Home Brew Hot Rod: 1974 Plymouth Duster

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The sun was setting on Musclepalooza in ’74. Some would say that it had already set and it was now nighttime. There were a few hanger-oners but the pickin’s were getting slim. Plymouth’s compact sales sensation, known as the Duster, kept a hand in the hot rod game with the Duster 360. This ’74 Duster is not one of those. No, it’s a more generic version that has been hot-rodded – the sort of thing that happened in cities and towns all over America so many years ago – build it yourself. Let’s see what’s here. Found in Waxhaw, North Carolina by Pat L., this ’74 Plymouth is available, here on craigslist, for $19,500.

You know when something’s a lot of fun, and people really enjoy it, someone will always try to rain on your parade. Take the muscle car for example. Having reached a crescendo by ’67, insurance companies started to surcharge insurance premiums, putting them out of the reach of anyone under 30 (and thus the no trust in anyone over 30). Then, in ’70, the pesky EPA was legislated into existence to enforce the Clean Air Act, also birthed that year, and we ended up with 400 CI V8 engines that could barely wheeze out 150 measly HP. But wait, there was more as a smackdown in the sand in late ’73 brought on the Arab Oil Embargo and the resulting never-experienced-before fuel prices. And continuing along, nanny staters like the Claybrookers at the National Highway Trafic Safety Administration wanted everyone dressed like the Michelin Man before embarking on an automotive journey. So that brought on 5 MPH bumpers that were larger, in some instances, than railroad ties – along with the weight to go with them. Throw in a seatbelt interlocking system (’74 only), a setup where the car wouldn’t start unless the driver’s belt was fastened, and, well, you get the bleak picture.

Today’s find started out as a Duster base coupe and powered by old reliable, a 150 net HP 318 CI V8 engine. Durable? All-day long! A runner? Not really. No worries, juice it a bit and that’s what’s happened here. The seller states that the sipping-through-a-straw two-barrel carburetor has been replaced with a Holley four-holer perched on an aluminum throne and exhaling through headers, which in turn, connect to pipes that exit in front of the rear wheels, ala NASCAR style. This get-up was all the rage in the early ’70s. The seller adds, “DRIVES AND RUNS GREAT“. A TorqueFlite three-speed automatic gearbox provides the hook-up but one could actually get a four-speed manual transmission with this modest powerplant in ’74.

The exterior is…a matter of taste. Those hood nostrils are certainly visible and seem to be for effect only as they’re not hooked up to anything. I am absolutely not a fan of spoilers but I believe that I am in the minority, so if you favor them, gotcha covered. The Frosty Green Metallic finish looks great, but I’m a green fan so if it looked terrible, I’d still say, Otay! But the paint seems to be in seriously fine shape. I get the blacked-out hood thing, I’m on the fence with that styling cue but regardless, this Duster wears it well and continues the intended vibe. Of note, are the slotted road wheels, similar to the ubiquitous Chevrolet rally wheel. I don’t find them on Mopars often but they are a great take on a simple concept.

Inside is fantastic in its simple, all-business Mopar way. The color matching bench seat is in fine nick, there is a cool after-market steering wheel, under dash engine gauges have been installed, and a fold-down rear seat, greatly enhancing functionality, is part of the package. And, it’s air-conditioned!

What’s not to like? Nothing really, this is the way things were done so many years ago. If you couldn’t buy one of the few remaining muscle cars available, you could build your own with relative ease and at a reasonable cost. Now, 48 years later, I’m convinced there is still a market for a hot-rod like this Duster and it will find a new home soon, wouldn’t you agree?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Connecticut Mark

    I hit ad for Craigslist but comes up Pontiac gran pride with ugly rims, Duster overpriced, ugly spoiler, exhaust should be out the back, rather a 4 speed stick or automatic, but I see hondo passenger side under door and more. Does that A/C work

    Like 0
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      The listing appears to be no longer active, I don’t know how a Pontiac Grand Prix ended up with the Duster’s URL. Sorry for the inconvenience.


      Like 1
  2. DrillnFill

    I like it a lot. Appear to be factory hood scoop, side stripes and deck spoiler, and those aren’t ubiquitous Mopar Rallye wheels but may be Mopar police-spec wheels. It’s something the factory *could* have done and I like it. Only thing I would change is that chintzy steering wheel and buy a new proper chromed grille. At 19 large someone is going to buy this

    Like 0
    • Jakespeed

      The factory DID make/use the police wheels on a “muscle car,” the 1978 Magnum, with the 44 Magnum and Magnum GT packages on a very few cars.

      Unfortunately, the Magnum was a heavy “B-body” sedan (think Roadrunner with more weight related safety “door bars” added), the V-8s of 1978 were strangled with emissions equipment that technology hadn’t caught up to being drivable without very frequent tuning, as performance cars lost the gearing that kept the engines “on the boil,” and Jimmuh Carter’s gas tax increase to pay for badly needed road repairs were hitting everyone in the pocket bookin an effort to increase cruising MPG).

      Chrysler was going broke. Yes, Carter’s “Mailaise Speech” exemplified the mood of the country. Car enthusiasts had a bad time with few choices for performance.

      Like 1
  3. Jack M.

    Even though the hood scoops aren’t hooked up to anything, they should still help drop the under hood temperatures.

    Like 3
  4. Ralph

    Not nit picking here Jim, but we had 2 new 73 Fords with the seat belt inter lock deal. I think it was a 1973 only thing, that is a one year only situation.

    Like 0
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      It definitely was in effect in ’74. I worked for a Chevrolet dealership that year and unhooked many, on brand new cars, for their complaining owners. I also worked there in ’73 and never encountered that “feature” on a single ’73 model.


      Like 2
      • Ralph

        Wonder if this was a Ford thing as ours were bought new in March of 73. Took my drivers ed in a 73 LTD, same thing. Also disconnected the thing on both cars for my Dad. What a different time it was. Maybe it was a 2 year thing?

        Like 0
  5. Steven E Clinton

    All I see when I look at Dusters is a glorified Valiant. (IMO)

    Like 0
  6. Troy s

    This would be more like a hot rod Duster still in the works, or a neat all around car for the tight budget high school kid in the late 1970’s. A part here and there, when money was available, all for the pride and joy of that thrill.
    Nice old Duster with a little extra oomph.

    Like 1
  7. Jon

    Dodge is a mighty fine car, Al Bundy drove one, million miles+

    Like 2

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