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Introducing the Valiant: Speeches from 1959

Remarks by L.L. Colbert, president, Chrysler Corporation, at the presentation of the Valiant

1960 plymouth valiantIt is a great pleasure to meet with you again this afternoon at this first formal showing of the Valiant. All of us at Chrysler are extremely happy about this car, and we feel sure it is going to make automotive history. We have always been actively interested in the market possibilities for economy cars, and as I have told many of you on other occasions. we were somewhat ahead of the rest of the industry in going to cars with a shorter wheelbase back in the early 1950s. It turned out that those cars were just a little premature. But over the years, and long before the 1950s, we had done a lot of experimenting with small cars and small-car components.

In 1956, the market for the small imported cars began to grow rapidly, and we felt this was the first clear indication of a new kind of opportunity in the American automobile market. We sent teams of engineers, production engineers, marketing people, and others to Europe on many separate missions to learn as much as possible from the European experience in this field. At the same time, we were exploring the possibility of producing in Europe a line of small European-type cars and trucks for the world market.

Our investment in Simca grew out of this study. The study also led to the formation of a committee early in 1957 to move ahead with the development of an American -built economy car. And the work of this committee led directly to the Valiant.

Now we have the Valiant. We are ready with the right car for a big new market. We know there is a market for a highly-efficient; American -built economy car that can give real savings in price and fuel economy without sacrificing the comfort, safety, and performance people have come to expect in the finest American automobiles. And we expect to get our full share of that market.

Valiant taxis

As it looks to us right now, total retail sales of American-built economy cars in 1960 will be in the neighborhood of a million and a quarter units. However, the impact of this new automotive development may be so great that the volume of sales of economy cars will be determined in large part by the manufacturing capacity of the major companies. For our own plans I am going to turn this Valiant presentation over to Bill Newberg.

William C. Newberg, Chrysler Corporation executive vice president, 1959

Yesterday, we saw the 1960 Plymouth, Dodge, De Soto, Chrysler, and Imperial cars that we will introduce to the public next month. This morning we saw the 1960 line of Dodge trucks. This afternoon we are very pleased to present the Valiant. This car is so new and different that we have saved it for the wind-up of our news preview. I think you will agree with Mr. Colbert that this car is going to make automotive history.

Before we raise the curtain on the Valiant. I want to tell you just what kind of a car it is. But even before I tell you what kind of a car it is, I want to point out a few things it is not.

The Valiant is not an imitation --an American-built copy -- of the small imported automobile. It is not a small-scale, miniature version of the Plymouth or any other Chrysler-built car -- or of any other American-built car. It is not a little "convenience" car to park in one corner of your garage and to use just for errands and short trips to the super-market, the playground, and the PTA. It is not a stripped-down, cut-down box on wheels with just enough horsepower under the hood to give barely adequate performance.

It is an automobile -- with all the parts and all the ruggedness, performance, safety, comfort, and style you expect in a fine American car. In other words, the Valiant is not an imitation of any other automobile or automobiles -- and it is not a compromise in any sense of the word.

So much for what the Valiant is not. Now for what it is.

The Valiant is a completely new idea in automobiles. It has been designed as a high-efficiency, high-performance economy car to fill all the motoring needs of the modern American family -- and to fill them in style. The Valiant four-door sedan will seat six passengers in comfort. And it will have plenty of space for luggage in the luggage compartment at the rear.

The Valiant is a rugged car. Its unitized body makes it remarkably tough and quiet -- and it has passed its endurance tests with flying colors. The Valiant is getting the same rustproofing treatment as our other lines of cars. And that means, as you heard yesterday, that protective coatings are applied in seven separate and distinct dipping operations, supplemented by six intensive spray applications. It is also getting fully as much sound-proofing as our other lines, to make it a remarkably quiet performer.

dart/valiant signThe Valiant is an economy car -- and it will be priced competitively with all other American economy cars -- but we are definitely not economizing on its construction. It is just as rugged, durable, and quiet as our other cars. We have not trimmed down essential parts or shortcut any operations merely to save weight.

It is powered by a brand -new six-cylinder engine - - an engine which is the most efficient of its kind ever developed. This engine has the horsepower to meet all motoring needs. With this engine the Valiant will get away from a traffic light fast if a driver likes to get away fast. It will hold its own in safety on a turnpike. And it will deliver the acceleration to meet driving emergencies under all driving conditions. We will announce the horsepower of this engine just before public introduction of the Valiant. At this time I can tell you it will be fully competitive - -and then some -- with the horsepower of the other economy cars being introduced by our major competitors.

This engine will provide the kind of performance American motorists like -- and at the same time it will be highly economical. The Valiant engine can get 30 miles to the gallon of gasoline in highway driving --and even better than that when the factors of speed, driver skill, temperature. and road surface are favorable.

I would like to say a few words about the Valiant's new three-speed automatic transmission. This brand-new transmission is a highly compact unit. Its small size enabled us to cut down drastically the size of the Valiant's transmission tunnel as well as the weight of the car. It provides the Valiant with excellent acceleration and with outstanding highway economy. In fact, coupled with our highly favorable rear-axle ratio, this new automatic transmission gives fuel economies that would be possible only with overdrive in combination with other power plants.

