Captainkirk's Duster project


Old School Mopar Warrior
Apr 24, 2006
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Northern IL
I was originally going to do a blog on this project, but this seems like a better place to do this as there might be a few more interested souls here than just out in Cyberspace. Since this project is just beginning, now's as good a time as any, and reading Rumblefish360's little blow-by-blow caught my interest so off I go. Feel free to enter your comments and/or suggestions as I go along.

A Tale Of Two Dusters

Actually, this is part two of the story. Part one began back in 1975 when I bought my first Duster; a '72 340 Mr. Norm's car. An acquaintance of mine got it from somewhere, I actually got to see it and ride in it shortly after he acquired it. It was Tor-red, 340 decals and stripes with the little pissed-off looking tornados on it, Rallye wheels with Goodyear E-60's, 3.91 8-3/4 rear end with shackles, air shocks, black split bench seat, 3 speed with Hurst Indy shifter, 340 with Thermoquad and headers. The reason I ended up with it is the guy I got it from was not much of a driver and too much of a partier. He had 2 separate accidents; the first time he ran off the road and rolled it on it's side (left) in a ditch, which (surprisingly) did very little damage other than push in the left rear quarter with some collateral damage to the driver's door and left front fender. He and his buddies managed to roll it back onto all fours and drive it home, after which he continued to do what he did best; party and drive poorly!
Shortly thereafter, he managed to drive off the road and into the corner of some poor soul's brick house. It was pretty banged up in the front, but still ran and the radiator, unbelievably did not leak. It was at this point that I was able to pick it up fairly cheap. (He needed the money for his court appearance......go figure.)
I went to pick up the car at the lot where it had been towed to. About halfway home the hood popped in vertical.....bending the hinges in the process! The latch had been bent in the accident, I guess. So, I forced it back down to where I could at least see, and tied it down with some rope (Yee-Hah!) and managed to make it home.
So now it was time to get down to business. The hood came off, and out with the engine & tranny. I had the motor down to gaskets & bolts in about 3 days. The biggest surprise was finding the TRW 13:1 pistons lurking in the block. A Mr. Norm's freebie! The headers were junk so I pitched 'em. The motor went to Sexton Automotive in Crystal Lake, IL for rework. Meanwhile, I started the bodywork........
:toothy10: Hell of a driver huh? LOL. I once got a '72 LeMans that way. Except the door fell off in my hands when I opened it up. The metal looked like crumpled aluminum foil it rolled so bad. No one hurt though. Hey, for 2 six pacs of beer, it was still worth it.
Chapter II please! :thumblef:
OK; twist my arm! It's cold, rainy and damp out in Dusterland tonight so I'll continue......

Chapter 2

It was obvious the hood was FUBAR'd so off it came. The deck lid (trunk) was rusted through along the bottom edge, so off with it's head as well. The front fenders, while both damaged, looked repairable, so I pulled them both off and began the tedious job of pounding out the dents as best I could and body grinding/applying body filler. I was fairly new to the whole filler thing and butched it up a couple of times until my good friend Mike, a recent grad of Wyoming Tech (body & fender) showed me the magic trick of globbing on the filler and shaping it before it hardened completely with a Surform file, instead of worrying about trying to shape it with the rubber spatula-thingy. This really stepped up could be a complete buffoon and still get it right. (not that I'm admitting to being a buffoon, mind you! In fact, I can't even tell you what a buffoon might look like; perhaps a cross between a bassoon and a baboon? Or a buffer and a raccoon? I don't know.) Meanwhile, I was scavenging through all the local boneyards and finally scrounged up a faded metallic-blue Demon deck lid, an orange Duster hood, and a rust-free quarter panel off a vinyl-topped Gold Duster. The quarter was an interesting piece of work; the yard just cut the whole section off with a SawzAll and gave me the whole chunk! Sort of like hacking off a chunk of cheese with your pocket knife. I managed to scrounge up a couple of good hood hinges as well.
The original rear quarters had some small rust holes back behind the rear wheels. I glassed and filled the ones on the right quarter, the left side didn't concern me because of the Gold Duster quarter.
It really didn't take all that long to get the deck lid, new hood and hinges, and front fenders back on. Now the quarter; that was a horse of a different color (no, really, it was gold!) With Mike showing me what to do, (more importantly, what NOT to do) we drilled out the spot welds around the trunk, rear panel and door jamb. We chewed up more than a few 1/4 inch drill bits; those welds were tough! Then we took an air chisel, found the leaded seam where the roof joins the quarter, and let 'er rip. After peeling away the quarter skin there was this split-second of regret of "Oh, man...what the heck did we just do?" ( Notice how I use the word "we" here)Well, too late now to turn back. So we did the same thing to the mangled corpse from the Gold Duster. Once we peeled off the vinyl top and removed the glue, we trimmed the roofline panels to overlap. On the Gold Duster doner panel, I just heated up the roof joint with a propane torch and melted the lead filler right out of there, and the two panels just separated like a couple of tired Legos. After a dozen or so mock-ups, edge trimmings, etc I finally felt the quarter fit like I wanted, so we drilled a couple of "strategically-placed" 1/8" holes and secured it in place with a few pop-rivets. Then we began the tedious task of filling each one of the spot weld holes we'd drilled out with a welding torch and brazing rod. Of course, the holes in the new quarter didn't line up with the holes in the old structure; this is exactly what we wanted. The actual install time for the quarter, once we passed the "Oh man, what did we just do?" barrier was surprisingly quick.
The hardest part for me was blending the roofline with the quarter. We chose to use filler instead of lead; it was easier to manage, (hot molten lead runs down-hill; duh!) but I must have done that seam at least 10 times before I was satisfied. I remember dispairing over it; feeling like I'd never get it right. I'll clue you in right now; I'm a hopeless perfectionist who can't stand shoddy workmanship and I wasn't any different back then. After much hair-pulling and many do-overs, I finally got it to where I was satisfied. One neat trick I learned; the pop-rivets we'd used to secure the new quarter, of course, protruded. We simply backed up the pop-rivet with a socket on a breaker bar and smacked the pop rivet with the business end (round side) of a ball peen hammer until we'd dented it down below surface level, the filled it in with body filler.
Next I began the nasty job of scraping and wire-wheeling the underside of the car. Once I got all the undercoating and rust off, I zinc-chromated the entire underside and then recoated it with undercoating. All the rear suspension parts got de-greased, wire wheeled, then got a couple coats of white Rust-Oleum, including the rear end, drive shaft, springs, shackles and shocks. The gas tank came out and got undercoated as well, along with the hanger brackets. Rust was not going to be an issue here. (Not that it mattered; as you'll see later)
The engine bay and K-frame were in pretty good shape; remember, this car was only three years old at the time. I rattle-canned the engine bay with Tor-Red touch-up paint and repainted the K-frame and front suspension parts with black Rust-Oleum as original. Things were really starting to shape up.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch........
Chapter 3

