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Scrap Yard Find: 1974 Plymouth Duster

The Plymouth Valiant was a solid, reliable car. But in sedan form, it was kind of boring. In an attempt to remedy that, Plymouth designers came up with a fastback coupe version of the venerable compact, which they called the Duster. From the windshield forward, it essentially was a Valiant. But from there back, it was a new automobile and quite attractive. The ploy worked as Plymouth sold so many Dusters in 1970 that Dodge got their version of the car the following year, the Demon. This 1974 Duster is sitting on flat tires in what appears to be a scrap yard and needs saving. It can be found in Linden, New Jersey and available here on eBay by clicking the Buy It Now button for $2,500.

The Duster was featured in Plymouth’s sales brochures for seven model years and more than 1.3 million copies of the car were sold during that time. Through the years, the sporty compact was little changed from calendar to calendar, with mandated larger bumpers after 1973 being the most noticeable differences. 1974 was the car’s best sales year at 281,000 units, due in part to the OPEC oil embargo that drove down fuel availability and drove up prices. Most Dusters were sold with either a 225 six-cylinder or 318 V-8 motor, but you could also buy a Duster 340 (later 360) which was a pretty potent – yet inexpensive – muscle car. 1976 was the swan song for the Duster and Valiant as they were sold alongside their replacement, the Plymouth Volare. Thanks, For A Bodies Only, for the production information.

We’re guessing someone had this ’74 Duster sitting in a barn or field and had the seller come take it away. The seller says they’re not in the business of crushing classic cars, so that leads me to assume its sitting in a scrap yard waiting to be saved from the Grim Reaper. Except for the roof, the body looks straight, although there is evidence of rust along the bottoms of both sides of the car. The glass is good, but the rear bumper is rusty. A red warning sign is flashing in terms of the roof. It looks to be buckled at the peak of the windshield, which may be a reason to consider this as a parts car rather than a restoration project. The upholstery and carpeting are shot, and I wish we could get a view of the roof from inside the car.

There appears to be a 318 V-8 under the hood, flanked by a Torque-Flite automatic, power steering and brakes and factory air conditioning. So, the mechanical set-up is largely standard. The seller says the engine turns, but no attempt has been made to try to start it. I’m also wondering if there are suspension issues given how low the right front is hanging. The whole car is supposed to have 84,000 miles on it. The seller makes it a point to say it will be sold with a bill of sale but also has a clean title. Why bring up the bill of sale if you have a problem-free title?

If this were a solid, running car with no issues to deal with, NADA says it’s a $10-12,000 Duster. But it will need a ton of work to restore it, if the buyer sees it as restorable. I’m thinking this could quickly become a real money pit if the structural integrity of the car is in question. But as a parts car, the price tag needs to be adjusted.


  1. Avatar photo Skorzeny

    I think that just may be the chrome trim strip above the windshield coming up, so maybe the roof there is ok. But there is also something going on above the drivers door glass, and the rear window on that side. Given the price, and the obviousness of these issues in person, there should have been clear pics of both areas. It’s nice that it a ps pb car with a 318. Could be fun if that roof is ok.

    Like 5
  2. Avatar photo Slantasaurus

    Looking close at the ebay pics, the windshield trim is loose in the center but the windshield doesnt look like its cracked. On the drivers side that is just the vinyl from the top peeling up. Its not the upper surfaces that worry me about this car, its everything below. Rockers, doors, quarters in front and behind rear wheels, trunk floor, front floor pans left and right, maybe rears too. Restoring this one back to stock is a fools game, a 318 car will never bring any money even if its 100 point correct. If someone has $50K to throw at it to build a resto rod it will be worth $30K when finished. Still, it doesnt make me not want it. Hello, my name is Slant and I have a problem.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo PatrickM

      There are no rear doors. I don’t understand your statement.

      Like 0
  3. Avatar photo Steve R

    It’s too far gone. There is significant rust under what appears to be previous rust repair. Every panel needs work, including the roof, by the sellers description, but not shown. Besides that, it isn’t running, nor has the seller attempted to start it. These aren’t high dollar cars, finding one in much better condition won’t cost that much more. In terms of both time and money, that’s the smart way to proceed. If someone takes this on as a project, it’s likely a beginner thinking this is the cheap way to go. Not realizing it isn’t, it’s actually the least cost effective sort of project they could start with.

    Steve R

    Like 4
  4. Avatar photo Connecticut Mark

    I had one I bought for 100.00 dollars in 1986, 225 slant , drove a bit then front left side collapsed , , looks like this one has too. was told some structure went, not to fix too expensive , junked got my 100.00 back.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Arthur

    I suspect this car would reveal much more damage if it was to be media blasted. In which case, I suspect that anybody who wanted to tackle this as a project would be spending considerable time browsing the Auto Metal Direct and/or Classic Industries websites.

    As for the roof, a new one would probably need to be created by a metal fabrication outfit since neither company has offered a replacement at this point.

    If anybody wanted to get this car back on the road, they would have to go to an outfit like Mark Worman’s Graveyard Carz for help. And they better have deep pockets, too.

    Like 2
  6. Avatar photo Vjnce H

    These are not a fastback. If you want to see a fastback look at some of the GM cars from the late 40s and early50s.

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Hans VanDyk Member

    not all that bad, seen a lot worse cars for a lot more $

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Little_Cars

    Man, those wheels and that color with a V8? This car must have been something when it was a young Duster. These are a the kinds of cars I’d see sitting in my high school parking lot that would pique my curiosity. I would find out who was driving them and we would typically become great friends. While it might win any high speed stoplight races, it would be a cool ride for you and pals to go cruising or out on a double date.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo bone

      Plus the aftermarket tape player with speakers cut into the doors and that great beer holding 5.99 plastic console. this was a $1000 by the early 80s, and likely was a high schoolers ride.

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo PatrickM

    Good write-up, Russ. I agree with you and most everyone here about this car. This one really is too far gone and I think the seller is dreaming. Another get rich quicker. Besides, no underside pics. That always makes me back up a few steps.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo DON

    Its on the East coast, and that lean usually means one of two things. Either a torsion bar broke , or one of the torsion mounts rotted away . Its had body work to the quarters in the past, so who knows how bad its gotten too over the years. its looks like its been sitting in an dampish garage with a concrete floor as its not destroyed by mice and vegetation. Not worth a restoration by any means , but there are a lot of good parts on this Duster , which are now getting hard to find locally.The V8 K frames always sell quickly

    Like 0

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