340 Dusters and Darts: A Body for Fun and Games
As prices of Hemi ‘Cudas, Challenger T/A’s, Charger R/T’s, Six Pack Super Bees and other mid-sized E and B-body based muscle cars rise out of sight, many folks are taking a second look at Mopar’s compact-sized A-body Duster and Dart muscle machines. In particular, we’re talking about cars powered by the high winding 340 small block – but ignoring the costly and rare big block 1967-’69 Darts (and Barracudas) packing factory 383, 440 and Race Hemi power.
Even though the 340’s factory advertised horsepower never broke the 300 barrier, we’ve seen dyno test results and know better. Even with their somewhat restrictive cast iron exhaust manifolds, 340’s regularly deliver 310 to 325 horsepower in stock trim. Bolted into the A-body’s 3,200 carcas, 14-second e.t.’s are an easy thing. Clearly Mopar deliberately under-rated the 340’s output to avoid the insurance surcharges that were hammering the muscle car segment starting in 1970.
In this installment of the Junkyard Crawl, we’re at Wildcat Auto Wrecking in Sandy, Oregon (503/668-7786; wildcatmopars.com) where we found a pair of 340 powered mini Mopars laying in wait for salvation. Be sure to check out the bonus material at CARCRAFT.COM (right web address Johnny?)
Mopar made the most of the high contrast factor between orange paint and black graphics on this 1971 Duster 340. In its second year of production, the Duster 340 stripes aped elements of the 1970 ‘Cuda “hockey stick” engine displacement graphic starting in 1971. Notice the twin exhaust tips. The bulged segments beyond the rectangular outlets resemble the double-walled resonators seen on certain Hemi cars but lack their internal baffles. Similar chrome tips were also used on B-body muscle cars.
Beyond the $13.85 paid for its EV2 high impact Tor-Red paint, this Duster 340 also carries optional H51 air conditioning ($384.00), S77 power steering ($99.80) and B51 power brakes ($42.30). The $526.10 in extras added about 20-percent to the 340 Duster’s $2,703 base price (with a floor shifted 3-speed manual transmission).
Still stuck after 48 years, the emissions sticker – and H-code in the fifth spot of the VIN – confirms this Duster’s status as a true 340 muscle machine. Prior to the 1970 model year, factory 340 cars (all were A-bodies) wore a “P” in the fifth spot of the VIN. The H-code was assigned to 426 Street Hemi equipped B-bodies in 1966 (only).
The seven-leaf springs are either the factory 6-leaf units with a helper leaf added along the way, or a set of over-the-counter Super Stock springs added by a traction-seeking previous owner. The A-body specific 8-3/4 rear axle has been scavenged. The D91 Sure Grip differential wasn’t included in the Duster 340 package. Buyers wanting maximum traction paid an extra $41.70 to smoke both rear tires.
This V2 Hemi Orange 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 exhibits some of Dodge’s most memorable tape stripe graphics. Though bisected, the tail stripe identified the Swinger 340 as a member of the Dodge Scat Pack. Dodge Scat Pack magazine ads described them as “the cars with the bumble bee stripes”. The Swinger 340’s base price was $2,945, a full $263 less than a Coronet Super Bee pillar coupe; Dodge’s supposed budget muscle car.
The Swinger 340 came standard with Chrysler’s excellent A833 4-speed manual transmission, complete with a Hurst floor shift. Here, the original buyer paid an extra $29.35 for the column shifted Torqueflite automatic. Unlike Slant Six and 318 powered Swingers, which got Chrysler’s A904 Torqueflite when an automatic was specified, the Swinger 340 stepped up to Chrysler’s bulletproof A727 Torqueflite with performance calibrations. A cost cutting campaign for 1970 saw the A230 3-speed manual transmission replace the standard 4-speed. A-bodies never got the slick Pistol Grip shift handle seen aboard certain B and E-bodies.