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.....
Things were cookin' on the Motor Stove. The block had been degreased and acid dipped, new cam bearings and freeze plugs installed, honed standard bore. (4.04) The cast crank was polished, radiused and the oil holes chamferred and deburred. I re-used the 13:1 pistons with Speed Pro rings, which came only .030 over at the time, and I had to meticulously hand-file each one for the proper gap. Back in those days I had no fancy ring-filer thingy. Ahh, the memories! It filled many an evening when I could have been out doing those things that eighteen year-olds do. Looking back, it probably kept me out of trouble. Anyway, It was cold and wintery, So I got this bright idea to assemble the motor in Dad's basement workshop. All the parts were meticulously masked and painted with Pontiac Blue engine enamel; the auto parts store was out of Chrysler Blue, and being 18 and rather impatient, I picked the closest thing to it. The heads had been cc'd to lower the CR to a more streetable 11:1, ported & polished, knurled guides and springs shimmed to go with the cam my shop had selected. The cam was an Automotive Alliance (probably some generic brand at the time) grind with .450/.475 lift and 298/308 duration, topped off with Melling lifters. The engine was assembled with Federal Mogul bearings reusing the rod bolts and nuts, and oil pan. I stuck in a Melling Hi-vol oil pump. The heads went on using Fel-Pro gaskets.
(to be continued..........)
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Where was I?
Oh yeah, the engine.
So I got the bottom end all together, then buttoned up the heads and valve train. Due to costs, I stuck with the stock push rods and rocker arms/shafts. I had purchased an Offenhauser 360 manifold used from some Navy guy who was being transferred, so I cleaned it up and got ready to bolt it on when I discovered it was NOT for a 318 as the guy had promised, but for an early 273; the ports matched up fine, but the manifold bolt holes were drilled at a different angle. Discouraged, I decided to port the stock cast-iron manifold to match the head ports and gaskets (bad idea). I got through maybe 3 or 4 ports before I burned up my Dad's brand new grinder.
This was really starting to suck. Fortunately, a friend of a friend had an Edelbrock Torker 340 with a pair of polished aluminum Edelbrock M/T valve covers to match, and he let them go sinfully cheap ($40.00 comes to mind). They fit like a glove and looked a hell of a lot better, too. This created another dilemma, tho. I had planned on re-using the Thermo-Quad. This manifold had no choke well. Maybe Einstein could have figured out some way to rig up a manual choke with this setup, but I didn't have the patience.
One of my friends had a Holley 600 SP that had been in an engine fire. Aside from being sooty and needing a rebuild, it looked like a good bargain, since he gave it to me free. It fit without an adapter plate, too.
After going through the Holley and bolting on the flywheel, I decided it had warmed up enough to get the motor off the stand and get the longblock out into the garage, bolt on the clutch pack and tranny, and drop it in. There was just one hitch....
Q:how do you get a 400 lb. longblock up a flight of basement stairs and into the garage?
A: With great difficulty!
I believe that could be the understatement of the year. Me and my buddy Howard almost ruined forever our chances of having offspring in later years.
My Mom's freshly painted basement stairs suffered silently as we heaved and strained, gonads shrieking and spinal discs writhing in mortal agony. Whose freakin' idea was this anyway?!!!! We finally got it out the back door, our voices at least an octave higher, when one of us lost our grip (I'll blame it on Howard as he's not here to defend himself) and dropped the SOB on the back stoop. Amazingly, it didn't do much to the motor except scratch the fresh Pontiac Blue paint and maybe put a tiny dent in the pan. The stoop was not so fortunate, losing a 2-inch chunk off one of the step corners. Ooops! Who's freakin' idea.....oh. We covered that.
Undaunted, we lurched and grunted and heaved the longblock out into the garage. My back has never been the same. My family jewels recovered fully...just ask my kids.
So I managed to get the new Borg-warner street/strip clutch and pressure plate bolted on, next came the bell housing and tranny, all dressed up in new paint; the bell housing wearing tuxedo black and the tranny standing out in stark contrast in brilliant Rustoleum White, all bolted to a fresh Pontiac Blue motor, topped off with aluminum rocker covers and an aluminum manifold. I was impressed, anyway. Let the transplant begin.....
Now let me tell you about the way an eighteen year old thinks. If it works, it's OK. This theory applied to my engine hoisting technique as well. I had wrapped a big logging chain around one of the 2X6's in the garage, and hung a 2-ton cable come-along from the chain. Won't work, you say? The joist will collapse? Oh, I'm much smarter than that, mister! I'll wedge a 4X4 under the joist on either side of the car to support it. It worked, too! except.......
