The Plymouth Duster: 1970 to 1976
Plymouth designers and engineers produced a sporty close-coupled coupe that broke the mold of the usual two- and four- door Plymouth models. Plymouth needed a youth-oriented affordable car, and the Duster filled the order.
The Plymouth Duster made its debut as a sporty performance version of the Plymouth Valiant in late 1969. This little muscle car provided a big bang for the buck because of its raw power at such an affordable price. The Duster gave many of the larger muscle cars a run for their money.
Duster features and performance for 1970
The 1970 model Duster sported a sleek curvy exterior with a rounded fastback appearance for the rear styling. Its low price of $2,172 (for base models) made it very attractive to buyers. At the base model price, buyers would get the Duster with only the standard equipment features, which included the 198-cubic-inch Slant-Six engine, manual steering and brakes, and a three-speed column mounted manual transmission. The 198 engine was rated at 125-horsepower.
The front end and interior were both identical to those of the Valiant. The consumer could choose from a variety of engines, which ranged from the Slant-Six (six-cylinder) engine to a high performance 340-cubic-inch V-8 engine. The 340 engine was rated at 275-horsepower at 5,000 rpm and had 340 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. When tested, it could go from 0 to 60 mph in only 6.2 seconds, and ¼ mile in 14.7 seconds at 94 mph.
If a buyer purchased the performance package for only $400, they would receive the 340-cubic-inch V-8 engine with a four-barrel carburetor, dual exhausts, a three-speed floor shift manual transmission, a larger rear axle at a ratio of 3.23:1, high rate torsion bars, heavy-duty suspension, additional leaf springs, performance shocks, a front stabilizer bar, a special instrument panel, and front disc brakes. The instrument panel contained a 150-mph speedometer and a tachometer.
The 340 option was priced at a total of $2,547, which was much more affordable than the Plymouth Road Runner at $2,900 or the Mustang Mach I, priced at $3,300. Other available engines were the 225-cubic-inch inline-six engine with 145-horsepower and the 318-cubic-inch V-8 with 230-horsepower.
The 1970 model cars showed a tremendous sales performance rate, selling 217,192 units.
Introducing the twister
In 1971, the Twister was introduced. Other than offering more standard features, the Twister was basically identical to the Duster. Standard features of the Twister included Rally Wheels, racing mirrors, deck stripes, hood scoops on a flat black hood, a unique grille, and bucket seats.
The available engines for this year were the 198-cubic-inch inline-six engine with 125- horsepower, the 225-cubic-inch inline-six engine with 145-horsepower, the 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine with 230-horsepower, and the 340-cubic-inch V-8 engine with 275-horsepower.
An appearance package was also available to consumers, and a cartoon logo featuring a tornado with eyes was located near the taillights on the back panel. The 1971 Duster 340 featured a new shark tooth grille. Sales still continued to be extraordinary for the Duster.
New engine ratings
The year 1972 brought about minor changes to these little muscle cars. All engines were re-rated according to SAE standards, and all Dusters featured new long thin taillights and marker lights. The Twister dropped its unique grille and hood. The 198-cubic-inch Slant-Six was discontinued. A new trim appearance called the “Gold Duster” was introduced, and the hood scoops were replaced with dual snorkel scoops.
More changes for the Duster
Conforming to other A-body cars, all Dusters received a new grille style in 1973. Other changes made to the Duster included new taillights and beefy bumpers (5 mph standard requirement). The Space Duster was introduced as well and featured a fold-down rear seat and trunk separator, which created more than 50 cubic feet of cargo space.
In 1974, the Duster received the highest sales year, selling over 277,000 units; however, the 340-cubic-inch V-8 engine was replaced with a lower performance 360-cubic-inch V-8 engine. The 360 engines had greater displacement and torque, but it just could not match the overall performance of the 340.
The only changes seen in 1975 were the discontinuation of the Twister and the detuned 360 engines.
Final days for the A-Body Duster
The year 1976 would be the final year for the A-body Duster. Once again the 360 engines were detuned. The Feather Duster trim was introduced this year as well, named “Feather” Duster mainly because of its lightweight parts. It featured a Slant-Six engine, lightweight deck lid, a special exhaust system that maximized fuel economy (30+ mpg), and a choice of a three-speed manual or an automatic transmission. It was a great sales success in its category. A “Spirit of 76” Duster was also introduced, and the only special feature it had was a “Spirit of 76” sticker, which was located on the rear quarter panels.
Today the Duster is one of the most affordable muscle cars available because so many were sold during its production years. Under each Duster hood was one of the best performing V-8 engines ever produced by Plymouth. That’s why hot rodders love the Duster so much today.