By on January 17, 2013

Not everyone shares my interest in the K-variant Chrysler P platform, so I limit Shadow and Sundance Junkyard Finds to just the more historically significant members of the P family. Like, say, this ’93 Shadow ES, this ’91 Shadow, this ’92 Sundance, and this hard-to-find Sundance America. Today, we’ll be looking at one of the weirdest Sundances of them all: Chrysler’s fourth platform bearing the Duster name.
The P-based Duster was the quickest Duster since the days when you could get an A-body with a 340-cubic-inch V8, thanks to its Mitsubishi V6.
Of course, beating the Turismo- and Volare-based versions wasn’t much of a challenge. Check out this mean-looking hood bulge!


We really can’t talk about any variety of Duster without referring to the infamous “Cocaine Factory” ad for the 1985 Turismo Duster. This may well be the Greatest Car Ad of All Time.
Will we miss the Sundance Duster when the last one is gone?

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77 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1994 Plymouth Sundance Duster...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Kill it with fire.

    Also, wtf is up with that commercial; it felt like an acid trip.

  • avatar
    High-brid

    …And people thought the Eminem Super Bowl ad was impressive.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    My dad rear-ended one of these in our family truckster in Ocean City years ago. The driver thanked him for improving the bodywork.

    Seriously, though, my friend’s Voyager was mighty quick with the Mitsu 3.0, so I imagine this much lighter Duster would be even quicker.

    I think I prefer the looks of the Voyager, however.

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      I had one of these in years past, a light blue V6 Duster with the “power bulge” hood… I Have to say that for the time, the power was decent, comparable to a Z24. I enjoyed that car.

  • avatar
    Easton

    My dad had a ’72 Duster when he was young. I remember being a kid when these one came out and hearing him cry foul over what an embarassment this was to the Duster name. I just can’t think of any cars we have today that are this cheesey.

    BTW, great ad. Can’t believe how much money must have been spent on promoting a car that, even when new, looked like a complete wreck. Gotta love the 80′s. I think that song is now stuck in my head.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Now we know where the idea for the Chevy Volt auto show dance came from.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    That’s no car ad…that’s a full length Cyndi Lauper music video!

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    That ad was like a big wreck on the freeway–I knew it would be awful, but I couldn’t stop myself from looking. Thanks for reminding me why I’ve erased much of the 80′s from my memory.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I actually enjoyed the 80′s. I miss the bright colors, bad TV shows, and the “We’re about to be nuked by the Russians, so might as well dance.” exuberance.

      It was like being on Ecstasy for a whole decade.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        +1

        It was a great time to be in high school. Class of ’87, so right in the heart of it. Thankfully I went to a snooty preppy school, so the fashions and hairstyles were not completely out of control.

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    This is a fairly optioned out Sundance. I owned an 88 Shadow turbo and it was plenty fast although it suffered from turbo lag if you failed to downshift when you jumped on the gas. I understand the Mitsu V6 put out virtually the same performance numbers so I would expect this would have been a fast car back in the day. In my heart of hearts, however, I worry that the V6 strips away some 2.2 Turbo 4 cyl’s wonderful, peaky personality.

    I always appreciated the seats that let you sit up tall and the cabin that offered great all around visibility. I think the earlier models with the sealed beam headlghts look the best but by 94 they had the look of the new units right. I think I like the Shadow’s grill a little better than the Sundace.

    You haters can hate. Back when cars like this ruled the world this was a lot of bang for your buck. Good, cheap fun and at least as attracive as the ’74 Valiant I owned – and lest we get too carried away with how beloved the old Duster was, let’s not forget that Al Bundy owned one… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KnvrBmhUmE

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The early model Lancer/Shadow were sealed beam, at least in the ’85 MY.

      • 0 avatar
        tmkreutzer

        That’s right. The Lancer had 4 sealed beam units, the Shadow/Sundace had 2.

        The lights on the early models were recessed a few inches on either side of the grill. In 1990 or so they went over to an areodynamic looking light set-up that brought the lights out even with the grill, but the lights were more narrow or something and looked odd to me. By 1992 they changed them again, maybe a different shape or something, that looked more like the old shape and the look of the car improved again IMO.

        Since we’re sharing old commercials, this is the ad I saw sometime in 1987 and the reason I went down in October of that year to factory order mine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W8OYymfmJQ

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “I always appreciated the seats that let you sit up tall and the cabin that offered great all around visibility.” +1

      The P-cars also had a very usable back seat with plenty of headroom. “Packaging” seems to be a lost art in automotive design these days. It was a particular strength of the Shadow and Sundance.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      These hardly ever cracked top 20 in sales, and not very memorable, per all he posts about the smoking oil.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    God that ad, How 80′s-Flashdance crossed with Scarface. At least the main character can drive a stick.

