Introducing Our Next Project… Er Survivor Car?

1974 Plymouth Duster 2

Since selling our beloved Mustang, I have hinted a few times at a new project in the works. Well, it has been parked in my garage for a few weeks now so it is about time that we present it. Drum roll please… Introducing our 1974 Plymouth Duster! Yeah, I know what you are thinking. A Duster? Really? Come on guys! Let me explain. Many of you have complained that our last few projects have been “pieces of crap”, so we decided to hunt around for something a little nicer. What we found was a true survivor complete with relatively low mileage and documentation to prove it all. The only problem is, we feel guilty every time we take it around the block. Plus this Duster doesn’t really need anything so there isn’t much to write about. So, instead of letting it sit and collect dust, we have listed it here on eBay with a $5k starting bid and no reserve. We are also going to give 5% of this sale to the American Red Cross. Keep reading to learn more about how we found it and what we have learned about its past.

1974 Plymouth Duster 5

Like many of you, I troll my local craigslist for classic cars. Normally, all I find are basket cases and very optimistically priced restored cars. Well, about a month ago I noticed an ad for a Duster. Normally I would have just kept scanning, but for some reason I stopped and read the description. It read, 1974 Plymouth Gold Duster Coupe all original condition with 67,000 miles, factory A/C and factory AM/FM radio. “Hmm. All original with only 67k miles. Everyone says that about their 167k mile restored cars, but maybe I should take a look”. The photos looked good and the price was about right for a restored Duster, so I emailed the owner to setup a time to take a look.

Duster Spare Wheel Well

When I arrived at the owner’s place, I was greeted by a friendly Australian fellow. He was obviously a big car guy, but was out of garage space and could not bare to leave the car to the elements. He mentioned that the car’s condition was the reason that he purchased it less than a year ago. I started to inspect the car and at first assumed it was just an older restoration, but then I looked a little closer. My heart started to beat a little faster when I realized that this really was an original car. A Duster may not have been on my bucket list, but cars like this do not come along very often. I knew I had to have it! A fair price was negotiated and Josh drove our next project back to the garage.

Gold Duster

The owner had recounted a story of how the last caretaker acquired the car from a club member who had purchased it from the original owners. The husband had passed away and his wife was getting on in years, so they decided to sell it. It has supposedly sat in a garage for many years and had always been well cared for. The story sounded good and there was a thick folder of paperwork in the trunk, so we started going through it all in order to piece together the car’s history. Lots of receipts and some old registration slips proved the line of ownership, but I wanted to verify the story with the last owner so I tracked down his phone number and gave him a call. He was happy to hear the Duster was still in good hands. I asked if he could write up his version of the story and lucky for us, he obliged.

Scratches on rear fender

Glad to hear you bought the Duster! Nice to know someone has it that will keep it original. Now the story of me getting the Duster. I bought it from a fellow car club member, who bought it from the son of the original owner. It had sat in a garage on Wilbur Avenue here in Walla Walla for around 10 years. The fellow got it going with the intention of selling it, and the club member bought it, but did not drive it much. He decided he wanted a muscle car and put the Duster up for sale again. Most of the people who were interested in it wanted to turn it into a race car and he did not want that because of it being so original. He offered it to me, because he knew I would keep it that way. It had like 63,000 miles on it when I got it. Still had the bias ply tires on it from 1985, which I believe were put on at around 51,000 miles if I remember right from the paperwork that was with the car.  They had lots of age cracks in them, so I did not drive it out of town until it got new tires. So I bought the factory style Rally Wheels from Wheel Vintiques, found the original style center caps used at Tony’s Parts, and painted them in the Argent silver color. Then I added the radials which are on the car now.

Gold Duster Interior

Other things I did was replace the front seat bottom insert and the driver’s side back piece with NOS material from SMS Auto Upholstery in Canby, Oregon. Should be some info about that material in your papers. Replaced the radiator, the original had a leak near the top seam. Still have that radiator in the garage. Rebuilt the carb, brake work done, added factory power steering, put in the factory AM-FM radio, came with an AM radio, which I sent with the car, so you should have that I hope. Also added an original front/rear speaker switch under the dash, but it was not hooked up when I sold it. Other things I can think of are a new washer fluid bottle, battery tray, master cylinder, the taillight cover and jack cover, which were optional back then. Found them online at Texas Acres Mopar Salvage Yard. Does it still have the Tex Brotherton license frame on the back? That is the original selling dealer. The original owners had the A/C installed at that dealer not long after they bought the car. Still original carpet, back seat, vinyl top, paint, and dings. The front fender and rear quarter dings are from the lady getting too close to the garage entrance from what I understand. Hope this helps. If I think of anything else I will let you know.

