Not every car you see in a showfield is the owner’s first choice. Among the original-owner cars, and the ones long dreamed about by their current owners, there are more than a few that were a “Plan B” at some point in time.

That’s the case with Michael Sexton’s ’70 Plymouth Valiant Duster 340. Back in 1989, Michael was looking for a Mopar to build, and his plan included a Dodge Dart as a project car.

One day, he spotted an ad in a Nashville newspaper for a ’70 Duster 340. Intrigued, he headed up to Music City from his home two hours away. What he found was a matching-numbers, first-year Valiant Duster 340. (The Valiant name was used on all Dusters in 1970, then shaved off by Ma Mopar for ’71 —Ed.)

Bone-stock with little visible rust, and riding on a set of bias-ply tires, it was project-ready. $600 later, it was Michael’s. “I drove it home, and it would run!” he says. “It was a complete car—a little rusty, but it was a complete, numbers-matching car.”

Fast forward a couple of years. Michael had rebuilt the 340, but two shops entrusted to bring the ’70’s unibody back to Hamtramck-fresh condition—with Lemon Twist replacing the stock green paint—failed to do so. Also, around that time, changing priorities in life led Michael to put this project on the back burner.

It’s kind of hard to parallel park with the manual steering, but it drives down the road sweet!

When the time came to start again on the ’70, Michael thought about turning it into a race-only car, given his disappointment over the previous body “work.” However, the thought of restoring an original, numbers-matching Valiant Duster 340 proved too strong, and—eight years after he’d purchased it—the ’70 was an active project once again.

Michael had envisioned the ’70 being “just a weekend car,” but he says they “got a little crazy” with it. With the help of a rotisserie, it was taken apart down to the bare unibody, and the previous bodywork was successfully replaced with new AMD sheetmetal before the two-stage PPG Viper Red went on. The rebuilt numbers-matching 340 went in, along with loads of N.O.S. parts sourced from Stephens Performance, reproduction interior trim from Legendary, and mechanical goodies from Mopar, Edelbrock, and Coys Wheels.

The result is a first-year Duster that fills its owner’s original desire for a weekend car, while filling up its trunk with trophy after trophy. It’s no driven-only-off-and-on-trailers show car, either. “It drives real good,” says Michael. “It’s got manual steering and manual disc brakes on it, and it’s kind of hard to parallel park with the manual steering, but it drives down the road sweet!”

What’s next for Michael? He’s already got his next project planned, one involving an even rarer Valiant Duster 340 than this one. “I’m fixing to start another one, a pink one,” he says. “It’s a 340 car with a date-coded engine that I bought from Ted Stephens. It’s a factory FM3 (Moulin Rouge) car with a white top, white interior, and black stripe. I’ve got all the build sheets and the fender tag.”

Fast Facts
1970 Plymouth Valiant Duster 340
Michael Sexton – Crossville, Tennessee
Mopar Power
Engine: Michael started with his Duster’s original ’70 340 block, had it bored out .030-inch, then he filled it with 10.0:1 TRW pistons, an Eagle crankshaft, and a Mopar hydraulic-roller cam before the ported-and-polished factory ’70 340 heads went on. A Holley 650-cfm double-pumper sits atop a chromed Edelbrock Air Gap intake, the ignition is a Mopar electronic with a chrome box, and the original 340 exhaust manifolds breathe into 21⁄2-inch pipes and two-chamber Flowmasters.
Transmission: More of Michael’s handiwork—this time, a 727 that he added a Cheetah reverse-manual valvebody and a 2,500-stall Turbo Action converter to.
Rear: 83⁄4 with 3.55 gears and stock axles
Sure Grip
Suspension: Resto-modded ’70 Duster (Front) Reproduction torsion bars and Koni shocks (Rear) Mopar HD leaf springs and Koni shocks
Brakes: Restored ’70 Duster, with OEM Kelsey-Hayes front discs and 10-inch rear drums.
Wheels/Tires: Small-bolt-pattern Coys wheels (17x8 inches in front, 18x9 inches in rear) wear big Bridgestones (215/50R17 in front, 24550R18 in rear)
High Impact
Paint/Body: Original all-steel ’70 Duster unibody with ’71-style grille and hoodscoops, rear Go-Wing, and headlight bezels by First Place Auto. Paint is two-stage PPG Viper Red that Tommy James in Lexington, Tennessee, sprayed on.
Interior: James Maness restored it with seat covers, door panels, and carpets from Legendary Auto Interiors. Gauges are the original ’70 Rallye cluster with 150-mph speedometer and tach.