By on November 4, 2019

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDepending on how strict you are about stuff like gross-versus-net horsepower ratings, emissions-related compression ratios, or the general feeling of Malaise that set in after the 1973 Oil Crisis, the Golden Age of the Detroit Muscle Car ended in some year between 1970 and 1974. I say that year was 1970 and that only midsize coupes really qualify, but my definition leans to the strict side.

The case could be made that the 1973 Duster 340 was a lot more fun-per-buck than Chrysler’s “traditional” muscle car choices for that model year (the Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Charger), and so we’ll keep that in mind when studying today’s Junkyard Find.

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, decklid badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe original Duster was a fastback-ish Plymouth Valiant coupe, not to be confused with the later Turismo Duster or Sundance Duster. While purists argue that compacts such as the Valiant/Dart (or their first cousin, the Barracuda/Challenger) don’t count as real Golden Age muscle cars, a real 340 Duster in nice shape goes for decent money these days.

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, interior - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one in California sure isn’t in nice shape, though I didn’t find any rust. It got hit hard in several locations and then picked over even harder, before I found it.

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, engine compartment - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars340-cubic-inch Chrysler LA engines remain much sought after, so I didn’t feel shocked to find that this car’s was long gone.

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, 340 badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe last 340-equipped cars came off the assembly line in the 1973 model year; after that, the 360-cubic-inch version (which had a smaller bore and a longer stroke) stayed in production until 1992 or 2003, depending on whether you consider the LA-derived Magnum engines to be true LAs.

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNormally, I wouldn’t photograph a car this smashed and gutted, but a 340 Duster is sufficiently cool and rare to make the Junkyard Find cut.

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMSRP on the ’73 Duster 340 began at $2,822, or about $17,000 in 2019 dollars. I think that’s quite a deal for a rugged, simple small car with 240 horsepower and a three-speed manual transmission (the four-speed cost extra), at least in 1973. A new Chevy Nova with 115-horse 307-cubic-inch V8 started at $2,791 that year, while a Ford Maverick Grabber with 135 hp 302 V8 cost $2,541 (more powerful engines could be special-ordered for the Chevy and Ford, of course, at significant extra cost). Meanwhile, a new 1973 BMW 2002 listed at $4,498 and had a much worse power-to-weight ratio than the Duster 340 (though would still eat up the Plymouth in the corners).

This TV commercial is for the not-so-quick ’72 Space Duster, not the ’74 340 Duster, but you will enjoy it regardless.

If you like these junkyard posts, you’ll find 1,700+ more at The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Plymouth Duster 340...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    In high school my best friend had a 1976 (?) black Valiant with a 340 engine (originally a 318 car I do believe). It still looked like a 318 or even a V6 car with its white vinyl roof and some cheesy chrome. But it was one heck of a – for the time – fun and fast car.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      My best friend got one of these as a high school graduation present. It was cheap, tinny and loud, but it was fast and fun while it lasted

    • 0 avatar
      Mnemic

      I royally doubt this is a real 340 Duster, being rust free it would be worth it to fix the body and keep on rolling, but not if it’s originally a /6 or 318 car. The paint/body looks somewhat recent

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “In high school my best friend had a 1976 (?) black Valiant… looked like a 318 or even a V6”

      (sound of record player scratching)

      Shame on you for thinking that a ’76 Valiant would come with a “V6!!” Fifty lashes with a wet noodle.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Some folks likely have good memories of cruising in this rig. Rust free but so beat up…is that passenger rear quarter worth enough to spend the time to cut it out?

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    $17k for a barebones machine with a big motor? Not bad, especially considering the competition at the time. Imagine finding something like that brand-new today.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I thought you can still get a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger pretty much bare bones with a V8 in them or is that no more?

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        For 17K?

