When the Plymouth Duster (also known as the Valiant Duster) was released in 1970, it was considered to be a cheap, sporty coupe that the average Joe could afford; a cheaper alternative to the Plymouth ‘Cuda and Plymouth Road Runner. Based on the A-body platform, the Duster provided the compact-sized Plymouth Valiant with a sporty body style to attract new and younger customers to the brand. In fact, the car was a $15 million effort to update the compact Valiant for the 1970 model year.
While the bulk part of Dusters were equipped with either a Slant 6 or 318 V8 engine, the granddaddy of Dusters was the Duster 340. The Duster 340 was equipped with a light, high-winding 340 small block and was marketed by the brand as “America’s First Super-Low-Priced Supercar”. For Glenn Beaty of Ontario, Canada, his love for the Duster 340 goes way back to 1981.
“I started looking for a Mopar in 1981. At first, I was trying to find a 1970 Dodge 340 Swinger. I loved the look and the dual hood scoops however the ones I found were either too rusty or over my budget. That’s when I came across the for sale ad for an EV2 Tor-Red 1972 Duster 340 4 speed for sale by the original owner in Dunnville, Ontario. When I saw the ad for the Duster, it seemed perfect. It was within my budget, had a 340 4-speed, a cool grille, high impact color and original paint. I couldn’t go wrong. My Dad taught me over the years to only buy a car with original paint so that’s what I did. That way nothing is hidden; what you see is what you get,” says Glenn.
When Glenn saw the car, he had to have it. A deal was agreed upon and Glenn became the second owner of the Duster for only $600.00. Glenn tells us, “It had a bench seat, rubber floor, hub caps; no options. I believe the only reason it has a 4 speed is because the original owner didn’t want to pay for an automatic. When I purchased it, the engine was tired, it had rust everywhere and the tires were totally bald but I was 19 and I loved it!” Once Glenn got the car home, the restoration began.
“I replaced the spare tire well, patched the rest of the trunk and got a used trunk lid from the wreckers. I then purchased two new front fenders ($250.00 each) and a tail light section ($72.00) directly from the local Chrysler dealer. I installed two half quarters by braze welding them, patched the holes in the doors, inner fenders and floor pans and then welded up the rusty rear spring perches. Once all of that was done, I smoothed the doors and quarters out with a fair bit of bondo. It was a really hokey job!” Glenn laughs.
Since the original 340 was tired and worn out, Glenn opted to purchase a wrecked 1971 Demon 340 parts car for $500.00. The 340 under the hood had the top end totally rebuilt right before the owner smashed the car up. “I used the motor from it because that was cheaper than rebuilding mine. The Demon was a bucket seat, console automatic car. I sadly didn’t even check the 8 ¾ rear end for a Suregrip; I just took a few parts off it and sent it to the wreckers,” Glenn recalls.
With a 340 ready to go back into the Duster, Glenn then had the A833 4 speed rebuilt and installed a new clutch. He continues to tell us, “When I pulled the numbers matching 340 engine out to put the Demon’s 340 in, I unfortunately made the mistake of selling it. Back then, it wasn’t anywhere near as important as it is today. I still see the guy I sold it to, but he was stoned for most of the ‘80’s and has no idea where the car went that he put the engine in.” If anybody happens to know have the original engine for VS29H2B355851; please let us know and we will pass the information onto Glenn.
Once the drive train was re-installed back into the Duster, the exterior was painted by his brother-in- law in his garage in 1983. Glenn says besides a few mosquitoes and a bit of dust here and there, the paint turned out pretty nice for a do-it-yourself garage job. “If you wanted the side stripes from the dealer, you had to order each piece separately and that was too much money. Instead, I spent 4 hours and taped it out myself. It then went back to my brother-in-law’s garage to spray the stripes,” says Glenn.
Once the Duster was completed, it was ready to roll. The car was stored in the winter to keep it safe from the nasty winter conditions and was Glenn’s daily driver in the summer. “It was my grocery-getter; I used it to go camping and even commuted 2 hours a day for a summer job one year with it,” says Glenn. The engine eventually got tired and was bored .30-over and fully rebuilt to factory specifications in 1998.
In 2002, Glenn and the Duster had an unfortunate accident. He tells us, “I had a lady pull a U-turn right in front of me and I couldn’t stop in time. I smashed right into her. I was taking my 12 year old son to the doctor because he had sprained his knee. When he got out of the car, he was limping around and the lady felt even worse because she thought she hurt him! I guess she didn’t see the bright orange car?
“The accident ruined my perfect Sharkstooth grille, my new Chrysler fender, front bumper and the radiator. The inner fender and passenger front frame rail also received damaged. It was not pretty. After going through insurance, they agreed to pay to fix the damage but I decided to disassemble and have the whole car painted. Insurance paid for the parts and the paint work for the front end. I paid the difference to have the whole car painted. I guess it was a win in the end.”
To repair the damage, Glenn found a rust free southern hood, fender, door, valance panel and an NOS Sharkstooth grill. Once he had all of that together, the Duster was sent off to the body shop. While it was there, Glenn found and purchased a rust free trunk section with frame rails and had the body shop fix his amateur body work he had done in the ‘80s. The front floors were also replaced since they had been patched during Glenn’s home done restoration too.
Glenn says, “The paint turned out way better than my garage job. It lacked mosquitos and dust! The correct stripes were installed and the car was returned to me for assembly in 2004. With work, divorce and kids, the car was finally back together and on the road in 2008. I’m very happy with the car; it runs and drives very tight with no rattles. These cars are a blast to drive.”
This past summer, Glenn even met up with the original owner 36 years after he purchased the car from him. “He told me he bought it as the family car. He took his kids to Florida from Ontario for the family vacation a couple of times. I asked him how he got away with ordering a 340 4 speed Duster as the family car? He looked over at his wife and told me that he used to be the boss back then,” Glenn laughs.