The Duster is a two-door variant of the Plymouth Valiant that was created to attract those interested in a sportier look as the muscle car era reached its zenith. Plymouth accomplished the makeover of the Valiant with a very modest $15 million budget. The Duster was somewhat overlooked in the muscle car era, in part because of the popularity of the utilitarian Valiant among older motorists.
The Duster’s Impressive Acceleration
The Duster was introduced for the 1970 model year, and it remained on the market until 1976. There were two types – the standard Duster, powered by a 198 cu-in, 225 cu-in slant six or 318 cu-in engine V8, and the Duster 340, powered by a 340 cu-in V8. The 340 was a true performance vehicle, capable of completing the zero-60 mph scamper in just 5.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver. That time put it in the magazine’s top 10 list of 1970s “rocket sleds.” It also completed the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds, reaching a top speed of 97 mph.
Distinctive Design Elements
The newly designed 1970 Duster featured a steeply raked windshield and a semi-fastback roof design. The Duster offered ample trunk space and a spacious rear seat. For 1970 only, badging retained the Valiant heritage, with a Valiant emblem affixed above the Duster badge on the front fenders. The marketing of the Duster was often quite creative. Mid-year, Plymouth introduced the “Gold Duster,” replete with a canopy-style vinyl roof, special badging, whitewalls, all-vinyl seats, fully carpeted cabin and upscale insulation.
The Gold Duster helped to spur overall Duster sales, which reached 217,192. This wasn’t bad for a new model competing against the Mustangs, Firebirds and Camaros of its day. Approximately 12 percent, or 24,817 Dusters, were the sporty 340 versions with the big 275 hp power plant. A Duster equipped with a 340 cu-in (5.6 L) V8, four-barrel carburetor and 4-speed manual provided muscle-car performance at a modest price. In fact, Plymouth marketed the 340 as “America’s first super-low-price supercar.” The MSRP for a base 1970 Duster 340 was just $2,547 at a time when many other muscle cars carried price tags that were 20-40 percent higher.
Collectors and enthusiasts will find that the 1970 Duster 340 is still a good value, compared to its contemporaries like the Mustang Boss 351 or Chevy Camaro Z28. In today’s market, top-of-the-line Duster 340s may bring $40,000 or more. However, some examples with modest mileage are on the market for half that.
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