Rusted And Dusted: 1974 Plymouth Duster

The owner of this “Plymoth” listed on craigslist had great plans for his Duster, bought some parts and then lost interest. Perhaps when he removed the vinyl top he realized how much rust damage there is and got cold feet. For only $1,500 or less, perhaps it’s worth a look even with the rusty top and collision damage. People are asking a lot of money for these Dusters. Here’s a craigslist ad for the only other Duster I could find this cheap. It actually makes this car look like a real bargain. Thanks to Pat L for the tip!

The Duster looks nice inside, if really plain. Why do you suppose the owner removed the AC ducting and radio?

It looks complete, tidy and fairly clean under the hood. It just needs a battery and air cleaner. This 318 with only about 150HP isn’t very exciting, but has more potential than the slant six you’d expect to see under here.  Also, the V8 cars came with disc brakes.

Here’s the bad news. Besides the obvious holes where it’s rusted through, there are likely lots of pinholes. It won’t be pretty once the rust is ground away.

This Duster has had a bump in the rear as well as the more extensive damage on the left door. What possibilities do you see here? Perhaps it’s worth at least reassembling it and fixing the roof to start. The wheels would have to go as well, don’t you think? This duster could make a great driver and could be improved over time. It’s SMOG exempt in California, so it has sleeper potential. With a little work, a lot more than 150 horsepower could be coaxed out of this 318 if one were inclined.


  1. Adam T45 Staff

    As long as there’s no rust around the front or rear glass, there’s potential in this. I’d be inclined to fix it and look at a repaint in a darker colour. I’ve also seen those wheels polished up and against a darker colour they look pretty trick.

  2. Bingo

    He says “I’m gonna scrap the thing”. Please, someone in Dallas go give him $800 and tow it out of there.

    • George

      I agree. Save this one. Lots of potential here.

  3. G.P. Member

    I like the wheels and if it was closer, I would make a bid on it.

  4. George

    Save it. Bodywork is doable no major stuff. Price is right if he’s fed up enough to mention scrapping it. Me personally I’d find a 340, maybe even go with a 4spd and after some welding on the roof to dry it in drive it and work out a panel a weekend. Then just a matter of picking a color. One of few on here wouldn’t be underwater on provided the buyer is capable.

    Like 1
  5. Mr. TKD

    That’s an aftermarket wheel. Does anyone know who makes/made it?

    • George

      I want to say Aspen…starts with an A pretty sure. Remember them and they are period correct if anyone cares about that. Could be off on the name but had a set back in the 70’s.

    • George

      Just came to me…Ansen, or maybe it’s spelled Anson. But that’s the name.

    • Chebby

      I’ve heard them referred to as Appliance wheels. They do look nice.

      If all the junk in the trunk comes with the car, those headers and the Chevy Impala SS hubcaps would get you some nice $$ back on ebay.

  6. S Ryan

    Fun cars. If keeping it small block gear the snot out of it. 4:56-4:88.
    Or go with a 440 and a roll bar and good seatbelts.
    Trust me.

  7. speedy D

    Looks to be a pretty solid car –it has A/C and optional fold-down rear seat and rear trunk panel (to hide taillights when the rear seat is down) — these cars are notorious for having rotted quarter panels — this one appears to be in pretty good shape overall.

  8. Allan

    “I figure I’d offer it up here before I just scrap the thing”

    I never understand this line, which I happen to see in a lot of the craigslist ads. They are basically telling us that they want to try to get a lot more money from this car than it’s really worth.

  9. Mitch

    A lot of potential, as long as the underneath isn’t rusted. Reminds me a lot of my ’73, which was my 1st car, & mine had an identical “hoss kick” in the rear tail panel like this one. They will move out with the 318, & as a matter of fact, when I scrapped mine, my bud pulled the motor & tranny & put them in his Dodge truck shortbed, with some slight mods, he won a few races on the 1/4 mile. (on this car, the front bumper looks like a ’73 (larger bumper guards) while the rear appears to be correct ’74.)

  10. Red'sResto

    Another example of potential being inversely proportional to price…

  11. Pete W.

    Each to his own and all that, but I never understood the fascination with these things. My Dad bought a new Scamp back in ’74 with the 318 (essentially the same car) and it was a sloppy, poorly made, mass of rattles from Day 1.

    If I remember correctly, he only kept it a few years and it was starting to rust when he got rid of it, including a rust through hole in the center of the driver’s door!

    Compared to the Pontiacs he typically drove, the materials and assembly quality was a joke.

