You’ve seen them at shows, and in the pages of magazines like Mopar Muscle: cars built by a high-performance/restoration shop to show off their skills. Using the skills of their welders, fabricators, engine builders, chassis body and interior specialists, they produce eye-grabbing Mopars that are long-remembered after they’re seen on the show field.
Here’s a shop build that combines all of that with some rare powertrain pieces--and a unique time element--in a now-classic A-Body Plymouth.
That time element: The year that Karnuts Auto Center in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, rolled this Duster from their shop. No, it wasn’t last year, or the year before that--or even the decade before that.
This car was built in 1993!
And, according to Karnuts’ owner, Bernie Kasievich, it’s held up very well over time. “That’s the cool thing about it,” he says. “Everybody thinks that I just did the car, but in fact I did it long ago.”
Bernie started with a ’74 Duster that he found in a local used-car ad for $1,800. Not an ultra-rare Duster 360 model, it did have a warmed-over 318 with an Edelbrock intake and a Carter four-barrel, 14-inch Cragar wheels, and minor rust. As soon as Bernie brought it back to the shop, the Duster was taken down to its unibody, and the powertrain, wheels and tires, seats, and other take-offs were sold--bringing Bernie $800 more than he paid for the car to begin with!
Seats: Lowered floor pan means more room inside for the Corbeau bucket seats. Glovebox doo
Next, the floorpan was cut out and replaced by a fabricated floor that adds needed headroom for anyone over six feet tall. “I’ve got three-to-four inches of headroom, plus I put the seat back far enough that I have plenty of legroom,” Bernie adds.
The rear wheelwells were replaced by wheel tubs fabricated by the guys at Karnuts, who also added new Mopar quarters and other new-steel components, filled and smoothed all the body seams, fully boxed the front frame members, and added a full roll cage.
They then turned their attention to the engine bay, which had seen its last smallblock, and would now house an RB built from a rare--and distinctive--factory block. “It’s a 413 Wedge marine block,” says Bernie, who notes that block casting has thicker webbing around the main caps--plenty of beef for an engine destined for supercharging.
That block was bored out .030 inch, and fitted with another rarity--a Mopar stroker crankshaft. “That crankshaft was purchased way back in the day, when Mopar sold stroker cranks,” says Bernie. “It’s a heavy crankshaft, which obviously works, because it’s still in there.” Also still there: A set of cast iron “906” Super Stock heads, which Bernie bought from a friend and Mopar racer who’d used them on his car.
Everybody thinks that I just did the car, but in fact I did it long ago. -Bernie Kasievich
For a power adder, Bernie chose a B&M Mega Blower, whose intake, pulleys, idler assembly and fuel system were made by Karnuts and master machinist/engineer Allen Lowry. Backing the B&M-blown 499-inch Wedge is a 727, also built by Karnuts, with a 3,800-stall converter and full, reverse-manual valve body, and a 4.30-geared Dana 60.
It’s all wrapped up in a Duster body that, along with its new (in ’93) sheetmetal and fiberglass hood and bumpers, wears the same coat of PPG Petty Blue that Karnuts shot on way back when.
Dash: Dash upgrades include a Billet Specialties steering wheel, AutoMeter gauges, and a “
Since then, there’ve been some updates, but no major revisions to Karnuts work of long ago. “I did some updates to it, of course,” Bernie says. “I’ve got a newer set of wheels and tires on it, and I’ve added some polished stainless stuff. But, the actual, main, 90-95 percent of the build was done that many years ago.”
And, since then, Bernie’s demonstrated this long-ago build wasn’t intended to be a trailer queen. “When I take it out, I hammer it,” says Bernie, who adds, “I build them to drive them. I don’t drive it every day, but if I want to go and take it to the grocery store, then I’ll drive it.”
That echoes the advice he offers to anyone who’s considering a Mopar project like this one. “People should, common-sense-wise, build their car so it’s drivable, so it doesn’t overheat when going from point A to point B.
“With my car, if I want more boost, I just change the pulleys,” Bernie adds. “I’ve got it underdriven right now, so I can run it on pump gas, if I want to. If I want more horsepower, I switch the pulleys from top to bottom, then I run it on race gas, and I make even more horsepower.”
All the time showing off the quality of a build that’s now over three decades old.
’74 Plymouth Duster
Owned by: Bernie Kasievich, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Built by: Karnuts Auto Center
|Engine: Bernie and Karnuts started with a 1963 413-inch Marine block, and bored it .030-inch over. They then fitted it with a Direct Connection steel stroker crankshaft and I-beam rods, plus a pair of iron “906” heads, 7.8:1 compression JE pistons, Comp Cams’ full-roller camshaft, and a B&M Mega Blower with two 930-cfm Barry Grant four-barrels atop a custom-fabbed intake, and an MSD 6AL ignition. The 499-incher breathes out through CPPA headers (2-inch tubes with 4-inch collectors) and a pair of 40-series Flowmaster mufflers.
|Transmission: Another Karnuts creation—a 727 with a Precision 10-inch 3,800-stall converter, Mopar full-manual-shift valve body and a B&M shifter.
|Rear: Dana 60 with Strange Engineering axle shafts and a 4.30 rear gear set.
|Suspension: (Front) Mopar Direct Connection torsion bars and Competition Engineering 80/20 shocks. (Rear) Back-halved with a Competition Engineering ladder-bar system and AVO coilovers.
|Brakes: “Power Stop” front discs and 11-inch Mopar drums in back.
|Wheels/Tires: Center Line Wheels and M&H tires at each corner—15x4-inch fronts wear 205/70R15 rubber, while the rear 15x15-inch wheels are shod in dragstrip-ready 31x18.50x15s
|Paint/Body: Original all-steel ’74 Duster unibody had its floorpan lowered and rear wheelwells tubbed, its front frame members fully boxed, and all seams filled before the PPG Petty Blue went on. Fiberglass hood and bumpers are by A&I Fiberglass.
|Interior: All business: Full rollcage surrounds Corbeau race buckets and harnesses, Billet Specialties steering wheel, AutoMeter gauges, and an Alpine/Rockford Fosgate sound system. Black Mercedes carpeting covers the custom-fabricated floorpan.