The Plymouth Barracuda went from a fancy compact to a fancy compact between 1969-70. Or, to some folks, it went from an A-body to an E-body. That left a niche at Plymouth, as having a sporty compact was a fine thing to have in one’s portfolio. The Pick of the Day is the solution that Plymouth came up with: a 1970 Duster 340. It is listed on by a dealer in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Click the link to view the listing)

The introduction of the 1970 Duster gave Plymouth an opportunity to offer a sporty Valiant-based compact that could play the role of economy car or supercar, just like the Barracuda before it. Its semi-fastback design wasn’t quite the swoopy figure cut by the 1967-69 Barracuda, but the “Fuselage” design language introduced on the full-size 1969 models was applied to the compact to good effect.

There were three Duster models. The first was the Duster 6, which came standard with a 198cid “Slant Six” offering 125 horsepower; optional was the more popular 225cid six with 145 horses. The three-speed on the column featured a first gear that was not synchronized, but either the Sport Trim Package or Custom Sport Trim Package put the shifter on the floor and offered three synchronized gears. The only engine available for the Duster 8 was the 318 two-barrel with 230 horsepower, with its standard three-speed being fully synchronized.

And, then, there was the Duster 340, which was only available with the 275-horsepower 340, a giant-killer of a motor. In fact, the Duster 340 was so potent that it was a reliable and cheaper alternative to the 383-powered Road Runner. Included with the Duster 340 were black tape treatment longitudinally and on the rear panel (no other color was available), roof drip-rail moldings, “four-place” vinyl interior, special circular dial instrument panel (a hand-me-down from the 1967-69 Barracuda) featuring gauges for engine temperature, alternator, oil pressure, and fuel level, simulated woodgrain trim, cigar lighter, heavy-duty suspension, front disc brakes, 3.23 gears, E70 x 14-inch tires, and Rallye road wheels. The 340 was backed by a floor-shifted three-speed manual, though a four-speed or TorqueFlite (column- or floor-mounted) was optional.

This 1970 Duster 340 is a fine example of this model that played dual roles in Plymouth’s portfolio. Of special note is that it features the standard three-speed manual, which was the rarest of the three available transmissions with 3,401 U.S.-spec cars being built. Painted in “FE5” Rally Red with matching interior, it’s worth noting that this Duster 340 features the optional split-back bench seat with folding armrest.

“Full, older restoration,” says the seller. “All-original panels.” (S)he says little else about the car, but this looks like prime Duster 340 material. Can you stomach $55,000 for a Valiant? It’s possible that’s the state of the hobby these days.

Click here for this Pick of the Day.

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