1975 Plymouth Duster
Do any of these names sound familiar: 340 Duster, 360 Duster, Silver Duster, Gold Duster, Feather Duster, Space Duster … ? All of them were put in production to suit different markets looking for things like cargo space, speed, or just a cheaper model.
Semi-fastbacks are a rarity among classic American muscle cars, but the 1975 Plymouth Duster was one of the most fun to drive. It was also very reliable in terms of regular maintenance as compared to cars that came out after it. With a $15,000,000 budget, the engineers of Plymouth were given a special task: revive the older model, Valiant, and make it into a new, slick, well-selling vehicle. Duster’s biggest competitor, Chevy Nova (1962-1988), fought for the spot of the best-selling car of its kind. Designed as a rival of the Ford Maverick – another competitive semi-fastback model – it had one distinctive feature: it was 2-door, not 4-door. 1975 Plymouth Duster picked up its Valiant-like A-body platform body style where Plymouth Barracuda had left off in its 3rd generation. It was made in Hamtramck and Sterling Heights of Michigan, as well as Belvidere, Illinois, and Toluca, Mexico.
The engineers ran into a style-related difficulty when they were redesigning the Valiant: the roof and the wheels “didn’t look right” as compared to its competitors. The solution was to make the Plymouth Duster into a fastback car, although 3 out of 4 buyers – according to their market research – preferred a notchback. Despite this previous statistic, Duster became highly successful. But that’s not to say the designers got the first-ever 1970 Duster perfectly on-point: with rust issues and glass not being as round as desired, it took years of tweaking to finally get it just right.
Most argue that it’s the 1975 Plymouth Duster’s one-of-a-king design that attracted buyers from different socioeconomic groups. From 1970 until 1976, Plymouth expanded the choice of engines and other options on the Duster. From a 198 cu. in. 3.2L Slant 6, to a 360 cu. in. 5.9L LA V8, there was a lot to choose from. Additional features like a heavy duty suspension, custom-installed gear boxes, and power front disc brakes were sold separately. Its 108” wheelbase helped with handling issues that were predominantly uncomfortable in other cars of that time. Manual and automatic transmissions could be chosen. The front-engine rear-wheel drive was the traditional layout of the 20th century’s majority of cars, and the Duster was no exception.
This car was 172” long, 67” wide, and 53” high. Plymouth produced it in 3 generations (’70-’76, ’85-’87, and ’92-’94). As you can see, there were breaks in production years, which were explained by new brand models coming to compete with other new brand models of other manufacturers like Ford and Mercury (only to be resurrected later). Over time, trim packs called “Duster” were released for the Plymouth Volare, Turismo, and Sundance to revive the 1975 Plymouth Duster’s look and feel.
The second-generation Duster was a 3-door liftback, and the third-generation cars were either a 3-door or a 5-door hatchback. Both of the latter generations were front-engine, front-wheel drive models, and featured smaller engines than the first generation – in part due to new emissions regulations.