Classic Car Buyer's Guide: 1970-1976 Dodge & Plymouth A Bodies
Few cars spell performance the way a rip snorting 1970 Dart Swinger does. A Duster 340 was one of the best compact muscle cars ever made. The genius of the Dodge Swinger and Plymouth Duster lies in the versatility of the basic design. Buyers could choose a basic commuter car with thrifty slant six or opt for the tire smoking 340 V8 in a swoopy fast back style body. There were enough options to customize the car to your taste and thousands did, making the Mopar A- body one of the strongest selling compact cars in its history. Today they're solid collectibles. Buyers looking for a real Scat City machine need to learn how to spot a real model from the countless clones.
Year by year Identification Guide: Technically, this generation A body debuted in 1968 but included engines, models and body styles that disappeared after 1969. 1970 is actually the start of a new era and is the apogee of high performance for this series. 1970: The Dart Swinger grille was a clean vertical finned design with integrated parking lamps and black out trim.
Swingers were only available as two door notchback coupes. The Plymouth Duster was a fastback two door hardtop series which included a 340 performance model. The grille was a severe horizontal finned affair with integrated parking lamps. Both Plymouth and Dodge versions used two headlamps. 1971: The Plymouth Duster had a pleasant new grille featuring vertical sawtooth fins resembling the inside of a glass pack muffler.
The Dodge Dart grille was the same as 1970 and was used on their high performance Demon 340 model as well. It should be noted the Swinger 340 model was dropped in 1971, only the Demon 340 had this option. 1972: The Plymouth Duster 340 used a refined version of the horizontal finned grille with a narrow rectangular vent between the grille and bumper. The Darts and Demons used a fine egg crate grille with horizontal divider and two square parking lamps with cross hair motifs. 1973-1974: Dusters used a stylish egg crate grille with vertical dividers, small parking lamps and chrome plated 'Plymouth' nameplate.
The Dodge version was a large egg crate pattern grille with parking lamps set close to the head lamps. 1975-1976: The Dodge Dart used a horizontal finned grille with elongated rectangular parking lamps with cross hairs and 'Dodge' nameplate above the grille. The Plymouth version used an egg crate grille without the 'Plymouth' nameplate above and added a Plymouth badge in the center. The Dart 'Hang Ten' grille was identical to the Dart Sport except it was blacked out as part of the special package.
Drive Trains: The most valued models had the 340 four barrel high performance V8 engine, preferably with four speed. In the notchback body, this engine was only available in 1970.
From 1971 onward, the 318 was the largest V8 offered in the Swinger, Scamp and SE models. The Plymouth Duster, Dodge Demon and Dart Sport were fastback bodies and had the 340 optional until the end of 1973. From 1974 to 1975 it was 318 power only. In 1976 there was a 360 V8 option available but it's quite rare. After 1970, the majority of these cars were powered by the famous 225 cubic inch inline-six. It is a thrifty yet strong engine with lots of torque. Even an automatic transmission doesn't sap much power from it. The 318 two barrel was optional and also has lots of torque for driving accessories such as power steering and air conditioning. The 360 is a stout engine providing more torque in the A-body's final year. Among performance fans, you'll find the 340 is the only revered power plant. Many a 318 has been modified with success to run as strong as a 340. It's an ideal way to buy a car without spending lots of money. Those who enjoy cruising and long trips will like the slant six for its gas mileage and ability to keep up with traffic.