Written by independent automotive journalist Tom Jensen
The late 1960s and early 1970s represent the high-water mark for American muscle cars and, among Mopar aficionados, the Holy Grail was the exceedingly rare Plymouth HEMI ’Cuda, which was manufactured only in 1970-71.
The third-generation Plymouth Barracuda, which debuted in 1970, was designed by Chrysler stylist John Herlitz. As was the custom then, the Barracuda had a lengthy list of options, allowing buyers to emphasize economy, luxury or all-out performance. The base model was simply the Barracuda, the luxury model was the Gran Coupe and the high-performance model was called the ’Cuda.
And the unquestioned king of high performance in the Barracuda was the hair-chested, 426ci, 425-horsepower Chrysler HEMI engine, which became a production option in the Barracuda for the first time in 1970.
HEMI ’Cudas were rare animals, to be sure. In 1971, Plymouth manufactured 16,492 Barracuda coupes and convertibles across the various trim lines. Of that total just 107 HEMI ’Cuda hardtops were manufactured, including only 59 with the highly desirable 4-speed manual transmission. That means only one in approximately every 280 ’Cudas built in 1971 came with a HEMI four-speed.
Even rarer are HEMI ’Cudas with their original engines, since many saw severe use during drag racing. This car, which will sell at No Reserve at the Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas Auction on October 19-21, has all the desirable options and documentation Mopar collectors treasure.
Finished in True Blue Metallic with black bucket seats, this car comes with its original, matching-numbers HEMI engine, 4-speed manual transmission with pistol-grip shifter, VIN tag, Fender Tag and stamped body panels.
Desirable options on this car include the Super Track Pak: front power disc brakes, 4.10 Dana 60 rear end with Sure Grip differential, max cooling package with seven-blade fan, HEMI suspension and firm-ride shocks. Also on this gorgeous HEMI ’Cuda are the Rally instrument cluster featuring an oil-pressure gauge, clock, variable-speed wipers, wood-grain cluster and heater controls lamp, as well as gauges for tachometer, temperature, amp and 150-mile-per-hour speedometer.
Crucially, all of this has been inspected by Mopar historian Galen Govier, who produced his 29-page report, dated May 19, 2005, shortly after a complete rotisserie restoration was performed on the car. According to the consignor, this is a documented, matching-numbers 1971 HEMI ’Cuda. Add in its great colors and desirable performance options, and you’ve certainly got something worth bidding on.