    There was a convertible version of the Shadow which I think is a rarity and would be neat to find for a summer cruiser. ASC did the conversions, basically a shorter LeBaron convertible. Back over the summer I saw one down at the shore. The door fit at the latch seemed off from flexing or just plain old age.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      As bad as I know these cars to be, I still wouldn’t mind having a drop-top one,Lebaron convertible or even the K car variations as a summer car. Getting scarce though, especially here in the Rust Belt. Still see a lot in the south, in various states of repair.

      • 0 avatar
        tmkreutzer

        As much as I love the Shadow, if I wanted a drop top I would be after a 1988-ish LeBaron. There is just something right about the lines and they have aged very gracefully. They aren’t a light little race car like the Shadow, but they are good cruisers.

        I live in Buffalo and see them at decent prices on Craigslist from time to time. The coupes all seem to have disappeared, but the drop tops soldier on.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    The ad shows the Duster’s most important feature!

    The hazard lights.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The “star” of the ad is Finola Hughes. She would be 53 today and is from England. She actually has a very long resume, starting in 1979 as a dancer with her break coming being along side John Travolta in Staying Alive in 1983. She was on Jack’s Place (no idea what that was, but ran for more than one season) and LA Law before landing a role on Blossom. She did four years on General Hospital and won a Daytime Emmy, and did seven years on Charmed.

    Not really recognizable today from the curly blonde hair in the Duster ad (yikes) but a very attractive woman.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    My best friend got the Dodge Shadow variant brand new,albeit the 4 cyl model, when he turned 16. I had an 81 Regal that was free to me from my grandparents. The Shadow seemed almost cutting edge compared to my Malaise Coupe! Power output from the 2.5 was about the same as my 3.8 Buick.

    Autobox was replaced once in it’s life, some other minor things, but really an OK car for what it was. He had it until 2002 when he was in an accident and totaled it.

    I’m pretty sure no tears will be shed when these are all gone. But it was an interesting time. A V6 powered these and the top shelf Cavalier Z-24 for a long time before domestic 4′s got out of the dinosaur Iron Duke stage. I mean, the 2.5 four in this made about 105-120 hp I believe, the same displacement in my Altima and many other cars now is good for 160-170 or so. Even the 95 Altima made 150hp, the same as the V6 in this thing!

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      The 1995 neon(sold alongside this car for a short time in 1994) made 150hp from a 2.0 that got substantially better fuel mileage than the 2.4 in the Nissan :)

      Neon was the same size as Altima. I don’t know why it was sold as a compact.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The first generation Altima WAS a compact. The second gen was nearly a foot longer, with a 7″ longer wheelbase, and 3-1/2 inches wider. The first gen was just a fancy Sentra, in the same class as the Neon. In fact, the current Sentra is now the same size as the first gen Altima, but with a weaker engine.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The first generation Altima was the forth generation Stanza sold in the US, which was always one size up from the Sentra. While the Stanza and early Altimas were compacts, the Sentras were considerably smaller subcompacts at the time. They certainly weren’t fancy Sentras by any definition, considering the Altima’s 8 inch longer wheelbase, 10 inch greater length, 50% bigger engine, and larger measures in every other dimension.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I thought the 2.0 was only good for around 135 hp? I seem to remember this, because they slapped the 2.0 in the de-contented Plymouth Breeze a few years after Neon came around, since the other “Cloud Cars” had the 150hp 2.4 standard with the Mitsu V6 optional.

        Either way, the 2.0 and 2.4 Chrysler engines at that time were more advanced than the 2.2 or 2.5 they were replacing.

        I forgot how small the original Altima was and how much room the original Neon had, though like most of the “cab-forward” cars and the later Beetle, much of it was wasted on a Little Tikes picnic table worth of plastic dashboard.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    “Not everyone shares my interest in the K-variant Chrysler P platform”

    No, but bless those who love the scorned and forgotten. Reminds me of FordTempoFantatic (think that was his handle) on Jalopnik who totally rocked the Ford Tempo. Of all the obscure cars to love on. I really enjoyed that guy.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The interior (sans headliner) appears to have held up very well. Shocking to think a car built in 1994 is now 19 years old! I’ll suspect tranny failure and not being worth to fix is what brought it to its demise.

