Billy Martin's 1976 Plymouth Valiant Brougham
Ever since I can remember, I have been a serious car nut. Maybe it was my dad's stories about his GTO, his '56 Chevy, his '72 Pheonix, or his '68 Mustang drag car, but it might have been because of something else. My grandparents bought a 1976 Plymouth Valiant Brougham brand new off the show room floor 3 years before I was born. The car was a beautiful shade of dark red with a dark red interior and dark red vinyl top - in other words, the car was dark red, even down to the hubcaps. My grandfather took good care of this car, always changing the oil and doing all the repairs himself. As a child, I always enjoyed working on the car with him, although I probably did little more than get in the way.
When I was about 9 years old my grandmother had a serious accident in the Valiant. A lady side-swiped the front end of the car as my grandmother pulled out of a parking lot. The accident destroyed the entire front clip of the car, but spared the motor and drivetrain. My grandfather put the car in the garage and went to work on it. He bought all the parts at a local bone yard and repaired it to almost original condition. The paint wasn't as good and there were some trim pieces missing, but it was acceptable. At least everyone was ok, that's what really mattered.
When I was 10 years old, my father took another job out of state. His job took us out of my hometown of Bethlehem, PA and moved us to Durham, NC. We did not see my grandparents as often anymore, but we still managed to get up there every now and then. Every time I got a chance, I would wash and wax the car. It was my grandmother's car and she didn't drive much anymore, so the car just sat in the garage most of the time. When I was 13 my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer from her many years of smoking. The car took a back seat to spending time with her, but I convinced myself that I would always keep the car and the memories we had in it. My grandmother died that following year following a long struggle with the terrible disease. The car meant much more to me then, it held memories of a dear friend.
Since I lived in NC and my grandfather lived in PA, I didn't see him or the Valiant as much anymore after my grandmother passed away. He visited us a lot, but the Valiant stayed in the garage. I told him that I wanted the car, so he was keeping it for me. By that time I had turned 15 and had my learner's permit. The time was near for me to get a car. About that time my grandfather started having problems with the Valiant. The timing chain broke, the cam rounded off, and the water pump went out. The car did not have many miles on it, but the long periods of sitting took its toll on the car. The summer before I turned 16, I visited my grandfather in PA. It was exciting for me because he told me that I would have a car before I left for NC. When I got there, however, he told me that he had sold the Valiant and wanted to take me out to look for a newer car. At the time it sounded good, I got a good 1986 S-10 Blazer 4x4, which I still have today. Over the part few months, I have started to regret getting rid of the Valiant and my grandfather feels the same way.
We are currently trying to locate my precious Valiant. It was sold in 1995 in Bethlehem, PA and is probably still in the surrounding areas somewhere. It is a rare car because it was the second-to-last Valiant built in the US. I would like to find my car and restore it to its original splendor. If anyone knows where my Valiant is or might be, please contact me at BILLYMARTN@aol.com!