        Go-fast cars for very little money are why we turned to turbo Dodges and hot hatches in the 80s. It didn’t take the manufacturers very long to figure out people would pay a premium for that stuff, though, and now they have priced people right back out of that market.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        You could get at least 350 CI engines in Camaros, Firebirds (400 too), barracudas, Challengers, Novas, etc. I had friends with a lot of them, and the 340/360 Mopars were the quickest ones in every size class. It took the 455 T/A to beat them. A 318 Duster was only slightly slower than a Z/28 in ’73 or ’74, the 340/360 would bury them. My ’74 360 Roadrunner, after having the carb adjusted destroyed a neighbor’s Z-28 and bone stock was right on the heels of my friend’s Olds 442 all the way down the strip. If he launched badly, I would beat him. After a few mods, he lost almost every time.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Value for dollar has significantly dropped in the following decades. I would love to have cars that actually had the mechanical material that match the price being asked for modern cars.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Mopars are hot right now. Put it on eBay and Barnfinds. I bet it bids up to $7,000!

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    Like a lot of people, I grew up in the back of these. Among all the Valiant/Dart derivatives my favorite would be the 68/69 GT versions as there is just no substitute for those clean, coupe lines. I always felt the dusters were a little thick through the haunches – of course, I know, some guys like that.

    I had a buddy in high school who had a 340 Demon and it was a solid ride. He had an extra door sitting around and just for fun one night he encouraged us to give it a good kick. Four high school kids giving that thing all they could and we didn’t even dent it.

    As for the Muscle/Car vs Pony Car argument, it doesn’t matter. Pony cars are just a subset of muscle cars. Mid-size to small size, as long as it was little and had go fast parts on it, it’s all good.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “I had a buddy in high school who had a 340 Demon and it was a solid ride.”

      Until you hit a bump and that stupid tray under the dashboard and all it’s contents would BANG and rattle like it was going to fall off. Slam the door of any old Mopar and the window glass sounded like it was going to shatter, but damn the engines are legendary

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        That goes for the vast majority of cars with frameless door glass from the era, and Subarus up to the current BRZ.

        I don’t remember the tray you’re talking about, although my family had a Valiant Scamp for sixteen years and my grand parents had a Duster for a few. The A/C of our Scamp did leak its condensation out of the ducts under the dash and we had a cylindrical Tupperware beverage container that caught it and required emptying multiple times on long drives.

      • 0 avatar
        A Scientist

        “Slam the door of any old Mopar and the window glass sounded like it was going to shatter, but damn the engines are legendary”

        Can confirm. My dad had a ’70 Challenger R/T 440 Six Pack. Sublime green, we nicknamed it “Slimer”. When you shut the doors, it sounded like the whole car would fall apart lol! But man, what a car. Would love to have it back.

  • avatar

    As to Murilee’s comment on the 73 Charger/Roadrunner – drop a 426 into either and you would be back in muscle car territory in my mind. I had a 72 Charger with a 318 which I enjoyed driving – first car I purchased myself. (Which, for some reason, reminds me of Rundgren’s tune Little Red Lights: “You know that I would die or kill somebody, Just to move this hunk of steel one more block”) Definitely not a muscle car, but I liked the styling – would have liked a 68 even more.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Thanks for digging this up, Murilee!

    Had a friend with this car. I don’t remember the year, but it was a 340 engine, and said “Duster Twister” on it.

    So many good memories!

    Glad to have lived through a few of them….

  • avatar
    forward_look

    I had a ’70 Duster 318. The yellow paint faded to a soft lemony pastel. The build quality sucked. But the 318 ran just like all the others I had, except it flooded a lot when hot. I built a choke unloader which opened it up on full throttle so it would start; my wife got tired of sticking a screwdriver down the throat while I cranked it.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Call the Graveyard cars guys. They would be all over this since it’s in somewhat better shape than some of their other full rotisserie restorations.
    Dusters, Dart Swingers and Scamps were the middle class mainstay vehicle in my suburban town. They were usually passed down from the parents to their kids.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    Ahh. fond memories. My first car was a 74 duster
    It looked good, I had nice tires & rims and a great stereo. Funny thing was it just had the “slant six (225 ci) Often enough camaros , firebrids etc. would want to race me. I would pretend to get ready at that lights, and let them shred their tires as I just took off at “normal speed”..

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    That advertisement is actually for a 1973 Duster; you can tell by the huge rubber bumper overriders (not yet offered in 1972; discontinued in 1974, probably removed from the junkyard car).

