The Plymouth Duster SportWagon Concept Car

1966 Plymouth Duster Sportwagon

Plymouth Duster decalShortly after the highly successful new Valiant by Chrysler was launched, designers created a sporty fastback version called the Barracuda.

When the Barracuda became its “own” model, the Plymouth Valiant was left with no sporty car to engage new buyers. Stylists worked to correct that even before the Barracuda moved to its new E body, with the success of the Plymouth Road Runner possibly providing some inspiration.

They knew a big engine would not be enough; they needed a car that would look the part. It helped that Irving Ritchie, father of the original Barracuda, was there, along with Gerry Thorley, John Samsen, Milt Antonick, and Neil Walling.

1966 drawings of the Duster Sportwagon car

The genesis of this page was a message from Chrysler designer John Samsen: “I just found a photo of a tape drawing proposal of a Duster Sportwagon I did in 1966. We must have designed the Plymouth Duster in that year.”

John Samsen drawing

He continued:

I was working in the Plymouth Studio during the designing of the Duster. Gerry Thorley was manager of the studio, and, I believe, Irving Ritchie was assistant. Ritchie had had the original idea of making a fastback sporty car on the Valiant body —the first Barracuda.

towing

John Herlitz (later Director of Chrysler Design) had recently joined the studio after a summer in GM Styling. Herlitz had seen the 1968 GTO designs that featured an integration of the roof C-pillar with the rear quarter panel. ... Most of us designers liked the idea of integrating the roof with the body, instead of sitting it on top, as had been the custom.

concept car

I was working on another project when Thorley called me over to the full size clay of the Valiant that was being modified into the Duster. Antonick and Walling had already made the smaller roof with more curve in the side glass, and wanted to integrate the roof into the new rear quarter panel. The existing Valiant door had a character line coming off the front fender that made the door thicker at the belt, and difficult to make the C-pillar continuous with the quarter panel. Thorley asked me if I had any ideas how to accomplish this.

Duster concept

After some study, I drew lines on the clay that curved the door shape upward and forward into the roof, and carried the lower character line into the quarter panel, making it rise and suggest a big rear wheel. This design was approved and went into production.

[In these drawings,] I was proposing a hatchback with fold-down rear seat like the original Barracuda, as well as a wagon version.

...In answer to your previous question, I don't recall any discussions about similarities between Doge and Plymouth designs. We pretty much designed our Plymouths in a vacuum, without much info about what the other car studios were doing.

I think the Duster was a great little car for the money, for utility, as well as performance.

John Samsen with his slant six Duster and boat

Plymouth Duster | Plymouth Valiant cars | John Samsen Art | John Samsen Car Design DVD

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