Remember this Motor Trend Magazine cover from July, 1969? Well, here's the REAL thing! Built in late 1968, the Duster I was displayed at the 1969 mid-summer Chicago Auto Show. After serving its purpose as a factory show car, the Duster I lived a life of neglect in the dark corner of a rented warehouse. Later, after surviving a fire at the warehouse, the car was re-discovered by Chrysler and sold to a private party to help pay for its years of storage. After passing through several owners, one of which cared enough to restore the car to its former beauty, it finally ended up with Jerry Juenemann of Hays, Kansas.**
The real Duster I is painted a shade close to Bahama Yellow; not the orange depicted in the sketch done for the Motor Trend cover. Originally built from a 116" wheelbase Belvedere chassis, the Duster I was shortened 16" to an even 100" wheelbase, which was supposed to result in better weight distribution to the rear wheels. The car has a total length of 186.7".
The emblem on the front passenger's side of the hood is a pentastar with the block lettering "Chrysler Design Staff". The crude hood pin bezels are flat and look like they were made from scraps of sheet metal. Notice the protrusions in the front fenders that start at either side of the lower air dam openings in the front of the car and continue around to the front edge of the wheel openings. Chrysler dubbed these "front spoilers" and claimed they reduced front lift. The material covering the grille opening appears to be the same as SuperBird grille screen. Surrounding the grille area is an attractive argent bezel with stainless trim around the outer edge. The Duster I was ahead of its time with single square headlights and square driving lights mounted inside the grille. There are outward facing scoops on either side of the hood (ala 1969 Road Runner) with screen over the openings. Front fender accent stripes very similar to the Duster I's were later available as an option on 1971 GTX's.
In the absence of any door handles, there are two recessed areas at the rear of the doors where the door latches are located.The original fuel caps used on the Duster I were open fill Lemans style. Unfortunately those and the original tires and wheels were lost sometime during the Duster I's time spent in the warehouse. It now has 1969 Charger fuel caps mounted on each rear quarter panel. The right side fuel cap is mounted upside down so as to be hinged in the right direction. Incidently, you wouldn't want to take a very long trip in the Duster I, as the total fuel capacity is less than one gallon! Behind the fuel cap on each side is a rear facing scoop that appears to have no purpose, though Chrysler says they were designed to prevent side-to-side yaw. When you look inside these scoops, you can see small braces holding this piece of the body in position. In the rear, there is no bumper or tail lights in the usual place. If you look closely, you can see the two very small round holes in the rear panel.....I assume these may have been the turn signals? There are two large square exhaust exits in the lower middle of what would customarily be the tail light panel. A Road Runner emblem and cartoon bird decal are installed on the passenger's side of this panel. The trunk lid has been welded shut and the seams filled for what Chrysler called a "Kamm style" rear profile. Trunk access is now gained through a huge hole in the trunk floor!
Ever wonder where that idea for the cyclops brake light might have come from? Well, take a look at the pods under the built-in roll bar on this machine! Brake/tail lights are mounted on the rear side of these pods; the other side serves as the seat headrests. The air foils on top of the roll bar are adjustable. In the interior shot, notice the brushed aluminum pistol grip shifter. Woodgrain accents appear on the doors, dash and steering wheel. The seats appear to be standard 1969 Sport Fury buckets. As was common with Chrysler's show cars of that era, the windshield and side windows are all fixed at competition height.
Original factory press hype declared that the Duster I was powered by a 426 Hemi, however in reality, a 383 4bbl lives underneath the hood, hooked up to a 4-speed manual transmission. Black steel wheels and Rallye centers now replace the lost original special mag wheels. Too bad there was only one of these fantastic cars built, as it would have been beyond wild to see these on the streets! And just in case you're wondering....yes, it came with a beep-beep horn!
** At the time this story was being written, it was learned that the Duster I had recently been sold to a collector in California.
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