The come-along hoisted the motor nicely into the air, and we pushed the car under it. Now, this particular come-along had a kind of switch on the side: flipping the switch either one way or the other allowed you to raise or lower whatever it was that was "comin' along". It worked fine when I pulled the engine out. What I didn't know was......the switch-thing was sort of squirrely. (you know where this is going, right?) If you didn't get it ALL the way to the opposite direction, well...if you've ever gone fishing with your trusty Zebco 404.......
Fortunately, the only damage was to one of the shifter fork threaded rods coming out the side of the tranny. Needless to say, the motor did not get bolted in that fine, sunny day. It took a week of waiting for a new shifter fork and another bottle of gear oil before I went down that road again. Can you believe I used the come-along AGAIN to drop the motor in? (maybe "drop" the motor is not such a good term......) Anyway, this time it went off without a hitch. It was in. A few short hours of hooking up the water pump, radiator, carb, headers and distributor and I was ready to pull the pin on the little blue grenade!
I had gone through all the usual BS with pre-oiling the engine, setting the initial timing, etc, etc. One expects to encounter some difficulties, natch, so I had the fire bottle standing by with a friend and I was really nervous as I finally twisted the key. The motor lit cranking, no farting or was just RUNNING and Lordy, was that puppy LOUD!!!!!!!! Idling about 2000, Howard and I were grinning like a couple of Cheshire cats and when I shut it down, my ears were ringing like church bells on Sunday Morning! The heat from the open headers had melted some of my fresh undercoating, but standing there, hearing the engine ping, pop and tick as it cooled down smelling raw gasoline and exhaust mingled with the baking of fresh paint, there WAS no better place in the whole world to be! We were in Motor Heaven! :angel4:
So, now once you've got a bad motor shoehorned into a car, whaddya do with it?
Break it in.
So I did. I hung a set of Turbo Thrush header mufflers on the business ends of the Hedman Hedders and "Hedded" out to put lots of break-in miles on the motor. The body was still pretty rough; blue trunk, primer-gray quarter panel and primer on the fenders where I'd Bondo'd them. I left the hood off initially to show off the motor; it looked pretty good, which was in stark contrast to the rest of the car.......!
I quickly racked up a couple hundred 55mph+ break-in miles, to the point where I felt comfortable rompin' on it a little.
So what do you do with a tight, broken in motor?
Tune it, of course!
Tuning was fun. It was an excuse to tinker and fiddle with minute details such as timing advance or vacuum secondary opening, jetting, etc. and then go romp on it to check my work. I did a lot of tuning. I did a lot of romping on it, too.
disclaimer: All you kids take note. Don't go romp on your car. It's bad. Any cop will tell you so. Just because I did it and got away with is no excuse for you to try it.
I quickly noticed a roughness in third gear when really cranking on it. It was driving me nuts! It would scream through first and second and then start to cut out in third. It didn't appear to be fuel-related. The plugs were coloring nicely and going lighter on the secondary springs didn't help. In desperation I picked up a used Mallory dual point distributor and hung it on there in place of the Chrysler electronic distributor. In hindsight, that was probably not a good move. (Later reasoning would find the Chrysler spark-box probably out-performed the dual point all through the RPM range) It helped some, but not enough. As the summer weather changed to fall, the car became more and more difficult to start in the mornings, and the roughness in third was still evident. I was getting discouraged. Winter was approaching and I needed a car that would start and run. Enter the 318.....
A friend of mine knew a guy that had a fresh 318 for sale. He'd been trying to sell it for quite some time. He also had an A-833 four-speed for sale as well. I paid a little more for the 4-speed than I should have and a LOT less for the engine than it was worth!
So the plan unfolded thusly.....
Out came the 340, back on the stand, for head-scratching purposes.
In went the 318 with a 2-barrel Holley 500 on top.
And yes, I used the same come-along with the 4X4's!
For a "little" 318 2-barrel, the car was mighty respectable! It would light 'em up in first and second and it ran like a house afire. This was an early 318, I'd say maybe a '69? Anyway, it was one strong motor.
It got me through the winter with no problems whatsoever, always started, and never lost a race. :thumblef:
(psssst: I never raced it, but nobody needs to know this...let's keep it between friends)
Well, there was the time I was coming home from work and a guy on a BSA 650 was goosing it at the lights and I gave him a real good look at the little pissed-off tornado in between my taillights, if that counts.....
(To be continued.........) we "need" a thread called "stories".. :book: Well done Capt, :thumblef: I've just decided it's time to put the :computer: in the shitter. LOL.
Thank you! And FYI, there's a method to my madness......but I need to tell Part I to the story before I start Part II, otherwise it won't have the same effect..........
Besides, I love to write & share my memories....what else are they good for? :sunny:
