It carried a bad nickname for some owners, Ruster.
OK, so right out of the gate, Mopar fans, I really like the Duster. Easy now. We OK? My personal experience comes from my best friend who owned one. He bought it used and I’m not sure how many miles he had on it. I do remember it had a 3 on the floor, the slant six and was some sort of orangish/yellow. I also remember kicking the rear quarters and it raining rust. It was a solid car though otherwise. Rust wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for the cars of this era. They all rusted. He traded it for a Chevy Nova when he had to I think buy a new manifold for his Duster and didn’t fare much better because the Nova he got caught on fire while he was driving it. Good name, Nova. Puffffff!
The first Plymouth Duster was a semi-fastback version of Plymouth’s Valiant and produced in the US from 1970 to 1976. I already mentioned one of its competitors, the Nova and Ford’s slightly smaller semi-fastback Maverick compact that was also introduced in 1970. I rented one of these once while on a vacation trip to Florida when I was in college. Nope, not going there and that’s a long story that involved beer. Ooops, gave up too much already.
Eventually the Chrysler engineers found funds to make it look almost entirely different from the Valiant. The Duster was also created to fill the slot that was formerly occupied by the Valiant-based Barracuda. When the Barracuda moved from its A-body platform to the new E-body platform in 1970, this left an opening in Plymouth’s lineup for a sporty, inexpensive compact. At a base price of $2,172, the Duster was a good deal compared to its competition, especially the Maverick which was smaller. The buying public loved the Duster as 217,192 were sold in its premier year.
The Duster was such a success for Plymouth, that in 1971 Dodge received their own version, the Demon. In response, Plymouth was given a version of the Dodge Dart Swinger 2-door hardtop named the Plymouth Scamp. The made a bunch of variants including Feather Duster (eco version), Gold Duster (gold stripes on the sides and rear, wall-to-wall carpeting, pleated, all-vinyl seats, white walls, wheel covers, a deluxe insulation package, and a canopy vinyl roof, Silver Duster (same deal as the Gold Duster), Space Duster (a fold-down “convertriple” rear seat this year, greatly enhancing cargo space), Duster Twister (for the people wanting the looks of the Duster 340 without the Duster 340 insurance premiums), 340 Duster and 360 Duster.
These last two are what really get my heart pumping and certainly not out of the ordinary for the time period. Even though they later had all that smog crap put on them, the engines kicked out decent HP and tons of torque. The 340 produced 245 HP, while the 360 added 10 more. This then is where the serious collectors come in because Dusters with these power plants were produced in lower numbers.
A Duster with one of these engines commands a decent price. I found this ’70 (left) with matching numbers for $26,995. What makes it unusual is the Moulin Rouge color. Kind of cool. And at one of my favorite places to hang out, Hemmings, I found two.I found this 71 with a 340 (center) for nearly $30K. Love the interior color. On the right is a Florida car going for $32,500. Yes, you could find basket cases for around 5 grand but rust would be a big factor. Please click on the images for more information and images of the cars.
And they replaced it why?
The Duster was a mega success for Plymouth, selling over 1,328,377 by the time it was discontinued at the end of the 1976 model year to be replaced by the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare to compete with the more upscale Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch. I had both of these for a company cars and I can tell you first hand, they were a piece of junk. These were the cars which almost killed Chrysler because they had recalls on the body, suspension, ignition and fuel systems, as well as brakes and steering systems. Lee Iacocca to conclude in his autobiography: “The Dart and Valiant ran forever, and they never should have been dropped. Instead they were replaced by cars that often started to come apart after only a year or two”.
I receive a weekly e-mail from Collectors Weekly announcing that cars they have up for sale on their eBay store and what did I find but this example which is exactly the same color and the real deal my buddy had. While there were no images that show the chrome, the car appeared to be in great shape. Bidders thought so too because when bidding ended, it went for $248.96 on eBay. You know what’s really great about collecting promo model cars from the ’70’s? They never rust!