If you're looking for an A-Body to build, and you live in southeastern Michigan, you have three choices: hope for a local barn/garage find that doesn't have too much rust in it; find one locally and spend ages replacing rusted metal; or mine some precious, rust-free Mopar metal from the West or Southwest.
Dan Picklo took the third route when he found a '74 Duster on eBay back in 2005, but this sold-new-in-Texas car was a lot closer to his Fraser, Michigan, home than that. "I purchased it from a guy in the Thumb (Michigan's Lower Peninsula, between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron --Ed.), who moved a lot of Mopars," he recalls. "The father of a guy down the street from us used to own the car," Dan says, while noting its history also included a previous trade for a Little Red Express pickup.
Nothing lazy about this stroker...
Nothing lazy about this stroker small-block now, with Mopar W5 heads and an Indy intake under the Dominator.
"I bought the car for the sheetmetal, and it was a plus that a 340 was already in there," says Dan. But the 340 was, in his words, lazy. "I really didn't know how lazy it was until a quick test drive after I purchased it." To cure that underhood laziness, Dan teamed with engine builder Scott Koffel on a stroker LA.
Inside, the chromoly cage may not look original, but the seats do. The back seat is the Duster's factory bench, while a pair of race buckets wear Legendary vinyl. Dan also had some help inside with the Duster's electronics. "My brother-in-law, Jack Meyers, was the electrical genius on the car," he says. "He built the panel underneath the dash that has the 7AL on it, on a circuit board with quick disconnects. It has some really trick electronics on it. There are no crimped ends--it's all soldered and shrink-wrapped."
The body of Dan's '74 is equally as clean. Scraping and blasting took off the OEM undercoating, revealing intact original steel, which was epoxy-primed and two-stage painted after subframe connectors went in. Topside, the '74 bumper brackets were replaced by a set of lighter '73s, while an AAR Fiberglass front bumper and hood also went on. Dan adds that the rest of the body (including the '74's five-mph bumper assembly) and all the glass, are all original. He sprayed on the Frosty Green color--and painted on the Gold Duster-style trim--at his shop, Expert Car Care, in Fraser.
Five guesses what that original metal in back helps out. You guessed it--weight transfer on the dragstrip which, along with the stroker 416, helps this A-Body run in the 10s. (Bests are 10.10 seconds and 133 mph.)
Dan, along with transmission builder Scott, are part of the Mopar Mafia race team. "There's eight of us, and eight cars, and we race the MoPower Now circuit," Dan says. "The car's always done very well at the top of its points category, and it runs in Pro, which is for footbrake cars."
Dan also adds his special thanks to Lee Knight for his help with and dedication to this project.
The covering may look OE,...
The covering may look OE, but the race buckets are anything but, with original-style vinyl.
Add a Chromoly cage, and it’s...
Add a Chromoly cage, and it’s all business.
All original in back, from...
All original in back, from the 5-mph bumper to the OEM glass, to the original cold-rolled steel sheetmetal.
'74 Plymouth Duster
Owned by: Dan Picko, Fraser, Michigan
- Engine: Scott Koffel (at Koffel's Place, Huron, Ohio) took an iron-block 340 bored .030-inch over, then fitted it with Ross pistons and an Eagle stroker crank and rods, making it a 416-incher, Heads are CNC-ported Mopar Performance W5s with Comp Cams valve springs and Harland Sharp rockers. Comp Cams also supplied the high-lift/long-duration roller camshaft. Ignition is an MSD billet setup with a 7ALbox, Blaster coil and "Fire Core" wires. Exhaust is tti 17⁄8-inch headers, and nothing more.
- Transmission: Scott Foster (one of Dan's "Mopar Mafia" teammates, built the 727 at his Sidney, Ohio, shop with a Turbo Action 91⁄2-inch, 4,500-stall converter, Rick Allison transmission parts and a Turbo Action shifter.
- Rearend: A 4.56-geared, Moser-axled Dana 60.
- Suspension: (Front) Restored original '74 Duster with Moog replacement parts and Chassis Engineering shocks. (Rear) Caltracs with Strange Engineering shocks
- Brakes: Wilwood discs in front, factory Mopar drums in back.
- Wheels and Tires: Hoosiers and Weld Wheels at all four corners: 15 x 3 front wheels wear 26x4.5x15 skinnies, while the 15 x 8-inch rear wheels wear 28x10x15s.
- Body: Original '74 Duster unibody wears AAR Fiberglass hood and front bumper, and '73 Duster front bumper brackets. Rear bumper, all glass and all other body metal, is OEM.
- Paint: Dan sprayed on the Akzo Nobel Frosty Green Iridescent paint, and painted on the "Gold Duster"-style striping. The OEM vinyl top was in good shape, so it stayed on.
- Interior: Dan and Jack Meyers fabricated the chrome-moly cage, while Jeff Dawson stitched a pair of race seats with Legendary repro vinyl to make them match the original back seat. Jack also fabbed the electronics panel, which fits up under the dash.