The Plymouth Duster is Mopar’s underappreciated mini muscle car

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1972 Duster 340
Mecum

Mopar built some of the loudest, gaudiest, most cartoonish muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s. They were perfect. You couldn’t ask more from a muscle car. Consequently, muscle car fans have driven the prices for the hottest Mopars into the stratosphere. Plymouth ’Cudas and Road Runners can demand six figures when equipped with the right powertrain and color options. Plymouth Dusters, on the other hand, are still attainable, even when equipped with desirable powertrains. Sure, they didn’t pack 440 or 426 power, but they also weighed less than the B-body Road Runner and Satellite and make an excellent platform for a street or strip car.

Like plenty of other budget-minded cars of the era, the Duster has been dismissed by many collectors who demand only the meanest muscle cars. It may be time for Dusters to shine, as enthusiasts new to early-’70s cars are beginning to recognize their appeal.

Duster 340 1972
Mecum

The Duster shares its A-body platform with the Dodge Dart and the first two generations of the Barracuda. A spinoff of the Valiant, Dusters were all two-doors and had the same semi-fastback roofline as their Dodge Demon counterparts. Like the Falcons and Novas against which they competed, plenty of Dusters left the factory with utilitarian inline-sixes and two-barrel small-blocks. However, as with their Detroit competition, there were some hot versions of the Duster that lent an air of legitimacy to the rest of the lineup.

1972 Plymouth Duster 340 interior
Mecum

From 1970–73, the Duster 340 offered up a potent small-block package with the same high-revving power as the ‘Cuda. For 1974 and 1975 they got 360 small-block power. The added cubes combated tighter emissions regulations and managed to meet the later 340’s 245-hp rating—they were initially rated at 290 hp. Of course, any engine builder or hot-rodder can coax far more from a 360, even using junkyard parts. There’s no shame in driving a small-block A-body.

Duster 340 engine
Mecum

A quick look at some online classifieds yields plenty of project prospects. We even found a seemingly complete 1974 Duster for $1900. True, that’s a project that will need a few thousand dollars to get back on the road, but there are other examples of complete, drivable slant-six Dusters for around $5000.

Even the more desirable 340 Duster remains an affordable collectible. The blue 1972 model pictured above sold at Mecum’s Indy 2019 sale for $15,400. A 1971 340 in #3 (Good) condition is valued at $21,200. That’s up 40 percent from where Dusters sat in early 2018, but still about half of what you’d pay for a ’Cuda with the same powerplant. Your smile from behind the wheel of either would likely be comparable, so don’t think you’ve been priced out of a fun Mopar just yet.

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