Some people go through cars like a tank of gasoline. Once a dream is realized, it loses its allure, brilliance, and interest, and so they move on to the next big thing. Sometimes it doesn't even get to that point, but others are far less fickle. They form a primal bond with their machines, and are unable or unwilling to let go of them. Hot rods like this practically become a member of the family-nurtured, respected, and cherished for decades. In a real sense, they are children birthed of men.
Matt Delaney's '73 Duster is one such lucky devil. He's had many Mopars, but has had a soft spot for this car for more than 30 years-poking, building, and enjoying it unconditionally. He's gone completely through it at least twice, once in 1985 and again in 2004, earning the World of Wheels Best Street Driven in 1986 and 1989. He has also garnered Second Place in NHRA Division 4 points (1987, 1988, 1991), done the Hot Rod Power Tour, and raced in Super Pro at regional bracket finals. In 2002, Matt formed Delaney Auto Design (www.delaneyautodesign.com), a respected and highly visible force in the world of modified Chrysler products.
Through it all, the Duster has represented an inexpensive build. There is no mystery behind it, only hard labor. Matt and his pal Harrel Lamkin did all the grunt work, save a newly stitched interior. When it came time for a heavy thrash, Matt called a few friends and bought a few cases of beer, much like most of us do. And come painting time, he rolled it around the corner to another buddy's garage.
What the ensemble built and improved all began with an advert on the old "Mannix" TV show. Matt saw a red Mopar A-body burning it up down a dirt road (hence "Duster"), and Cupid's arrow pierced his heart. A little while later, as a high school teenager, he bought a repo-a red 340 Duster. He raced anyone he could, and mostly won. Then "Big John" down at the Conoco station made a significant discovery. The ThermoQuad's huge secondaries weren't opening at all. "I went around the corner and floored it," says Matt. "The back end came out from underneath me, and my eyes turned to saucers. The next weekend, I found the two guys that had beaten me and surprised them.
Matt moved on the Duster with a perkier camshaft, a different intake manifold, a Holley carb, and headers, and because he was a cash-poor mechanical engineering student, he was only able to make one change at a time. The Duster even led a drone's life at times, towing his mom's Apache trailer to Florida and back. When Matt bought the car, gas was $0.55 per gallon. In his junior year in 1979, the tab had risen to more than $1.00. Combine that with those frisky 4.10 gears, and the proposition no longer made economical sense. Though he sold his 340 for a more pragmatic ride, the image of it refused to leave him. He then began dating his future wife, Cindy. They would drive by the new owner's house to look at the car, and Matt would tell her war stories. When they married, she bought it back as a surprise wedding gift. Some peach, that Cindy.