This ’62 Valiant rises to new heights of insanity with a too-tall blown 605-inch Hemi.
Story • AL DENTE + Photos • TheBRUNTBros
OKAY, so it’s not a daily driver. We just threw that title up there to inject a bit of levity—something this publication sorely needs. You can take your Magic Marker and change the title to anything you like. See, we’re an interactive Mopar magazine.
Chris Lowe, the builder and owner of this what-used-to-be-stock slant-six pushbutton auto Plymouth Valiant is not above having a few chuckles himself. He even admits that the car is “ridiculous,” which is what attracted it to us in the first place. “If it’s ridiculous, you’ll find it in Mopar Action,” we always say. Then there’s that “gasaver” emblem. Kinda cute. We thought about making that the title for this feature, but “Daily Driver” was more ridiculous, so you see where we’re coming from.
Chris likes weird stuff, not like the kind of cars you see in the Walmart parking lot with different color doors and hood. He was perusing a trader magazine and came upon this unmolested Valiant for $4500. Heck, he already had three of those—a ’61 and two ‘62s. One was a drag car, the second a show car with a 500-inch Hemi and 10-71 blower good for about 1000 horsepower, and we don’t know about the third. Maybe Chris figured the other Valiants needed more company, so he picked up a fourth. This one was going to be, well, ridiculous, although it didn’t start out that way. Now lest you think Chris is entirely off his rails, we gotta tell you some of his other cars are “normal,” like his ’54 Plymouth Belvedere, ’74 Duster, and ’74 AMC Hornet (okay, that’s borderline.)
Chris didn’t have the build all planned out for the Valiant at first, so he just started gathering parts for four or five months and figured it would all fall into place (doesn’t it always?) First came an Indy all-aluminum 605-inch crate Hemi, complete with a Dominator intake and a Holley 4-barrel. Chris bought that in 2003. He first figured on backing that with an automatic trans of some kind, but that wasn’t ridiculous enough. So, he ended up with a Jeffco. What’s a Jeffco? Well a guy named Jeff Boyd worked for Lenco transmissions before going out on his own and is producing his own version with about 100 floor shift levers that you push and pull in all directions and hope the car moves when you put your foot in it. I guess if Gromer had worked for Lenco and went out on his own he’d call his contraption a Cliffco (and at the rate he’s going, it might be sooner than he thinks). Anyhow, Chris thought the trans with all those levers would fit right in with the ridiculous persona he was looking for.
So, Chris gets this big pile of parts and goes to work putting it all together in his garage. “I knew what I wanted to do,” he says, “but I just didn’t know how to do it.” But, obviously, he figured it out. This project took seven years—working full time and going to bed without supper. ’Course Chris could have easily cut 6 years and 11 months and six days off the project had he read E-booger’s 2-page tech piece on “How To Drop a Massive Hemi into a little Valiant.” But he didn’t. So he had to go the trial-and-error route—cutting and fixing and recutting and refixing. For years.
When Chris first dropped the Hemi into the engine bay, the valve covers stuck up above the fenders. Since slamming the hood harder and harder didn’t work (gee, it always works for my wife) he had to lower the engine. That meant tearing out the front suspension, which did the trick. But then the Valiant didn’t steer so good. So, Chris went for a Kugel Komponents front end—kind of a street rod setup with polished A-arms and coilovers and all that good stuff. He had to move the firewall back five inches, fab new fender aprons, and form a new trans tunnel. But at least he could close the hood (what was left of it, anyway). His 37 years in the heating and air conditioning business, fabbing ductwork and such, gave him the sheetmetal smarts he needed for the project.
Chris drove around with that setup for three or four years when he felt the need for more ridiculousness. A BDS 8-71 blower with a pair of 850 Holleys did the trick. The blower setup wouldn’t clear the cowl and Chris had worn out all his cutting implements over the years. He lucked out by finding a billet spacer that raised the blower above the cowl. No cut- ting needed. Then, by a stroke of luck, he found a second billet spacer that would fit on top of the blower raising the intake to even more ridiculous heights—like maybe three feet above the fenders.
The Valiant body, except for minitubs, is surprisingly stock. The front and rear subframes are original although Chris admits to splicing a little in the fronts. Even the floorpan is dead stock. He beefed the unibody with frame connections and a cage to avoid the dreaded “Pretzelitis” when he sticks his foot in the water pump.
The immaculate body is the handiwork of Bob Hedge who finessed the body and sprayed the House of Kolor red base with tangerine top coat right in Chris’ garage. Chris then tried to get his interior guy, Rick Kidwell, to bring his table and sewing machine to his garage to stitch up the seats, door panels, rugs and headliner. But Rick held his ground and Chris had to bring the Valiant to his shop.
Chris doesn’t put many street miles on his ridiculous ride, but only because of crappy roads in his area. “They’re ridiculous,” he says. But when he does venture out, peeking around those dual air scoops as he does, the crowds just materialize at gas stations and everywhere he stops. He’s even had people following him home just to see what the car is all about. “Those people are ridiculous,” he says.
And Chris should know.