Before the 1970 Plymouth Duster was introduced to the marketplace, Plymouth had a lighter-weight, compact car that could carry a 340 in 1968 and 1969 -- in the departing Barracuda.
And Dodge, which had stuffed a 340 into the Dart, still had the Swinger 340 hardtop. Weiss said nobody expected a square-rigged Valiant 340 two-door sedan to sell, but something with racier looks might. Thus, every last penny of the tooling budget went into the new car.
That's not to say it would be easy. For one thing, a new compact coupe wasn't in Chrysler's Long Range Plan (LRP). "But luckily," says Weiss, "the new E-bodies were occupying most of the corporation's attention, especially at the upper levels.
The Duster program didn't attract much scrutiny because compared with the E-body program, the Duster was small change. So we could pretty well operate under everyone's radar screen.
"Still, it was an extraordinarily tough tooling budget. All of the package had to be carryover, including the wheelbase, together with carryover front-end sheet-metal, cowl, front and rear bumpers, door lowers, quarter-panel inner structure, etc. The Plymouth stylists could do anything they wanted as long as they held these hardpoints. Their task was to come up with a close-coupled looking coupe while stuck with a carryover floor-pan on a 108-inch wheelbase with immense rear overhang. Even the overall length -- 188.4 inches -- had to exactly match the four-door sedan. 'Junkyard styling' I called it: making do by creating something of value mostly out of what's available. Milt Antonick excelled at it."
Antonick was the supervisor responsible for compacts and pony cars in the Plymouth Exterior Studio. Working under Milt was Neil Walling, who would become Chrysler's Director of Advanced and Exterior Large Car, Small Car, and Minivan Design but then was a junior stylist. He had been working on full-size Plymouths before being pulled in to work on what became the Duster.
"I was asked to do some sketches," Walling recalls. "It was what I call a 'quick-hitter' project. We didn't have much lead time. Since the fender and door lower were carryover Valiant, we had to come up with a design that came off all those existing crease lines -- five of them, no less. We did tape drawings trying to get a better flow; sportier and more creative."
Continue to the next page to learn more about the interior of the 1970 Plymouth Duster.
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