Ask the Cool Daddy Who Owns One
Dear Cool Daddy: Nobody believes me when I tell them you used to be able to buy a Mercedes-Benz at your local Studebaker dealer. You believe me, right? …from Wilbur in Shaw’s Grove, WV
Dear Wilbur: Right, I do believe you, mainly because it’s completely true…and I’m Old Skool, where truth still counts for something, which is why I suspect you came to me in the first place.
The business arrangement lasted from 1957 until Studebaker winked out of existence in 1963. By that time, M-B had seen the writing on the wall and the development of its own chain of dealerships was well under way…boosted by the Studebaker locations that simply switched over to stay in business. Of course, this was the era when you could get an Opal at Buick, a Vauxhall at Pontiac, a Simca at Chrysler, and other imports I know I’m forgetting…
Dear Cool Daddy: Is it true that the Plymouth Duster was short for “Coyote Duster,” in keeping with the Warner Brothers Road Runner motif? …Granny, in Leghorn SD
Dear Granny: Meep! Meep! to you, too. You know, I always assumed so…but a quick surf of the internet turns up nary a whiff of it…not in advertisements (best source) nor people’s reminiscences. The Duster was available from 1970 thru 1976, and technically it was a Valiant the whole time, until replaced by the Volaré. And with high gas prices and federal regulations crushing the market for larger muscle cars, spiffy little Dusters were the best Mopar alternative. In fact, when introduced in 1970, ads called it “America’s first super-low-priced supercar,” so there.
It was an instant hit, so much so that Dodge demanded and got its own version, the Demon…in exchange for rebadged Dart Swingers being sold as Plymouth Scamps. And there were tons of cutesy special editions, like Feather Duster, Gold Duster, Silver Duster, Space Duster, and Twister. But the cartoon Road Runner was a cheeky winner, the Coyote a lovable loser, and I find no marketing associating him and the car.
That having been said, clearly there was a connection…after all, contemporary with the first few years of the Duster, the Road Runner had an air-cleaner called the Coyote Duster…leaving the Coyote in the dust, you see. And when they marketed that snazzy batmobile with the pointy nose-cone and the sky-high wing, to make it legal for stock car racing (what NASCAR called the “homologation”), they called it the Plymouth Superbird, and lest you were confused about what kind of a bird that was, slapped on a decal.
The Duster cartoon character was a miniature whirlwind, with concentric squiggles resembling the Road Runner’s, but that’s about as far as it went. Altho I’m labeling this case “still open,” if it’s all the same to you…
dusting off shameless superplugs…
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