As the winter played out, I learned some things. I learned the 318 was a strong, gutsy little motor. I learned that E60's on snow with a manual tranny and a gutsy little motor isn't the most efficient means of transportation. I learned about snow tires (Remember snow tires?) I learned about mononucleosis, and how laying on a cold garage floor can make it a much worse ordeal than it already is. At least, when I wasn't sleeping, I was reading, trying to figure out why the little 340 wouldn't play well with others.
In the end, it was so simple it was stupid! I'd installed a "newfangled" AM/FM /cassette deck with the money I'd recieved as a high school graduation present. Naturally, the crackling of the Mallory through the FM had to be dealt with, so I'd purchased a brand new set of Hi-perf carbon core silicone ignition wires so I could groove to the likes of Peter Frampton and such. Anybody wanna hazard a guess as to what happens to a motor under hard accelleration with very high compression and under a heavy load with high manifold pressure (such as high gear?) Who'da thunk it?
In the end, that's all it was. I had an epiphany while tossing the idea around in my head during my recuperation. So as soon as I was better, and the weather turned spring-ish, I put my theory to the test by yanking the valiant little 318, slapping on the newly aquired 4-speed with a bran'-new Hurst Competition Plus and dropping the 340 back into the Royal Throne. I put in a new set of plugs (Autolite AG-32's) with a brand-spankin' new set of 8mm solid core wires, fired it up and stalked off to some deserted road to test my theory.
JEEEEEEHOSAPHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The thing ran like a scalded dog! Not only did the motor not miss a lick, but the 4-speed made a difference like I wouldn't have believed! And, I'd never seen a motor wind up that quick! Any of you who are cat owners, or have ever owned a cat, ya know how they rub around your legs when they're hungry? And when you're half asleep, reaching for the coffee pot, there they are, rubbing around your legs. And sooner or later, you step on their paws. You know that sound? Yeah, that's what this thing sounded like when I pounced on it. Only deeper;lower. And the cam; lordy, that cam! The thing would sit at the traffic lights with this rump, rump, rumpety rump idle, the front of the car shaking like the back of a horse trying to get rid of a pesky fly; you could hear the compression of those pistons thudding against your eardrums and smell the unburned gasoline in the exhaust, and then the light would change...and there goes that pesky cat again, yowling like you broke it's paw! In retrospect, it's probably a good thing my hometown had a small police force that was spread rather thin. I never got on a first name basis with any neatly-dressed individuals in shiny black shoes, but I won't deny the opportunities were present! I'll never forget the time I was tuning my 650 DP for full-throttle jetting. The procedure here is to avoid breaking the tires loose, do a full-power run through all four till you reach top speed (or chicken out) and then push in the clutch, kill the engine and coast to a stop. At this point the perpetrator should pull a spark plug and check the coloring. Sounds simple, anyway. So me and my buddy Jerry decide we'll give it a shot, right? I turn onto this 2-lane country highway, accellerate up to about 30, and then just pound on it! The motor is howling like a werewolf over a fresh kill and I can feel the front end topping out the shocks as I'm powershifting at 6500 between gears. I probably hit close to 100 before I chickened out and killed the motor and casually coasted to a stop on the shoulder. Jerry's mouth was hanging open in this disbelief-kind-of look and his eyes were as big as saucers. I said "Feelin' alright, bud?" and hopped out of the car and popped the hood. I grabbed a spark plug socket and ratchet from under the seat and started to pull #1 plug when he emerged from the passenger side, still looking sort of dazed. He then began to babble expletive praises of the little 340 while I modestly told him "Aw, shucks, 'twarnt nuthin'......." or something to that effect. Just then a county cop coasts up behind us, pulls over and gets out. This is Not Good. This might be Bad, even.
"What seems to be the trouble?"
(As if you didn't know. As if you didn't hear that werewolf howling mere seconds ago.)
"Uhhhh......I think I fouled a plug" (gulp)
I'm sweating bullets. My hands are shaking; I almost drop the freaking plug.
"Anything I can help with?"
Yeah. let me have at least one phone call and holster your weapon?
"Uhhhh, I think I have it fixed, I'm changing the plug now."
The motor is trying to rat me, pop, ting! Tick, tick, tick. Sorta like a scorching hot frying pan when you put it in the sink....
"You sure?"
(Look, just cuff me and get it over with....)
"Yessir, officer, but thanks anyway!"
He walks back to the squad and sits there while I thread the (properly colored!...jetting spot on!) spark plug back in, connect the wire and shut the hood. Jerry shoots me an I-don't-have-bail-money look and hops in the pax side. I start the, motor, and ever-so-sloooooowly ease out the clutch and limp off down the road like granny on the way home from church, nervously watching Officer Friendly in the Rear View sitting on the shoulder 'til he's out of view, then we both let out a HUGE sigh of relief.
All Jerry can mutter is "Damn! Damn, this thing is a MONSTER!"
(You're preaching to the choir, bud!)

