DESCRIPTION: In my garage is this 1974 Plymouth Duster which I purchased in January of 2016 with 49897 original miles on the odometer. I'm the third owner. My Duster came from Minot, ND and most likely survived because it had been Ziebart rustproofed when it was new. I've always wanted to recreate my first car - a Tahitian Gold Metallic 1974 Plymouth Gold Duster - as a retirement project. Since this car is nearly the same as my first Duster, I snapped it up when it came along. I bought my first Duster in the summer of 1977 before my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. I've restored this car as a "tribute" car to honor the memory of my classmates, both living and deceased, to appear exactly as the original one did parked in lot D-2 west of the football stadium at Notre Dame in the fall of 1977. The photo of the dark brown Duster in my photo garage is the only existing picture of my original Duster.
My second Duster was built at the Hamtramck, MI Plymouth plant in November of 1973. It is powered by the numbers matching 225 cubic inch six cylinder engine with the one barrel Holley 1945 carb, hooked to the original A-904 Torqueflite automatic transmission. The rear axle is the factory 7 1/4 rear end with 2.76 gears. The car is painted Golden Haze Metallic and has it's original snakeskin vinyl roof. All of the paint from the beltline up is original. It has the A64 Gold Duster package and options to include power steering, manual front disc brakes, the light package, a tinted windshield, an inside hood release, the cigar lighter, the left remote control mirror, three speed windshield wipers and an AM radio.
I've been slowly returning the car to its factory "as delivered" configuration. When I bought the car, the interior was remarkably preserved. The carpet was pretty bad, so when I replaced it I found the broadcast sheet under the sound deadener pad beneath the right front seat. Not a single scrap of the original paperwork came with the car. Since I'm a stickler for paperwork, I've reproduced all the original stuff that came with the car when new, such as the owners manual packet in a clear vinyl sleeve which has the warranty info and some other goodies, and a correct and accurate reproduction of the window sticker. The broadcast sheet yielded a wealth of information as you might expect, and allowed me to determine exactly how the car came from the factory. I saved a sample of the original carpet, which looks just like the replacement carpet set. Many subsystems needed to be refurbished. The radiator was a cheap aftermarket unit, so I found a (surprisingly difficult to find) correct original radiator, p/n 3692973, at my favorite junkyard - Rohner's Auto Salvage in Wilmar, MN. I had it rebuilt and painted at one of the few remaining old fashioned radiator shops in Minneapolis. It now has a new high efficiency two row copper core and uses its original hose fittings, drain cock, transmission cooler and brass upper and lower tanks. The radiator also features the factory correct 1974 only radiator cap, p/n 3673891 which I acquired NOS. Finally, I found and installed the correct overflow tank and installed it with an original section of ribbed hose and two Keystone clamps. It cools beautifully and the coolant temperature never gets above 195 degrees even on the hottest days. The original heater box was cracked and damaged, so I found a really nice used one at Rohner's and rebuilt it in my basement. The refurbished heater has a new copper core and all new internals. Works fantastic!
My Duster came with the wrong wheels on it, so I found a set of five 14 x 5.5 JJ stamped steel wheels at a swap meet and had them powder coated in the correct 80% black finish. I mounted a set of new white sidewall tires on the wheels and found a set of the original "Deluxe" wheel covers so common back in the day. The car originally came with 6.95 x 14 white sidewall tires, but I went up by one size and installed a set of Uniroyal Tiger Paw AWP-II P195 75R-14 tires on the refurbished wheels. When I rebuilt the transmission, I replaced the speedometer drive gear with the next larger size to accommodate the larger tires. The speedometer now reads within 1 mph of perfect accuracy. All of the trunk equipment was gone, so I found and restored an original jack, jack base, tire iron, hold down bolt and wing nut, jack hold down spring and fiberboard spare wheel cover, and installed all of this with the new spare tire and wheel in the trunk, finished with a repro trunk mat as the original was missing.
The car has factory markings all over it, from the date coded PCV valve to the heater fan motor. I've taken great care to use as many original components as possible, and did everything I could to retain the "patina" of the car. I don't want a perfect show poodle. This car is as original as it can be, and shows all of the poor assembly and workmanship that went into a Duster back in the fall of 1973. The paint has a lot of sags and runs which I've chosen to retain and preserve.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Though somewhat underpowered, the Duster is an absolute blast to drive! My other car is a stump pulling 440 powered 1969 Dodge Charger RT/SE (see my Charger photos in the photo lineup) and the Duster is all the way at the other end of the driving spectrum. If you don't plan on starting or stopping fast, and you'll be fine. The 225 motor is as reliable as it's storied reputation and butter smooth at idle. Once tuned and set up correctly, it runs beautifully forever. Gas mileage averages 14 mpg in the city and 16 on the highway. She packs 79 (that's right 79!) dyno certified rear wheel horsepower. A very solid and reliable car, if not particularly comfortable, yet surprisingly nimble and maneuverable. I can see why these Dusters were popular and would be most excellent grocery getters back in the day - especially with the slant six motor and trouble free Torqueflite tranny. And by the way, regardless of what you may have read, I've found both the A-904 automatic and the 7 1/4 rear end to be rock solid, reliable, and very drivable units. I love 'em!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my Duster. The pictures that I've included were taken outside the now closed Raceway Park race track in Shakopee MN where our car club sponsored our annual car show for many years. Be sure to check out my photos and note the black Ziebart overspray in the engine compartment, and also the vintage 1974 license plates with May of 1978 (the year and month we graduated) tabs. Be well, God Bless, and enjoy driving your A-Body!