”

    Once popular? You should go! I see more classic American iron on an average summer day in rural Sweden than I do in California. Especially Corvettes. There are little barn based museums spread out around the countryside with vintage cars, trucks, motorcycles and of course farm equipment. Car shows too.

    If you go do be sure to stop at Biltima for fika. Biltima is like a weird cross of AutoZone, Walmart with a cheap food court. Fika is coffee and a cinnamon roll. Last time I was there a few years ago fika cost a whopping 5SEK, or about $0.50. Not a bad price for what is simple IKEA grade food but you go for the people watching. Sweden has its own kind of rednecks and that’s where you’ll see them.

    1. The correct thing to say is Scandinavians love *vintage* American cars, I don’t think many Swedes are lusting over a new Equinox or Traverse, but they are more than willing to go through the expense and logistics to ship over a rust free ’57 Fury or what have you.

      1. “The correct thing to say is Scandinavians love *vintage* American cars, I don’t think many Swedes are lusting over a new Equinox or Traverse, but they are more than willing to go through the expense and logistics to ship over a rust free ’57 Fury or what have you.”

        Oh rust isn’t a problem. My cousin and his friends shipped over a trio of ’49 Buicks from Philly with enough rust on them to give even DT eyeball tetnus.

        Why? Cuz BUICKS!

        You are correct in that I didn’t see many newer American cars save the odd lifted, super sized, 100% ‘ authentic ‘Murican pickup complete with smokestacks. You’d think $8+/gallon would dampen that kind of ridiculous Americanism but no. Some newer Corvettes and a Gulf liveried GT40 in my local ICA’s parking lot too.

        (Also ridiculous: Dollar Stores in a country that doesn’t use Dollars.)

    1. 20 years ago: a white Jetta with obviously done-for struts.
      10years ago: listing TrailBlazer
      Today: 4yo Kia that’s been sideswiped or has a window badly taped shut.

      Good game!
      Anyone else? I suspect it’s kinda region-specific. I’m right on the edge of coal country in the Mid-Atlantic region

  3. …did you think they put a 318 under the hood? They didn’t. No, there’s a Slant 6 in there, just like in Aunt Janet’s car.

    Amazingly enough my family owned a 2-stroke, 3-cylinder SAAB 96 and a slant-6 Plymouth Valiant back in the 1960’s.

    I assure you that the 145 HP slant-6 easily outran the 40 HP SAAB – except in the snow when the SAAB could outrun anything on the road – you just had to build up momentum and never ever touch the brakes.

  4. Sweden has always had a huge American car scene (“raggare”; check out Power Big Meet in Västerås if you doubt me) and a retired Police Valiant (“Snutvalle”, snut meaning cop/pig) was always considered the absolute lowest form of American car, ranking barely higher than a Volvo. When I was a kid, if we saw a Valiant we would always check the seats and then shake our heads in disgust if they were Saab ones.

  5. These figure prominently in the contemporary mystery novels of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, one of which was made into the US film The Laughing Policeman. Set in San Francisco, it’s a 70’s crime thriller with a great cast, and well worth a watch.

    Pity about the bezels. Ironically at the time, Chrysler offered headlight wipers for its US cars with hidden headlights – the inevitable problem of keeping lenses which never saw a carwash clear.

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