(to be continued)

(I need smaller paragraphs. :silent: )
Captain, your story has my rapt attention, and I'm waiting not very patiently for the next installment. Keep this up and you're going to inspire me to try and write about some of my own mis-spent youth.. lol. You've got a way with words, keep it up!!
Thanks for the kind feedback, guys. I supposed I'll trudge on with my story; there's a lot more to go. I apologize for the lack of pix, Rumble. Truth is, there are none. Only 2 pix survived that era and they're not digital; they sit on my with me & the car and the other with me, my dad and the car. I lost my dad in '89, so the picture is ,well, priceless. It's one of two pictures I own of him. He was my mentor, advisor and best friend and made me what I am today.
There will be more pix than you can shake a stick at later on.......
Sorry about the width of the story also. Someone posted some real nice pix early in the thread which sorta widened things out a bit. I can't unwiden things without starting a new thread. Maybe I'll do that for Part II.
Unreformed; have at it! Ya know, the really cool thing about some of these memories is, you don't realize they're there until you start writing and then they come flowing out of nooks and crannies you didn't even know you had! When I read back some of my text I'm amazed; as in "I forgot all about that"; as if somebody else had written it! I'd love to hear your memories as well, looking forward to your thread!
At this point, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of my buddies and their rides; I was not the only motorhead in Mudville.
Howard, that motor-dropping son-of-a-biscuit-maker, was actually the first to get a car; a '68 GTO with a 400. I learned some of my best chops working on that car; in fact, I darn near lived in his garage before I got my Duster. He was running a balanced & blueprinted 400, ported & polished heads w/ oversize valves, headers, Crane cam, Edelbrock manifold with Holley 850 DP, Accell dual point distributor & Super Coil hooked to a Muncie M22 Rock Crusher through a street/strip clutch with a Mr. Gasket vertical gate shifter (sorry Howard, but your shifter sucked compared to my Hurst) spinning 5.13 gears. This car would top out at about 90 due to the gears, but man, what a ride! This car would wheel hop so violently he could've made a fortune just collecting all his friends' fillings off the floor! He "sort of" fixed it by installing ladder bars, but it didn't go away completely until he changed the gears to a more reasonable 3.-something. I remember some funny Howard stories......the time when, after getting the engine installed after the build, while installing the manifold and carb (which were the last things to go on except the distributor) he was spinning on the nuts and lock washers for the carb base. One of the rear nuts wouldn't start properly (cross-threaded) so he backed it off, and......
Yep, right down the 'ol distributor hole. Down the well, like little Jessica, so to speak. It sounded somewhat like a pinball game; bouncing and ricochetting down into the bowels of that motor until we heard the dreaded hollow "thunk" of a rogue nut hitting the bottom of an empty oil pan.....the kind of sound a prison door makes when it slams shut on an inmate sentanced to three consecutive life terms. We just stared at each other in disbelief, and then Howard lets out this long, drawn-out; "F***************! Just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, only he didn't say "fudge" either! He fished with a magnet for hours to no avail; eventually the engine came back out and the pan came off, the nut sitting there cheerily in it's empty metal swimming pool waiting for the fire trucks to come and fill 'er up...."Oh, hullo! Fancy meeting you here!" I learned about stuffing rags in open holes from that; I still do it today. That's a sound forever etched in my memory, and once is enough.
And then, when we finally got the engine back in, removed the rag cleverly placed in the distributor hole (wonder where we came up with that one?) and fired it up, (it, like mine to follow, also lit immediately....what can I say; we were good!) while this dragon was roaring and belching fire through open headers we could hear this distinct banging from deep within the bowels of the motor. We tried everything you could think of to find the source; push rods, rocker arms, etc. It wasn't evident 'til we pulled the distributor and saw a nice new shiny wear mark on the shaft. The boneheads who had balanced the crank had drilled holes in the counterweights and added mallory(?) metal (I think this is the term they used?) to add weight; it protruded too far. End result; the engine came out yet again, and the crank had to go back for warranty work! Howard was not a whole lotta fun to be around that particular week. In the end, this was one quick Pontiac!

