1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible

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While involved in development work on aircraft engines during World War II, Chrysler’s engineers saw firsthand the potential for hemispherical combustion chamber engines, and those engineers had a longstanding tradition of investigating, developing and perfecting advanced ideas. They could – and did – explore every conceivable engine idea. They knew the hemispherical combustion chamber not only gave better performance than a comparable wedge-chamber head but also tolerated appreciably higher compression ratios. In the early 60s, being roundly trounced in NASCAR, Chrysler turned to the solution they already knew worked, the Hemi. Delivered to the track days before the green flag dropped at the 1964 Daytona, the 426 Hemis proved to be invincible as they swept the top three places in NASCAR’s most important race. They were a fearsome presence throughout NASCAR's 1964 season and beyond.

The first Barracuda was introduced in 1964 and it could be argued that it ended up as the most refined and elegant of all the car companies' pony car designs - with the most famous being the 1970-1971 E-body Plymouth ‘Cudas. When the Barracuda was redesigned for 1970 the engine bay was made large enough for the legendary 425-horsepower 426 Street Hemi. Built for only two years, Hemi-powered ‘Cudas are very rare. They were also expensive – the Hemi engine option was a 70% premium over the 390 horsepower 440 Six Barrel. Buying a Hemi ‘Cuda took a serious commitment and an ample budget. Chrysler combined the visceral delight of the Hemi’s power and torque with the ‘Cuda’s lightweight and refined platform. It stood out with its wide grille, long hood, stubby rear deck and raised rear fenders – no doubt shaped like the haunches of a hungry. leaping predator. The appearance of the ‘Cuda left no doubt that this was a serious performance car. It was not designed for the faint of heart.

Changed only slightly for 1971, with a new grille and taillights, seat, and trim differences, the ‘Cuda convertible was wretched excess in an almost unimaginably limited production package. Only 1971 Barracudas would have four headlights, and it was also the only year of the fender "gills" on the 'Cuda model. Also for 1970 and 1971 only were the shaker hood and the Spicer-built Dana 60 rear axle available. The heavy-duty (and heavy) Dana 60 was standard equipment with manual transmission-equipped 426 Hemi engines, and was optional on 'Cudas with the automatic transmission.

After 1971 emission restrictions and insurance surcharges took the wind out of the horsepower race and at year's end production of the second generation Hemi ended. Two more times Chrysler resurrected the Hemi; first as a crate engine program for hot rodders and later, a third generation of the Hemi engine, versions of which have been dropped in numerous Chrysler and Dodge street demons to this day. Three times Chrysler looked to the Hemi to transform its cars and its image from boring to bodacious, and three times the Hemi has delivered. In the late 60’s and early 70’s Chrysler used the powerful Hemi to cultivate a bad boy image of politically incorrect power and performance, and in the process turned it into a legend.

This stunning model, in factory original Sno-White paint with graphics package delete and 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission was restored by Julius Steuer and was sold by Mecum Auctions at their Kissimme Auction in 2016.

---- Specifications ----
Price -- Production --
Engine 7 liter Hemi V8 Weight --
Aspiration natural Torque --
HP 425 hp HP/Weight --
HP/Liter 60.7 hp per liter 1/4 mile --
0-62 mph -- Top Speed --

(from Mecum Auctions Press Release) 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible

  • One of five Automatic Hemi Cuda Convertibles produced in 1971
  • Last year for Hemi production
  • Constructed on September 9, 1970
  • Restored in 2003 at Restorations by Julius in Chatsworth, California
  • 426/425 HP Hemi V-8 engine
  • A727 Torqueflite automatic transmission
  • A36 Performance Axle Package
  • 3.55 Sure Grip differential
  • Power steering and Brakes
  • GW3 Sno White with painted grille
  • N96 Shaker hood with J45 hood pins
  • N42 chrome exhaust tips
  • Chrome bumpers and fender gills
  • Chrome rocker and tail panel moldings
  • Black bucket seat interior
  • P37 power convertible top
  • R26 AM radio with microphone and cassette recorder
  • Color-matched wheels with dog dish hubcabs
  • Copy of 1977 Kansas title
  • Partial broadcast sheet
  • Original carpet and door tags
  • Discovery and restoration photos

When it came to designating equipment on special-ordered cars back in the day, it was possible for a buyer to create something very unique. Due to high original costs and a wide selection of options, singularity on muscle convertibles is not unheard of, yet this sale of a 1971 Hemi Cuda will meet that criterion in a distinct way. Painted in brilliant GW3 Sno-White paint with deleted billboards, this fascinating car is special in that it does not accent the over-the-top styling for which the 1971 E-body was notorious.