1974 Plymouth Duster Motor 2

So, the story lines up and there is paperwork to prove it all. This Duster was a barn find at one point, but because it has always been cared for by enthusiasts, it has somehow escaped the ravages of time. Some work has been done to keep it operating, but luckily the previous owners understood the value of originality so changes were always keep to a minimum. It truly has been a privilege to have such a special vehicle parked in my garage. Most people would not say that about a Duster, but this isn’t just any old Duster. The fact that it is so original makes it valuable and this one actually came with some very cool options too.

Duster Snakeskin Roof

Mopar guys may prefer the V8, but this Duster did come with the optional 225 inline six. It had more power than the base engine, but still provided a level of fuel economy that the V8 could not match. Whoever ordered this car was generous with the rest of the check boxes too! We have mentioned the AC that was added, but it also has the Gold Duster package with a crazy looking snakeskin covered roof and side stripes. The Caravan interior package may be the most distinguishing feature of the car though with its multicolored seats and door inserts. I love the look and the car drives great! We paid fair market value for what a restored Duster would go for in similar condition so it will be interesting to see if this one sells for more. We feel bad turning it around so fast, but we are going to sort out a couple of the small issues we found before shipping it out and the money will go towards another project which presents a little more of a challenge. So, I guess this is hello and goodbye!

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Comments

  1. Joe

    Josh the link says the ebay listing was removed. Not sure what’s up? Do you want to sell direct to a loyal Barnfinders community guy? I’m very interested.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Strange, it works for me. Anyone else having this problem? I do hope it goes to one of our readers because it deserves a good home, but I would feel bad about ending the auction early. I suppose if someone makes us a good offer before anyone places a bid, it might be okay. Otherwise we will just have to see how the auction plays out.

  2. jim s

    slant 6 with a manual. you guys have been holding out on us, and my guesses were way off. $5000 and no reserve, somebody is going to be a very happy new owner. this is a daily driver that can keep up with todays traffic and is big enough to include the whole family. great find

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah, I bet we threw you off with this one Jim! Truth is, sometimes you have to go with what you can find, not what you hope to find. We just purchased another car today though that was actually something I had been looking for specifically. Any guesses?

      • jim s

        no guesses, without a hint (photo) , but i look forward to learning what the next new BF project car is. no bids on this car yet for some reason. not only could this car be a daily driver it could be someones only car.

  3. DT

    Nice, I bought a 1974 Dart GT in simular condition, with a v8 and the hurst 4 speed.Nothing wrong with selling it if you want something else.But it is nice,either way win win

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      This is a very nice car DT and honestly, if I had the space and means, I would add this to my permanent collection.

  4. Dave Wright

    Great car, these were head and shoulders above the comparable Fords and Chevys. Torsion bars, roller wheel bearings, 60 lbs oil pressure, larger brakes, the slant 6 Id legendary for it’s longevity and durability.

  5. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Well it’s not a Hemi ‘Cuda, but then again not many cars are. To me this Duster is a very good looking vintage Mopar coupe that’s probably one of the most original ones left on the planet. I’ll bet someone could get a lot of interest with it at pretty much any Show ‘N Shine in No America from people who either had one in their family, or wanted to. With its good looks and that tough slant-6, those people probably have good memories of the service and pleasure they got from their time with it.

    The auction is on and it will be interesting to see how the car does. I’m sure it will get bids, maybe from people who had one or wanted one years ago. I can’t wait to see what Jesse and Josh put in the Barn Finds garage next with the proceeds.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      We already purchased another project today Dolphin! So any money made from the auction after paying the auction fees and the donation to the Red Cross will go into restoring it. I have some fun ideas for a whole series of articles so it should be fun.