Then there was Dave, with his '68 396 Chevelle SS. He never pulled the motor but had the heads done, cam, manifold, Hooker headers, Holley 780 SP strapped to a Turbo Hydromatic 350. I don't believe he could've taken either my car or Howards in the quarter, but I had never seen a motor with so much mid-range torque! So much, in fact, that it chewed up the 350 and ate it for breakfast....Alumin-O's! The tranny case was non-repairable, so he put in a shift-kitted TH400. This thing would lurch so hard when he had his foot in it that it would've snapped your head off like a G.I Joe in the hands of the town bully if it wasn't for the high-back buckets! I'll tell you what; at 30 mph when he'd stomp on it there wasn't a car we knew of that could stay with him between 30 and 60. He would literally have to ease off the gas because the tires would break loose and start smoking at 30 mph!

Jerry had a '68 Camaro RS with a 327 2bbl....nothing to write home about there. We threw a Holley 600 and manifold on it, but without a decent cam to give it some lung-power, it actually was slower! He later bought an early '70's Chevelle SS 350 with cowl induction; this would've been worth a few bucks today if he still had it. It was bone-stock, and not all that quick compared to what we were used to.

Bodyman Mike had a Vega. I will not dwell on this.

Fellow Mopar freak Mike T. had a project '66 Barracuda fastback....I don't believe he ever finished it.

Other Fellow Mopar Freaks Bob and Dale had (respectively) a late-model 318 Charger and Dale first a Demon 340 followed by a '73 Cuda 340. Both (Dale's) were stock but surprisingly quick.

There were others, of course, but these were the ones that helped either directly (such as Howard "helping" me drop my fresh motor) or indirectly (through advice, ideas, etc)
OK- enough of that "brand-X" crap....back to the only Motor that Matters......MOPAR.

The old Duster was garnering quite a reputation around town, both by those who knew me, and by those who didn't....yet. Remember, the car was not yet wearing new colors and I was still cruisin' around with a blue deck lid, orange hood (I'd put it back on by then) and primer-gray left quarter and Bondo repairs. My dad referred to it as my "Navajo Cadillac"...I referred to it as my Joseph car (with it's Coat of Many Colors). Anyway, it didn't resemble any of the museum-quality musclecars that occasionally graced the streets of Mudville.
Mind you, I didn't deliberately go out looking for trouble. It went looking for me most of the time......
Like the time I was out just wasting fossil fuel; I pulled up to the traffic lights heading out of town on a four-lane highway. It was a hot June night and the windows were down; I could smell the fuel-laden exhaust and feel the thudding in my ears. The Hurst was chattering away merrily and the hood was shaking like a dog that just ambled out of a country pond, the streetlights wiggling their reflection in limpid pools on the hood as if trying to jump off. I just happened to be outside of our favorite restaurant, Dale's Coffee shop, where we motor heads hung out. There I was, minding my own business at the red light, when a brand-new Trans-Am pulled up in the right lane. There were two guys and two girls in the car. Obviously, the guys were trying to impress the girls....maybe fishing for prom dates.... They had the T-tops off and all the windows down, and the radio was blasting some typical late-seventies music-R.E.O. Speedwagon comes to mind- and these guys are hootin' and hollerin' at the old Navvy Caddy (I still prefer Joseph). That didn't bother me much. Then the moron goes and starts revvin' his Big Bad 6.6L...outside my hangout, with who-knows-who inside looking out! Well, frankly, brother...that pissed me off. I paid no attention and stared straight ahead...(but my eyes were glued the opposite set of lights.......lordy, this is the longest light I've ever sat through......and then it goes yellow. Every muscle was tensed, right hand on the Hurst T-handle, the tip of my toes poised like a tiger crouched and ready to pounce while these dope-smoking punks were laughing and carrying on with no freakin' idea of what was gonna go down here.....)
The opposite light turned red a split-second before ours went green......but I saw it. Dinkweed next to me got caught with his trousers down in the middle of one of his looong, obnoxious revs. I dumped the clutch and put my foot in it so hard I thought it might poke through the floorboard. The E-60's let out a howl like the Hound of the Baskervilles and started rolling smoke while the rear end of the car slid left across the double yellow. 6500, slammed second and pounced on it again. Both rears lit up again and the rear swung to the right, in front of the Super Chicken (which was by now, at least 6 car-lengths behind me). I banged third and the rear end swung back to the left again....the little motor was talkin' the talk and walkin' the walk now, yowling like a wildcat with his hind foot caught in a blender. The noise was deafening. I really hit my stride with fourth and as I rounded a gentle curve, glanced back in the rear-view. The Thunder Chicken's headlights shown waaaaaayyyy back there...maybe a quarter mile or I rounded the curve and throttled 'er back to a "reasonable" 70 mph. It was great to be alive! The motor was thrumming out it's testosterone-laden song and galloping like a thoroughbred who has just outrun the entire field and has settled into his pace; a true untamed wild stallion, and I could smell the night smell and fresh-mown grass and I reached over and popped in a cassette; Eagles; On The Border and Glenn Frey was belting out Tom Waits....."Well, it happened so quickly/I went lickety-splitly/Out to my old '55...."
I guess those two guys didn't get prom dates after all.
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Well, enough about my misadventures in maintaining throttle control.....back to the project at hand (I tend to get a wee bit off track at times.... :thumblef: )

