“It all started in the mid-1990s when I was around 10 years old,” says Ryan Mason of Orlando, Florida. He continues to say, “My best friend’s Uncle owned a junk yard in northern Indiana that had some crazy Mopars in it back then. I remember seeing a 1971 ‘Cuda, 1969 Super Bee and 1970 Road Runner among others in the yard. The Hi-Impact Mopar colors always caught my eye and I fell in love.”
Over the years, Ryan would grow to have a strong passion for 1970-1972 Dusters and 1971-1972 Demons. In his junior year of high school, he was able to purchase a FY1 Lemon Twist Yellow 1972 Duster Twister that he cloned into a Duster 340. He tells us that while the car was a lot of fun, it wasn’t a numbers matching real Duster 340 like he really wanted.
Around 2006, a neighbour down the road reached out to him letting him know that they were going to sell their numbers matching EV2 Tor-Red 1971 Duster 340 that had been sitting in their garage for years and thought he might be interested. Ryan says, “I was beyond excited to say the least. I hopped in the car with my dad to go see it with cash in hand. When I arrived, my jaw dropped. It was covered in years of dust but it was incredible. The car had stayed in the same family over the years and it still had its original paint. It was still even wearing its original dog-dish hubcaps!”.
Sold new at Jim Lash Chrysler Plymouth in Sanford, Florida, the Duster was very uniquely equipped with a 3-Speed manual transmission backing the 340. It came optioned with eye-searing orange bucket seat interior, dual painted racing mirrors, hood pins, rear Gull-Wing, wide chrome rocker moldings, black 340 stripes and the V24 hood black out with engine call-out.
“While looking at the car, I noticed it was very solid with the only rust being in the driver side lower quarter panel. It was incredibly original right down to the factory air cleaner. My dad and I agreed that we had to buy it so I did. Being as we lived in the small condo at the time, I didn’t have a place to store it so I rented a small storage unit for $80/month, he explains.”
He continues to say, “Over the next three years, my dad and I spent almost every weekend restoring the car ourselves in that storage unit. Being as the car was all original, I made sure to document every nut, bolt and paint run. During the restoration, I realized how much of a purist I really was. I wanted it to go back to exactly how it rolled off the assembly line. Thankfully A-Body parts were still pretty affordable in the early 2000s and the car still retained all of its original parts so both certainly helped with the restoration. If anything needed to be replaced versus restored, I made sure to buy NOS parts as much as possible.”
Fast forwarding to a few years after the restoration was complete, a fellow named James came up to Ryan at a car show and noticed the picture he had taken of the original faded dealership sticker for Jim Lash Chrysler Plymouth that was on the trunk lid prior to the restoration. Ryan explains, “He asked me if it was a Jim Lash car to which I replied yes. He told me that he had worked for Jim for nearly 40 years and that Jim still owned a dealership in Sanford.”
“I ended up getting a hold of Jim and drove the car there to meet him and show him it. He was very excited to see it and was shocked that it had stayed local all of those years. He even ended up giving me a plastic dealership plate and some dealership stickers from the Chrysler Plymouth dealer he had,” Ryan tells us.
He continues to say, “The car has quite the story to tell too. I was told that one time in the 1970s, the original owner and a buddy were involved in a brawl at a local bar. When they left, he dumped the clutch and started doing donuts in the gravel parking lot, spraying rocks all over the cars of the guys he was fighting with. Another time, he had installed side pipes on the car but they didn’t last long. His five-year old son got out of the car and burned himself on them. His wife made him take them off right away!”
Eventually, the original owner sold it to his cousin in 1982 for $800. She would have it for two years before giving it to her brother while she went to college. He parked it in his driveway for a fair bit of time due to electrical issues until the city threatened to tow it around the mid-1990s. That’s when he parked it in the garage that it was in when Ryan purchased it.
Ryan says, “The original owner passed away prior to my purchase but I keep in touch with his family as much as possible. I even took it over to his son’s house that burned his leg on the side-pipes. He was beyond excited to see it and said it brought back a lot of memories.”