"They all thought I was nuts," Steve Nitti tells us as we marvel at his sick creation. "I bought it new on January 3, 1972, at 2:32 p.m. for $2,200." Yes, he knows the time of day he bought the car. That fact is also verified by the builder, who could recite that phrase off the top of his head too, even though he'd finished working on the car nearly a year before.
In 2006, Steve dropped off the car at Sharadon Performance in Hugo, Minnesota, for a full restoration. On top of that, he says he wanted the Duster to run 10s but still be streetable." Though he had originally purchased the Slant Six car because the insurance was cheaper, over the years, Steve longed to transform his Duster into a street/strip machine. Denny Baierl, whose father owns Sharadon, replied, "You're gonna need a supercharger, fuel injection, and a lot of money." Steve didn't blink. He wrote a check, and Denny got to work.
It took about two years to complete the car, which really isn't out of line for a restoration, but it is quite impressive considering how much custom work Denny had to do to make a Slant Six make a bunch of power. "Nothing was easy. All the engine-related work was a battle," Denny says. The particulars will be in the following tech notes section, but the Cliff's Notes version is this: more displacement, custom machining, really expensive custom parts, and an even more expensive handmade intake manifold.
Steve was thrilled when he finally got to drive the car again. "He looked like a kid in a candy store," Denny says. "He tools around town and takes it to every car show he can make it to." It draws lots of attention, as you'd expect. And along with that attention comes the inevitable question: Why? Steve just likes this car. He has other Mopars, including a really nice '67 Barracuda, but this Duster is the car he's owned the longest. It just resonates with him. Wanting to make the car you love better is a natural desire we all can relate to. Yes, it would have cost him less to build a 340 that knocked down similar e.t.'s , but as Denny says, "You'd walk right by this car if it had a V8 in it. With the Slant Six, everyone stops to look.
With a best eighth-mile time of 7.18 at 98.23 mph and a 1.60-second 60-foot time, Steve hasn't quite hit his goal of 10.99 in the quarter, but he's close. With some more tuning and a better launch, he will get there soon.