1971 Plymouth Duster 340
Frustrated in their desire to make the original Duster 340 a sneaky "sleeper," Plymouth stylists moved in the opposite direction, giving the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 attention-grabbing graphics in the form of a bold, full-length bodyside tape stripe that traced the upper-body contour, ending with conspicuous "340" numerals on the rear quarter.
True extroverts could order the performance hood treatment -- flat black paint stretching across the hood and cowl to the fender peaks, and then along the belt to the rear quarter windows.
Huge white-outline "340" numerals, set at a jaunty angle on the driver's side of the hood with the word "wedge" in orange stenciled down the vertical stroke of the 4 shouted to the world what was underneath.
Racing-type locking pins completed the treatment, making the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 the best-looking Duster of the entire seven-year model run.
Other had-to-have-it options included a black-only decklid spoiler, tachometer, and the new, smaller-diameter, thick-rimmed "Tuff" steering wheel.
Additionally, all 1971 Plymouth Duster 340s received an exclusive and attractive grille. Similar in plan view to that of the regular Duster, it was composed of narrow, vertical, blacked-out rectangles, including concealed park and turn lamps.
At the other end, complimentary vertical slotted tail-lamps were planned to give the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 its own look coming or going. But those taillights never appeared on any Duster, and therein lies a tale of corporate infighting.
While the Duster's success had naturally pleased the Chrysler-Plymouth folks. Bob McCurry, Dodge Division's hard-charging general manager, was not quite so happy. Nor was his dealer body.
Long accustomed to having the Dart outsell the Valiant and thus chagrined at the Duster's popularity, McCurry demanded a variant of the Duster for his Dodge Boys to sell, and quick. He got it.
"That," recalls Weis in a controlled voice, "was a top-level management decision." To create the Dodge version, a stock 1971 Dart front clip was tacked onto the Duster shell, giving the "Dodge Duster" its own front fenders, hood, grille, and bumper.
The wheel lip detailing didn't match, but who cared? Now, how do you get a distinctive look out back? Over the objections of the Plymouth stylists and planners, the Duster 340's vertically slotted taillights and lower deck panel were appropriated for the Dodge variant.
Saddled with an unfortunate choice of name, the new Dodge Demon (later Dart Sport) never achieved anywhere near the popularity of the Duster, undoubtedly much to the satisfaction of the Plymouth guys, who, by the way, did not emerge from this skirmish empty-handed.
In return for sacrificing its proposed Duster 340 taillights, Plymouth was granted a copy of the popular Dart Swinger, one of McCurry's own crown jewels.
Christened the Plymouth Scamp, it was Valiant's first two-door hardtop since 1966. (Duster production dipped temporarily to 186,478 cars in 1971 as the new Scamp hardtop enticed more than 48,000 buyers who might have been Duster customers.)
In hopes of getting wider use from its newly developed tools, Plymouth decided to offer the Duster Twister package. Find out more about this package on the next page.
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