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1970-1976 Plymouth Duster

Design Flaws of the 1970 Plymouth Duster

Although the 1970 Plymouth Duster was an attractive, popular automobile, it did have an assortment of design flaws.

Along with the non-retractable flip-open rear-quarter windows, the side glass itself was another design flaw for the 1970 Plymouth Duster.

A decade earlier, Chrysler, working hand-in-hand with Pittsburgh Plate Glass, gave the 1957 Imperial the first curved side glass used in an American automobile. The plebeian Valiants and Darts finally got curved glass in 1967.

"But that was 90-inch-radius glass," recalls Weiss. "In order to get a rounder look above the belt for the new coupe, the stylists and studio engineers proposed using 45-inch-radius glass for the Duster. Now, it's a fact of life that nobody [in the company] quite believes a styling studio engineer, but when a car engineer says something can be done, he's believed. John Worthy of Advanced Engineering -- who incidentally was mad at us for not following the approved LRP -- got the task of confirming that we actually could take a carryover door whose inner and outer panels had been originally designed to accommodate the flatter, less-radically curved 90-inch-radius glass and stuff the 45-inch-radius glass down into it, get it to fit, and then move up and down. Though it was an extraordinarily difficult assignment, he did it. It was the turning point in the program."

The rounder glass dramatically increased the Duster's "tumblehome" above the belt. ("Too much," opines Antonick, who always felt the door glass was too close to the driver's head.) But by imparting a rounder contour above the beltline, the stylists made the body below the belt look rounder, too, even though the door was a carryover Valiant component.

Out back, the taillights, designed by Tom Hale, added to the sportier look. Deliberately horizontal (as opposed to the vertical lamps on the Valiant), the twin-slot lamps were placed inboard and recessed into openings in the sheetmetal without the customary bright bezels.

The new look, while attractive, came at a price. For one thing, the lack of outer bezels contributed to a potential rust problem. For another, the placement of the lamps resulted in a high liftover, requiring owners to lift luggage up and over to get it or out of the trunk. And, after a year of production, the sloping decklid itself became a problem.

Lacking a handle, owners shut the decklid by placing their hands directly on the sheetmetal. If done incorrectly, the result was often an unintended vertical crease (or worse, a series of creases) in the lid's shallow lip.

Engineers desperate to solve the problem proposed adding a vertical windsplit down the center of the decklid, hoping this would strengthen the sheetmetal. The revised decklids were rushed into production in the summer of 1971 as a running change to that year's cars.

The next page describes the features of the 1970 Plymouth Duster. Continue reading to learn more about this sporty automobile.

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