Though there is a lot to be said for both picture-perfect restorations and super-trick street machines, for most car enthusiasts, happiness is found someplace in between. While that blown Hemi cruiser might turn heads, it won't be as practical as a regular driver. Conversely, the 100-point restoration will blow away the concours crowd, but you won't want to take it out to a Saturday night cruise where some ignoramous might scratch or sit on it. Not to mention road wear. That middle ground has been ably found by Dale Hayden, owner of the '73 Duster seen here.
Hayden, 40, is a truck driver by trade, but has been a performance car guy since high school. He went the heavily-modified route with his previous project, a '69 Dart, but decided the solid Duster he purchased in 1986 would appear basically stock until the onlooker began to eyeball it a bit more closely.
The body itself was in need of some repair. The rusty original rear quarters and trunk floor were replaced, and the rest of the body got completely stripped to bare metal. Danny Southern at F&B Body Shop in Thomasville, North Carolina, then primed it, water-sanded the panels, and gave the car a spectacular covering of PPG Plum Crazy Metallic. Year One supplied new side marker lights and door handles, and Carolina Bumper rechromed the bumpers. Dale did all the assembly of the finished body once it was back from the shop. A set of '71 side stripes were added to the body, and to finish it off with a mild custom flair, a custom 340 decal was added to the hood, and the taillight bezels were left off, with the lights feathered into the body.
Inside the cockpit, new carpet, also from Year One, was installed, and Barefoot Auto Trim redid the split-bench front and standard-rear seats. The car already had some great cruise appeal with its factory-installed rollback sunroof. A new Sun tach took care of monitoring the engine speed, and an additional oil pressure gauge was added to the factory dash cluster. Since Dale gets to row through the A833's gears the old fashioned way, a Hurst shifter comes up through the floor boot.
With the hood down, the car no doubt draws a lot of appreciative looks; once it's up, the impression gets better. Dale Freeman, from R&B Machine in Trinity, North Carolina, bored the 340 mill out .030 and put together a bottom end using the stock steel crank, factory rods, and TRW 10.5 compression pistons. An Erson solid lifter camshaft with .557 lift and 320-degree duration, coupled to 340 T/A rockers and Erson springs, meters in the fuel, with a Milodon gear driver keeping everything in time. On top of it all is an Edelbrock Victor single-plane intake and a 750 Holley double-pumper rejetted for street use. Hooker Competition headers send the exhaust to the mufflers, and a Milodon 7-quart oil pan keeps it all slippery. Finally, a Mallory ignition outfit, used in conjunction with an MSD Rev Control and Accel plugs and wires, rounds out the package. At an estimated 450 horsepower, it is very sweet.
Backing it up in the action department is the aforementioned A833 four-speed crash box in the trans tunnel, assisted in the gear shifts by a Zoom clutch and the stock flywheel. Under the rear is an 831/44 rear differential with a steep 4.57 Richmond gear set. Rounding out the package are a quadrant of Crager Super Lite wheels with wide street meat in the rear and a pair of normal street tires up front.
For Dane, this labor of love has been an ongoing project that has now reached completion. The car sees street time on pretty weekends, though he sometimes trailers it to those car shows that are farther away. A happy medium between stock and hot, the purple machine is, in the eyes of both the owner and beholder, a real plum.