    • 0 avatar
      leonidas

      I’m telling ya, if they would have let Lear build the whole car instead of just the upholstered parts, they’d all still be running! I always look forward to checking out these K-variant interiors. Keep it up, Murilee!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    That video brings back really bad memories of “Staying Alive.”

    Watch at your own risk. You might lose IQ points.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    What is it about a girl in a short skirt & high heals working a stick shift in a cocaine commercial??? I wanted a Sundance/Duster or a Saab 9000 Turbo when I started driving. Then I learned about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Mmm the 9000 is beautiful.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      I had a $500 ’89 9000 Turbo when I started driving. It cost me $4000 within the two years I owned it, so I suppose you’re not entirely wrong.

      That said, despite its condition I have never loved a car more, and would buy a cherry early-90s 9000 Aero in a heartbeat if having two cars were practical for me.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The only thing that interests me about the P-platform is how Chrysler managed to make it less roomy on the inside than the K-cars.

  • avatar
    Pan

    The “Duster” shown is an Omni/Horizon variant, not a Plymouth Sundance/Dodge Shadow.

  • avatar
    autojim

    Brown Duster is Brown…

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I sure won’t miss those junk 3.0 liter Mitsubishi V6′s. We used to joke every time we were out driving and saw a huge cloud of oil smoke and my friend would say “where is the 3.0 liter V6″ and low and behold a Mitsubishi V6 equipped Caravan, Duster, Dynasty or any one of it’s twins would be fogging away 2 to three cars in front of us literally every time. Even worse was this engine paired with the Ultra-junk trans axle. Two repair shops in the area at the time actually hired a Chryco guy to solely dedicate in swapping out these trannys. I remember the one guy they nick named Hairy (for obvious reasons) that bragged he could do 5 of these trans axles in a days shift. I never stuck around the entire day to verify that but he could swap them out blind folded.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      If you see a smoking old Chrysler it could be the Mitsu V6 or a turbo variant with a blown turbo. I think the Mitsu 2.6 models had some valve seal issues like the V6 as well.

    • 0 avatar
      James Courteau

      I know those engines were junk, but they seem to fall into that strange category of “runs terribly longer than most cars will run at all.”

      My boyfriend’s mom drove a Caravan with this engine for the past twenty years. It was absolutely terrifying to ride in, but that may have been due to her poor driving as much as this engines spastic tendencies. Hers predated the UltraDeath, so I imagine the three cog Torque-Flight contributed to its longevity. The thing finally blew a head gasket last year and we downsized her to a Versa hatch. My six speed Versa is a pocket rocket, but OOFFDA, does her four speed auto ever hate to dance!

      On a related note, I’ve also had the misfortune of working on a Mitsu 3.0 V6 in a Sebring. That thing is wedged in tighter than a cow in a cat-flap!

  • avatar
    markholli

    This commercial has become an institution among my family and friends. If you can find a one-minute video that more thoroughly embodies the ’80s, you buy it.

    “Don’t wanna be sad no more…” And the K-car is going to make that happen.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    So THAT’S where the song in my head comes from every time I see the word “duster”. Curse you, 1980′s.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Had a Shadow/Sundance (forget which) four-banger as a business rental in the mid-nineties and showed up with it at my aunt’s house to take her out to dinner after a day full of meetings. While the car did nothing for me, Auntie Dear simply could not get over what a luxurious, well-appointed, roomy and powerful vehicle she felt I had commandeered. It’s all she talked about the rest of the night, wondering if I’d become CEO without telling her, etc. Of course, her personal ride at the time was a 1978 VW Rabbit which probably never broke 45 mph, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my rent-a-Mopar was a very average car by 90′s standards.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    “Of course beating the Turismo and Volare based versions wasnt much of a challenge.” Ever heard of cheap, easy to bolt on aftermarket parts for V8 engines? In stock smog strangled form the Volare based RR beat the 400 Trans Am in the quarter.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “In stock smog strangled form the Volare based RR beat the 400 Trans Am in the quarter.”

      But you didn’t describe the rest of the competition:

      “Unfortunately, due to the fact that the Volare-based RR rusted through the floorboards, we were only able to run this test once, so the Trans Am won due to forfeit.”

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Umm, yeah, I already knew what a piece of crap the F body was when it came out. That was beside the point.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      But then the competition would be unfair, modified Volare vs stock sundance Duster.

      Plus, the Turismo was a 4 cylinder.

      Though, a Duster vs a Shelby GLH Charger would be interesting.

