It's been several years since we first began our project Valiant. It all started when then-editor Geoff Stunkard and I decided we needed to do a project car in-house. Actually, I wanted to build a car, and he let me do it in the magazine. The criteria was this: it couldn't be an expensive car to start with because let's face it, us magazine guys don't get paid much, so that dictated at the very beginning that the car be cheap; second, we had a limited budget to spend on the car (again with the money). We initially decided we wanted to build a running-and-driving car for no more than $4,000. Just a mention of this small amount of money had people laughing at us. But that was the plan--a cheap, enjoyable car that anyone could build and drive on a regular basis.
It was in the July 2002 issue that we presented the '67 Valiant that would be the basis of our program. The Valiant was chosen because I liked the squared-off body style, not many people were doing anything with them at the time, and it seemed like a cool car to modify. Now, however, they seem to have become popular, and even the editor of Car Craft has decided to mimic us and do one. I wonder what they'll name theirs?
It took a few years to get the car finished, as I am sure some of you guys reading can relate to. The original plan of building a cheap, dependable car was achieved, however, we couldn't stop there, could we? But for a while we did; we drove the tires off the car, raced it a few times, and even took it to cruise nights here and there.
This is when it all started--the...
This is when it all started--the day we picked up the car at a friend's house in North Carolina. When we got it home, some questioned our sanity, and others praised our blurred vision. we knew what we could accomplish with a lot of elbow grease, and the finished product tells the tale. and, yep, we're tired.
In the beginning, we began the project by replacing the floors. We didn't need to replace just the area around the pedals and driver seat. Oh no, that would be too easy. We replaced everything from the firewall to the rear bumper. We learned quickly how many cut-off wheels, welding wire, and band-aids the job actually takes. After we finished the floors, we needed to put something under the hood to make the car go in a forward direction without having the kids push us to a cruise night. We found a junkyard fresh '71 360 that we took home, cleaned, painted, and added a swap-meet-found Edelbrock Performer intake and a Holley carburetor. Getting the engine physically mounted into the engine bay could have presented a problem, but the Schumacher conversion mounts fixed that. Behind the engine was another pre-enjoyed bargain in the form of an A-833 transmission, shifter, and linkage. Finally, we rebuilt a junkyard 83/4 rearend, and the hard parts were done.
Before we could do any kind of driving, we knew we had to either rebuild or upgrade the 9-inch drum brakes with a disc setup. We decided that a set of Master Power Brakes' stock-styled conversion would be ideal. Legendary Auto Interiors was given the task of styling a stock-looking interior in two-tone blue. Now the Valiant was finally ready for the road.
We had made a decent, dependable driver, but like all gearheads, we couldn't leave well enough alone. It was time to make the Valiant a little more acceptable to the eyes. In February 2004, we carted the car off to get it painted. We were rather surprised when we received more than a few mixed responses about painting such a patina-ridden car; most didn't want us to touch it, but we had to. We placed the car on jackstands and began removing parts. By parts, we mean everything. If it could be removed, it was. The car was then taken to Muscle Car Restorations, where they applied a smooth-as-silk coating of retina-searing white. The following June, we were able to pick up the car while attending the last stop of the 2004 Hot Rod Power Tour.
Since we were making the body look exceptional, the old-reliable stock 360 would be replaced with a more potent LA to give the car more of a bite to go with its good looks. The block was filled with parts from Crane Cams, Scat, Diamond, Milodon, and Total Seal. When finished, the 450-horse engine was bolted to the 833 transmission that sported a Gear Vendors over/underdrive unit to make the 3.91 gears out back seem bearable on long cruises.
In the June 2005 issue, we...
In the June 2005 issue, we built the engine for our little Valiant. With no special machining and using quality parts, we achieved 452 hp at 5,900 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque. Not bad for throwing pieces together.
Now it was time to really get busy. During the next few months, the car was put together in the garage, and finally in March 2005, we were ready for the road. It's now June 2005, and the car has just returned from the 2005 Hot Rod Power Tour. With the exception of a small electrical glitch in Georgia, it made the trip without much of an issue.
It's been a lot of fun, pain, and hassles getting this car together. Many of you were there to offer support. Now we have to decide what's next for our Valiant? It's hard to say, but rest assured, it will definitely be racking up some serious miles on the road and track. To see the tech articles on Project Valiant Effort, click on Project Cars.