In most respects, the 1974 model year was a pass for the Duster as far as changes were concerned; however, the 1974-1975 Plymouth Duster 360 was introduced to the market.
The pinnacle of the Plymouth Duster's success
came in 1974, when 281,378 cars were produced.
The base model is shown above.
In 1974, Twister and Gold Duster packages were continued and buyers could even opt for a combined Twister/Gold Duster combo. The biggest change was a larger-displacement 245-horsepower engine for what was now called the Plymouth Duster 360.
But buyers weren't interested and only a paltry 3,969 were built. Thanks to killer insurance rates and higher fuel prices, the muscle car era was truly dead, marked at Chrysler by the termination of Barracuda/Challenger production in April.
Due to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries embargo that hit about the time the 1974 model year was getting under way, gasoline availability became scarce in many areas.
Worried buyers started seeking more fuel-efficient cars and sales of large cars plummeted. In tune with the times, Chrysler introduced the Fuel Pacer System option in March.
A small chrome casting on the left front fender housed a light that glowed when the carburetor began to enrich the fuel mixture during increased power demand, signaling the driver to back off the accelerator.
Plymouth Duster assemblies rose to an all-time high of 281,378 and Valiant popularity hit its peak as all the varieties (including a plush new Brougham line) accounted for an incredible 476,818 units, enabling Plymouth once again to capture third place. But the following year was a different story.
A new grille design graced the 1975 Plymouth Duster.
Nineteen seventy-five was another harrowing year financially for Chrysler. It began with a three-month rotating layoff of most engineering and styling personnel.
This ill-conceived cost-saving measure had the unintended consequence of delaying the launch of the new F-body cars being groomed as A-body replacements.
Unlike the year before, Dusters sported quite a few changes. Studio manager Bob Eidschun designed an attractive new tight eggcrate-texture grille with a center shadow box that housed, for the first time since 1970, the "frog legs" emblem.
There was also a new Duster Custom series whose rear lower deck panel was decorated with a taillight-to-taillight bright applique panel. This "boiler plate" was unfortunately also standard on the Gold Duster, where buyers now had the choice of a new bodyside tape stripe much like the original Gold Duster's or a bodyside protective molding.
There was no Twister package, but in its final year, the Plymouth Duster 360 was given gaudy new striping that covered much of the upper quarter panels. Engine-wise, the 198-cubic inch Slant Six disappeared, leaving the 225 as the base six.
Standard Gold Duster seating consisted of a split-bench
seat. High-back seats with integral headrests and
a pulldown armrest could be ordered.
By now, the upcoming launch of the next-generation compacts occupied the corporation's attention. Though the semi-fastback F-body coupes were clearly intended as Duster/Dart Sport replacements, management decided to call the new lines Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen.
There were a number of reasons for this decision. One of them, ironically, was the popularity of the Duster and Dart -- they were common, perhaps too common. Another was their reputation as good basic transportation.
Chrysler, however, wanted a more upscale image for the forthcoming compacts to compete successfully with the new Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch. Hence, the new names, despite some last-minute experimentation with "Valiant Volare" name-plates.
With the corporation's problems headlined in the media and word of the new compacts leaking out. Duster production dropped dramatically in 1975 to 120,131, barely ahead of the Valiant sedan.
The Plymouth Duster 360 had its final year of production in 1976 -- a disappointing final year that attracted less than 35,000 buyers. Find out more about
the 1976 Plymouth Duster 360 on the next page.
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