This Duster, captured by Triborough, is a charming reminder of the best Detroit had to offer during the ’70s and that’s no backhanded compliment. Faced with the widening appeal of once-esoteric imports and the absence of quality competition from Detroit, the good ol’ fashioned Valiant continued to win buyers over with its straightforward quality. No faux-luxury, and no attempts to beat the imports at their own game; it was the rock-and-roll antidote to prog rock’s increasing pomp and the political-inclinations of the day’s folk. And in Duster form, new for 1970, the party was kept alive.
It’s no wonder that these cars helped keep the lights on for a Chrysler back in crisis. They stuck to a tried ‘n true formula and product planners were keen to keep things fresh with different trim packages. In “Gold Duster” form, this brown coupe was a nod to those who wanted a touch of luxury, but like any good pop song, it didn’t take that mission too seriously.
Good thing, as there were enough mini-limousines from Ford and GM already, allowing the Duster to benefit from its mini-muscle car image, even with the part vinyl top and extra sound insulation which came with the Gold Duster package. Unlike the larger Mopars, the casual look imparted by fuselage-inspired styling aft of the A-pillar was entirely appropriate for the Duster’s intended audience. The wide taillights set into a single cutout mark this as a 1972 model, but the styling generally didn’t change very much during the Duster’s six-year run.
This car’s single exhaust means it likely uses 1972’s base engine, a 198 slant-six. A 225 six and 318 V8 were optional, as was a top-tier 340, which came standard with dual exhausts. With flossier trim and smaller engine, perhaps this Gold Duster represents power pop at its finest: not a ton of brute force, but a lot style and a guaranteed good time. If the Duster 340 was T. Rex, this was Blondie. Even with its vinyl top now replaced by blue paint, it manages to look well-worn rather than completely battered.
The basic goodness of the Valiant was evident underneath the period regalia, and the music only ended with Chrysler’s realization that they had to pull something new out of their hat. Unfortunately, the replacement was a flop, leaving Plymouth without a pop hit for a few years. While prog rock diverged into different camps, with its heavy metal path merging with power pop’s glam tendency to form hair metal, Chrysler missed the boat, ceding that scene to Camaros and Mustangs in the ’80s. After bankruptcy forced their hand, though, Mopar adapted the Omni’s European, disco-oriented sensibilities. The resulting string of K and L-based hits throughout the synthpop years kept the good times alive, but it would be a long time before Highland Park would rediscover rock ‘n roll.