"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.
Who: Bob Schiller
What: It's a '69 Plymouth Valiant 100. Though it looks like a '68, it really is a '69. Bob replaced the hood, grille, and fenders with '68 parts. He says he always hated the '69 grille.
Hometown: Trabuco Canyon, California
Engine: The block is a '69 440 that was bored 0.030-over by Dan Benson, owner of Benson's Automotive Machine in Santa Ana, California. Dan performed all the machine work with torque plates installed and align-bored the cam and crank bearing journals. The rotating assembly was blueprinted and balanced to within 2.00 grams. The cam is a Mopar Performance 509, and it actuates Crane roller rocker arms and stainless steel valves. Legendary machinist Vic Roy of Irwindale, California, performed the port job on the cylinder heads and port-matched the intake manifold. Bob assembled the engine himself and sealed it in plastic while he waited for the car to be painted. Though he apologized for its being dirty, you could eat off the engine.
Transmission: Bob stumbled across the '68 A833 big-block trans at a Mopars on the Strip show in Las Vegas. It's an A-Body short-shaft trans that fits the Valiant's chassis. Otherwise, Bob would have been shifting gears from the back seat. Drivelines USA in Lake Forest, California, made the custom driveshaft.
Rearend: An 831/44 spans the rear wheel openings. It was narrowed 2 inches on each side by RJ at Munoa's in Temecula, California. Munoa's also made the minitubs, relocated the leaf springs 3 inches inboard, and welded in the subframe connectors. A Sure Grip differential with 3.55 gears turns the billet axles. Tire smoke can usually be seen when this happens.
Suspension and brakes: Here, the car is mostly stock with torsion bars up front, Mopar Performance Super Stock leaf springs out back, and KYB Gas-a-Just shocks at all four corners. Bob scrapped the front drums in favor of a set of 10.5-inch discs with stock calipers and swapped big 11-inch station wagon drums in place of the puny stockers.
Wheels: The hoops are big 'n' little steelies painted body color with chrome dog-dish caps-indicative of the car's humble origins. The rear wheels were widened to 10 inches. The front tires are Goodyears, and Bob runs 29x13 Hoosier Quick Time Pro slicks in back.
Exhaust: Giant TTI 2-inch, ceramic-coated headers snake their way through the engine bay and down into a full 3-inch dual-exhaust system. Bob said it took nine hours to fit the big 440 and its headers between the Valiant's shock towers. Flowmaster mufflers tame the roar somewhat, and a corner of the gas tank had to be cut twice to clear the driver-side tailpipe.
Interior: It's bargain-basement cool with no carpet, no heat, and no tunes. Auto Interiors in Mission Viejo, California, reupholstered the stock bench seats.
Paint: The paint and bodywork were done at Quigley's Auto Body in Lake Forest, California. This shade of maroon is a Dodge color from the '68 model year.