  • avatar
    mister_p

    Wow, I had one of these, bought a demo in ’94 in Plymouths teal-like metallic blue. It actually handled decently once I put good rubber on it. Fully optioned with the abs and manual V6 it was a fun little car for the time. Lots of room to haul stuff too with the hatch, a great feature we don’t see enough of today.
    I got lucky and the mitsu V6 didn’t smoke after the 5 years I had it. Sadly with only 2 payments to go on it the car was stolen and written off. Up until then it was mint! :-(
    Thanks for posting!

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Technically, there were five different bodied Plmouth Dusters. Besides the most well-known ’70-’76 A-body version, ’79-’80 Volaré, ’85-’87 Turismo, and ’92-’94 Sundance, there was also the 1969 2-seat Plymouth Road Runner-based Duster 1 concept:

    http://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1969_plymouth_duster_i/

  • avatar
    NewsLynne

    The Plymouth in the ad looks “new” for 1979.

    I do love the Dodge Daytona Shelby Z. Obscure? Maybe best remembered as Stepfanie Kramer’s car on “Hunter”.

    And if that isn’t an obscure 80s reference, well..

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I remember that! She had a couple of them over the seasons, the early 85-87 model and the later updated one with the fairly rare t-tops.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      The 1985 Turismo Duster ad from YouTube has been linked many times on other blogs. It’s kind of now an “oh, that ad again” reference.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      A nice lady sold me a sweet ’86, Stephanie Kramer Shelby Z for $200 in the early ’90s. It was clean and low miles, but her deadbeat son drove it everywhere and never checked the oil level until the engine locked up. She was seeing ‘red’ and sold it to teach him a lesson.
      I rebuilt it and it was fun to drive, but I definitely wished it was stick shift.

      Then the new guy at work shows up in an SVO that was a little rough with a backyard paint job. I was totally drooling and it was otherwise, an unmolested example with a ‘like new’ interior. WoW, I thought to myself while he looked over my Shelby Z. He said he loved the SVO, but his wife hated that he bought another stick shift…

      Of course we made a deal, it had to be done. I still own the SVO.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      +1 for the Hunter reference, brings back good memories.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I was in high school in 1994 and lusted hard after a green duster with V6, manual, and tan buckets… I was driving a 1982 Chevy Celebrity at the time so I wanted anything FASTER!

    • 0 avatar
      mcarr

      That is hilarious, I too had the same feelings for a green Duster at that time, though I graduated in 1992. A buddy of mine had an early 90′s version, I remember at the time that brand new, the car seemed to be screwed together well. Felt solid quite and smooth compared to my late 80′s GM iron. The V6 also felt fast, way faster than the 2.2 or 2.5 4 cyl. After a couple years though, the rattles set in he got rid of it for something else. It seemed to be a decent car at the time.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I lusted hard for Stephanie Kramer. Neither Chrysler cars or Finola Hughes did anything for me, but that commercial is pretty amazing!

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Cousin owned a late duster, going to go early 90s? It was plodding but fun. Every time I think of it I picture an engine swap for something vtec-ish and a roll cage and I would have a great track car or a LeMons racer

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    The 80s were truly a golden age for car commercial jingles, from Oh What a Feeling to Cadillac Style to Great American Road to Have You Driven a Ford Lately?, but the Plymouth Duster ad clearly stands out as by far the greatest of them all. I believe it actually aired as the first commercial in the first break of the first ever MTV Video Music Awards, no doubt cost Chrysler a pretty penny. Definitely speaks to the spirit of confidence and enthusiasm that permeated the company at the time, coming just a few short years after their brush with near-death.

  • avatar
    ggariepy

    I’m real late to the party but I had a ’93 Duster with the 3.0L Mitsu. It was purchased new and I drove it for 145,000 miles before my wife got pregnant and we got an Intrepid. I loved this car; I had a decent Kenwood stereo in it and for its day the 3.0L was powerful enough to shame the late 80s Camaros and even some of the Mustangs it ran into. It ate its transmission at around 80,000 miles, the product of neglect more than anything else. By about 120,000 miles it had turned into a mosquito fogger and ignorant at the time of the relatively simple fix, without a garage to call my own, I drove it that way for another 25,000 miles.

    I wish I had never sold it; I owned it free and clear and didn’t need the money for the trade-in. We didn’t need three cars with a baby on the way, though, and I dumped it at a used car lot in 1998 for $1500. I’m sure it ran around town for a few years after that. I wouldn’t mind having another one to restore today. None left in Michigan without a ton of rust, though.


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