Break the Classic SUV Mold with a 1979 Plymouth Trail Duster Sport 4×4
Forty years later, would you pay more for one than it was brand new?
"Trail Duster" just might be the most awesome name of an off-road vehicle ever. Intimidating, adventurous, and rebellious, Trail Duster oozes coolness. We all can agree that someone should make an off-roader called a Trail Duster—but, wait, what is that we're hearing whispered in our ears? The Trail Duster did exist, and under the Plymouth nameplate, no less. The current-gen kiddos may not know the tale of the Plymouth Trail Duster, but rest assured that one corner of classic 4x4 enthusiasm reminisces fondly about its time in the driver's seat of Plymouth's rugged 70s SUV.
You can't buy a new Plymouth anymore--let alone a Trail Duster. The Chrysler brand has been gone for almost 19 years. And even when you could buy a new Plymouth, you probably weren't buying a truck or SUV, but cars like the Roadrunner, the Barracuda, or the Duster instead. So, pretty much no one ever thinks about the other Duster—the Trail Duster—which wasn't even the only Plymouth truck or SUV offering. For example, there was the PT series (Plymouth Truck) from 1937 to 1942, and the Plymouth Voyager from 1974-1983 (think fullsize van like the Dodge Sportsman, not the minivan).
The Plymouth Trail Duster (1974-1980) is actually the lesser-known twin of the Dodge Ramcharger fullsize SUV. As rare as it is to wheel with a buddy who has a Ramcharger, even rarer is the off-road adventure with a Plymouth Trail Duster in the lineup.
When we came across this 1979 Plymouth Trail Duster Sport 4x4 on Bring a Trailer, we couldn't resist its 70s charm. With three days left, the price for this gem was $12,500. Of course, that's not a lot of cash-ola for those in the classic full-size off-roader market, but it's more than the Trail Duster cost when it was still dripping wet in its Sable Sunfire Metallic and Soft Cashmere exterior paint in 1979.
With all the bells and whistles, the final out-the-door price for this brand new PW100 Trail Duster was $11,419.15; the base price was $7,016. We gleaned some fascinating figures from the Trail Duster's itemized receipt: anti-spin differential ($185), 360-ci V-8 engine ($125), sunscreen glass ($104.50), AM/FM radio and 8-track ($209.45), rollbar ($105), two-tone paint ($190.40), exterior 6x9 towing mirrors ($55), swing-away spare tire carrier ($80.40), tilt steering column ($78.05), 35-gallon fuel tank ($33.05), and up-fit wheels ($228.30), for example.
The carbureted 5.9-liter, 360-ci V-8 powerplant mated to a LoadFlite three-speed automatic transmission and was rated at 160 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque when new. By today's standards, that's grossly underpowered to move all that vintage iron—but that's the way they made 'em 40 years ago. That 35-gallon fuel tank upgrade confirms the flippant-about-fuel-economy brawn of the Trail Duster. The odometer shows just over 23,000 miles, of which the current seller only put about 100 miles. She's barely worn in, and this makes us want to take her for a spin oh-so-badly and drive those fabulous moldings right off the side.
With woodgrain aplenty and the proper use of every shade of tan available, nothing screams 70s like the interior of the Plymouth Trail Duster. We mean it in the most endearing way possible: This interior is in beautiful shape, and the Trail Duster rocks it shamelessly. The Saddle vinyl deluxe bucket seats look pristine; there's even a locking center console with built-in cupholders and a removable Styrofoam beverage chest, we're told.
This Plymouth Trail Duster was originally delivered to Hessel Motors in Gresham, Oregon and is still located in the Pacific Northwest. It apparently has a little bit of rust, but visually she's an absolute beauty and looks to be pretty darn straight. It's those little imperfections that make a beast of a rig like the Trail Duster feel at home in low-range on a trail, its belly secured by fuel tank and transfer case skid plates and occupants protected by a roll bar and bolt-on steel roof.
As if we weren't smitten enough already with this Plymouth Trail Duster, there's apparently an unopened hardtop removal kit begging to transform the robust SUV into an open-air chariot. That's right, the freakin' top comes off! With or without a top, and on or off the trail, we dig the uniqueness and originality of a rig like the Trail Duster that carves its own unique path in a sea of common off-road vehicle options.