Most people who look back at what is possibly Chrysler’s greatest E-body, the Plymouth ‘Cuda, may think that “Barracuda” and “‘Cuda” are the same designation, but for the Mopar world the “‘Cuda” emblem carries a much greater significance, “It’s not a Barracuda; it’s a ‘Cuda, which is the performance version…”
The “‘Cuda” emblem was one that weighed heavy with Plymouth’s Challenger look-a-like during its production from 1970-74, and the switch from “Barracuda” to simply “‘Cuda” ultimately depended on what powertrain the car was ordered with, as an E-body equipped with a 340, 383, 440 or HEMI was considered a performance model while straight-6 and 318-optioned cars were considered base models.
Our featured Mopar is one of the last Chrysler greats, a numbers-matching ’73 ‘Cuda with a correct 340 and slapstick auto spotted this month at the East Tennessee Mopar Show in Knoxville’s Chilhowee Park & Expo Center.
1973 was an important production year for the Plymouth E-body, and there were several styling and other cues that evolved to separate the later ‘Cuda from its predecessors, “The ’70 was unique as far as the taillights and the grille, and then in ’71 they had the same taillights but they changed the grille and put the little fish gills on the sides of the fenders.”
The owner of this ‘Cuda was eager to get it restored, but with a family of kids needing transportation first the project was initially put on hold, “We let it sit for a while while we were finishing the kids’ cars, and then we finished it up. We did some work on it along the way to kind of keep it going along, but each of the kids wanted a car so we finished their cars first,” the owner said.
Luckily for this crazy cool piece of Mopar muscle, it fell into the hands of a man who has been around Chrysler performance for a very long time, “Ever since I was in high school. I took auto mechanics class from ’70-71. I was about the only Mopar guy there; everyone else was Chevys and Fords.”
The original decision to buy the ‘Cuda came after the owner’s deep regret of selling a correct ’70 T/A Challenger with a 340 Six-Pack, and after the Southeast local’s purchase of a ’69 Roadrunner, also featured in the East Tennessee Mopar Show, he decided that it was finally time to buy another E-body.
As it currently stands, the car’s numbers-matching 4-barrel 340 is still intact even with factory heads, though the motor has been stroked with a 360 crank to bump the mill’s displacement to about 370 cubes, while the valves are forced open via a Comp cam.
Orange brake drums are part of the ‘Cuda’s factory-ordered package, and the 340 block is painted blue as all Chrysler small-blocks were painted from ’72 and later, while ’71 and earlier small-blocks were orange. The car features original black interior with brand new carpet, while the rear seat covers have been replaced following a small welding fire that left a hole in one of the back seats.
Unique to our featured ‘Cuda is its bright shade of yellow paint that only deviates slightly from the factory. Originally “Lemon Twist,” the car’s owner wanted something a bit brighter. As it would happen, Dodge Vipers in particular came in two shades of yellow: one closer to canary while the latter was the brighter “Race” shade, the variant used on our featured car to reinforce its “bumble bee” motif.
A misconception that often occurs with Mopar E-body interiors is that a 150 mile per hour speedometer came standard with any car that was ordered with a 340 and up, but as our ‘Cuda owner explains this is not the case, “Even in a performance model, the Rallye cluster was optional; it didn’t automatically come because you had a 340 car. I had an original ’70 T/A Challenger with a 340, 3 deuces and it had a 120 mile per hour speedometer; it did not have the Rallye dash.”
For the owner of this bright yellow ‘Cuda, the car would prove to be a truly remarkable Mopar muscle car find, “A friend of mine who worked for UPS told me about it. We came up here and looked at it, made a deal with the guy and drove it home,” he said.
The moral of our story then must be that in the world of muscle cars, all of America’s “Big 3″ have had something to offer, but when it comes to all things Dodge and Chrysler, Mopar muscle exists in a world that has always been and will continue to be one that is all its own!