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Ozark Mountain Classics' 500HP '73 Plymouth Duster Restomod

Ozark Mountain Classics asked, "What if Chrysler had modern SRT technology in 1973?" This Plymouth Duster restomod is their answer. Shop owners Bob and Becky Villiger dubbed it Dusty and added it to their family as a numbers-matching 340 car, which they've now owned for 25 years. While it's got the stock look and modern tech inside, that wasn't what the couple originally envisioned for the car. "My first intention was to go back stock with slight modifications," Bob said. "But after much thought we decided we needed to go big. Build something that Chrysler would have built if they had the SRT technology of today. Option the car out just the way I would have ordered it."

1973 plymouth duster on nitto tires parked

Ozark Origins

Like Dusty itself, Bob's need for speed has some history to it, going all the way back to the late '80s. He started working in a production body shop in North Carolina back then. "Even though late model grocery getters were okay, my heart was more focused on cooler cars," he tells us. At the time they worked on a lot of 5.0 Mustangs, Grand National Buicks, IROC Camaros, and Corvettes. However, come the mid-'90s he and Becky found themselves moving back home to Arkansas to help his father-in-law after he'd been diagnosed with cancer. For a few years they ran the family furniture store but his passion lay with engines and wheels. He yearned to play with cars again. In 2000 they changed from furniture to cars and started Ozark Mountain Classics. 

A Valiant Effort

Let's set the stage a bit before we dive into Dusty's upgrades, though. Plymouth made the Valiant from 1960 to 1976 as their entry into the compact car market that had started in the 1950s.

plymouth duster on nitto tires rear view

While it fit the bill for small (at the time), sleek it was not. The Valiant was the sort of boxy that comes from an eight year old playing Minecraft. The Valiant needed a makeover which Plymouth provided with the sportier Duster coupe variant in 1970. Plymouth made the Duster to compete with cars like the Ford Maverick, Chevy Nova, and AMC Hornet. Both the Valiant and Duster were produced until 1976. That's when Plymouth deemed it necessary to produce a replacement based on something more modern than a 1967 chassis. Fun fact: Plymouth tried to talk Warner Brothers into letting them use the Tasmanian Devil in the Duster's logo. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Destiny's Child

Dusty, on the other hand, was very much destined to happen. Bob drew inspiration from a couple of sources in making the leap from restoration to sleeper restomod: "Ever since my grandson could first talk he would say, 'Gramps I love that car.'

1973 plymouth duster tail light close up

The second reason was that my friends saying, 'Are you crazy for putting that much money into a Duster?' My main goal was for Dusty to look stock, though. Right down to the overspray under the bottom. I wanted it to look clean without being overdone." That said, what stands out most to Bob is that sweet blend of mixing late model technology and reliability with the cool lines and styling of the '70s. "It's like late-model rewind!" he says.

Wild Horses

Powered by a late-model Mopar 6.4L 392ci Hemi, Dusty was made to look fast and drive even faster. It's been tuned and runs a computer management kit from Bouchillon Performance, made just for this type of engine.

392 hemi cradled in 1973 plymouth duster

It also packs TTI headers with Dynomax Mufflers venting the spent gasses all of that awesome power generates. All told it sends 500 horsepower through the 883 Mopar 4-speed transmission. The addition of a Detroit Truetrac limited slip differential also made a big difference handling-wise in getting that power to the wheels and onto the pavement. Bob swapped in an Optima Red Top battery to make sure he's got plenty of zap on tap to meet the needs of his powerplant and a Griffin Radiator keeps things from running too hot. For as much as that 4-speed and the Overdrive work well together, though, if Bob were doing it over again, he might go with a 6-speed instead.

Coiling Point

Part of the whole modern performance package also meant showing love in the handling department. Up front that meant swapping in an AlterKtion coilover system from Reilly Motorsports with Viking coilover shocks. Dusty's back end takes corners nice and smooth thanks to a Reilly Street Lynx triangulated 4-bar suspension setup with 9-inch housing in place of the old stock leaf springer. Ozark also moved over to a Flaming River power rack and pinion steering system to make piloting easier on the forearms, too.

Rolling Thunder

With all of the other changes leaving the wheels and brakes equation stock would have been a crime. Knowing that, the shop opted for Wilwood brakes to keep the stylish Rocket Racing wheels in check (17x7-inch front, 17x8-inch rear).

nitto tire nt555 g2 close up on 1973 plymouth duster

Tires being the tip of the spear between horsepower and asphalt, having the right rubber on those wheels was imperative. That's why Ozark Mountain Classics used utra-high performance Nitto 555 G2 tires to handle all of that power (225/45R17 front, 255/50R17 rear). "This is the second set of Nitto Tires that I have owned," according to Bob. "They perform well and look great doing it. I have chosen them mainly because of the size availability in a 17-inch. Profile is everything!"

Sleeper Agent

All of this modern tech lurks beneath a veneer of 1970s classic style. Looking at this car you can almost hear Led Zeppelin coming out of the speakers on an 8-track tape (or Lynyrd Skynyrd, however you roll).

1973 plymouth duster braking

That's how well a job Ozark Mountain Classics did on the restoration part with the paint and bodywork. That cool green paint scheme was an in-house job as well. It's F8 Dark Green Metallic with original style graphics in Olive Green. One of the few indicators that tips you off as to Dusty's real potential, funny enough, is the LED lighting. 

srt custom interior seat close up

Thanks in large part to Little Sid's for the upholstery, the cockpit is very custom and far cooler than it would have been back in the day. It's a full custom two-tone leather interior with SRT embroidery in the headrests, custom cargo area wrapped in leather and pile carpet, and the custom dash carries Dakota Digital instrumentation.

1973 plymouth duster interior driver's view

Blast from the Past

For as good as Dusty looks at the curb, the real proof, of course, is in the driving. The '73 Duster is no slacker in that department, either, according to Bob Villiger: "The car is a blast to drive. It makes minimal road noise, makes good power, it's balanced well, and will go around a corner. In Northern Arkansas that is a good thing." Adding all of that SRT magic apparently made a big difference, as you'd expect.                                                                                                        

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