Junkyard Find: 1973 Plymouth Duster 340

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
Depending on how strict you are about stuff like gross-versus-net horsepower rating s, 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.
The 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.
This 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.
340-cubic-inch Chrysler LA engines remain much sought after, so I didn’t feel shocked to find that this car’s was long gone.
The 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.
Normally, 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.
MSRP 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™.
Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Forward_look Forward_look on Nov 22, 2019

    I remembered pulling up the rug on my Duster and finding a couple screws. The reason I remembered, was I just pulled the console up on my Caliber to fix the brake lever and found ..... a couple screws. My dad bought a new Dodge van that blew its engine the first week. Inside the crankcase they found an easy-out wedged into the clockenwerken.

  • 1badsrt 1badsrt on Sep 09, 2021

    Wow! As a former owner of a VS29H3B Duster, in an ugly forest green color, I have to say an eye catching color actually goes a long way in camouflaging the 73-76 Dusters federally mandated ugliness complying with the new 5mph bumper laws. New hood, fenders, side markers, tail lights.. What they didn't hit with the ugly stick, they neutered to meet federally mandated smog laws, the 340 was now a smog motor with low compression pistons, small valve heads, funky thermoquad, bulletproof 8 3/4 replaced with a c-clip 8 1/4 I could have overlooked all that if only mine had been yellow! 71 will always be top dog it was the pinnacle of Duster mountain it had it all, the looks and performance, that 340 callout on the hood.

    • Clarence Borage Clarence Borage on Nov 27, 2023

      But strange enough--the high compression ,big valve 1971 340 only had 235 SAE net horsepower. And the 1973 340,with small valves,low compression had 240 SAE net horsepower.

  • JOHN One is for sale on an ebay car donation site.https://www.ebay.com/itm/305579991767?itmmeta=01HYHVJ49MCC6HEWQY5AX9MX85&hash=item4725fca2d7:g:k9cAAOSw5V5mThFw
  • Scott So they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars and they are promising us a “Cheaper EV”? I wonder how that will look and feel? They killed the Fiesta because they claimed that they couldn’t make a profit on them and when I bought the first one in late 2010 they couldn’t deliver the accessories I wanted for it! Then I bought a 2016 Fiesta ST and again couldn’t get the accessories for it I wanted. They claimed that the components were going to be available, eventually. So they lost on that one as well! I don’t care about what they say anymore. I’ve moved on to another brand.
  • Michael S6 CX 70 or 90 will not be on my buying list. Drove a rental base CX 90 and it was noisy and the engine noise was not pleasant. Ride was rough for a family SUV. Mazda has to understand that what is good for Miata isn't what we expect in semi luxury SUV. My wife's 2012 Buick Enclave has much better Ride and noise level albeit at worse gas millage. Had difficulty pairing my phone with Apple CarPlay
  • Michael S6 What is the metric conversion between one million barrels and the number of votes he expects to buy.
  • NJRide This could give Infiniti dealers an extra product maybe make it a sub brand