Everyone remembers their high school car. For Tom Gronowicz of Plymouth, Michigan, his ride of choice was a 1973 Plymouth Duster powered by a 318 four-barrel that he picked up for a grand total of $175 from a lady at church. “Mine was that awful light green and black, but I won a lot of races. I always picked my races well so nobody would ever remember me losing, just beating them bad!” says Tom. He says his old Duster was tired, however, back in 1983, it was considered fast because it burned lots of rubber and came out of the hole like a beast. This was back when new cars were pretty slow (early Fox-body Mustangs, Camaro Z/28s and Trans Ams) but they looked cool at least.
Remembering more about his high school past, Tom can’t help but reminisce: “I wonder how fast my Duster was by today’s standards. Pretty slow, I bet. Nevertheless, I beat everything that was brand new. The GM and Fords were still carbureted up to around 1985 so I usually beat them and everything in between. The only races I actually remember losing were to friends of mine. One good buddy had a 1966 Oldsmobile 442 with a 2-speed automatic and I always beat him pretty good. The car was beautiful. He restored it with his dad. He changed it to a 3-speed shortly after and then it was an even race. Then he bought a 1971 Olds 442 and he beat me. So I stopped racing him!” shared Tom.
As time passed, Tom decided to sell his Duster to a fellow classmate his senior year. After that, it changed hands a few times before meeting its end in a local wrecking yard in 1989. His old Duster became just a memory – however, he always had a soft spot for Dusters after that. Back in February 2004, Tom came across a real deal 1973 Duster 340 for sale and decided to purchase it. “I bought it mainly because I wanted a nice running, driving car to enjoy while I was working on a 1967 Coronet project car I had at the time,” he says.
The Duster had an older restoration showing slight signs of age if you looked up close. He says the paint and body work quality was consistent with what you’d expect from an “older restoration.” The car had some rust repairs that had been made in the lower quarter panels and other areas with new metal patch panels yet, critical rust areas such as the trunk floor, floor pans, torsion bar cross-member and front fender aprons were 100-percent solid.
Originally painted from the factory in B5 Blue, the Duster had its color changed at some point to a maroon color similar to 1974 E7 “Burnished Red” and the 340 stripes had been changed to white instead of black. “Unfortunately the engine compartment and trunk had not been painted body color during the restoration,” Tom laments. “But the door jambs and trunk jamb were painted body color.” The hood featured a factory 340 dual snorkel hood scoop that had been painted body color to match versus the usual black finish.
The engine was the original numbers-matching 340 that gave the outward looks of being stock. It featured a correct-looking 1970 casting 340 intake manifold with a new Carter AFB Competition Series carburetor with electric choke on top. To complete the “stock appearing” look, the engine had 1970 casting 340 exhaust manifolds and correct “J” heads for a 1973 340. The fuel pump was a mechanical high volume large bowl type that was not stock but was needed for that size carb. It also featured correct Mopar stamped spark plug wires along with the orange box HP electronic ignition module. The Duster sported a brand new engine main wiring harness and new alternator. All of the belts, radiator hoses, and heater hoses were new and cooling that 340 was the correct 26-inch style radiator. For exhaust, the car had full stainless steel exhaust and regular factory stock appearing mufflers. Tom says the Duster’s exhaust had a mellow deep sound – more like a big block than a small block.
Tom states, “Unfortunately, I had no idea of what specific internal performance enhancements had been done to the engine but it pulled hard from low end and never stopped performing. I’ve driven other 340’s and that one was by far the strongest-running 340 I’ve ever driven in ‘stock appearing’ trim. It would run circles around my dad’s 1971 340 4-speed ‘Cuda.” The transmission was the original A-727 automatic that was fully rebuilt and would bark the tires in second gear. A deep transmission pan and transmission oil cooler were added for good measure. The Duster’s rear axle was a 8.75 3.55 Sure Grip unit.
Tom’s Duster was a bit of an odd duck when originally ordered. The person who ordered the car opted out of the power steering option and instead of power brakes, decided to instead choose manual front disc and rear drums. Tom says with the manual steering, it’s not as precise or responsive as you would hope to find but overall it drove good for a manual steering/manual brake optioned car. For tires, the Duster sported BF Goodrich Radial T/As (215/70/14 front and 245/60/15 rear) mounted on original equipped Mopar Rallye wheels. Tom decided to run a 14X6 Rallye on the front and a 15×7 Rallye on the rear; both with 4.25-inch backspacing.
On the inside, the Duster featured beautiful black bucket seats and door panels. The front seats had been recovered using Legendary seat covers and the rear seat was all original. The radio was the original AM piece. According to Tom, the carpet had been replaced and the car had a very nice console with excellent chrome trim.
Tom says the Duster was a great car to drive. We say “was” because Tom had a daughter on the way and decided there wasn’t much reason to have two cars (he also has a ’67 Coronet). So that being said, he listed the Duster on eBay where it quickly sold to a pharmacist in Connecticut. “The funny thing is, the reason the guy bought the car from me was because of the color combination. It was like the Duster 340 he drove in high school and later in life wanted to obtain a memory from his youth. As it turns out, he’s wasn’t really into old cars that much and subsequently didn’t do much with it. Being as it was originally a B5 blue Duster 340 – which is my favorite color for a 1973 Duster, I would have repainted it to the original combo had I kept the car.”