Spurred on a by a number of factors, the convertible E-body models built by Plymouth Division during the final two years of the 426 Hemi engine’s availability in street-production models have proven time and again to be the blue chips of collector investment. Repeatedly reaching into the value territory that has been previously reserved for the legendary prewar classics and the most exclusive European-built sports cars, the Hemi Cuda convertible ‘owner’s club’ is very small and exclusive indeed; few people today will ever get the chance to join or claim membership to it.

After all, rarity is a given on cars like this convertible, and this was the first of the mere five automatic-equipped examples built in that final year of Hemi production. Constructed on September 9, 1970 on assembly line 2 at the Hamtramck plant, this car was special-ordered with some very remarkable characteristics. As mentioned, the buyer opted to leave the large billboard graphics off, but still selected a black top and interior, giving the car a unique two-tone appearance. The N96 Shaker scoop on top of the 426/425 HP Hemi was also done in black. Ordered without the Rallye wheels, this vehicle instead has the large 15x7-inch steel wheels installed; these were also painted the body color. The only exterior dress-up items ordered were the J45 hood pins, N42 chrome tips, and chrome rocker, belt line, and tail panel moldings. Additionally, the chrome bumpers, fender gills, and dog-dish hubcaps help set off the stylish lines of the well-recognized body and grille, which again is painted body color.

Conversely, on the inside, the car features some notable options that preclude its construction solely as a racer. Most visible is the rare R26 AM radio with microphone and cassette recorder. The A727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission is column-shifted and there is no console, but the two bucket seats are separate without an additional center buddy seat. Power steering and brakes are also part of the driving experience. The dash layout was the basic Barracuda version, not the Rallye design, yet the code-P37 power top was also chosen.

The 426 Hemi, of course, needs little explanation. Most important to remember regarding its 1971 finale is that, unlike most other manufacturers, Chrysler chose not to lower the compression or otherwise detune it in the face of increased government scrutiny and high insurance premiums; like this car, the engine left the stage with its reputation fully intact. Also, with other body and styling changes made by Chrysler that year, no other Hemi-powered convertibles of any sort were built in 1971, period. Behind this and the automatic transmission was code-A36 Performance Axle Package, perhaps yet another anomaly in that it was for the more highway-friendly 3.55:1 Sure Grip gear set in an 8 ¾ differential.

This drop-top Hemi Cuda’s unique details startled the Chrysler hobby when this amazing car turned up in partially disassembled but quite complete form in 2003. Before going to Restorations by Julius, the car was documented and verified. The previous owner had been in possession of it since 1977, and had started his own restoration before opting to allow its sale. Noted Mopar restoration specialist Julius Steuer, equipped with the aforementioned data, then spent over a year refurbishing the car to the condition you see here. It has been shown on only rare occasions since then. Documentation on the car includes a copy of the 1977 Kansas title, partial broadcast sheet, original door and carpet tags, and discovery and restoration photos.

Perhaps our "white elephant" has one other unique attraction. Most 1971 Cudas regardless of engine were noteworthy for the same over-the-top appearance options this one does not feature. Cars of this nature were often bought in expectation of bringing a good deal of attention to their owners. The broad visibility of the GW3 White paint did not do so, yet is a stunning part of this car’s heritage, and is very out-of-character for supercars of this era. Definitively powered by the most noteworthy engine of this model year, optioned so uniquely that it is indeed one-of-one, and brought back to spectacular as-new condition, few could argue that this Hemi Cuda convertible is indeed a blue-chip investment. In that regard, one champion could find this Sno-White attraction irresistible.