Classic Cars

Who would have thought a 1963 Valiant would be cool?

Who would have thought a 1963 Valiant would be cool?

Rio Rancho’s John “Johnny Buck” Morelock shows off his 1963 Valiant, which he plans to display at Park ‘n the Park on April 23. (Gary Herron / Observer)

Those who know John “Johnny Buck” Morelock probably consider him a car guy, and since he grew up in Duke City and terrorized his neighborhood driving motorcycles and cars from the age of 13, they would be right.

In Rio Rancho, custom car enthusiasts recognize him for his “Alien ride,” a 1947 Buick that he says was “chopped, piped, and sectioned, complete with a 350 V-8. … It’s a pleasure for the crowd.

But recently he got acclaim — in StreetScene magazine, the official publication of the National Street Rod Association in Memphis — is his turquoise 1963 Valiant.

It has been recognized as a MoPar “muscle car”.

“There’s no ‘muscle’ in it; it’s just class,” Morelock says with a laugh.

This classic car, and about 300 others, are to be parked downtown for public viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 23 as part of Park ‘n the Park. The event was canceled for two years due to COVID-19, but is now back with food, music, crafts, in addition to cars, at Campus Park and the Rio Rancho Events Center .

Free entry. For more information, visit rrnm.gov.

John “Johnny Buck” Morelock sits behind the wheel of his 1963 Valiant. (Gary Herron / Observer)

As for Morelock, the 68-year-old hot-rodder and frequent voice at Rio Rancho High School home events, doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the vehicles he’s had in his life. The number he finally finds is 30.

His first car was a 1956 Ford, which he bought for $50 and soon sold for $150. During his student years at West Mesa High School, Morelock dove into a 1951 Chevy flatbed truck.

He now owns five vehicles: the ’63 Valiant, the Alien, “a race car, my truck and my Mustang – 460 horsepower,” he said.

He still wishes he had the 1957 Ford sedan delivery car, which he totaled when he tucked in a Corvair.

The story of Valiant originated because of his late wife, Karen, who owned a 1963 Valiant in high school.

“I’ll build you a ’63 Valiant,” he remembered telling her, and soon found one in Kansas. It cost $2,500 but came “with tons of issues”.

Morelock knows a thing or two about cars, so he decided he would need a “parts car” so he could build a complete 1963 Valiant.

“This one popped up,” he said, believing from a photo he saw of it that it was blue, not turquoise.

“It looked really good,” Morelock said.

Long story short, it became Karen’s car, and the original Valiant he bought became the parts car.

“I replaced all the chrome; the seats were already there (but have been re-upholstered),” he said. “It has less than 100,000 miles.”

Prior to Karen’s passing, the couple road tripped, “3,500 miles in three weeks,” he said, “on Route 66 and U.S. Highway 1… Sacramento, Reno, Lake Tahoe to Genoa”.

He quickly decided that it really wasn’t a girl’s car: “The thing about this car (is that the longer I had it), the more I liked it.

“Most of the comments I hear are, ‘I had a car like that, only it was a sedan…only it was…'” Morelock said with a laugh. “Originally, it was a mid-compact car to compete with the Falcon and the Corvair. The engineers designed a six-cylinder (engine), but it was too big. So they took a 318 (cubic inch engine), added two cylinders to one side and made it a slant-6.

The Valiants were available from 1959 to 1972, he added.

His Valiant has been to at least 30 shows, many of them in New Mexico, and “took first place every time,” said its proud owner. “He entered Park ‘n the Park, the State Fair, the MoPar Club…he took first place at the SuperNationals.”

Overall, he says, “It’s been a great car. It gets 19 miles per gallon.

For anyone thinking of buying/building a hot rod custom car, Morelock readily gave advice: start with something affordable, and drivable, and go from there. »