"I hope you didn't mind me getting a little sideways for you." Bob Schiller grinned when we paused to make a U-turn on Chrysler Boulevard in El Toro, California, late on a Sunday afternoon. As we took off for our next run, I was hanging out the back of my station wagon with Bob's friend Dave at the wheel while Bob in his Valiant eased away from the stop sign. He floored it as he shifted into Second gear, and I readjusted my focus and began to fire as the car squatted on its leaf springs and rocketed past us, the 440 bellowing angrily at 5,200 rpm. We were hoping to get at least one photo in focus.
Believe it or not, this '69 Plymouth Valiant was resurrected from backyard-beater status to pavement pounder in little more than a year's time. Bob, an ad agency owner from Orange County, California, towed its lifeless shell out of a backyard in Bakersfield, California. It was missing its engine and transmission and had a back window full of deadhead stickers. Still, it was an unmolested and rust-free Valiant, made even more desirable to Bob and his friends because it was a total stripper-a rubber floor mat, A/C, heater, and radio-delete model. Couple that with the fact it was also a manual-transmission car, and this grocery getter was a deal Bob couldn't pass up.
"I've always been into Mopars, and I like to build the oddball cars. I like the stripped down ones, you know-no radios, no ventilation," Bob says. He and his longtime friends Dave Lindsley and Gary Streuter had built a '68 Valiant several years before. That car had belonged to the Edison electric company and retained its Edison green paint with white top even after being stuffed with a 360ci Mopar crate motor. "That car always got a lot of attention," Bob says. "After I sold it, I began to look for another." Upon settling up with the new car's previous owner, Bob trailered it home and immediately began to work on it.
"I knew it was going to be a big-block, four-speed car; there was never any doubt," he says. Within a couple of weeks, the car was stripped down and at the frame shop for minitubs and subframe connectors followed by a trip to the body shop for panel straightening and a totally cool factory maroon paint job. "It's a Dodge color, actually," Bob says. After months of debating the exterior color with his friends, a decision was made in a junkyard of all places. "Gary and I were getting parts off of this Dart in the junkyard when we noticed it was an interesting color that we hadn't seen before," Bob says. "Almost simultaneously we said to each other that this would be a great color for the Valiant." Paint code in hand, the guys at Quigley's Auto Body mixed the formula and sprayed the straightened and sanded sheetmetal after swapping in a '68 hood, grille, and fenders in place of the original pieces.
While the Valiant was having its sheetmetal makeover, Bob was busy putting together a "healthy" 440. It was bored 0.030-over and stuffed with a billet crank, LY rods, Speed-Pro pistons, and topped with ported 906 heads. Bob's intention was to give his new subframe connectors a serious high-torque beating. And they've performed admirably. At 5,500 rpm, this 440 is making 510 hp at the wheels-more than enough to get this car scary sideways several times during our photo shoot.