Paul Annunziata's '75 Plymouth Duster Moves to Jay Leno's Garage

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Terminally ill with lung cancer, Paul Annunziata did not want to worry about the preservation of his 1975 Plymouth Duster that he had spent five years building in the 1970s. With the transfer of his car to the Jay Leno Garage this week, Paul is happy and content knowing that his car will be taken care of.

From driving go carts as a kid, to driving standard shift cars down abandoned railroad beds at the age of thirteen, cars have always been important to Paul Annunziata. Beginning at age sixteen with a 650 cc Matchless motorcycle and drag racing his 55 Chevy Hot Rod, Paul has owned and driven a variety of different cars, but his 1975 Plymouth Duster is special; so special that it recently travelled cross country to its new home in Jay Leno’s Garage.

HCAM News sat down with Paul to talk about how he built the car and about its new home in Los Angeles.

“This car is a 1975 Plymouth Duster,” said Annunziata. “It has a 1968 426 engine in it that came from a Dodge Super Bee.”

After graduating from Jim Russell’s International Race Driver’s School in Norfolk England in the early 1970s, and as the valedictorian of his class from National Technical Schools in Los Angeles California, Paul had the idea to build a Pro Stock Class Drag Car for the street.

“When I was in California going to school, I used to go to the Orange County Drag Way,” said Annunziata.

And that’s where he first saw the pro stock cars like the Motown Missile and the Mopar Missile.

“I came up with the idea, and I wasn’t the first one to do it, to put these pro stock cars on the street.”

Putting the Duster on the street took a lot of work with many modifications. The wheel wells were modified to make room for the wide tires, and wheelie bars were added. In addition to the wide tires and everything else that goes with a race car, the Duster is supercharged.

“I wanted to supercharge it,” said Annunziata. “You get almost double the horsepower.”

A winning scratch ticket at a local supermarket helped fund the building of Paul’s car.

“The $10,000 started me on building this car”, explained Annunziata, but the challenge was the engine since he wanted a Hemi. “They didn’t produce any 426 Hemi engines in the Duster. It was only in the aftermarket that some people put in Hemis like I did.”

“Considerable modifications were required to fit the 426 Hemi engine in the A Body Duster. Annunziata took the car to a local shop that specialized in chasis work. The body was tubbed, the roll cage was added and the modifications necessary to make room in the engine compartment for the Hemi engine were made.

“It was a complex, hard car to work on,” said Annunziata, “because I wanted to keep the body original and have everything work. This car has back up lights, a heater, a defroster and a radio. Everything works on this car the way it is supposed to.”

Annunziata had help with some of the modifications, including the special bracketry required for the engine, and with the paint, but assembled the car himself for a total cost of $27,000.

“I had to assemble it,” said Annunziata. “I put in every nut, bolt, wire and clip; everything except the windshield.”

It took him five years to build the car.

This custom built 1975 Plymouth Duster won it’s class in the Boston World of Wheels four times, and the Worcester Centrum Top Honors one time. It was awarded the Holley carburetor outstanding engine custom award and was featured in Hot Rod Magazine in November of 1980.

Through a connection made when he owned his own business, Annunziata’s Dyno Tune-Up in Framingham, Paul was able to contact Leno when he was searching for a new home for his car. On Wednesday, July 20th his 1975 Plymouth Duster was picked up by Intercity Lines, the car transport company used by Leno to transport his cars. After it was loaded on the truck and made secure, Annunziata signed the papers that made the transfer official, and his 1975 Plymouth Duster with the 426 C.I. Hemi engine began its journey westward to Jay Leno’s garage.

“That’s an extraordinary, fantastic garage,” said Annunziata. “Because I am sick and ill with cancer, I wanted to pass on and not worry about the preservation of the car. So, he gave me his word that he wouldn’t sell it and I believe him. He’s a terrific person and I’m very happy and content that he took the car. I donated the car to him, so that’s the story.”

Paul wanted to make sure that the following people who played a part in the building of his Duster were thanked. For the body paint, Bobby Bell from Holliston. For the special components, the late Frank Wylie of Hopkinton and for suspension parts painting, Jeff Furber of Hopkinton.

In exchange for the donation of the Duster, Jay Leno has made a monetary contribution in Paul’s name to McPherson College, the only school in the country that offers a Bachelor of Arts in automotive restoration.

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NOTE: This video story was incorporated in its entirety into a video produced by Jay Leno for his Jay Leno's Garage website. It is also available on YouTube and has over 500,000 views.