  6. JB

    Hi Josh,
    I always wonder why, and I know there is a reason, but it would be so illuminating if you could tell us what the previous owner was asking for the car and how the negotiations went. I know there is a chance to hurt the previous owners feelings but if you determine that that is not going to happen it sure would help the rest of us in learning how to negotiate a purchase.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      There was no trick here JB. We inspected the vehicle and obviously it was in good shape so we looked up what other cars have sold for in similar condition. Then we were able to make an offer that we could feel good about.

  7. JL Schmidt

    When I met the woman who would become my wife she was driving a new 1974 Dodge Dart Sport. Virtually the same car as this Duster, save for the color. It was dark green with a white vinyl canopy roof and a white stripe that actually went across the back of the roof and down the side. That was one of the cars I owned that I wish I still had. I was driving a new 1974 Ramcharger at the time, green with a removable white steel top. Matching 1974 Dodges. Hers had a 318, mine a 360. We knew we were meant for each other … and have been for 40 years.

  8. Don Andreina

    Had the 225 in an AP5 oz Valiant wagon. Was a bee-ach to start on cold days but a good engine nonetheless. Love that snakeskin, should’ve come with matching boots. Good luck on the sale, guys.

    • Joe Howell

      LOL on the boots.

      1
  9. Leon

    Wonder if any Feather Duster editions survived.? I have my late grandmothers 74 Dart Swinger with the 225 slant 6 motor. Hope to get it road worthy one day

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I have seen a few Feather Dusters around Leon, but not very often. They sure made a lot of interesting variations of the Duster! My personal favorite was the Space Duster with its fold down rear seat and carpeted trunk area. It just made sense with that high belt line in the back. You could haul lots of cargo and I bet more than a few kids had fun crawling back there on long journeys.

  10. Joe T

    I had a 76 Duster back in 1978 with the same engine and trans. The car would cruise at 65 on the highway and still get 29 MPG. One of the few cars I wish I still had. Traded it for a 76 Ramcharger when I moved to Alaska. Wish I still had the Ramcharger as well. I’ve been on the lookout for another Duster ever since. Great find and good luck with the sale.

  11. Barry

    This is a real beauty, hard to believe it is 40 years old. That interior is so 1970’s.

  12. L.M.K. Member

    Interesting find and story.

    The Ebay link doesn’t work for me ….

  13. Mathieu Belanger

    I’m less than a mopar fan but the combo colors/stripes on this Duster would interest me a lot, what a truly nice “rided” survivor!

  14. MH

    The link works good for me. Bid it at $5100 with 9 days and 11 hours left.

  15. Doug M. (West Coast)

    Amazing find, Jesse… This is a very nice survivor -and I love that interior!! As for selling early, I do a lot on ebay, and here is my advice (free, so you know what that means): You will get a number of people wanting to buy it from you “on the side.” I would say “trust the market” and just let it ride out to the end. A car this nice will have strong interest. Those who know what they are doing will not be putting all their bids up until the end of the auction. I think this will do very well. Good luck! So, here is my guess for your next project: something German, like maybe an early BMW?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      We actually did have a lot of people contact us with “offline” offers. It was tempting, but we held out and were able to get a little more for the car.

  16. L.M.K. Member

    FYI: I tried the Ebay link again & it does work for me now…..

  17. Alan (Michigan)

    When I was in school in the early 70’s in Quincy, IL…. I worked a second shift job at a local factory. One of my co-workers loved the Darts and Dusters. So much, that when he wrecked/totaled one, he would get another to replace it. And, he did that several times.

    Amazingly, he only spent one night in the hospital, following his closest brush with the reaper: After losing control of the 340-powered car on a slippery 2-lane country road, crossing a drainage ditch and becoming airborne, he was thrown clear of the car when it broke in two against a telephone pole, 10 feet off the ground. As he told it, the Illinois State Trooper who was first to the scene was white as a ghost when Gordy touched him on the shoulder while he was looking through the wreckage for a corpse.

    That guy severely wrecked more cars in 4 years than Richard Petty did. Mostly Mopars. I’ve occasionally wondered if he survived the decade.

  18. Sid Cannon Sid Member

    This is a very nice looking car with a great color combination and that interior is perfect for the era. That plaid interior reminds me of an early Porsche 911.

