GREETINGS FROM THE GRAVE
Turn on the radio and … push, clunk, 590 KUGN “... the first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes …” Nope. Push, clunk, 1050 KPNW “… In the desert you can remember your name ‘cause there ain’t no one for …”
Don’t think so.
Push, clunk, 1280 KBDF “... Helter skelter in a summer swelter, the birds flew off with a fallout shelter, eight miles high and falling fast …”
“Yes!” Start car, slam in gear, adjust the mirror, and stand on it!
If you were a 17-year-old guy in April of 1972, the above is likely a pretty good depiction of an everyday occurrence in your life. As for me, I was only 9 in April of 1972 — much too young to have a car, obviously, but that didn’t stop me from earnestly building every model car I bought with my allowance money. Those little boxes of wondrous art are truly what launched my lifelong passion for automobiles. My mom loved the little cars I’d build. She kept them for many years after I left home. Sadly, I don’t know what became of them.
While I don’t have memories of sitting in my car listening to music blaring through the center dash speaker powered by a Music Master 9-watt, factory AM radio in 1972, I do recall sitting in my room at a little white, hand-painted chest of drawers with red knobs and the aroma of Testor’s paint and model glue in the air while “assembling with care,” listening to my mom and dad in the living room, laughing out loud with the lyrical stylings of Archie and Edith Bunker: “Boy the way Glenn Miller played, songs that made the hit parade, guys like us, we had it made, those were the days.”
I can still hear the song in my heart and remember those days as the best days of my life. I may not have thought so at the time, but in the rearview mirror, yeah, those were the days.
Keeping in my traditional OEM style, I’ll segue to my story with this quote from the top box office draw in April of ’72: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” -Don Vito Corleone.
On April 9, 1972, Jim turned 17 years old. To celebrate, he walked into Mahoney Motors in Yonkers New York, with his life’s savings in hand, his mother by his side, and ordered his dream car.
AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT OUR CLIENT DID …
On April 9, 1972, Jim turned 17. To celebrate, he walked into Mahoney Motors in Yonkers New York, with his life’s savings in hand, his mother by his side, and ordered his dream car. Now, a lot of cerebral fireworks are going off when a young fellow of 17 gets to order his car brand new. I wouldn’t personally know, I saved my money from paper routes and lawn mowing when I was 14 and bought the neighbor’s 1965 Mercury Monterey, four-door sedan, for the whopping price of $35. I got the car running and later sold it to a demolition derby driver from the Eugene Speedway named Joker Crenshaw for $60. All in all, not a bad flip, considering it was my first buy/sell experience. I watched the old Merc’s debut at the Speedway on Saturday night, alongside my best buddy Royal. I’m disappointed to report that on the last lap of the first heat race, Joker took a hard shot in the left quarter from Tommy “Take Paint To Pass” Parker, in his 1970 Chrysler New Yorker, and landed on the 4-foot concrete wall, high centered on the Ford 9-inch, while Sam “The Happy Hooker” Hooker took the checkered flag for the win.
BUT, I DIGRESS …
“Plymouth Duster,” the birthday boy says. I want a Duster with a 340 (VS29H) and a four-speed (D21). I want it in Tawny Gold (GY9) and no vinyl top. Give me black bucket seats (C6x9), tinted glass (G11), an inside hood release (J52), rear defogger (H31), AM/FM radio (R21), power steering (S77), and a rear speaker (R24). “Oh,” he says, “and I also want E70-14 Goodyear Polyglas tires all the way around. Also, lose the factory side and deck lid stripes.” After a day of carefully studying the dealer order book one last time, Jim handed over $3,566.75, and the Tawny Gold Metallic 1972 Plymouth Duster 340 was ordered.
The car showed up approximately three weeks later, and Jim drove it home. After taking delivery of it, it didn’t take him long to do what a lot of us cars guys do when we get a new car: make it our own. Jim purchased and installed five-spoke Cragar wheels, a Hurst “T” handle shifter and a Grant steering wheel. He loved that car. He washed it daily, and I have no doubt that he would own that car to this very day, if fate had not intervened.
On April 8, 1984, nearly 12 years to the day that Jim bought the Duster, he received a phone call from his mother. She was ecstatic and said she had a special birthday present for him. Indeed it was; it turns out that his mother had won a brand-new 1984 Mercury Lynx in a raffle held in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Her special present to her son would be the car she won just one day before Jim’s birthday. I believe it was Mark Twain who wrote: “The truth is stranger than fiction.”
As the story goes, after getting the new, sporty, and fuel-efficient Mercury Lynx, Jim made the decision to sell his beloved Duster — a decision that haunts him to this day.
But, have no fear, Graveyard Motorz is here. This sort of client is exactly what I had in mind when I first conceived the ’70s era Mopar dealership, Graveyard
I floated the idea to him about having us recreate his dream machine. I mean, after all, he still had the birth certificate to the car.
Motorz. The dealership storefront may not be fully up and running yet, but that won’t stop us from making Graveyard Dreamz a reality.
Approximately three years ago, Jim reached out to me and shared his story. He told me he still had the original window sticker (Monroney sticker) from his Duster. He was excited to talk about his old car and all of the wonderful memories he had with it. He was discouraged, however, because after years of looking for his original car, he had given up hope of finding it. I know this feeling, because I too have spent most of my adult life looking for my old Charger, to no avail.
I floated the idea to him about having us recreate his dream machine. I mean, after all, he still had the birth certificate to the car. On that phone call we agreed to a price to replicate his original car, right down to the Cragar wheels and Hurst T-handle shifter. The best part for me was that I could easily find a nice donor ’72 Duster locally and could probably be a little picky in the process. Plymouth made a lot of these cars when you consider the Slant Six and 318-equipped models.
So, over the past few years, here’s where we are. I purchased a really nice, solid 1972 Duster with a Slant Six and automatic on the column. We disassembled the car and had the body dipped. I had several H-340s (’72 model engines) to choose from that I owned, so I picked the best one and rebuilt it to factory specifications. We dressed the engine out in accordance with a correct, original 340 of that year. This included purchasing a correct Thermoquad carburetor and having Scott Smith at Harms Auto restore it for us.
The transmission is a date-coded, correct A-body, four-speed box. I had our friends at Passon Performance rebuild and detail it to factory specs. Tony’s Mopar Parts supplied us with the correct K-member and disc brake components, as well as the 8 3/4 rear axle assembly. The majority of the parts, such as interior soft trim, chrome and bright work, wiring harnesses, etc., came from Classic Industries.
One of the coolest features, by a mile, on the ’71 and ’72, 340 Dusters, was the Shark’s Tooth Grille. I admit, when I took on the project, that’s the one thing that worried me most, as I knew they were getting hard to find. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Classic Industries had begun making the grille assembly and headlight doors. Trust me when I say parts are hard enough to chase down when they are plentiful, but when they’re as rare as a 50-foot shark (pun intended), they’re that much tougher.
Will and the Ghoulz did an amazing job on body and paint for this little A-body — it looks fantastic! We matched the GY9 Tawny Gold, perfectly to an original paint panel I had from a 1971 Barracuda, with the help of PPG’S Deltron basecoat line and then cleared it with DCU 2002 polyurethane.
We aren’t quite finished as of this article, but by the time you read it, we’ll have unveiled it to the proud owner. Stay tuned to watch the epic reveal this fall on Graveyard Carz.
Also, stay tuned for more updates on the new Mopar dealership, Graveyard Motorz — coming soon! I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom from a truly iconic American:
“I’m a man. Men have got another thing ... they got whaddya call, a carnival instinct,” -Archie Bunker.