Still larger by a half-inch than GM muscle car brakes, V8 Darts got these 10×1.75 inch front drums. Optional manual front disc brakes added $48.70 ($91.65 with power boost). Part of the Swinger 340 equipment included the front anti-roll bar seen here and thicker 0.88-inch diameter front torsion bars. Drag racers like to swap the torsion bars for thinner 0.76-inch diameter “T bars” from Slant Six applications for quicker front end rise and weight transfer.
Elsewhere at Wildcat Auto Wrecking, the trunk of this 1964 Dart contained dozens of early Slant Six air cleaner lids and bases. In 1968, Chrysler went to a larger 10-inch diameter lid that was also used on four barrel equipped 273 and big block engines (often chromed). In the early1970’s these open-element air cleaner lids gave way to silenced air cleaner housings with sealed filter elements and snorkel-style air inlets.
*The music video for the 2018 pop music hit “Feel It Still” by Portugal The Man was shot at Wildcat Auto Wrecking. Watch it and you’ll see the Portland, Oregon based indie rocker walking among the many vintage Mopars on display at Wildcat.
*Going back to the origins of Dodge and Plymouth, Chrysler Corp. sought to differentiate one from the other by assigning slightly longer wheelbase to Dodges. So while they look very similar at first glance and even share the A-body platform, the Dodge Dart (111 inches) and Plymouth Duster (108 inches) ride on different wheelbases. The Duster on a 108 inch span, the Dart on a 111 inch span. A few years later, when the 1976 Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen F-bodies appeared, Chrysler finally abandoned the age-old dual-wheelbase scheme in the name of cost cutting.
That’s it for this installment of Junkyard Crawl…or is it? Go to CARCRAFT.COM (YES JOHNNIE???) to see even more Mopars from Wildcat Auto Wrecking!
If you enjoyed the look-see article on the 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 and 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 in the latest issue of Car Craft, here are some more cool Mopars from the inventory at Wildcat Auto Wrecking (503/668-7786; wildcatmopars.com) in Sandy, Oregon.
Sporting standard-issue 11×3 inch front drum brakes (also used on Street Hemis), this pair of 1968 Plymouth Fury III’s await their fate. The four door (one of 45,147 built) will likely donate its front “clip” (fenders, hood, grille and bumper) to a two door restoration project. The red two door hardtop is one of 60,472 built. The top engine offering for 1968 was the 350 horsepower 440 4-barrel.
The first generation Plymouth Valiant wasn’t offered with a V8 though 273-360 small blocks fit with ease when a Schumacher Creative Services swap kit is used. These two doors are the most desirable body configuration, followed by wagons then four doors (a convertible body style was never offered in 1960-’62). Both two doors types are shown here, the pillar-less hardtop and fixed-post coupe (bottom). They’re A-bodies but very few floor, trunk, cowl or firewall panels interchange with their second generation (1963-’66) or third generation (1967-1976) cousins.
This pair of “truncated” Dodge Polaras depict a 1963 two-door hardtop and a 1970 four-door. The two door is especially tragic as it could have made a nice Max Wedge clone before being sliced. Just about everything needed to replicate a cross rammed big block is available from the reproduction aftermarket. The Dodge Polara nameplate originated in 1960 aboard the full size C-body platform.
Not to be confused with the Larsen Ford sponsored “Little Yellow Wagon” Econoline wheel stander of the mid-sixties, this A100 pickup is solid enough for rescue. This writer has seen enough half-brewed wheelie projects gone bad. Why not take it back to showroom stock condition? The A100’s only sour note was Dodge’s unwillingness to offer anything more than 318 2-barrel power. The same-era Chevy Van could be had with 327 4-barrel power.
