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the Mighty Duster

By Mike Bumbeck

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Yes indeed it’s got a Hemi all right. In this case a 5.7L fuel-injected version.

Red Line Gauge Works of Valencia, CA, rehabbed and calibrated the bouncing speedo. They also updated the ‘70s era cluster with some new VDO gauges, yet retained the factory look.  A key mod was to replace the ancient ammeter with a voltmeter to handle modern juice and to prevent underdash flameouts.

Missing stripes on the quarter and door were replaced with completely new sets all around.

The peg-leg and 3.23 highway gears were swapped out for a Sure-Grip unit, and a set of 3.90’s. Stay tuned for an upcoming gear oil extravaganza

Our more intrepid readers may notice a certain Duster appearing here and there at MoparMax. Over the coming months we’ll be featuring tech tips and install insanity surrounding what it takes to stuff modern Moparts into an old Mopar –- in this case a 1970 Plymouth A-body “Valiant,” which is a Duster by any other name.

The key difference between this Gold Duster and any other old Duster is the power train. The Hemi badges on the fenders are not just for show, and under the hood lies a genuine 5.7L. Behind the engine is a 46RH transmission. Out back is a trusty A-body 8 3/4 rear end with a Sure-Grip in place of the peg-leg center section.

This research platform belongs to Mopar, with the whole purpose of the project to find out what it takes to make the swap with a bare minimum of fabrication and headaches. The goal of the car is everyday driveability and bolt-in simplicity. Using existing parts along with some new ones and fresh ideas, we’ll follow along on what it takes to put the Duster together from a toolbox in the garage on the weekends perspective.

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JT Automotive in Glendora, CA, handled a great deal of the mechanicals and transplantation surgery. Here is the Duster with (L to R) Tony, Tom, and John at JT Automotive World HQ.

The first time we ran into the Duster was on a road trip from its then home base at Glendora Dodge in Glendora, CA, to Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas. The trip out and back was smooth and speedy. We’ve since been witness to the mysterious mechanical malfunction side of custom car construction -- as viewed from underside of the Duster fuel tank in the middle of the desert. Gasoline never tastes all that great, especially when it’s 120 degrees. We promise to suss out the bugs so you won’t have to.

Seen here is a short preview of what’s happened so far. A special thanks goes out from us to JT Automotive and Glendora Dodge for all the work to get this beast going. We’ll keep on top of the project, and document the whole thing along the way. Stay tuned for everything from front end rebuilds and fuel system voodoo, to a brake upgrade and header install. Maybe we’ll even put in some AC!  

120 degrees of desert heat and over eight solid hours of driving revealed a fuel system gremlin. We’ll get it sorted, so you don’t have to. We also forsee an AC upgrade article in the future.