Automakers responded to the mid 1970s gas crisis in a variety of different ways. Captive imports, dropping the availability of big block engines, revising axle ratios, etc. Plymouth may have been ahead of the time with offering the Feather Duster; a whole trim level dedicated to increased fuel economy. The Feather Duster has to rank up there as one of the more oddly names cars which is perhaps why it is more remembered today than its similar in concept sibling; the Dodge Dart Lite. For 1976 only Plymouth offered the $50.56 Feather Duster Fuel Economy Package which turned your normal Duster into a Feather Duster. Included in the package was a very tall 2.94:1 axle ratio, special exhaust, re-calibrated single barrel carburetor and distributor. In the quest to reduce weight aluminum parts were substituted for the hood, inner trunk structure, bumper mounts, intake manifold and transmission housing on the manual gearbox. This diet took 187lbs off the weight of a normal Duster which is quite significant on a car that started out under 3,000lbs. Transmission offerings were either a four speed manual or three speed automatic. The result was advertised fuel economy of 24 mpg city and 36 mph highway but acceleration suffered slightly. It may not sound like much to modern ears but it was quite impressive for a car of its size and era. On paper the fuel economy was quite close to the much smaller compacts. This particular Feather Duster likely won’t achieve anywhere close to those mileage estimates as its fugal slant six has been tossed in favor of a high performance 360cid small block V8. Somewhat ironically the Feather Duster’s weight advantage made it in demand with racers looking for an extra edge on the competition and many have been similarly modified. Even the hubcaps were drilled with speed holes! This same partial hub cap with the holes was quite popular with fleet and police vehicles right into the nineteen eighties. I’ve never been able to figure out why, generally, the police models had the holes but the civilian ones didn’t. Anyone know?
– July 10, 2013