First published in 2011-04-08
We can start the name and shame area with the vehicle that first piqued our interest in vehicle names. It was the Chrysler Valiant. For those NOT familiar with the vehicle in Australia, the name Valiant was for many years synonymous with Italian immigrants. The market gardeners of the 1960s and 1970s loved these things and would race into their local dealerships with a box of cash pulled from under their bed yelling at the salesman No trade, no booshit! Kesh! Kesh!!!! This was especially true if the Greek next door had just done the same thing a week earlier.
Gradually the market gardeners updated their cars or died of old age so their kids bought or inherited their Valiants and stuffed 360ci of Mopar goodness between the rails. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, they were wrecked or rusted at such an alarming rate, that good ones are now worth money.
In the USA, the notion of a Plymouth Valiant being used for anything performance-related was generally laughable. They were an A-body car, competitor to the Ford Falcon and the oddball Chevrolet Corvair. Furthermore, these were both competitors for, of all things, the Volkswagen Beetle, which was selling like meth on the wrong side of the tracks and proving that bigger was not always better. While we can only speculate who came up with the Valiant name and why, it truly is the epitome of the nonsensical car name. For an American-based name, is decidedly Anglo-centric. Prince Valiant, the comic-book character who fought his battles in middle-ages England was created by a Canadian-American illustrator in 1937, and enjoyed popularity the world over so much so that many do not realise that ‘Prince Valiant’ was a fictional character and not an actual historical figure.
The word means both courageous and brave; a name completely apt in Australia, where the Valiant was launched against the strong-selling Holden and the not-far-behind Ford Falcon models, launching a cut-throat Big (Aussie) Three sales race that only abated when the ailing Chrysler Australia was bought in its entirety by Mitsubishi. Two years after the purchase in August 1981, the mighty Valiant was laid to rest, having breathed its last, stoic breath and while the cars were undoubtedly awesome, we can’t see the name ‘Valiant’ being used on a car again. The 21st Century is no place for valiantness.