Things were moving fast, and the car was badly in need of new school clothes....literally. I'd finished my second year of college and was leaving the state for tech school in the fall. Bodyman Mike and I lined up a compressor, a Binks paint gun, (sorry, can't remember which model) and respirators, etc. to go with it. I bought a fiberglass Mopar Pro Comp scoop and spent way more hours than I want to talk about getting it trimmed and shaped to fit the hood, then pop-riveted it in place and blended in the fillets with "tiger hair"; (chopped-up fiberglass cloth mixed with resin). It took a number of tries to get it looking just right, then I smoothed it over with filler and sandable primer. You literally could not tell this was not a was that good. I didn't yet cut the hole in the hood as I wanted a true "cold air" induction setup (similar to the six pack air cleaner setup). I then peeled off all the decals with a heat gun and roughed up the car for final prep. We planned the shoot for a long weekend, and I spent the week before covering things in Dad's garage with plastic and removing everything that didn't need to be in there. With the car outside, I scrubbed and swept that floor until there wasn't a spot on it. Then we bought plastic sheeting and began stapling it to the joists. We built a sort of "plastic tent" around where the car would be with the delusion that the tent would a) keep overspray in , and b) keep dust out. I set up a box fan it the widow (blowing out, of course) and taped a furnace filter to it. I ran the garden hose in under the door, set up the compressor with a regulator and water trap, and then rolled in the car. We spent almost an entire day masking. We drove up to the local NAPA and picked up a gallon of primer/sealer and a gallon of NAPA's version of Mopar Tor-red. I believe their name was "Rally Red". We planned to shoot the primer on Friday night and the color on Saturday night.

