Shunning the traditional path of restoration and numbers matching, David Gagliardo of Tampa, Florida, likes to be, shall we say, a little extreme. It all started several years ago when he was trying to find a nice pre-'75 Duster for a little project he had in mind. Key requirements: it must have a decent body, be in good overall condition, and not cost more than a $1,000. When he grew tired of looking locally, he began perusing the pages of an auto trade sales magazine, where he came upon an ad for a '73 Duster with a Slant Six and a three-speed manual transmission for 599 George Washingtons.
When David discovered the car was in Waynesboro, Georgia, only 425 miles away, he decided to check it out. He called the seller and was told the car was in drivable condition. That sounded good to Dave because he didn't own a trailer at the time. The owner sent Dave some good photos of the Duster, and, from what Dave could see, the Duster looked satisfactory. So he took a leap of faith and immediately overnighted the $599 to the owner.
About two weeks later, Dave and his wife drove the 425 miles to pick up the car. Unfortunately, when Dave arrived, the car didn't look quite as good as it did in the pictures. (We're sometimes shocked at how loosely the term "driver" is used.) One tire was flat, and the other three were so badly dry rotted, they looked too dangerous to drive on. The floor of the car was covered with pecan shells, and the dash pad was missing. (They did find it in the trunk, later.) The spare tire was flat.
Dave wouldn't be content with just having a crate Hemi. No, he had to build his own five h
The owner pumped up the flat tires, and Dave drove into town so he could have the three tires replaced with good used ones. when the fourth tire blew out on the drive home, Dave realized he should have changed it as well. Other than that flat tire, the steering so loose that it took almost a half turn of the wheel to respond, and the gas gauge not working, Dave tells us it was a pretty uneventful ride.
After Dave's adventure ended in his driveway, he wasted no time with the rebuild. Many guys have attempted to restore or rebuild their cars; anyone can do it with a reasonable amount of experience. Well, Dave had no experience, but he was not about to let that deter him. so he dismantled the car and began executing his plan. Now this was not going to be a simple restoration or restomod, that just wouldn't do. Dave had aspirations of building what could quite possibly be one of the baddest "street" Dusters around. He tells us he engineered the entire car himself. The list of modifications covers everything from major fabrication and painting, to building the big blown Hemi he uses to propel-and we do mean propel-the Duster down the road and racetrack. He removed the stock firewall, fabricated a .040-inch-thick aluminum replacement, and relocated it 2 inches farther back into the passenger compartment. He cut out the inner fender panels and fabricated new ones from aluminum, and fabricated a one-piece aluminum plate to mount the engine. When Dave went to place the engine in the car, he needed to make even more room, so he moved the steering box over 31/48 inch to gain header clearance, converted the stock torsion bar suspension to Aldan Eagle coil-covers that required modification of the lower control arms, and moved the radiator forward 1 1/2 inches. He also realized that by relocating the engine back 1 1/8 inches, the headers fit better.
With the front end complete, it was time to focus on the rearend of the car. Using a Chassis Engineering rear subframe kit and ladder bar suspension, he was able to make room for the massive 19.5x33/15 Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pro tires. He then finished the body with a two-piece removable transmission tunnel and a 12-point rollcage.
Covering the body was another adventure. Dave had never painted a car before, but the yellow he snagged from a Corvette turned out terrific.