During the years before and during the Second World War, commentators on the Pacific battle theater sometimes referred to the Japanese enemy as the yellow peril. Though smaller in stature than Americans, the troops under Hirohito were nonetheless feared for their willingness to fight and merciless techniques. In the waning days of the American supercar era, Chryslers lineup had its own version of yellow peril with the advent of High Impact Curious Yellow paint on Plymouths Rapid Transit System models in 1970. This was an extra-cost option, but got the attention of any bystanders (or opponents at the stop light Gran Prix).
The Duster 340 came into being in 1970 as an affordable alternative to the big-block Road Runner. To be part of the RTS, it needed to run at least 13.90s, which it did in testing with the optional 3.91 gear. The fastback styling and good handling characteristics made it a big hit regardless of displacement, bigger than the factory had expected, and changes were in the works for 1971.
In its first year, the car was rushed into production with only a handful of options. In 1971, two performance-hood treatments were available: the twin scoops that had formerly been available only in the Dodge lineup as seen here, and a non-scooped black-out treatment with the words 340 WEDGE inscribed on one corner. There were the rear deck wing and vinyl-top options, plus a body stripe that was standard on all 340 models. A new grille made the cars front end come to life, and is considered by many to be the best ever offered in the A-Body lineup.
Meanwhile, the A-motor received only two major changes for 1971. This was the first year for Carters big Thermoquad on top of the 340, and it was also dropped .02 in compression to 10.3:1 from the former 10.5:1 standard due to upcoming changes in gasoline lead content.
With the 340 (which had a three-speed manual as standard), the buyer had additional choices between a beefed 727 Torqueflite or A833 four-speed, as well as a standard 8¾ rear with a 3.23 SureGrip-aided gear set (3.55 and 3.91 ratios were options). Bucket seats became part of the package with the trans options, which added the center console and performance dash as well. With a base price of about $2,700, the 340 package offered a lot of bang for the buck.
David Johnson of Greenville, South Carolina, remembers all of that because he bought a new Duster 340 in 1970. In fact, he got married in that car, and had a lot of fun with it. But that was years ago, and his old car had disappeared into the eons of time. Now in the timber business, he decided to start looking around for something to relive his misspent youth, and came across this 1971 model, complete with paperwork and only 54,000 miles on the odometer, at the Hayes Chrysler-Plymouth show in Commerce, Georgia, in 1998. This was a clean example, with the 340/727 combination, power brakes, Rallye wheels, 3.55 SureGrip and Curious Yellow paint. Deciding he really couldnt live without it, he made the purchase and, during the next year, did some minor work to it. He added the performance hood scoops and deck wing, but remarks it remains about 95 percent original.
The year 1971 would mark the end of yellow peril Curious Yellow, and would become the final season for the Rapid Transit Systems assault on Americas new car scene. The 340 would survive, with 8.5:1 compression, only to be superceded by the 360 later in the following model year, and the Duster would end up being one of the few supercars left by the middle of the decade. Today, cars like David Johnsons remain to strike fear in the hearts of import invaders and domestic infidels alikeBANZAI!