Next.......the Shoot.
I gotta stay tuned , just cause :thumblef: I think you should have the announcers job at the track !!! LOL
Well, now that Ma had bought all these new school clothes, it was time to try 'em on and send Junior off to school.
After making sure all our tape was down tight and no uncovered seams in the paper, I hosed down the garage floor and the sides of the "tent"with the garden hose, and then rolled the "Navvy Caddy" in. We mixed the primer up, fired up the compressor, and switched on the fan. The prime coat went on unceremoniously, without a hitch; for the first time since I owned it, the car was all one color! We slapped our high-fives and went out to the coffee shop, letting the prime coat set up overnight.
Saturday dawned clear and HOT. We'd decided to shoot the color that evening, after it had cooled off. We spent the afternoon hosing the gray dust off the floor and tacking the car to remove any loose overspray. Darkness fell, but not the mercury...I remember to this day how blistering hot it felt in the garage that night. It was now or never...
Mike mixed the paint, an acrylic enamel, with some sort of gloss hardener in it. We donned respirators and doo-rags, and looking like some freakshow scuba divers, got down to business. My job was to hold the air hose away from Mike and the paint, and fill the gun cups. Mike's job was to shoot color. We laid down a tack coat and right away ran into a problem. The walls of the "tent" wouldn't stay put because the fan was exhausting so much air with the garage door cracked. We looked for small, heavy objects to anchor the plastic, but finding few volunteers, we made prisoners of war of numerous unwilling objects and placed them around the perimeter of the "tent" like some bizarre sentries. All better now, Mike shot the first coat of color.
Even with one coat of color, the car looked stunning. We popped out for a breath of fresh air and high-fived each other at my mom's picnic table. After a brief breather and a couple of ice-cold Special Exports, we went back in for coat number two. Coat two took longer, for some reason, and by the time we emerged, the Special X's and the paint fumes were working together in an Evil Medley of toxic proportions. Our eyes were burning and we might as well have not been wearing any respirators at all. We were blown.......and not from the Exports. We shot the third and final coat in a paint-induced haze. It went on fairly quick, and then we were done! We stood back admiring this lucid, gorgeous, liquid red paint when all of a sudden Mike goes.. "Oh, ****! The flies!"
The flies, indeed. We hadn't counted on visitors. They'd come drifting in under the door and cruised around under the fluorescent lights which were strategically placed on the joists over the car; so we could see, naturally! They were taking in a snootful of paint fumes, then getting higher than we were from the fumes, doin' the Kamikazi into that rather large, red swimming pool of fresh paint! The first one to go was flopping around like a beached walrus and Mike's going, "The tweezers! Get the tweezers!" and I'm rummaging frantically through the tool box like a wino rooting around for his last bottle, and finally I find them.
Mike reaches over the roof and extracts the flapping red walrus, which leaves a tiny little red walrus crater above the passenger side. He flings it to the floor and turns it into a permanent Rally Red streak on the concrete, and then....
The second wave attacks. This is like Pearl Harbor! The Battle of Midway on a Saturday night! Three more Kamikazi's sacrifice themselves for the Emperor, leaving tiny walrus-craters in their wake! Mike and I are frantically trying to pick them out and convert them to Red Streaks before the paint stops flowing and sets up. After the fifth one Mike says; "We'd better stop....let 'em set up and we'll buff 'em out."
That did it. The Evil Medley had us out of our minds....Mike EXPLODED with laughter, and then, so did I. We had to leave the garage. We barely made it to the picnic table outside the garage before we collapsed in gales of hysterics. Mike was laughing so hard I thought he'd pee his pants. (Maybe he did.) He was slapping the picnic table with his hand and laughing so hard he couldn't catch his breath. I was too. I guess it really wasn't that funny, but at the hadda be there. We had tears streaming down our faces and my stomach hurt so bad from laughing I could barely walk. I went, crawled in, to get us a couple more X's, and as soon as I came out on the stoop Mike started in all over again. Here we are, laughing like a couple of retarded loons at midnight at a picnic table while red walrus Kamikazis were floundering around in our precious paint job. It was too funny. I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call the cops.
We finally got our act together enough to clean up the paint gun and shut down the garage for the night. The red walruses left in the pool had obviously drowned and were no longer flopping. Mike gets an epiphany and says "We should shut the lights off...maybe the flies will go away". Duh! Had we done this half an hour ago, maybe a few of the Kamikazis would've gone back to the carrier in shame. Hindsight is 20/20, however.
I woke the next morning with the worst headache I'd ever had. Not the kind of headache three beers gives you. The Evil Medley had done a number on us. I didn't crawl out of bed 'til noon, and that was because I couldn't stand it any more. I HAD to see what the car looked like, and what damage the Emperor's Finest had done. (I kept hearing John Wayne going "Let's see what our little yellow friends are up to")
Mike showed up, slightly the worse for wear complaining of the worst headache he'd ever had. Funny how I could relate to that.
We rolled it out in the daylight in all it's glory to remove the paper and tape. It was GORGEOUS! (with the exception of the "battle damage"). In the end, Mike was right. The flies just kinda flaked away under your fingernail leaving almost imperceptible bumps. Once we'd flaked them off of there we couldn't even find them. You could, however see the craters from the few we removed with the tweezers if you looked hard; kind of like a tiny fish-eye.
Who cares? The car looked even better than I'd ever dreamed possible. There was one tiny sag in the paint way down low on the passenger door, but the paint in general was like a red pool; no fish-eyes or anything, just this mile-deep, beautiful coat of paint.
We removed all the tape and paper and let it sit in the way-too-bright hot sunlight to cure.

Next: Matching Accessories!
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Every well-dressed Duster needs matching accessories. Mine was no different. The Argent Silver wheels and trim rings got cleaned and polished. I'd ordered a complete stripe kit from the Mopar dealer, and once the paint had cured, we mustered up enough courage to put 'em on.
We started with the back stripes first, around the tail lights and trunk lock, with the little pissed-off tornado in between. That went on very well, so we moved on to the side stripes. They went on straight and all, they just had a few (OK, more than a few) air bubbles, which took a lot of coaxing out with a squeegee. The ones we couldn't get we popped with pins and flattened. Then came the numbers; 340 on both rear quarters! Big, bold, and telling the world this was one machine to tread lightly near. Hot Dog, this car looked smokin'! I topped it all off with a new Hurst T-handle done in black suede. (They used to make them that way; I don't think I've seen one like that for twenty years or more, though). Now it looked as good as it ran!
It was late July, and I was due to leave for tech school in a few short weeks...I made the best of it, cruisin' the local scene on those hot summer nights. I was in car heaven! Little did I know the dream was about to be shattered in a few short weeks........
Next, The Journey
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have you ever considered writing Cap? Im younger, only being 16 myself, but have grown to be a quite adept reader.. Im gonna have to say I enjoy reading your stuff more than a few books Ive read, and you have written 2-3 pages mostly likely, I read books 1000+ pages, it isnt easy to impress me, nor captivate my mind.. keep it up, looking forward to seeing where this goes.