RK Motors Charlotte is becoming rather famous for their “Pro Touring” lineup of vehicles. The latest rendition we came across was the 1970 Plymouth Hemi `Cuda, which was featured at SEMA in 2008.
For those that aren’t familiar with RKM’s “Pro Touring” cars, we’ll let you in on the secret. RKM takes a decent looking muscle car – so far we’ve seen a 1967 Sting Ray Corvette and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird – completely guts it, then restores it with mild modernization. So far, RKM has really impressed us with its perfect mixture of classic muscle with modern technology.
Some of the modern touches we have seen included are an LCD touch screen stereo and navigation system on the `55 T-bird, and an LS2 V-8 in the `67 Sting Ray, all while retaining the vehicle’s original character. This specimen appears to be much of the same perfection on the surface, but what does it look like as we pull back the layers?
Click past the jump to find out if the 1970 Plymouth Hemi `Cuda Pro Touring matches the blueprints of the two before it.
The first thing that was done to this `Cuda was the elimination of the boringly flat hood that originally came on it. In its place is a hand-formed steel hood that features very modern lines and a set of nostrils that look like they belong there. Under the front end is a large valance that helps add some character to the notoriously bland front end of the `Cuda. In the center opening of this valance are the factory fog lamps.
Behind this stylish hood, you have a flush-mount windshield that allows air to swoop over it with little resistance. The front fenders are identical to the originals, except that the turn signal was eliminated to smooth out the side profile. The doors are factory, but the outside door handle is shaved off and the side-view mirrors are taken from a Chrysler Crossfire . The rear quarter panels are factory, but the turn signals were eliminated and they were widened to allow the larger rear tires.
On the backside, you will notice a flush-mount rear window. You also get a spoiler that looks like it came from the factory with the car, as it swoops downward and molds perfectly with the top of the rear quarter panel. The rear light panel is a completely custom job that houses LED taillights that resemble the factory taillights from the 1970 `Cuda. Down below you have a custom valance that features diffusers to help add downforce and air flows underneath the car.
The restoration job was a tedious one that included making sure that every single body panel was 100 percent flawless. If there were any flaws, that panel was replaced by an exact replica panel. The car was taken down to bare metal, then a coat of Vibrants Purfect Purple and PPG Star Silver was draped on the body to make a two-tone effect. Between the purple and silver is an airbrushed repeating rectangle design down the side of the car.
On the front end of this `Cuda you get a set of 18-inch Bonspeed Quasar wheels and on the rear you get the same wheels, but in 20-inch. These wheels really set off the entire exterior and sure up that modern look.
Overall, this exterior is a thing of beauty and the custom builders really did a great job balancing the old with the new.
The front seats in this beast are straight from the interior of a Corvette. They are wrapped in black leather and feature a mesh insert in the centermost part. The rear seats are actually built from the original bench seat in this `Cuda, but the bench was modified to look just like the front seats.
The door panels are 100 percent custom fabricated. They are all black leather and feature a mesh insert on the center, just like the seats.
Between the front seats sits a fully custom center console that somewhat resembles the center console that originally say in the car. The main differences are a carbon fiber insert in the console, a “Start Engine” button mounted on the console, air ride suspension controls and the pistol-grip shifter protruding from the center console.
Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel sets a full set of custom gauges, which required slight modifications to the factory dashboard.
Keeping your rides interesting is an Alpine radio. The audio system includes two door-mounted speakers, two rear pack tray-mounted speakers and Kicker subwoofers in the trunk. Keeping road noise out and the sound of the radio in is a full layer of sound deadening material.
Overall, the interior is not terrible, but it is also not RKM’s best work. The Corvette seats are retro enough to fit the `Cuda’s look, but the customized dashboard and rear bench seat just look out of place in this car. Also, the center console just looks cheaply built to us.
Engine and Drivetrain
The builders of this machine ripped out the old 426 Hemi V-8, which was an impressive engine for its era, and replaced it with a modern day 6.1-liter Hemi V-8. This is no standard 6.1-liter engine, as the notorious Hemi engine builders at Arrington built this beast. There is no mention of the mods performed on this engine, with exception to long-tube headers and an X-pipe, but it certainly has at least a few, as it cranks out an impressive 525 horsepower.
The engine also received some styling upgrades. The first thing you will notice is that the valve covers don the same purple color as the top of the car. You also get the airbrushed rectangles on the top of the valve covers. The intake has also been polished to a mirror-like shine.
To continue on with the modernization of the drivetrain, this car comes with a five-speed manual transmission, as opposed to the four-speed that came stock. The rear end features an 8.75-inch Chrysler rear differential and a set of 3.91 gears, which are the perfect balance between powerful acceleration and top speed.
Overall, we love the drivetrain and the fact that the crack team made it all look just like it was built for the car.
Suspension and Braking
On all four corners are air shocks, which are adjustable from inside the cockpit. On the front and rear you also get large sway bars to keep the body lean in check under hard cornering. The braking system is from Baer and features ventilate discs on each corner, but there is no mention of the type of calipers. Wrapped around the beautiful staggered rims are Nitto Invo tire – 245/40R18 on the front and 295/35R20 on the rear.
In all, there is not much mention made in reference to the suspension and braking systems, so chances are that the modifications are minimal. The `Cuda was never known as much of a handler, so chances are you can expect the same from this model.
Let’s start off by telling you that a mint condition Hemi `Cuda books out at $856,000, per NADA. Typically, a fully customized and restored model like this would fetch a premium, but it is actually significantly cheaper than the NADA value, as RKM is only asking $199,900.
This makes us seriously doubt that this was actually a Hemi `Cuda to begin with. It was likely a base model `Cuda that inherited the “Hemi” name because it now sports a Hemi. Even if this is a base level `Cuda, it still books out at $70,000, but an almost 300 percent markup for the customization would be a little crazy.
The only real competition that this car receives is from its own showroom, in the form of the `67 Corvette Sting Ray Pro Touring .
On the outside we will be blunt and say that the Corvette is plain out a sexier car. Yeah, it lacks the muscular looks of the `Cuda, but it’s just more stylish. Plus we like the yellow paintjob far better than the two-tone paint on the `Cuda.
Under the hood, the `Cuda wins out power, as it cranks out at least 525 ponies, compared to the `Vette’s 521 horsepower. Also, the Hemi engine just sounds right in the classic `Cuda, whereas the LS2 V-8 almost looks out of place under the Corvette’s hood.
On the inside, the `67 Sting Ray is the hands down winner. RKM did an awesome job keeping the Corvette looking as original as possible. The interior of the `Cuda looks cheap and almost like the builders rushed through it.
The first thing you would need to do before deciding to purchase this car is to find out exactly what trim level `Cuda it is based on. If it is a true Hemi `Cuda, then snag this thing up and run away, because you’re likely to go to jail for grand theft auto at that price. If it is a base model, we suggest walking away or picking up the 1967 Sting Ray for about $40K less. If it falls somewhere in the middle, the choice is yours, but we say the Sting Ray is the safer bet.
The chrome rims are perfect for the car
Great price, if this is a real Hemi `Cuda
Not digging the purple paint
The interior looks cheap and rushed
Lack of suspension mods is disappointing
gallery: Plymouth Hemi `Cuda Pro Touring
Here at RK Motors Charlotte, we know all about over-the-top customs. You’ve seen the cars we’ve built, from Maximum Effect, our 1970 Charger, to that sinister all-black AAR Hemi ‘Cuda which won trophies and stunned the Hot Rod Power Tour a few years ago. Heck, going too far and taking everything over-the-top is almost a rule around here.
So when this absolutely stunning 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda showed up, we realized that someone had just moved “the top” and beating this one will be a tough job indeed.
Nicknamed “Conviction ‘Cuda,” this car was built for the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas and is a take-no-prisoners, cost-no-object build that has resulted in one of the most visually and technologically stunning pro-touring cars we’ve ever featured. With contributions from all the biggest names in the business, this is a professionally built car that will win every show in which it is entered, and drives like a modern machine. Just pulling it out of the trailer drew a crowd in the parking lot, as if the rhythmic sound of the exhaust was the Pied Piper or something. You could study this car for 8 hours a day for a whole month and not see all the detailing that went into the construction, and you might want to bring an expert to see how deep the craftsmanship reaches. No corners were cut, no shortcuts were taken, and this car stands at the pinnacle of the pro-touring movement today. This car even has its own website at www.convictioncuda.com. In short, if you want to get to the top of the mountain, this is the king you’re going to need to de-throne. Good luck with that.
First off, all of the body modifications—and there are many—have been done in steel. No fiberglass, no flexible stuff pulled from a mold, not even OEM pieces that have been adapted, just hand-formed steel. The first things I noticed were the subtle beads on the rear valence that mimic the rocker panel blisters. Then I saw how the rear spoiler had been molded into the fender, and the custom made hood with OEM-looking nostrils. Heck, we have photos of them laying out wooden blocks on the rear deck to create bucks for the spoiler fabrication. Look closer and you’ll see flush-mounted glass, shaved door handles and drip rails, and newly fabricated front and rear valence panels.
Of course, the basics are 100% ‘Cuda, starting with an original car and built from a bare steel shell. The car was stripped bare and every panel that wasn’t perfect was removed and replaced with an exact reproduction. New quarters were installed, but they weren’t installed stock—the side marker lights were shaved and the upper areas were adjusted to fit the giant tires. Of course, you’d need a stock ‘Cuda next to this one to see all the modifications, but the total of the work is a car that keeps everyone guessing and absolutely steals every show it enters.
Part of the show-stealing is certainly due to the paint job. Done in PPG Silver Star and Vibrants Purfect Purple with a lot of airbrush work, the car is visually arresting in person. You think you’ve seen show-quality paint? Guess again. If there’s a flaw in this paint job, I can’t find it. The finish is the result of hundreds of hours of bodywork, top-quality finishes, and another several hundred hours of wet sanding and buffing every square inch—hell, it even appears that the underside of the hood has been wet sanded and buffed. Then there’s the unique strobe stripe, which is paint, not a decal, and is a combination of air brush techniques and pinstriping that gives it an almost three-dimensional look that seems to be vibrating off the metal.
