Roadkill Swaps a 440 in an A-Body Duster

Take it from an ’80s kid, the 1980s landscape didn’t look anything like 2015. And in fact, what our parents considered “cool” was far from the flashy, muscle car cabaret of the modern auction block. In other words, no one in there right mind would’ve asked $50k for a Chevelle SS in 1981, but then those were plentiful back then. Hot Rod’s David Freiberger and Mike Finnegan are there to remind us, however, that no matter how tight the confines, nearly any car project is possible.


In few other examples is this more beautifully illustrated, then in our featured, Mopar build. That meant that an emphasis on low-dollar performance was far more important than cleanliness. Hardly anyone from that era worried about crumbs in the Chevelle, or even parts receipts in the backseat. But unfortunately, power outputs in the mid-to-late ’70s started to dive, and this transition was across the board. This caused Dodge’s 440 mill to be an 8:1-compression motor stock, and as was learned from our featured Duster, dimensions on E- and A-Body cars are relatively restricted. So stuffing a large-cube motor into a midsized Mopar, like Freiberger’s Duster, becomes a chore.

It became apparent for Dave and Mike when retrofitting the car’s headers and radiator. For starters, a stock radiator on a 1970 A-Body is 22″-inches in diameter; Freiberger’s current cooling system is 26″-inches. TTI Performance Exhaust of Corona, California did a superb job of fitting their 1 3/4″-inch, tubed headers on Dave’s Mopar. Though the castings are specifically made for a big-block, A-Body swap, fitting them and the 440 into the Duster required customizing. This is especially in light of the car’s factory power steering, which apparently does not support a 440 V-8.

That, combined with a 727 automatic, had to be nearly shoehorned into the early A-Body, and in fact, the car’s factory frame rails had to be hand-tapped, to make room for the RV running gear.

Cool budget build or barn find flop?! We tend to think beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but then, it’s cool to see what a little ingenuity can do with limited resources!

Duater 8

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