Am I crazy?

My first Grandson will be born in North Carolina in July, my wife and I will be driving out to spend time with the little guy. I want to drive my daily driver that I use about 70 miles every day, Everyone says I’m nuts and will never make it.

It is a 1963 Valiant convertible with >400K mile slant six and three speed on the column. It has not been restored or rebuilt, but I have upgraded to disk brakes on the front and put some nifty racing stripes on it with a spray can! I have been driving this car every day for 5 or 6 years and it NEVER fails to start, run and drive just fine, it doesnt burn oil, but it will leak it!

Am I crazy to think if the car works every day anyway that it can make the trip?

I forgot to mention I will be driving from San Diego Ca.

Rachel would not think twice about taking a cross country trip in her car:

Edit: I would not fill the trunk with spare parts for the road trip – leave them with a friend just in case. If you break down on the road they can Fed Ex only what you need to the repair shop over night.


I’ve done crazier things than that. Have the car checked out by a mechanic before you make the trip. Make sure the brakes and suspension check out fine, along with belts, hoses, etc. If everything checks out okay, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the trip. Be sure to carry a set of points and ballast resistor, and know how to change and set them, or an extra orange box if you have electronic ignition. I have driven worse junk cross country than a '63 Valiant. You can’t get much more reliable than a slant six.

Awesome for Rachel! I cant wait to show that clip to my wife. I may be crazy, but I’m no crazier than Rachel!

Forget About The Jokers Who Ask, “Hey, Where’s The Other Half Of Your Engine ?” I’ve Seen Many Slant-Six Powerplants Come In First Place In Demolition Derbys, Many With No Working Cooling Systems !

I think they were a taxi cab fleet favorite, too.


It should be just fine. But if you have a problem, can you get it fixed? If you can stand a week or two delay along the way to find surplus parts to repair the Valiant, go for it. The question isn’t just whether the car will make it, but how hard it will be to repair if it doesn’t. If you are retired and can consider a delay as an adventure, drive the Valiant.

You have one of the most reliable vehicles ever built. Taxis with that engine routinely did 500,000 miles before overhauls.

As others commented, make sure everything is in good operating condition, and I would also take a spare belt(s) with me, some basic tools and a roll of duct tape in case a rad hose blows, and a can of tire inflater.

Take it easy and enjoy the trip.

I’m guessing no a/c? You will be hot in July, that’s for sure!

How’s your timing belt/chain thingy? I’m surprised no one’s pounced on you about that.

Also, the time to replace hoses is about a month before the trip.

Since it’s a '63, electronic ignition should be a non-issue.

Change and check your fluids, and bring along a cellphone or two.

You might want to consider installing lap and shoulder restraints as well.

How are those tires? How old is the battery?

These are the things I’d look for in a young doctor.

To the best of my recollection, the Slant Six used timing gears.
If not timing gears, then it most certainly has a timing chain which would almost always provide auditory cues that it needs to be changed.

The presence of very reliable/durable timing gears or a timing chain is the reason why nobody has “pounced” on the OP regarding this issue.

With the exception of Pontiac’s OHC six cylinder engine of the late '60s–early '70s, timing belts did not come into use on American engines until several decades later.

Once again, ZW has revealed his/her very scant knowledge of both automotive mechanics and automotive history.

These are highway miles, easy on the car. Have the oil changed on schedule and double check your radiator hoses, heater hoses, and V belts before you go. You’ll be dealing with a lot of heat so an old hose could go spongy on you and spring a leak.

In preparation I’d suggest changing the fluid in your manual transmission, changing the rear differential fluid, and even changing the brake fluid too. If you’ve done those fluid changes within the last 3 years, then no need but make sure all the fluids are topped off before you go.

On really hot days when you stop it wouldn’t hurt to pop the hood and let the motor cool off a bit at rest, food, and gas stops. The older cars don’t handle the heat as well as new ones, but otherwise the slant six will go on and on and on.

Almost forgot, give the fan on the water pump a shake. You are checking the bearing in the water pump for wear. Long hot trips can do in a water pump on its last legs.

It would probaly make it-but why not just rent a car,unless you want an adventure. At this stage in the cars life anything can go-Kevin

In addition to the above I’d be feeling like I have to do something just to say it’s done. In my anal retentiveness I would probably do coolant change and a new thermostat depending on the last service, rear differential fluid change and repack the front bearings if they are due. New plugs, points, condenser, rotor, and distributor cap would be a plus also. Depending on time restraints as far as allowing a few extra days for repairs if needed I would consider renting.

The Mopar slant six was one of the most unbreakable engines ever built, had a set of timing gears driven by a short CHAIN, and was an alltime favorite in taxi cabs. Zombie chimes in like the “little kangoroo in the pouch” who always said. “me too”.

I would agree that belts, hoses and other stuff that ages need to be checked and/or replaced before the trip. This car had an all metal radiator, and the one on my 1965 Dodge Dart outlasted the rest of the car without a single leak.

Also, those skinny little 13" tires need to be checked very carefully.

My own personal hangup would be the absence of seat belts, unless OP retrofittesd those.

Well be anal with it and it will certainly be less apt to break down-(what condition is the frame in on that classic?),Go for it.


Thanks so much for all of the thoughtful replies. I appreciate the input. I hadn’t thought much about the lack of seatbelts, sice I usually just commute to work with it, I’ll add some before we leave. The waterpump and thermostat have been changed within the last couple of years and I always have extra belts and hoses in the trunk. I upgraded to disk brakes a few years ago and redid all the bushings and ball joints, etc.

We could rent a car as some have suggested, but there is no adventure in that. I actually would prefer to drive our 68 Chrysler Station Wagon (It is a perfect highway cruiser with all the luxeries and modern conveniences like cruise control, AC and an in-dash 8-track)! But, my wife insists that it “isn’t a summer car”.
The lack of AC is my biggest concern right behind the very real possibility that the valves will sink into the head during this run from all those years of unleaded fuel.
I’m just hoping if the head goes out along the way that finding a replacement wont be that difficult, (i’ll bring extra gaskets just incase I have to raid a junkyard). I’m assuming I can swap the head in a single extra day tacked onto the trip.

And then you have to drive it back??? Do yourself a big favor a FLY out the Carolina…The CAR should make it OK, but I don’t know about YOU two…

That’s a 5-day trip in your car…10 nights in motel rooms, 20 meals on the road…Hot and sticky weather…If you consider that fun, go for it!!

Does it still have the points ignition?

Yes it still has the points. I did a full tune up and valve adjustment two weeks ago. I rebuilt the carb also and have a spare to carry with us. I think I’ll check out “vintage air” for an AC retrofit to ease the comfort level. The whole idea is to have some level of route 66 historic type of experience, but if it is a nightmare for the wife, then it will be a nightmare for everyone!

You seem determined…Well OK! Plan your trip to avoid the interstates as much as possible. Take your time…Avoid travel from noon to 5pm…Do the long desert stretches at night…If you have never been to Gettysburg or Antietam, do that. The drive from Antietam down to Harpers Ferry is stunning and the history just oozes out at you…Perfect top=down driving. Forget the A/C…Not worth the effort involved. When is the last time you packed the wheel bearings? Windshield wipers work well? Pull the speedometer cable out and lube it…