While America seems to be in the throes of Bronco-mania where seemingly every yahoo with a rusty quarterpaneled OJ-era Bronco thinks it’s now magically worth well into the five figures and even the old K-5 Blazer is riding those coattails, here we have something that truly ticks all the boxes for today’s buyer that wants all the goodness but is a little more discerning and willing to not just be another lemming. And priced at what seems a very reasonable $4,500 for the pleasure. (Update – the price seems to have changed to $6,000 since this post was written on Sunday!)
This truck seems to meet all of the current requirements for a successful sale. It’s a full size SUV. It’s vintage with some patina, i.e. a dent or two. It’s even from a defunct marque with an extinct model name that sold in small numbers originally. And as the cherry on top of it all, it’s a camper, or at least carries one. How is this still on Craigslist five hours after being published on Sunday afternoon when I found it? I’m more than a little tempted myself to be honest, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it.
The Trail Duster of course is the corporate twin to the Dodge Ramcharger but if the Ramcharger can’t exactly be described as a resounding sales success, the Plymouth version has to be considered a relative failure. Offered starting very late in the 1974 model year and all washed up by 1981, (curiously after the first year of the redesign) I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a Trail Duster in person.
This one here is from 1976, the third year, and the Craigslist ad claims that that the pop-up camper is original to the vehicle. I don’t believe they were offered that way from the factory, but the camper does seem to be of the correct vintage and likely was installed back when this was new or near-new. Since the tops were removable on the Trail Duster there is obviously some sort of cab-only covering, I can’t work out who offered those or how they install exactly, if you look at the pictures the camper is open to the cab in the back, so not just a pickup camper placed on top of the open rear portion.
It’s too bad there weren’t any pictures of it with the top actually popped up but the idea is that clips surrounding the top are unfastened and then the ceiling can be pushed up around another two feet wherein a fabric sidewall will unfold and it’s all held up with some sort of bracket system. My main clue that it isn’t completely original to the truck is that the trim on the camper is brown whereas the Trail Duster itself is likely “Medium Blue Metallic”, or at least that’s the color it looks like after perusing the 1977 brochure as I couldn’t locate a 1976 version. The manufacturer tag on the right reads “Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers” but I can’t make out the data tag on the upper left. However Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers is still in business today producing all manner of popups that fit on the back of pickups.
The ad even includes the Jim Klein “ready for action” pose photograph, how could I not like this thing! The white spoked wheels were an option when new and the tires look to be named “Mud King XT”. The chrome is shiny, there’s tread on the tires, and this thing’s already on a dirt road. Adventure beckons.
And if you’re in a hurry to bug out somewhere, you’ll get there quickly with the top dog engine in the lineup, the mighty 440 cu. in. V8 (that’s a 7.2l to our continental readers) with a four barrel carburetor mated to an obligatory 3-speed LoadFlite automatic. Of course range anxiety might be an issue out in the boonies as I can’t imagine it gets anything resembling fuel “economy”, even if the standard 24 gallon tank was swapped for the optional 35 gallon one.
The rear accommodations area is a little stripped out but the upper bunk seems to be in place, the roof above just needs to be popped up and I’m sure a little gray paint daubed judiciously around the back here will make it all look super modern. But really, after a day or week or month of four-wheelin’ action, any flat surface that isn’t the dirt ground will feel plenty welcoming. Pop a Schlitz open from the cooler (you supply both), and watch the stars while the dog lays there dreaming of rabbits and kicking a leg, well, that’s heaven on earth.
The cab even looks good, the saddle blanket bucket seat covers are appropriately vintage in feel, and the smaller steering wheel, while perhaps not what you want off-road, looks period as well. These were actually full time 4WD, no manually messing around with a transfer case, so just drop it in gear and go. In case you are inclined to take a closer look, here’s the link to the ad. In case it’s gone the VIN is AAOAF4X129676. For some good action footage of a Trail Duster, click the video below and enjoy, it also includes some of the apparently extremely rare 1974 version with the half-doors.