Mopar lovers in Central New York (CNY) have one of the shortest warm-weather seasons anywhere each year to enjoy their rides. From sometime in May to early October, the roads in the region near Syracuse that's bounded by Lake Ontario to the north, the Adirondack Mountains to the east, the Finger Lakes to the west, and New York State's southern tier (Binghamton, Elmira) to the south are clear of wintertime salt and sand, and they can take their prized Plymouths, Dodges, and other Pentastar/Forward Look cars and trucks out and enjoy them.
Greg Stein is one of those folks who enjoys the short cruising season, though his '73 Plymouth Duster 340 has one component in it that can claim roots in CNY. That's its transmission, an A-833 four-speed built by Chrysler's former New Process Gear Division in East Syracuse where Greg works (just down the road from his home in Cicero).
Greg's Duster 340 had a long way to go before it got to Greg's garage. "It came from Arkansas originally, and then it went to Missouri, then to Ohio, then here," says Greg, who's the Duster's fifth owner.
It's interestingly-optioned, meaning that whoever marked the order blank on this one way back when didn't specify power steering, power brakes, or air conditioning, but did choose the A-833, the new-for-'73 steel sunroof (one of about 40 sunroof-equipped '73 Duster 340s) and Spacemaker folding rear seat, along with a split-bench front seat and exterior dress-up package.
Another new-for-'73 factory...
Another new-for-'73 factory option in Greg's Duster: the Spacemaker fold-down rear seat.
It also had one factory option that you'd never think anyone in northern Arkansas would have ordered, then or now. "It did have a factory engine-block heater," he says, noting the fender tag has the code (N25) for that factory option on it. "That's really ironic, for a car that came from Arkansas, and that's kind of weird, being in a warmer climate like that."
Greg's Duster also has some of the other changes that Ma Mopar made for '73, including the big-bolt-pattern wheels and brakes that the A-Body shared with the B- and E-Bodies starting in '73. It also has the A-Body's first impact-absorbing bumpers (though Greg's doesn't have the huge rubber bumper blocks fore and aft that the car was built with) and the Torsion-Quiet Ride chassis rubberization that all North American-built Plymouths, Dodges, Chryslers, and Imperials got that year.
Stock '73 Duster gauge cluster...
Stock '73 Duster gauge cluster is joined in Greg's car by a big Sunpro tach and Sunpro, Stewart-Warner, and Autogage auxiliary gauges.
Unlike a lot of project-ready early-'70s Mopars, this Duster was complete, intact, and running when Greg found it in 2009. "It had been done about 20 years earlier," he says. "It wasn't bad-there were some (rust) spots coming through, but nothing crazy." Greg's since taken care of those, and he did have the 340 out recently-but not for the reason you think he did. "I had it out over the (2009-'10) winter, when I repainted the engine bay," he says. "I re-gasketed and painted everything, but the engine was really fresh so I didn't dig too far into it."
1973's 340 was a carryover from 1972, with 8.5:1 compression and 1.88-inch intake valves, but Greg says his varies from factory stock. "The individual that I bought it from said there was some mild headwork done to it, but he didn't really get into much detail and I didn't ask, to be honest," he says. The 340 also wears an aluminum Edelbrock intake manifold and a set of Hedman Headers in place of the factory cast-iron pieces, and it's had a Mopar Performance cam installed in place of the OEM bumpstick.
Hand-cranked steel sunroof...
Hand-cranked steel sunroof joined the Duster option list for '73, and the one on Greg's Duster 340 works just fine. (It's also one of about 40 that found their way into Duster 340s that year.)
Lest you think this is his first Mopar, think again. Greg's a long-time Mopar owner. "I've got a ton of 'em in my history," he says. "This is actually my third Duster. One that I had previously back in the '80s was a '74 Duster 360, and that car came out of Nicaragua. It was purchased new by a guy in the Army, and he had it shipped down there and then shipped it back here to the States when he got out."
Split front bench seat was...
Split front bench seat was a factory option in all Dusters in 1973.
We said earlier that Greg's Duster had one item inside it with a Central New York history-the A-833 four-speed. On the outside are a few items that are CNY-correct and year-correct: the blue-on-reflectorized-orange New York license plates, which first appeared in 1973, and the Lewis Goodman Company rear plate frame from a longtime Syracuse Chrysler-Plymouth dealer that closed last year. "I have a bunch of old plate frames, and I just stuck it on there," says Greg. "That's because I like that stuff."
How does Greg's Duster drive? Let him tell you. "It runs really, really good! It really is a blast to drive with that four-speed." It also handles better than stock, thanks to the wide rear wheels and tires on it, which fill the stock wheelwells better than the OEM wheel/tire combo did (thanks in no small part to the Duster/Demon/Dart Sport having a rear tread that's a few inches narrower than the front). "I never could figure out why they did that," says Greg of the tread disparity.
'73 was the last year for...
'73 was the last year for the 340 as a factory option, and Greg's looks like a total stocker-if you don't notice the Hedman Hedders.
If the idea of a Duster as your first (or next) Mopar interests you, Greg has some sound advice about what to look for when shopping for one-and what to look out for. "Make sure the frame's good before you even mess with it," he says. "The torsion bar areas on these cars are notorious for rot." Greg adds that cars from CNY-and from anywhere along the Great Lakes-are especially prone to that, given the salt used to de-ice the roads each winter.
1973 was the last year for the 340-inch LA engine in any A-Body, as a high-output 360-cubic-inch version replaced it for 1974-and only found about 4,500 buyers in the three years it was in the Duster powertrain lineup. But 1973 was a big year for Ma Mopar sales-wise, arguably their best year of the '70s, when nearly 750,000 Plymouths were sold (landing Plymouth in sixth place in the sales race). Of that total, over one-third of them were Dusters, and 15,731 of those were Duster 340s. And this one is just the car to enjoy the CNY warm-weather months with!
'73 Plymouth Duster 340
Owned by: Greg Stein, Cicero, New York
- Engine: '73-vintage 340 still wears its OEM heads with their 1.88-inch intake valves, but it's had a Mopar Performance camshaft, Edelbrock intake, and Hedman Hedders added, and the heads were ported by a previous owner.
- Transmission: Hurst-shifted A-833, which, by the way, was built at the nearby New Process Gear plant where Greg works
- Rearend: OEM Sure-Grip-equipped 8 1/4 with 3.21:1 rear gears
- Suspension: Stock '73 Duster 340, which means heavy-duty torsion bars, leaf springs, and shocks and a front sway bar.
- Brakes: Just like it had when built, front disc/rear drum brakes, non-power-assisted.
- Wheels and Tires: Big-pattern Weld wheels on Futura tires, with the rears filling the Duster's huge rear fenderwells
- Body: Original sunroof-equipped '73 Duster unibody with an aftermarket scoop on hood and reproduction '73 Duster 340 side/rear stripes.
- Paint: The original color, B3 Basin Street Blue, sprayed on by Greg's buddy Jim Bersani, Cicero, New York
- Interior: Split bench seat in front, with the new-for-'73 Spacemaker fold-down seat in back, both upholstered in white vinyl. Stock dash gauges aided by a Sunpro tach and auxiliary gauges by Stewart-Warner (oil pressure), Sunpro (coolant temperature), and Autogage (vacuum)