Friday, March 05, 2021

The Cannonball Compact Car Division of Nascar, 1960... so slow and boring, it only happened 3 times, from 1960 to 61. The Corvairs were so stock, they still had dealership window stickers

With the release of the compact 1960 Plymouth Valiant, NASCAR sanctioned a special race for the new six-cylinder compact car class, which would involve all three major automakers.

Chrysler racing engineers working in Dyno Cell 13 went to work on the 170 cu in slant six. This special group would be responsible for taking an ordinary 170 cubic inch six and making it put out extraordinary horsepower, that would earn these Chrysler racing engineers the title of most powerful and feared in-line six cylinder ever built in America.

(All they did was get 8 more horsepower, so, whoever wrote this was drunk. Notice, 140 hp stock, 148 hp after all their work)

The 170 slant six performance would be put to the test in front of millions of TV viewers.

The 1960 Plymouth Valiant was only available in a 4 door model; this was given a standard block with a set of special domed pistons for a higher compression ratio, a Racer Brown ST-21 cam, a 21" long ram intake manifold, a four-barrel Carter AFB, exhaust manifolds that dumped into a 2-1/2" o.d. outlet pipe into a bigger muffler from an Imperial.

Seven slant six Valiants entered the new NASCAR race; and won the first seven places

CBS aired the compact sedan races as well as the qualifying for the Daytona 500 race in a live TV special for their "sports spectacular;" it was estimated that 17 million people were watching. 

Junior Johnson even qualified a Simca!

Leading the CBS broadcast was Walter Cronkite. Although he wasn't a racing analyst, he was a sports car racer himself, he competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring the previous year and having him on the broadcast would give a sense of legitimacy.

He went on to anchor CBS's coverage of the Winter Olympics a few weeks later, and took over as anchor of CBS's Evening News in 1962.

The compact sedan race quickly turned into a dull affair (80 mph on Daytona is slow as hell to watch) as lap after lap Lee Petty managed to turn away all challenges. It was made even duller by the fact that besides his Valiant, the next 7 positions were also hyper-pak Valiants.

(Notice the writer contradicts his earlier statement that the 1st seven places were all Valiants, now, it's the 1st place with Lee Petty, and seven more Valiants.) and the disclaimer on Allpar is: (We make no guarantees regarding validity or accuracy of information, predictions, or advice -) 

Notice that Zora Duntov was cited as the Chevy engineer to be tasked with upgrading the Corvairs... and said he didn't have time to make them competitive with a 4 barrel carb set up, in this caption

The Chevrolet Corvair Fireball Roberts raced at Daytona in 1960 was completely stock and still had the window sticker from Don Allen Chevrolet in Miami.

Richard Petty came in #23 in the following 20 lap race, where only the 1st three finishers were Valiants, where Panch, Schechter, and Frank were 1, 2, and 3.


  1. And it's a four door too!

  2. Wonder if it was a promotional gig?

  3. NASCAR ran a special series of 'compact car' races in 1960 and probably beyond, and the Valiant Hyper-Pak set-up beat the tar out of Corvair and Falcon, with its dealer-accessory aluminum intake manifold, four-barrel carburetor, factory mechanical valve lifters and short stroke.... I bet Petty won too. And yeah, I'm an automotive historian.

    1. I'm passingly familiar with the Hyper Pak... it was an 8 horsepower add on, amd I STILL don't see the point. Just upgrade to a 273 Commando for 235 horsepower... that's close enough to double the 148 hp hyper pak, or a 340 with x or j heads, headers, and a dyno tune for about 290 hp for exactly double the horsepower.
      You're an automotive historian? Cool!
      How's this blog on accuracy and interest for you?
      And thanks for the info on the Nascar compact series, I hadn't heard of it, or have forgotten about it, until now
      And thanks for the link!

  4. Jesse I've enjoyed your blog for years and it's a go to, your accuracy is fine and better than many who are supposed to be automotive historians! The reason they couldn't just drop a 273 into the '60 Valiants, is that it hadn't been developed yet. The small block mopar V8 (273 which morphed into the vastly revised 318 in 1966, then 340 and 360 later) wasn't developed and in production until introduced in early April 1964, in the Barracuda, a couple weeks before the Mustang (which sold more cars the first weekend than 'cuda did for the entire 1964 model year). The poly 318 (1958-1965 and through '66 in Canada) was a massive heavy wide engine which couldn't even fit into the Valiant/Barracuda body.

  5. The stock 1960-1961 Valiant 170 engine actually only had 101hp, which was significantly more than the stock Falcon and Corvair which I think were 85 and 80 respectively.