In the muscle car world, size matters (a lot). And while the Plymouth Duster built between 1969 and 1976 is already one of the smallest muscle machines to have come out of Detroit, the shrunken example that recently landed in YouTuber Roman Atwood’s hands makes the original seem like a giant.
For the 1970 model year, Plymouth decided to move the Barracuda away from its Valiant economy car roots, moving this to the E-Body shared with the then-new Dodge Challenger and giving birth to what would become the most iconic Barracuda ever. As such, the Duster, a fastback coupe built on the Valliant platform, was born to fill that gap.
The Duster was never a Big Block car—at least not from the factory—with its most potent engine being a 360 Chrysler LA-series V8. And, as it happens, this example packs just such a small block unit, mated to an automatic gearbox (the slushbox was a top seller back in the day).
However, while Atwood bought the shrunken Duster off Craigslist this summer, the vlogger isn’t going to keep the machine in its current mechanical form.
The lost top (the Duster never came as a convertible), golf cart-sized wheelbase, and the lack of doors are just fine. After all, the front and rear fasciae suggest this is a 1970/1971 model and those details are what set it apart. However, this thing needs extra motivation. However, before we talk about the mods being added to the tiny Mopar, allow us to zoom in on the people behind this adventure.
Who are Roman Atwood and Cleetus McFarland?
Roman Atwood rose to YouTube fame more than a decade ago via the sort of prank videos that kept the internet’s viral wheel spinning at the time, while moving into lifestyle content for his more recent clips.
And while Atwood shows no car buff pretense, he certainly knows a thing or two about hooning. So, after attending a tire-melting event organized by another YouTuber earlier this season, the enthusiast decided he’d need a burnout machine for a future gathering of the sort.
The YouTuber in question, whom we shall label as the catalyst for this story, is Cleetus McFarland. Garrett Mitchell, to use his real name, is one of the most energetic car vloggers on social media, having entered the YT real in the same year as Atwood (2009).
A Florida native, Cleetus bought the state’s Bradenton Speedway back in 2020 and he’s been hosting tire-smoking event at the location. Of course, he also organizes such shenanigans in other parts of the country. In fact, the aficionado is currently pumping the said mini Duster up so Atwood can pull some proper 11s at the Cleetus and Cars event on September 3rd and 4th. Dubbed “the largest burnout competition in the USA”, the stunt will take place at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
Why this Mopar build is a crowd magnet
While some Mopars may have had a less-than-explosive start back in the mid-1960s, these machines quickly earned a reputation as American symbols. And while these bad boys have been popular for over half a century, the past few years and especially Dodge’s switch to electric muscle cars means prices are skyrocketing.
Nevertheless, models like the Plymouth Duster are easier on an enthusiast’s wallet, especially when animated by a small block. So this recipe was going to attract attention even before the two vloggers’ names were mentioned.
With Atwood seemingly giving Cleetus a free hand in terms of upgrading the project in the first video below, the latter had to play by the noblesse oblige rules. So, after a dyno run showing that the old 360 topped at a measly 141 hp (the factory Duster 360 made 245 hp), Cleetus makes it clear that taking the easy route isn’t going to cut it.
So, after introducing Atwood to the easily accessible world of the Chevy Big Block via one of his Ford Crown Victoria builds, Cleetus recommends keeping the mini Plymouth Duster in the Mopar realm, at least initially.
Nicknamed Corn Cob by Atwood, the Lilliputian Duster got a host of upgrades
Thus, in the second clip below, which is the latest one documenting the build, Cleetush shows a bunch of upgrades that should allow the Chrysler LA V8 to be tired no more. We’re looking at aluminum heads for the cast iron block, a new carburetor setup, cams, and others.
For now, the motor remains a free-breather, but, following a Cleetus-style burnout, it’s clear that extra muscle is still required. And with nitrous having been on the table since the beginning, this might be the solution that gets installed before next month’s big tire-smoking party.
Hopefully, some form of rollover protection and perhaps some suspension mods will also be added, as this tiny Plymouth looks like it could easily land on its non-existent roof.
However, we still have one eye on the past—why not flip the perspective and regard this Plymouth Duster as a super-sized Zinger? You know, the pint-sized muscle monsters built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which were go-kart-sized iterations of model cars built by the now-defunct MPC (Model Products Corporation).
If you’d like to feast your eyes on the Zingers, Discovery Channel-famous builder Dave Shuten’s Instagram post below can help with that. The creations, which only seem like they could hold a driver—no, really, they can’t—were photographed back in February at the 2022 Detroit Autorama (here’s the car that won the event’s Riddler Award).