The 1970-1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda was a star being born. For 1970, the ‘Cuda was all-new. The ‘Cuda’s great looks and incredible speed driven styling from the 1960s were now gone. In its place was a ruthless and more aggressive design and features, ready to take on what the Chevy Camaro SS 396 and Ford Mustang Boss 429 could dish out. The 1970-1971 Hemi ‘Cuda was also no longer hidden by its crosstown adversaries. Its time was now and it was out to make a name for itself in the muscle car arena.
The new Hemi ‘Cuda was no slouch. The3rd generation car finally shed its Plymouth Valiant lineage and featured a fresh, new design thanks to Chrysler stylist John Herlitz. This new Hemi ‘Cuda featured a long, low-slung hood and a short rear deck. Other exterior features include F60x15 white-letter tires, flat black rear deck, and twin high-intensity road lamps below the bumper. And the infamous Shaker hood scoop. It was humorously called the Incredible Quivering Exposed Cold Air Grabber in the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda brochure.
Buyers had an arsenal of V8 engines to choose for their ‘Cuda. However, those serious about performance chose either the 440 Six Pack or the jaw dropping 426 Hemi. The Hemi packed quite a punch. Underneath that shaker hood laid a massive, dual-carbed V8 with 425 horsepower and 490 foot-pounds of torque. Those who opted for all this power knew those numbers came at a price. Checking off option code E74 on the order form tacked on a whopping $871.45 to the price of the ‘Cuda. In today’s dollars, that equivalent to $5,345! In contrast, the 440 Six Pack only cost $250. Buyers could choose between a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic or four-speed manual transmission for their Hemi ‘Cuda.
Rumor was, the 440 Six Pack could hold its own against the Hemi til 70mph. After that, the race was over and all the 440 Six Pack could see was the Hemi ‘Cuda’s taillights. A small price to pay in the drag strip wars and tears to all the Chevy and Ford owners.
The Hemi Cuda ran a 0 to 60 time of 5.8 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 14 seconds at 102 mph. While the Chevy Camaro SS 396 pulled from 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds and sprint the quarter in 14.77 seconds at 98.72 mph.
Very few 1970 Hemi ‘Cudas rolled off the Hamtrack assembly line. They produced a mere 652 hardtops and 14 convertibles which made them instant classics.
In 1971there were slight changes to the Hemi ‘Cuda. The front end got a makeover of four headlamps and a six-opening grille. The front fenders got air extractors (aka gills) and the rear taillights were retooled with separate brake, turn signal, and backup lights to empower a new look. My favorite of the Cuda's.
In 1971 we saw even fewer Hemi ‘Cudas roll off the assembly line. Producing just 108 hardtops and seven convertibles for that year. This year was also the Hemi ‘Cuda’s final battle as emissions were starting to take a strike at the muscle car era. Even with a slightly lower 10.2:1 compression ratio, the Hemi ‘Cuda was still a strong performer. It was still rated at 425 horsepower with 490 foot-pounds of tire-shredding torque. And just like last year, it could sprint from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds and finish the quarter mile in 14 seconds. With all said, it still beat everything Chevy and Ford could through at the fish.
The Hemi ‘Cuda was a fighting fish in a pool of sharks. It never got the sales like the Camaro or Mustang, but it’s still just as famous if not more these days as we watch them cross the auction blocks. Still to this day I wish I still had one.