  19. Barry Thomas

    Jesse,
    What a great old Duster. I always liked this design and it has aged very well. The interior? Well, that certainly is a product of the ’70’s. A good solid car to show off at the local cruise. Be interesting to see where the $ end up.
    Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

  20. Raredan

    Just started following Barn Finds yesterday and was very intrigued by the first car I saw, your Gold Duster When I saw the floor shifter, I figured this was a Feather Duster, but most of those had a Hurst 4 speed, with 4th gear being an overdrive gear. I drove one that my dad had when I was in high school Great fun to bang through the long shifter throws and incredible MPG, especially for what we referred to then as a mid-sized car.

    I love this car and believe it is a very rare Duster equipped as it is. Great choice BF!

  21. Carl W French

    Great find! The Slant six was the US version of the Volvo Red Block as far as bullet proof. The first car I drove when I got my license was our family’s ’74 Dodge Dart Sport. like this one. Had bright red with white interior and half vinyl top (It had the white stripe down the side and over the roof too. Being 17 in the mid late 70’s with a car that was a poor man’s Starsky and Hutch car was a lot of fun :-) Miss that car

  22. Elizabeth

    I LOVE that interior!
    I think this is an awesome choice!

  23. Josh Mortensen Josh Staff

    Hey Guys, I just wanted to add my experience with the Duster. When Jesse told me about it, I was a bit skeptical. I like Mopars, but the Duster hasn’t ever been my favorite. When we finally went and looked at it, I couldn’t believe the condition. It really is incredible. After we finished the deal, I grabbed the keys and jumped right in it. I knew Jesse wanted to drive it home, but I wasn’t about to let him have all the fun. As soon as I was on the open road I turned on the radio, tuned it to the local oldies channel, and cruised with a big grin on my face.

    It’s an incredibly smooth driving car and every time I’ve gotten to drive it, it just makes me smile. It’s not the same kind of smile the Mustang created, but it’s still a blast. I actually borrowed it to take a date and another couple to the old drive in out in Caldwell, ID and talk about an awesome evening! On the way to picking up my date I got more thumbs up than I’ve ever gotten in any other car. I even had a fellow driver chase me down to ask the year and if it was restored!

    When I picked up my date her response was total shock and amazement, she didn’t know an old car could look so good without a restoration. When we got to the drive-in, the older lady running the place was blown away by the Duster, she even said it reminded her of the good old days! During the movie, I discovered the old stereo isn’t nearly as good as a modern one, but the comfy bench seat more than made up for it!

    I’m actually sad to see this car go, but we have a new project waiting to be towed into the garage and before we can do that this one needs to go. I hope it goes to a good home where its originality can be preserved. You just don’t see cars in this kind of condition every day! If you have questions about it, please just ask.

    • Don Andreina

      For some reason, when I think of you two fighting over the keys I’m picturing Scott Caan and Casey Affleck from the Oceans movies.

      • Josh Mortensen Josh Staff

        What’s scary is that’s a pretty accurate comparison. Jesse is the wheeler dealer, while I’m the one that can fix and drive just about anything with wheels. We also hassle each other endlessly, which has been know to lead to wrestling matches. Maybe the next time we deal on a car I’ll film the whole scene so you guys can watch us battle over the keys!

  24. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I don’t think this is the Mopar for me, but I do like all Mopars. I love this story, and it is interesting that it has passed through 4 hands after being well cared for by the original owner.
    It really needs to find its new forever home, in the hands of someone who will care for it (and not modify it) like the original owner did.
    Good luck, and I am really interested in seeing what this will sell for – early 70’s Mopars of all ilk are bringing the money these days.

  25. thefatkid

    Jesse,

    Love the duster. it is totally an under-appreciated vehicle. That is cool you are going to support American Red Cross. Good luck selling it

  26. Ian @ Jewel or Jalopy

    Great pickup! I drove a 74 Valiant through high school, a total rust bucket that was luckily brown to begin with and hid the rust. I aspired to a Duster, would love to get one someday.

    Good luck with the sale.

  27. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    I just updated the gallery with some photos of the fender and door tags as well as the documentation that I have. The build sheet is there too. Anyone want to undertake the challenge of decoding it?

    • Bill

      Hi guys – Love the Duster, owned one very similar that had the 198 cubic inch slant six / 3-speed in the floor back in 1978.

