We always have our ears to the ground, and if our interpretations are correct, A-Body Mopars are the hot ticket today. They're coming out of the woodwork like never before-making absolutely wonderful bone-stock restoration projects, and offering a delicious palette for superstreet modifieds. Since you might be thinking of getting in on the A-Body action, we've assembled our own musings on these spirited little compacts to give you some necessary information, and possibly some inspiration, for your own A-Body project.
Valiant '60-'62; Lancer '61-'62Chrysler entered the compact market in 1960 with the soundly engineered Valiant-the first A-Body-available as a four-door sedan or wagon. Virgil Exner, styling chief at Chrysler at the time, delighted in the extravagantly sculpted sheetmetal that inspires love or hate. In 1961, two-door Valiants entered the scene, and the Valiant became an official Plymouth model as Dodge debuted their A-Body Lancer in the same body styles in that year. The first-generation Valiants and their brethren Dodge Lancers were only available as six-cylinder cars, although the interesting 170-cube Hyper Pack four-barrel version of the Slant Six could deliver 148 hp at 5,200 rpm.
What We Like: The quirky one-of-a-kind styling (which leaves the general public wondering what it is), Hyper Packs, and the fact that they humiliated the competition in '60s baby grand racing with the Slant Sixes. The wagons are exceptionally cool.
What We Hate: The quirky one-of-a-kind styling seems to attract Hollywood freaks and alternative lifestyle weirdos-Hot Rod's Steve Magnante excepted.
The Factory Dream Combo: Hyper Pack, what else?
Our "Build It" Dream Combo: Let your imagination fly-there's no recipe for building these cars. How about a '62 Lancer wagon with a 408 stroker and injector stacks poking through the hood?
Scamp '71-'76In 1971, while Dodge was busy putting Dart front sheetmetal on the Plymouth Duster to create the Demon, the boys at Plymouth were fitting a Valiant nose onto the Dart to produce the "new" Plymouth Scamp. The Scamp was never offered as a factory musclecar, but it shared the crisp bodylines of the Dart hardtop. It looked quite good with the clean Valiant grille and bumpers. Powertrain options excluded the high performance V8s, although the 318-2V was available. Darts outsold Scamps by about three to one, but Scamps aren't particularly rare, with production averaging about 50,000 units per year for the first few years. Although not the kind of car that brings back war stories of the golden age, the Scamp is a good platform for a low-dollar high-performance build.
What We Like: People aren't breaking down doors to get at old Scamps, which keeps prices down. As easy to hot rod as any old Dart.
What We Hate: Having to explain to people that the "Dart" is actually a Scamp.
The Factory Dream Combo: The '76 Valiant Scamp Brougham 318 was as good as it ever got, with factory velour upholstery, woodgrain instrument clusters and trim, wide sill moldings, and a hood ornament. Not exactly our idea of a dream car, but grannies ate them up.
Our "Build It" Dream Combo: We'd take an early Scamp-say a '71-add a warmed 360 to replace the stock 318, and dust some Chevelles with our Duster/Dart hybrid.
Valiant/Dart '63-'66The Plymouth compacts made a break away from the bizarre styling of the early '60s with the introduction of the restyled Valiant line in 1963. Dodge's compacts were also completely restyled for '63-the Lancer name was dropped in favor of the Dart moniker, which in prior years had been attached to midsized Dodge B-Bodies. Darts were available in a GT trim level, in both two-door hardtop and convertible versions. Initially, all were six-cylinder powered, but a 273 2V became available in '64, then a 273 high-performance four-barrel engine appeared in '65. A few '66 Darts were built with a 275hp 273 for drag race purposes. Called the D-Dart, it was built to compete in the D-stock category.