Whether it's a first car purchase or the twentieth, when the pink slip is signed and the currency exchanged, there is a conjunction of two lives, a union of two histories-the buyer's and the car's.
In 1971, Mark Wilson was born in Essex, England, the same year this gold Plymouth Duster rolled down the assembly line. Optioned with a LA 340 small-block and a four-speed manual transmission, the A-Body was a tight combination. Bolted together without the excessive weight of an air-conditioning system or power-assisted brakes, the lightweight and nimble Duster was meant to eat up the street even without the use of a larger powerplant between the shock towers. Though the same age, the two would take nearly 35 years to meet.
Simultaneously, when Mark was an unruly teenager carving up every surface he could find with his skateboard, the Duster was also going through an adolescence of sorts. The A-Body's 831/44 was pulled and replaced with a narrowed and custom 9-inch pumpkin that would house a bulletproof Locker differential, spinning custom axles. The A833 was given a Hurst Competition Shifter with a reverse lock out. a 1011/42-inch McLeod clutch aided shifting. With air shocks and slapper bars, the Duster was happily thrashing the Kentucky dragstrips and eagerly eating up the competition at local bracket races.
Once a lowly 340, the LA was...
Once a lowly 340, the LA was pulled and replaced (thanks to a set of Schumacher mounts) by a heartily built 383. The substitute lung boasts over 375 ponies with help from an Edelbrock RPM top end (aluminum heads and intake), a Holley 650 double-pumper, and TRW 10:1 compression slugs.
The shifter with its reverse...
The shifter with its reverse lock out is a hint that this little A-Body is packing a little more than what most would expect.
The heavy-duty harnesses ensure...
The heavy-duty harnesses ensure a secure ride, though most drag racing sanctions don't require such hardware until surpassing the 11.49-second mark.
Nearly twenty years later, the Duster would be partially restored (it still retains its original paint) and totally dialed-in. By that time, the owner was tired of it and listed it for sale. Coincidentally, Mark, having done a little growing up of his own, would come across the A-Body's listing. It took some dealing to arrange for the shipping, but once the golden Duster was in front of Mark's home in April 2005, the $5,700 spent was well worth it. Brimming with ideas for modifications and improvements, he dove right into his new project.
A Hurst roll-control was added to the disc/drum brake setup. Racing seatbelts replaced the stock straps, while the buckets and rear bench were recovered in black vinyl. The dials were all replaced with SunPro gauges to better monitor the Duster's vitals. A Sony CD player was mounted in a custom box underneath the dash because Mark didn't want to cut up the stock dash. For some added flair, a Grant wheel replaced the factory unit. Externally, a beltline stripe was modified to proclaim the A-Body's newest powerplant. the final touch was added with an AAR fiberglass Six-Pack-style lift-off hood, painted to match the Plymouth's original golden hue.
Wanting to get the Duster "right," Mark approached engine builder and good friend, John Hatchard, to piece together an engine that would rouse the already quick A-Body. The once small-block-equipped Plymouth received a pair of Schumacher motor mounts connected to a newly built 383. But before everything was lowered between the fenders, the block was bored 30-over, filled with TRW 10:1 pistons, a steel crank, stock rods, and a Comp Cams solid-lifter bump stick. Crane supplied the rockers and pushrods, while Edelbrock RPM heads and intake compose the top end.
An 8-gallon fuel cell is nestled...
An 8-gallon fuel cell is nestled deep in the trunk floor, sucked dry from underneath by an electric fuel pump. The battery box nearby is mounted in accordance with NHRA regulations. It was a bracket racer, after all.
Skateboarders get no respect....
Skateboarders get no respect. Growing up grinding his trucks on any staircase rail and sidewalk curb he could find, now-adult Mark enjoys his Duster a little more than defacing public property. The decked-out deck is color matched and boasts a "Hurst Equipped" emblem.
A 28-inch aluminum radiator with an electric fan keep it all cool as a pair of tti headers plumb out the spent gases towards the back bumper via a set of 3-inch pipes and Flowmaster mufflers. A Mopar electronic ignition lights the spark, and an 8-gallon fuel cell resides in the trunk floor sucked dry by an electric fuel pump. All of that combustible juice is fed through a Holley 650 double-pumper covered by a tall 4-inch air filter that breathes in plenty of air, thanks to the aforementioned Six-Pack hood. The final result is an estimated 375 hp pushing the Duster down the quarter-mile in 13.45 seconds.
Though starting off worlds apart, Mark and his Duster are happier than ever. With always more to do and things to modify, the Plymouth is guaranteed a long and eventful future. Mark has not forgotten his roots and had a custom skateboard deck painted to match his "Dusty Mopar" that refuses to keep still for long.
Fast Facts: '71 Plymouth Duster
Mark Wilson • Essex, England
Engine: Replacing the stock 340, a 383 b-block was built by John Hatchard. Bored 30-over, the 383 was given a new set of TRW 10:1 compression slugs, while using stock rods and a steel crank. The valves are motivated by a Comp Cams solid lifter stick, Crane rockers and pushrods, and it's all topped off with an aluminum Edelbrock RPM cylinder head and intake combination. The intake is home to a 650 double-pumper Holley and a 4-inch air element. TTI heads tunnel the fumes through 3-inch tubes and Flowmaster mufflers.
Transmission: From the factory with an A833 four-speed, the gearbox received a McLeod 1011/42-inch clutch and a Hurst reverse lock out on a competition shifter.
Rearend: Straying from the Mopar camp, the previous owner modified a 9-inch and filled it with custom axles, 3.56 gears, and a locker differential.
Horsepower & Performance: Mark estimates 375 ponies, but the 13.45-second quarter-mile time might prove just a little bit more.
Suspension: A set of Kayaba air shocks at all four corners with traction bars in back help the A-Body hook up when Mark isn't busy boiling the skins off.
Brakes: From the factory with manual brakes, the front discs and rear drums also received a Hurst roll control.
Wheels: Lightweight Drag Lite 15x3.5 upfront and 15x8 aft.
Rubber: 155/70/15 skinnies up at the nose and 255/60/15s at the tail.
Body: Amazingly, the body survived 36 years with just a few chips, dings, and swirls. Even while serving as a competitive bracket racer, all that shows is a healthy coat of rubber inside the rear quarters. All that's been added is a lightweight fiberglass lift-off AAR hood.
Paint: It's the same that the Duster came from the factory with. The hood was color matched using the factory code to match the original panels. A modified "383" tail marker was added to the stock-style beltline stripe.
Interior: The only modifications we see are the racing-grade harnesses, a fire extinguisher mounted on the tranny tunnel, and a Sony CD player hanging from underneath the dash. The factory heater controls haven't changed. A Grant wheel replaces the original, and the seats have been recovered.