    I don’t what the heck he was thinking when he bought it. Truly an awful car, but I guess you could say that about a lot of Detroit iron back then.

  12. Blindmarc

    I have built several a- bodies. This one is good because it has the 5 on 4-1/2″ bolt pattern. The bad side is the rear is probably a 7-1/4, which will break with descent hp applied to it. It’s a good starting point, but require mechanicals such as all bushings, 8-3/4 rear end, and the stock 904 tranny will need some help too. I learned a lot of valuable lessons on the last 75 I bought, that originally had a slant 6 in it. But had a built 406 & 904 with a 3600 stall converter when I got it. Little f70-14’s didn’t help on the drive home… the fact that the idiot who built the engine used fell-pro gasket sealer on everything. And I do mean everything.

  13. Blindmarc

    Also, weatherford is about 40 miles west of Fort Worth, so 70 miles from Dallas. I lived in ft. Worth for years…..

  14. AER

    Those wheels are 70s Appliance Wire Mags.

  15. Bruce Best

    We had one of these in the day and it was one of the very few cars I would call dangerous to own. It would stall regularly upon acceleration or just maintaining an even speed without warning. I just about got killed a couple of times when pulling out into traffic.

    Replace the carburators and the engine but do not leave it with the original set up and smog equipment in place. Other than that it was a nice car in the day. Not to big not to small and while not a sports car by any means it handled well for what it was. Ours was white with a white vinyl roof and light gray interior. It looked good for the time, but it is one of the very few cars I hated to drive because it always seemed out to get you.

  16. Car Guy

    The Appliance Wire Mags fill the fender openings nicely. It nice to see “deep dish” wheel again since most of the new ones are “hella flush” as the kids say.

    The car is repairable and the desirable fast back body style. I hope someone saves it.

  17. smittydog

    Drop a 340 4 speed, a good rear end and go nuts!

  18. Rustytech Member

    Gotta love those vinyl roofs. This looks good and the roof is repairable, well optioned and reasonably priced. I was working at a Chrysler dealer as a prep mechanic when these were built, and yes they had some pretty bad assembly issues, if they were addressed correctly at the dealer level they were good. I always liked them, and have owned 3 over the years. I agree it would look better in a darker color, I see blue with white bumble bee stripes, 340 with 8 1/4 rear, and 4speed. Unfortunately it way to far from me.

  19. Jeff

    Vinyl roofs were horrible! I had a ’74 Camaro with a vinyl top, noticed one day bubbles under it and started peeling it off-what a nightmare! Entire roof was rusting away underneath. Never again!

  20. JohnD

    @ Car Guy: Is the word “hella” still in use? I recall that to be one of the ultra-cool 80s words we used back in that day. Attractive body style but I never owned one. Original or restored, they seem to be reasonably priced “classic” cars. But judging by many of the comments, there must be a reason for that…

  21. Bob C.

    Hey David F, about the 150 horsepower. Not as bad as you might think. This is SAE net, which isn’t as bad as it seems. Originally the 318 was rated at 230 gross horsepower and yes, granted, compression was lowered after 1970 in the weening towards unleaded gasoline. Still, the 318 still had some go to it in these kind of cars.

  22. Cade

    I ended up buying the duster. Stumbled upon this website late at night. Realizing it was mine haha. Figured I would give y’all a update.(if anyone cared) His main reason for getting rid of it was, everytime he worked on it, he broke more than he could fix. Mechanical the car did not run. He had removed the manifold, every spark plug, oil filter, steer rack, shock and even the torsion bar on the passenger side in attempt to install the header, obviously unsuccessful. (any mopar a-body owner knows that the passengers side header is a breeze compared to the driver side, trust me.) but the final straw for him was catching the driver side door on his garage rolling it out. The Door was bent so bad it was inches away from latching shut. The Rust on the roof was minimal. Spent most of my time putting it back together, finding out that either some part, bolt or nut was missing. And if it was there it was beaten off with a hammer, striped, or need to be re tapped. The most rewarding part was starting it up the first time. The motor was good! No knocking, overheating, blow by or smoke of any sorts. It only took a new fuel lines, fuel pump, plugs, wires, battery, ballast resistor, installation of the headers and some fresh gas to get it started. But the weary duster is road worthy. Surprisingly the brakes and trans both worked. Plans are in the works, have a 340 and 8 3/4 rear to install in the car, whenever they get finally rebuilt. Sorry for the long post. Actually left out a lot.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Cade, thanks for chiming in!!! Include some pictures if you get a chance!

      Like 1

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