In 1995, Doug McCombs set out to do what so many Mopar nuts before him had done: recapture that dream musclecar of his youth. For Doug, it was a '65 Valiant V-100 four-speed with a small-block 273 and a bench seat-the first car he ever owned. Doug had purchased a Barracuda, hoping it would whet his whistle, but nothing except a Valiant would do. After almost five years of off-and-on searching, Doug found a '65 Valiant V-100 on Collectorcartrader.com. It was a six-cylinder three-speed with a column shifter and a 7 1⁄4 rear. It wasn't exactly what he was looking for, but Doug saw the potential.
"A lady in Oklahoma City and her daughter were selling the car," Doug says. "Apparently, it belonged to the lady's [deceased] husband. I couldn't afford to take a trip out there just to look at it, so I had them send me pictures of everything they could. I realized that my exact kind of car was practically nonexistent, so I was just looking for a Valiant body I could use to make a clone car."
After Doug saw the pictures, he worked out a deal with the owner, hitched up the Valiant to his friend Russ Patterson's trailer, and carted her back to Volant, Pennsylvania. With a few exceptions, Doug was pleasantly surprised.
"I bought the car pretty much sight-unseen," Doug says. "It was absolutely rust-free. But, I didn't know it had been wrecked, and there were some wrinkles in the firewall from that. I was able to massage those out, though. There was also a bumper hitch I didn't know about. The man who owned it loved to fish, so he used the car mainly to haul boats around. But the hitch was ground off pretty easily. Other than some pinholes in the driver-side floor pan, those were the only surprises. It was better than I expected."
Doug couldn't wait to sink his teeth into the restoration, but unfortunately, he would have to. "The car was garaged for about a year before I got a chance to get started on the rebuild and restoration," Doug says. "I couldn't wait to get done with the [other] car I was working on so I could get started [on the Valiant]. In October of 2001, I started [building it] like the 273 hi-po, four-speed car I owned in '69." Doug purchased a 340 block from buddy Scott Guy, and had the machining work and buildup done by Gabany Engines of Mercer, Pennsylvania. While the engine was being built, the car was disassembled. "It was completely stripped down, and I installed the four-speed hump," Doug says. "Then Scott repaired the dings and dents from 36 years of use. He then repainted it to its original Dark Blue Metallic."
Doug used the time during the exterior bodywork to have all the small parts blasted and painted. Most of the soft parts came from Deutschman Automotive. When he got the Valiant back in March 2002, he repainted all the interior steel its original light blue.
"By the time I got the body back, everything was ready for reassembly," Doug says. A wrecked Duster 340 was the donor car for the 831/44 rear. Brewer's supplied the rebuild parts for the 833 transmission.
Except for the seat reupholstery, Doug did all the interior work himself. The seats were pretty ratty, so Doug had them re-covered by Marino's Auto Upholstery. They weren't able to find a perfect match to the original vinyl, so Doug had them cover the seats in tweed fabric that was patterned after the stock vinyl. Legendary carpet went in also. Doug's wife, Patti, helped him install the Legendary headliner and the front and rear glass.
Doug was amazed by the good condition of some of the interior and chrome components. "I think it had something to do with it coming from around the Oklahoma-Texas border," he says. "The door panels were perfect. I couldn't figure that out. You figure a guy who uses it to go fishing all the time would be scraping it up with muddy boots. The fenders, bumpers, and grille are all original. Except for the air cleaner and front bumper, I didn't have to rechrome anything."