Let's begin our story in mid-May 2002. One man-Boulder City, Nevada, resident Romeo Furio-decided to set the motoring world on its proverbial rear end. He arrived at the beginning of the '02 Hot Rod Power Tour with a mode of transportation nothing short of stellar. OK, we realize what some of you are thinking-it's just an A-Body. Well, that type of thinking may just get you a seat at the front of the class.
The tour began in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 24, with the entrants making final tunes and tweaks to their rides. As for Romeo, he was kickin' back and enjoying the party. He had faith in the quality of workmanship that Pure Vision of Simi Valley, California, had applied to his '71 Duster, aptly named "Dust'Ya."
The tour would cover various Interstate highways and even some smaller secondary roads on the cross-country trek. Again, Romeo had faith in his ride. Eight days later, the tour ended in Columbus, Ohio. With the trip encompassing well over 1,600 miles, Romeo's Duster got the shakedown drive of a lifetime. Most guys would have a car like this relegated to trailer duty. Not Romeo.
When Romeo was deciding on a car to build, he leaned toward a square-bodied Dart to fulfill his A-Body need. What happened next was a meeting with Steve Strope of Pure Vision Designs. Steve has been designing and building high-quality rides for several years, and convinced Romeo that a later-style Duster would be more to Romeo's liking. The sleeker lines, the larger cockpit, and a more visually appealing style would lend itself better to what Romeo had in mind. Once they located a suitable manual-shifted candidate, the metamorphosis was underway.
After relieving the body of all unnecessary components (wiring, plumbing, and so on), it was given to Russ Stevenson of Ventura, California. The quality of Russ' work is evident in the glass-like smoothness of the body, which is covered in a custom mix of Manic Mango-one of Russ' personal concoctions.
The subtle touches first get your attention. Did you notice the absence of the side marker lights? How about the rearview mirrors and exterior door handles painted the same matte black as the hood and door tops? The factory Duster stripes were duplicated by Matt Willoughby of New Middleton, Ohio. The difference is that the factory stripes were cut out for the door handles. Matt's rendition isn't, and the factory-style lettering reads "Dust'Ya" instead of "Duster" up front.
The duo decided that Pro-Touring would be the theme, so up-front, Magnum Force tubular upper control arms, heavy-duty Mopar Performance torsion bars, and KYB shocks were employed. The strut rod is Steve's design, and is a chrome-moly construction with aircraft quality rod ends (instead of the factory rubber bushings) threaded into the end for adjustability. The rearend is supported by a pair of Eaton leaf springs and a set of big Baer brakes with PBR calipers. For rolling stock there's a set of Budnik wheels measuring 17x7 in front and 18x9 in the rear. Rubber is by Toyo, and measures 225/45-17 and 275/40-18, respectively. A little wheel-well massaging was definitely in order.
Remember we told you Romeo drove the car on the Hot Rod Power Tour? Obviously, some creature comforts were required. For starters, crossing the desert can get hot...really hot. A Vintage Air A/C unit was installed behind the factory metal dash. The factory radio opening was welded shut and smoothed to create a sanitary look.
Did you notice the gauge cluster? The custom 160 mph speedo was given a carbon fiber look to match the Autometer gauges flanking it. The seats are made by Corbeau, with the upholstery inserts made by Clint Sharp Custom Interiors of Tarzana, California. The new headliner, carpeting, and door panels are from Year One, and were also installed by Clint. For safety, an eight-point cage by Red Zone Race Fabricators of Simi Valley, California, surrounds the cockpit.
Does the shifter protruding through the floor look different? That piece connects to a Tremec TKO five-speed from Keisler Automotive of Knoxville, Tennessee. You saw the 372-stroker decal on the hood, right?
The dynamic duo (Romeo and Steve) contacted Kibler Performance of Camarillo, California, and commissioned the guys to place a 360 crank into the '72 340 block by reducing the journal size from 2.81 inches to 2.50 inches. The block was filled with goodies like stock shot-peened rods, Keith Black Hypereutectic pistons, and an experimental Comp Cams camshaft. We could tell you the specs, but we'd have to kill you. Seriously, the "experimental" camshaft has .561/.526-inch lift and .231/237-degrees of duration. The 112-degree lobe-separated camshaft is installed at four-degrees advance. The heads are '70 vintage "X" castings with just some simple bowl work and blending. The go-go juice flows into a modified M1 intake that supports an MSD four-barrel throttle body controlled by a F.A.S.T Fuel Injection Systems computer module.
Do you like the custom air-cleaner assembly? With the help of Billet Fabrications of Simi Valley, California, Pure Visions designed a unit that can easily be disassembled and retains a low-profile for hood clearance.
Remember that this Duster had to be able to handle the high temperatures of desert travel? A U.S. Radiator four-core radiator and a Milodon water pump and March pulleys keep the Duster from getting hot under the collar. Everything up front is a waste without something beefy in back, so an 831/44 rear filled with 3.55 gears was added.
Did the guys accomplish what they wanted? We think so. They built a car that can be driven across the country, hold its own on any show field, and cut a corner like it's on rails. So here's a word of warning to the guy in his Camaro who pulls alongside Romeo-the Dust'Ya on the fender isn't just a statement, it's what's about to happen.