This 1963 Chrysler 300J is one of over a dozen Chrysler “letter cars” in stock at Wildact. The dilemma with these full size “beautiful brutes” is the leather seating and high level of rare, unique trim and driveline items that are not being reproduced. When they’re missing, restoration cost sky rockets. In the current marketplace, only those letter cars with documented manual transmissions or top-level solid lifter engines are being professionally restored. This “J” is one of only 400 built and displays its new-for-’63 Bendix-style duo-servo 11×3 inch front drum brakes. They replaced the more complex 12×2.5 inch Center-Plane drums used on the 1962 300H which used four location-specific hydraulic wheel cylinders (driver upper, driver lower / passenger upper, passenger lower). Coming after the 1962 300H, this 1963 should have been designated the 300I. But Chrysler didn’t want to risk confusion between the letter “I” and the number “1” and so skipped to the letter “J” for the 1963 model run. The final “letter car” was the 300L of 1965.
Looking like some Halloween themed special effect, this 1962 Chrysler New Yorker 413 V8 wears a coat of green moss, a byproduct of the moist Oregon forest in which Wildcat Auto Wrecking calls home. Chrysler’s new all-aluminum 727 Torqueflite replaced the hefty iron case unit used in 1961. Check out the Truk Lagoon caliber corrosion afflicting the leading end of the cast iron exhaust manifold. In the end, nature always wins!
Mid-Fifties Mopar four-doors can be bought for fractions of what two doors command. This 1956 Dodge Coronet family sedan exhibts the first stage of stylist Virgil Exner’s radical turn-around. The next model year (1957) fulfilled Exner’s vision as the “Forward Look” cars were born. Exner’s beautifully extreme designs were so shocking, GM scrubbed its all-new 1958 body after one year. The Exner-esque 1959 GM cars were not meant to appear when they did. Sadly, Exner’s revolution was marred by hasty construction, shoddy workmanship and rust prone metal. What started as a marvel in 1957 was seen as a joke by the early 1960’s. In 1965 Exner era Mopars were only in demand at demolition derbies. Happily, today the few remaining examples are rightly appreciated and can command six-figures in multi-carbureted convertible trim.
Chrysler Corporation delivered a one, two, three hemispherical punch with the Chrysler 331 Fire Power (1951), DeSoto Fire Dome (1952) and Dodge Red Ram (1953). Launched with a mere 241 cubic inches, by 1956 the Red Ram had grown from 270 (1955) to 315 cubes. Like its corporate cousins, the Red Ram Hemi resisted substantial displacement boosts without resorting to extra block deck height. The original 9.287 inch Red Ram deck height had to be increased to 10.38 inch to allow the jump from 270 to 315 cubes in 1956. To assure durability with the added stroke, 315 crankshaft main journal diameters were bumped from 2.375 to 2.50 inches and rod journals from 1.9375 to 2.25 inches (versus earlier 241 and 270 cube Red Rams). Though cubes are a good thing, intake manifold width must be matched to the block being used. Care must be taken when combining used parts. This 2-barrel Super Red Ram is the mildest of the Hemi bunch. Offered above it were the 4-barrel equipped D500 and dual-quad D500-1. Oddly, Plymouth never got a hemispherical-type V8 until the 1964 arrival of the 426 Race Hemi. We love how the factory applied rocker cover label is still legible.
This 1950 Plymouth DeLuxe club coupe is a perfect example of Detroit’s “potato” styling cycle. Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller said: “Cars should accommodate people rather than the ideas of far-out designers”. Unfortunately, GM’s Art and Colour Department would soon flood showrooms with radical new cars in the 1950’s. Since 1931, Plymouth was always in solid third place behind Chevrolet and Ford. Thanks to Keller’s style-less offerings, Plymouth sold fewer cars in the early ‘50’s, dropping to fifth place in 1954. Exner’s “Forward Look” revolution was a corporate life saver. But today, with the passing of nearly seven decades, all of that is academic. Potato or not, this humble little fastback would make a nifty street rod with a 5.7 Hemi transplant. Or, how about a jacked up gasser with a Hilborn injected 392, push-button Torqueflite, no front bumper and a Moon tank taking the place of the grille? For a vision of how this might look, Google El Monte Air Force and check out Paul Soliz’ Rat powered ’49 Plymouth business coupe.