Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

1970-1976 Plymouth Duster


Inside the 1970 Plymouth Duster

Designer Neil Walling succeeded in designing the 1970 Plymouth Duster so that its five existing crease lines worked well for the car by swelling the quarter panel about the centerline of the rear wheel and having the lower of the two top crease lines angle up sharply, then drop toward the rear.

Similarly, the lower pair of creases angled down off of the door, then rose upward aft of the wheel opening. The resulting wedge shape added drama while softening the look of the car, a neat accomplishment.

The center crease continued straight through, and all five lines resolved themselves at the end of the quarter panel by terminating in a peaked "V" in side view.

Since Walling was stuck with the Valiant's existing rear track dimensions (55.6 inches, compared to the front's 58.2 inches), the new quarters didn't swell in plan view, as did those of some GM cars. That would have made the rear wheels look even more tucked under.

"I always wished the car had a wider track," he recalls. "When I got a Duster on the company's lease plan, I bought two-inch-wide spacers for each rear wheel just to make the car look right."

If the more dramatic rear quarters were a big part of the successful make-over, the new roof was the key ingredient.

"A fastback is a '25-percenter,'" explains Weiss. "No matter how well it is styled, when the customer is given a choice between a fastback and a notch-back, 75 percent will be notchbacks."

Yet the Duster was a fastback. For one reason, its sloping roofline made it obviously different from the two-door Valiant's nerdy notchback. For another, it was the best solution to the styling problem.

"The sloping Duster roof looked lower than the Valiant notchback because it touched down (to the decklid) higher," says Walling. "To get a new look, I wanted to get the base of the backlight up as high as I could."

Toward that end, the stylists created a steeply sloping backlight mated to a wedge-shaped C-pillar that angled sharply forward, reducing the apparent length of the roof to arrive at the desired close-coupled coupe look.

They were also able to lop an inch and a half off the overall height compared with the sedan. Additionally, in side view, the beltline was angled up sharply behind the front door, then turned and angled forward around the rear-quarter window.

The resulting smaller quarter window, together with the arched drip rail and the use of frameless glass in the front door, created the look of a smallish sloping roof perched atop hunched quarters. Though it looked like a true hardtop, the Duster's flip-open rear-quarter windows were non-retractable.

Although the 1970 Plymouth Duster was an attractive, sporty automobile, it wasn't perfect. Continue to the next page to learn more about the design flaws of the 1970 Plymouth Duster.

For more information on cars, see: