The winning bid paid at Mecum’s Seattle’s June 2014 auction for a ’71 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible: $3.5 million. That’s the most ever paid for a classic muscle car. Plymouth struck gold when they redesigned their lightweight muscle car to hold Chrysler’s biggest motors, and that shows with high prices in the collector’s market. Of course, like all other muscle cars, it had to retreat because a combination of oil prices, insurance rates and emissions regulations made it impractical to build something with so much power. By its final year, the car was a shadow of itself, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice today.
The Winning Formula
The new ‘Cuda started production in 1970, right at the peak of the muscle car craze. Engines ranged from the slant six all the way up to the 440 Super Commando and the legendary 426 Hemi with a claimed but definitely underrated 425 bhp. Coupled with classic Coke-bottle styling, a better suspension and an array of transmission and axle options, it could rival anything available at the drag strip.
The Decline of the Plymouth Cuda
The big blocks went away after 1971. The convertible was dropped after 1972. By 1974, it was clear the model was at its end: Sales had gone from around 50,000 per year to less than 12,000. The options list was trimmed until buyers were left with just a few extras and the choice of the 318 or the new 360. Even with its four-barrel carburetor, the 360 only produced 244 bhp. At the time, it just made more sense to buy something smaller and lighter to overcome the hurdles of lower power engines.
If It Quacks Like a Duck…
For today’s classic car enthusiast, the ’74 is viewed a bit differently. It may have had a tepid engine, but the styling is similar to the earlier cars, it uses the same parts, and it still has that giant engine bay. However, it doesn’t have the price: Clean examples can be had for under $30,000, and fitting a Mopar big block is trivial, putting recreations of the more desirable cars well under $100,000. The result may not come from the factory, but it puts the experience of these classic Mopars within reach.
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