Since the Valiant's parking brake acts on the rear wheels rather than on the driveshaft, a parking mechanism has been included in the new transmission. We think public reception of this transmission will justify our very sizable investment in its design and development.

Another first for the Valiant -- a new feature that marks it as a step up in automobiles -- and not a step down-- is its radically new alternating -current generator. As you know, direct-current generators are used on all other American automobiles, except for a few special-purpose cars such as police cars. The alternating-current generator -- which comes as standard equipment on the Valiant -- will charge the storage battery even when the engine is idling, and it has many other advantages.

Here are a few more vital statistics on the Valiant. It has a wheelbase of 106. 5 inches. It has an over-all length of 15 feet, four inches. It is 70.4 inches wide and 53.3 inches high. The luggage compartment in the four-door sedan has a capacity of 24. 9 cubic feet. Its six-cylinder front-mounted engine has a displacement of 170 cubic inches.

In addition to the two series of four-door sedans we are introducing in October, we will bring to market before the end of the year a four-door two-seat and a four-door, three-seat, nine-passenger station wagon.

Every part of the Valiant has been designed forthe Valiant. That means that the body stampings, engines, transmissions, suspensions, wheels, seats, fabrics -- all of the thousands of parts going into the Valiant -- have been designed especially for this completely new car.

In developing this economy car we have kept our sights trained on value.And we believe we are presenting to the public the greatest package of motoring value in the history of the business. It has occurred to me, with all the talk we have heard recently about small cars, economy cars, and compact cars that we might consider calling our Valiant the value-pact car - -because that's the way the public is going to think of it -- the value-pact Valiant.

I have told you something about what the Valiant is. Now let me tell you why we decided to bring the car to market and why we designed it the way we did.

Several years ago our market surveys began to show that people were becoming increasingly interested in motoring economy. And with every survey we made, that interest showed signs of getting stronger. By 1957 there was no longer any doubt that a market for an American-built economy car was developing fast - - and the public had begun to indicate what kind of an economy car it wanted. So when we decided to bring the Valiant to market, we knew the main features people were asking for in this kind of car.

First, and above all else, an American-built economy car would have to provide unusual gasoline economy in order to please those who would be in the market for this kind of car. Second, it would have to sell at a relatively low price. Third, it should be maneuverable and easy to handle and park. And fourth, it should be adequate in size to give room for six passengers and provide plenty of luggage space. These were the most important elements in the kind of car the public said it wanted. But over and beyond these four basic demands, we began to see indications of an additional element of great importance.

Our surveys showed that people did not really expect to get smart, distinguished styling in an economy car. Their answers showed that they didn't seem to think it was reasonable to expect this kind of styling and economy too. But they would be mighty glad to get it, if it was offered. They showed a strong desire to have an economy car that would give them a pride of ownership, one that would give them a certain prestige, if possible. When it became clear to the Chrysler management that there was a real market potential for a high-efficiency economy car at the bottom of our price scale, we told our engineering staff they had complete freedom to design a new car -- as long as it met a few simple requirements, based on our market studies. Here are those requirements as we gave them to our engineers:

When they went to work on this assignment, our engineers were drawing on many years of experience in designing and developing this type of automobile. Ever since the early 1930s, Chrysler engineers have been designing and experimenting with small cars and small-car components. I remember that in 1933, when I joined the Engineering Division, experimental work was being done on a small car. And from then until now, year after year, development of small-car components and over-all small-car design has been continuous. Then in the early 1950s, as Mr. Colbert has pointed out, our strong traditional interest in highly functional smaller cars led us to bring to market a series of Plymouths and Dodges with relatively short wheelbases and roomy interiors.

Over the past quarter century we have designed and tested virtually every known type of engine, transmission, and suspension for possible use in small cars. This experimental work has included, for example, a V-6 engine and a pancake six with opposed cylinders. As a result of all this work with smaller cars, when we decided to design and build the Valiant we had behind us a lot of solid research and development relating to the engine, the automatic and manual transmissions, the suspension and many other components that would be needed in a car of this kind. We knew the right direction to take -- and we knew enough to avoid taking some wrong turns. Without the many years of planning and experimentation our engineers devoted to small-car development, we could never have moved as rapidly as we did to bring the Valiant to market.

On Wednesday of this week we began pilot production of the Valiant, and by the end of the month we will start volume production in our Hamtramck Assembly plant. In January we will also start building the Valiant in our St. Louis plant. and at that time we will be in a position to produce Valiants at an annual rate of about 300,000. The Valiant will be introduced to the public during the last week of October. As a matter of practical information to you people, the release date for pictures of the Valiant -- and for details on the car that are not being released today -- is October 25.

This first showing of our Valiant here today is a great event in the history of Chrysler Corporation. In our minds it compares to the public showing of the first Chrysler in New York City back in 1924 -- the car that introduced high compression engines and hydraulic brakes to the general motoring public -- and with the introduction of the first Plymouths equipped with floating power in 1931. Those two events made good news for Chrysler people and good news for the car buyer. They literally signalled the start of two important eras in automobile history. Today’s showing of the Valiant is the same kind of event. We are happy to have you with us as we raise the curtain on the Valiant.

Engineering of the Valiant (by project leader Robert Sinclair)

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