The new 1970 Plymouth Valiant Duster (all three names were used in 1970) went on sale September 23, 1969.
By the time the showroom doors of the nation's 3,500 Chrysler-Plymouth dealers stopped swinging at the end of the 1970 model year, an astonishing 217,192 Dusters had been built, a stupendous increase over the 36,317 two-door sedans erected the previous year, enabling Plymouth to capture third place in the sales race for the first time since 1959.
When the 50,810 four-door sedans were added. Valiant had broken its previous model-year sales record set a decade earlier. In fact, in its first five years of production. Duster's popularity would propel Valiant to five consecutive sales records.
Why the success? Styling was a big reason, of course. But savvy customers soon realized that at $2,172 to start, the Duster was a lot of car for the money. One Plymouth ad compared a comparably-equipped 1970 Maverick and Duster.
Though costing $90.75 more, the Duster boasted a five-inch longer wheelbase, 4.5 cubic feet of additional trunk room, nearly 11 inches more rear-seat hip room (and 3.5 inches more in front), bigger brakes, more options (including the two V-8s), and a better warranty to boot. A later ad in 1972 similarly targeted Chevy's ill-fated Vega.
After the first 100,000 Dusters had been sold, Plymouth celebrated the car's amazing popularity by announcing the Gold Duster option, the first in a series of trim packages created to keep up the sales momentum.
Enticements included Duster 340-type side and rear tape stripes in gold, bright drip moldings, an argent grille, 225- or 318-cubic inch engine, whitewall tires, and deluxe wheel covers borrowed from bigger-brother Satellite, all designed to turn prospects into "prospectors." Customers loved it.
After such a successful beginning, changes for the 1971 Duster (no longer badged a Valiant) were understandably minor.
The grille lost its "frog legs" ornament, but the new wheel covers, with their "salt-and-pepper shaker" center holes, were an improvement. (These understated wheel covers were disfigured in subsequent years by black lines that divided the surface into wedges, the result of an unfavorable reaction to the original design in a consumer clinic.) But it was the 340 that received most of the attention.
On the next page, find out what design changes were made to the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340.
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