Out back, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the custom-made rear panel that houses custom taillights that look an awful lot like standard ‘Cuda items, but are actually hand-made LED lights that give it a modern look at night. Up front, Harley-Davidson twin-bulb modular headlights are brilliant in any sense of the word, and a custom grille insert has been created to mimic the original, but with turn-signal indicators molded into the grille itself. Brake cooling ducts have been integrated into the lower valence, while out back, diffuser ducts evacuate air from under the car and generate downforce at high speeds. Mirrors are from a Chrysler Crossfire, and, well, I’ll let you spend some time with the car and discover the rest. There’s just so much to see, we can’t possibly include it all here.
There was never any doubt when this project started that this car would be Hemi-powered. But that’s not a 50-year-old chunk of cast iron in the engine bay. No, a car of this caliber needs cutting-edge technology to go with the horsepower, so a modern 6.1-liter Hemi was selected instead. It’s an Arrington-built piece that cranks out more than 525 horsepower (that’s 100 horsepower more than the legendary 426 Hemis of yore), and does it in a smaller, lighter, and more user-friendly package. Forget tuning carburetors and fouled spark plugs, the only thing this car needs from you is someone to turn the key and press the red START button on the center console. Continuing the strobe stripe theme under the hood, you’ll find some custom covers for the radiator and coils that mimic the three-dimensional detailing on the body. The intake has been polished for a little bit of eye candy under the hood, while the wiring and plumbing has been carefully hidden for a super-sanitary look. Power steering and power brakes are definitely part of the equation, as is a high-output alternator to keep the car’s electronics happy.
Just as a carburetor would be out of place on the engine, a 4-speed just wouldn’t do underneath. Instead, there’s a Keisler 5-speed with overdrive that makes the most of the engine’s prodigious horsepower. Out back, a Chrysler 8.75-inch rear holds 3.91 gears on a limited slip. This will accelerate hard enough to break fingers, and can still climb to speeds once reserved for aircraft on the big end. The suspension features massive sway bars and cockpit-adjustable air shocks from Air Ride for a 21st century ride inside that vintage 1970 shape. Brakes are from Baer, and feature massive vented and cross-drilled rotors at all four corners. Those openings in the front fascia aren’t just for show, either—they actually feed the front brakes a steady supply of cool air. Long tube headers dump into a stainless steel X-pipe and Flowmaster mufflers before terminating in custom tips molded into the rear valence. The floors are undercoated because the original intent was to build a car to drive before things got, well, a little out-of-hand. The perfect hot-rod profile and stance is achieved by a set of polished 18- and 20-inch Bonspeed Quasar wheels on 245/40/18 front and 295/35/20 rear Nitto Invo tires.
Open the door and the first thing you’ll notice is that the graphics from the exterior continue into the doorjambs—always the sign of first-rate paint work. Then you’ll notice the Corvette bucket seats that have been custom upholstered with a mesh insert to really hold you in place. Door panels were specially fabricated for this car, and hold matching mesh inserts to really tie the whole interior together. A custom console was fabricated to resemble the original ‘Cuda piece, but it now features a carbon-fiber insert, controls for the Air Ride suspension, and a big, red START ENGINE button that brings the monster to life. A billet pistol grip shifter controls the 5-speed, a cool update on the original that looks exactly right in this 21st century interpretation of the Hemi ‘Cuda. The original dashboard has been reshaped and molded to hold a set of new Mopar Performance analog gauges. A leather-wrapped steering wheel with carbon-fiber accents sits atop a Flaming River column, and delivers razor-sharp feedback. In back, the rear bench has been reshaped to resemble the front buckets, and cool speed blisters with built-in speaker pods have been molded into the package shelf behind the headrests. An Alpine head unit is nestled up front, while massive Kicker speakers in their own custom enclosures in the trunk provide the support. Liberal use of Dynamat throughout the interior ensures that you’ll stay cool and comfortable behind the wheel of this amazing car.
On a build of this magnitude, you know there’s a ton of documentation. We have extensive build photos, drawings, sketches, and other development details that are seldom seen in the finished product—concept cars often go directly from the designer’s imagination to the show floor. You can see how this car evolved and the designer’s intent throughout the process, and it’s fascinating to compare it to the finished product. Build photos take you through every step of construction, from a bare shell to finished product on the stand at the 2008 SEMA show.
There’s no question this is a very special car and that its existence has moved the bar for top-line pro-touring customs. If you’re the sort of person who wants to own only the best, and understands that quality doesn’t compromise, then you’re already familiar with what this car has to offer. Stunning to look at, thrilling to drive, and exceptional to show, Conviction ‘Cuda is the current state-of-the-art in pro-touring. This is a car that will remain timeless thanks to smart design and immaculate craftsmanship, and in 20 years, it will still draw crowds like it does today—great cars are like that. It’s expensive, yes, but I’ll wager it cost even more to build and that there are no more than a handful of craftsmen in the country who could duplicate it. If you missed our last few pro-touring Mopars, you can count yourself lucky, because you now have the opportunity to own the best. Don’t miss it and call today.