This '70 Duster 340 helped usher in a new era in musclecar history. Coming off the assembly line early in the production year, it was not only one of the first Dusters ever made, but also one of the first of the four-speed 340s.
When we photographed this car, it belonged to Dave Young of Lakeland, Florida. Dave acquired the Duster from friend Stan MacDonald, and Stan's appreciation of the car is one of the things that attracted Dave to it. "Stan really knew the history of the Duster," Dave says. "He just had bigger projects going at the time. The paint and the detailing under the hood were terrible, but I knew it was a clean car."
Dave and Stan were able to hammer out a trade, with the principles of the swap being the '70 Duster and Dave's '68 Barracuda. Dave also threw in a couple of project cars (a pair of minor-leaguers, if you will). "I like to trade whenever possible, for cars and parts," Dave says. "That way, nobody comes out of the deal feeling like they forked out a bundle of money."
The original owner purchased the car in North Carolina to be a Super Stock racer. Before Dave got ahold of it, it was more hard-core, but he took some of the edge off.
"When I first got it, it ran mid-12s, but I de-tuned it a little to make it more streetable," Dave says. "When I tore [the engine] down, I found two pistons with broken ring lands, so I'm sure it was close to a 12-flat car when it was first assembled. It had slicks, a fiberglass seat, a trunk battery, and about 1,000 holes in the firewall and fenderwells for attaching racing equipment, a cool can, electronics, and whatnot. But it was a clean, low-mile car."
When Dave got the Duster, it still had the original four-speed, the 831/44 rear, and an added 4.30 gear set out back. Under the hood, the original 340 is a standard bore with ported 360 "J" heads and Keith Black hypereutectic pistons. The compression ratio is about 10.5:1.
The interior is mostly stock, except for the Vertigate shifter, which was already in place when Dave got the car. Much of the interior had been stripped for racing purposes, but he managed to put it back together during a four-month garage thrashing. The back seat is original, and Dave was able to get stock front seats that were all set to bolt in. Year One supplied the carpet. "The tach was no good," Dave adds, "so I replaced it with a Sun tach."
This Duster has a Tuff steering wheel, which is rare on early Dusters because it wasn't released until halfway through the '70 model year. It also features the optional factory AM radio and bucket seats. Dave did the vinyl upholstery himself and also replaced the heater box and the wiper system, which had been removed for racing. There was a pre-existing hole in the hood, but Dave says it was cut pretty rough, so he added on a '73-style hoodscoop.
Dave entrusted the exterior work to Rich Denton, an area BASF sales rep. Rich applied a basecoat/clearcoat of Sherwin Williams Ultra 7000 Plum Crazy, but he added a special touch: a little dark magenta in the mixture, which gives the Duster an optical illusion effect. "I wanted it to look stock, but just a little bit different," Dave says. "When you look at it from one angle or in a certain light, it looks Plum Crazy, but it looks magenta in another. I like the effect, but I had a little problem having the work done by a guy with the last name 'Dent-on.' "
Dave also pointed out one anomaly that makes this Duster unique. On Hemis and convertibles, there is a brace box welded into the forward part of the rear framerail where the leaf spring attaches. For some reason, this Duster has the Hemi brace. "It's unheard of in an A-Body, except for Super Stock cars," Dave says. "It's the only one I know of, and I've had a bunch of people tell me it's the only Duster they've ever seen with it."
But Dave's biggest concern was how the Duster would make it down the quarter-mile, and he was pleased with the results.