      You may have an issue with this one. I just took a look at the build sheet and believe its for another car. The vehicle identification number on the build sheet [VL29C4G209887] should match the decal inside the driver’s door jamb, the fender tag, and the VIN plate located on top of the driver’s side dash (visible through the windshield). Doesn’t look like you have a picture of the VIN plate, but the door jamb decal and the fender tag match [VL29C4G218459].

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks for catching that Bill. Perhaps the wrong build sheet was placed under the seat at the factory? Anyone ever hear of this happening? I don’t see any reason why the previous owner would pass along a build sheet from another car.

  28. Don Barzini

    What a great find! While I love the more common collector cars of this era, it’s refreshing to see something different like a Duster. I can go years without seeing one in the Northeast.

    Years ago I remember watching some kid roll a Duster onto its roof because he came around a corner too fast. Like many cars in that era, handling was never a strength.

  29. skloon

    That gas filler tube in the trunk really looks like an afterthought

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Well yea, I’d think that it really was. Perhaps there was a late design change, or a swap from a right to a left filler. Much less concealed/tailored/pre-planned than today’s cars, but you just have to think in terms of the period capabilites for planning and design.

      • Dave Wright

        I bet it had something to do with a last minute safety change. Looks like a lot of the other silliness that was going on in those years with smog and NBC putting explosives in GM fuel tanks to make them blow up on contact. Pickup fuel tanks were moved from in the cab to outside the frame rails to inside the frame rails during these years.

  30. pursang

    Has anyone asked Al Bundy if he needs a new Duster?

    • Joe Howell

      Forgot about Al Bundy. Guess this is the Duster he aspired to.

  31. Charles

    Sweet!

  32. ConservativesDefeated

    Too weird. In 1976 my then girlfriends sister had a ’74 Duster with a slant six. It was the epitome of a square car. She was pretty tall so it worked for her. Funny how 40 years can make a car attractive to some. This interior just screams seventies BROWN. Next thing you know someone will want to wear a leisure suit.

    It’s saving grace of course is it’s originality and simplicity. Too bad it’s been passed around so many folks for a relatively short ownership, on the other hand they all seemed to have taken care of it.

  33. Lawrence

    Oh no, not a Duster, you guys are killing me!
    First car was a 71Duster that sat in front of a guy’s house for a.year. Local wrecking company told him it would be $50 to tow it away, so he sold it to me for $25. Quick trip to Midas for a muffler, then drove it home in the pouring rain. The windshield wipers flew off. Forever known after as “The Bomber”, it took me from beach to work, and NYC cabbies would pull me overe and want to buy the engine out of it. Those slant sixes were bulletproof.
    Love my project Mustang btw, going to have coffee in her now, living the dream. So tempting, though, but my Bomber never looked this good, ever. Thanks J&J!

  34. RickyM

    Love it. Not heard of or seen one of these before – great looking 70’s car.

  35. Joe Howell

    Never cared for these when they were common but this one really looks great. Even as a dyed in the wool Chevy man I would be happy to have such a nice example. Original cars of any make I always appreciate.
    I spotted a convoy of 7 or 8 Corvairs today while taking a Sunday ride in the 944. I had a 63 Spyder way back. Had a lot of Turbo lag but it was cool little car.

  36. Darren

    I was so excited when browsing my daily email from Hemmings to see your Duster as one of the featured cars off to the side.

  37. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Wow, bidding is already up to $7,755! How high will it go?

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Vet your bidders, Jesse.

      I have always used the capability of contacting bidders on significant items, to make sure that they are “real”, and capable of completing a transaction.

      The auction seems to be going well, and it is a long way from the common flurry of last-second efforts. Nice.

  38. NMMoPaR

    As I am a huge MoPaR fan this find has lead me to add my email to your list. My hope is that you are equal opportunity builders and aren’t shivvy or phord mainly. This Duster is a piece of unmolested MoPaR history. And I would own it if I had the means and wasn’t already building a 73 Duster. Great story

  39. ConservativesDefeated

    Jesse…..The more I think about this ..notwithstanding your reasons………..like m o n e y…I thinnk selling this might be a mistake, even though I’m not partial to the seventies interior. A survivor is a survivor.and with four on the floor……….jiminy crickets!
    They’re only original once.even a Duster

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