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Unrelatedly, can anyone tell if this hulk was yellow from the factory? I’m guessing no. The inside of the door behind where the panel used to be is silver, and the engine compartment is painted rattle can black, when it’s usually body colour on a Mopar of this era.

    • 0 avatar
      forward_look

      The inside of the door is just primed (why waste paint on it?). The firewall is yellow, under the trim that’s busted it’s yellow. There’s no overspray or painted-over rubber bumpers etc inside the hood. Looks stock to me. Why the black engine compartment, I dunno. Maybe undercoat.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        The factory painted them, I’m sure of it from taking off multiple door panels on my time. Otherwise, they’d have to mask it off in the paint booth, or paint it with the door panel in place, neither of which makes sense.

        I say it was probably originally silver. That’d only slightly reduce its value though, or might even raise its value if it came with a cool story, such as it was boosted in the 1970s and then repainted.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    My sister had a Gold Duster (huge age difference between myself and my brothers/sisters – when I was born I had a brother in Vietnam). She had the Slant 6, dad bought it for her as a high school graduation present.

    Could…not…be…killed.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Looks like this was a decent car before the left side impact .

    I remember these too ~ not my cuppa tea but as mentioned, could easily and cheaply be made dangerously fast and the suspension was simple to up grade too .

    Pretty much all those 1960’s & 1970’s frame less doors that were long rattled like worn out morrocas even when nearly new .

    Loads of fun for so many young Americans .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    You can tell by how thoroughly stripped the interior and engine compartment are, that lots of parts lived on. They’re living in lots of different Mopar vehicles of various model years, since identical Chrysler parts were put on their various models for a decade or more.

    Why design a new part when the old one fits, even engines? My uncle had an old 1935 Dodge parts car, and used engine parts from it on his 1954 Plymouth – same 218 cid flathead engine! That engine started out in Chryslers in 1931, then DeSoto, then Dodge, and then finally ended the run in 1954 Plymouths. Little odds and ends clips and other parts were used even longer.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Back in the 1990s about a mile from where I worked there was one of these in a home garage. Often the door was open and the bright GREEN Mopar was there for all to see. There was a young man that worked for me at the time. He had some sort of Mopar with the 440 6 pack, but that was not “cool” enough. He wanted that GREEN car. Being well versed in Mopar he said it had all the good stuff.
    Eventually he approached the family that lived in the house and inquired about buying it. They said it was not for sale.
    Looked like it had just been driven home new from the dealer.
    Only saw it on the road a few times.
    After some years, maybe the 1994 earthquake had something to do with it, the family moved away and the GREEN Mopar was gone.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    We had a ’73…I don’t know what the “tray” is from a comment above, but these cars had a neat feature. Under the dash on the left and right side were trap doors that had a turn handle and when you opened them you had a “ram air” vent for ventilation when driving. They also doubled as a hidden compartment – a great place to stash your bong when being pulled over. Important stuff when you were 18.

    • 0 avatar
      Thomas Kreutzer

      A lot of cars had those floor vents.

      I remember one time I was riding with my buddy Tim in his 4X4 Chevy and pulled one of those open. Unfortunately, the floor was covered in dried mud and the blast of wind caused a huge, blinding dust cloud inside the cab.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        “Crotch Coolers” were used on millions of older vehicles dating back to the Roaring Twenties .

        My 1969 C/10 pickup has them and every Spring the first time I open them I get a blast of dead leaves and gritty dust ~ I’m old so I know to do this in town before the vehicle is moving fast .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Those are great looking wheels on that Duster in the commercial!


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • MeJ: The worse thing that I almost did was change lanes and take out a crotch rocket on the freeway, already doing...
  • Robbie: It would take an act of complete insanity to allow US-style gas guzzling mega polluting pickups into Chinese...
  • Thomas Kreutzer: Stamped steel rallye wheels. All the companies used to have their own designs. It’s a shame...
  • redapple: Sure Same dif
  • ToolGuy: Response is proportional to mistake. If in a parking garage for example, full stop, both hands raised.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States