Butch Arnold's 1974 Plymouth Duster
(from Volume 19, Issue 216)

In 1966, Butch Arnold began working at his first Mopar dealership; Bill Martin Dodge in Kissimmee, Florida. Afterward, he stayed with Chrysler for 18 years, since he loved Mopars!

However, his first show car wasn’t purchased until many years later, when he was 50 years old. He saw it and loved it....a 1970 Plymouth GTX with a 440 motor and factory air. He still has it, and since that car is a matching numbers original it led him to his next decision, since Butch didn’t want to change anything on it or modify it in any way.

Butch purchased a sight unseen 1974 Plymouth Duster from Texas, which was supposedly a rust free and running car. Upon arrival by transport at his shop in Ocala, Florida, he was shocked to see a totally stripped rust bucket! It had no motor, transmission, air conditioner, heater, wiper motor, or wiring....nothing but a shell with rusted through floorboards and four different wheels. At 61 years old, Butch had a major decision to make....crush or restore! After a lot of though, he decided to restore the Duster and the fun began.

Butch started the body work by replacing the right quarter panel and the lower third of the left one, too. While trying to prepare the body for repairs to get ready to paint, a homeless gentleman stopped by his shop on his bicycle looking for work. As it turned out, he was originally a paint and body man, so Butch decided to give him a shot. After two long years, with many do-overs, “Doobie” (the homeless man’s nickname) completed the task.

According to the VIN number, the car was originally equipped with a 360hp motor and an automatic transmission. Butch decided to change over to a 1970 440 cubic inch 6-pack setup with an aluminum flywheel and 4-speed transmission. He eventually found an original “Hump” panel in Michigan to eliminate the holes in the floor where the automatic had been. The rear end was replaced with a 8-3/4 inch housing with a 4.10:1 limited slip differential, including new axles and wheel bearings. Meanwhile, Butch totally rewired the engine compartment and chassis from front to back, and installed any necessary linkage throughout the car.

Butch completely rebuilt the motor. It is balanced, and bored 30 over with new 11.5:1 compression pistons. He also installed a Hughes Engineering camshaft with 620 lift, and 1.6 roller rockers on top of Indy upgraded aluminum heads. On top of the motor sits an Edelbrock aluminum 6-pack manifold, three new Holley 2-barrel carburetors, and linkage with Pro Max modifications to the carbs and base plate. The exhaust system begins with TTI headers that have 2-inch tubes and 3-1/2 inch collectors, followed by 3-inch tubing with Series 40 Flowmaster mufflers.

The front seat that Butch used are actually from a Chrysler Cordoba, but the rear seat is standard Duster. A local upholstery shop covered all three seats in black vinyl and embroidered the two buckets with “440 Six Pack” in red. Butch installed a new headliner, dash pad, and door panels, along with all the door hardware. The original instrument panel wasn’t to his liking, so Butch designed and installed a better looking one himself.

After three years, Butch finally completed the finishing touches, and is quite pleased with the end result. There is a lot of “sweat equity” in his car, but Butch told us that somehow, when you do it yourself, you really have a special spot in your heart and a sense of pride for a job well done.

The very first event Butch entered the Duster in was the Don Garlits “Mopars With Big Daddy” show, where he received a 2nd place in the A-Body Modified class. The next year they slipped back to a 3rd, but finally in the following two years the car took first place both years. Each year in September, beginning in 2008, he has been awarded the 1st place “Award of Excellence” in Nashville, Tennessee at the Music City Mopar Club’s Annual Car & Truck Show. At the Mopar Southern Nationals in south Georgia he was fortunate enough to win three 1st places and one Best Of Show. At the local Pumpkin Run’s Horsepower In Horse Country show and at the Orlando Dodge show, they also received Best Of Show awards. And finally, at Beach Blast 18 presented by Mike Kelly’s Cruise News in May of 2012 he was the proud recipient of the Tom Staggs Memorial Award.

Even though Butch waited a little late to get started (since he is nearly 66 now), he thoroughly enjoys participating in his local Mopars of Ocala car club, and has met so many really great people in other clubs and at the various car shows - Not only in Florida, but all over the country. CN