Jim Lytles 71 Duster 340 is like a beloved, but newly-adopted dog. Imagine you get this great hunting dog whos a little past his prime. You still take him out every once in a while to strut his stuff, but instead of being crated and kenneled unless hes working, now he spends the better part of his days sleeping by the fireplace and playing in the backyard with the kids. But hes got this weird little scar on his hip, and you know he had stitches; he has a bit of a limp, and you know his leg was probably broken at one time. You know all this because you received copies of the vet bills along with the registration papers and all the awards hes won. But you want to know why he had stitches, how he broke his leg, because you care about the little feller and want to know as much about his past as you can. Jim bought the Duster 340 at the 99 Mopar Nats and knows more about it than a lot of owners of cars this age. But he wants to know the why and how of it.
It was ordered out of Windsor Ontario, Canada, by Douglas Lamb, who requested an unusual list of options, including a black exterior with matte-black trim, black interior, three-speed manual trans, and rear window defogger. Even though the exterior color was rare, Jim speculated that Lamb painted the car the color you see here.
Dave Robertson of Pentastic Motors in Ontario, and the third owner of the Duster, did some of the work on the car and is able to fill a few of the gaps, including the mysterious second owner. Robertson says the guys name is Wiseman, also from Ontario, and he only had the car for six months and never titled it. Robertson sold the car to Jim, the only American owner, and turned over all the paperwork he had. Jim has the original build sheet and sales receipt as well as the shop receipts from Lamb.
Ive been trying to find the original owner, says Jim, but Ive been unsuccessful. He also wants to find the second owner, but Canadas a little different than here. They arent as . . . well, organized with their paperwork. A year of searching hasnt turned up either owner, and who did some of the interior work still remains a mystery. The biggest mystery is why they would repaint that rare black/black matte exterior, which Jim plans to take back to original soon. He did recently find out that Wiseman, not Lamb, painted the car orange because he always wanted a Hemi Orange car.
Wiseman also began the rebuild, changing the cam and boring the engine to unknown specs. The receipts are vague, says Jim, and Im not going in there just to find out. If it aint broke, Im not fixing it. He speculates the cam might be stock.
Id like to know why he rebuilt it, but Im pretty sure it had some front end damage, somehow. The right fenders been replaced, and theres no fender tag. After 1998, the work just stopped, as far as Jim can tell. He either got bored with it or just decided it was too much trouble.
The drivetrain remains basically stock, with an 8¾ differential, 3.55 axle ratio, and stainless steel exhaust. No performance work was done, and most of the changes were to the body. It was about 80 percent restored when Jim bought it, Or so I thought. Once you start digging around, you find things that need to be replaced. He replaced the dash because it wasnt pulled when they painted the car and it had rust in the corner. He also replaced the front grille and rebuilt the original three-speed transmission, clutch, and rear end.
The T-handle on the three speed was added at some point in the cars life, but a correct three-speed ball was found hours after our photo shoot. Jim took us for a ride around the city of Columbus this past summer, and we were amazed at how tight the car isno wind leaks, no rattles, and it handles perfectly.
Jims whole family is as partial to Mopars as hunters are to Blue Tick hounds. His brothers 70 GTX graced our cover a few years ago, and when Jim fell in love with this 71 Duster, he was looking for an E-Body like the 71 Cuda he had as a teenager. Jim tells us that he just bought a 96 Dodge Ram Sport to pull the trailer he anticipates getting. Therell be a time when I have to trailer [the Duster], he says.
Just dont let it get too comfortable in front of the fireplace, Jim.