Just as it had with the Road Runner in 1968, Plymouth hit a muscle car home run in 1970 with the budget-priced Duster 340. The formula for the 1970 Plymouth Duster 340 was familiar. Take a cheap-to-produce platform, in this case a Valiant wearing a new fastback body, and treat it to a hot engine, here Mopar's respected 340-cid four-barrel V-8.
The determined little Duster was lighter, roomier, and faster than the 340 'Cuda. With a base price of just $2,547, it was the lowest-priced car in Plymouth's Rapid Transit System. And it was the only one with front disc brakes standard.
The 340 V-8 had proven itself over preceding years, propelling a series of giant-killer Darts and earlier-generation Barracudas to mid-14-second ETs at near 100 mph. It used a Carter AVS four-barrel and camshaft timing only slightly less radical than that of the mighty 440 Six Pack. It was rated at 275 bhp, but practiced observers insisted it actually made closer to 325 bhp.
In the Duster, the engine came with a heavy-duty three-speed manual or a choice of optional four-speed or TorqueFlite. A 3.23:1 axle was standard; 3.55:1 and 3.91:1 gears, plus a Sure-Grip limited-slip diff, were available at extra cost.
Since it was a member of the Rapid Transit System, the Duster 340 was treated to an array of performance enhancers, including heavy-duty underpinnings, front stabilizer bar, and six-leaf rear springs. Standard tires were E70xl4s on 5.5-inch rally wheels. It borrowed the instrument panel from the earlier-series Barracuda, and bucket seats and a center console with floor shift could be ordered in place of the front bench.
A pistol-grip for the four-speed, an 8000-rpm tach, and power steering were attractive extra-cost items. No scoops were offered, and the only hot-car cues were dual exhausts and modest decals.
The stiff, slightly lowered suspension made for a punishing ride and didn't prevent the car's nose from plowing through fast corners. And with the cut-rate price came some obviously low-budget trim. But the Duster 340 was a reasonably fast muscle car, it was utilitarian, it was a bit of a sleeper, and it had character. Sounds like a home run!
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