The early 1970s was a grand time for American muscle cars with plenty of iconic iron rolling off the Big Three’s assembly lines. But few cars have reached the level of rarity as the Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda. Production numbers of these legendary street machines were rather low compared to other muscle cars of the era. In the case of this particular ‘Cuda and its combination of options, the number is one.
Yes, out of the total 16,159 Barracudas sold in 1971, only 11 were fitted with the sportiest ‘Cuda option powered by the 426 Hemi and ordered as convertibles. Of those 11 cars, only three came with the four-speed manual transmission. Over 40 years later, one — yes o-n-e — B5-coded “Bright Blue” ‘Cuda is the only numbers-matching, 426 Hemi-powered, four-speed, convertible in existence. Talk about rare.
Updated 06/16/2014: This very cool Hemi Cuda Convertible was auctioned during this week-end’s auctions at Mecum for the amazing amount of $3,500,000.
Click past the jump to read more about the 1971 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda Convertible.
If you think this Hemi ‘Cuda looks a little plain, you’d be right. Most ‘Cudas were ordered with the factory rear decklid wing, black rear quarter panel stripes, and silver Rally wheels. There was still plenty to look at on the stripped-down `Cuda Convertible. Its “shaker” hood was complete with chrome tie-down pins, the front quarter panel showed off its chrome side vents, the grille features those unique-for-’71 louvers and quad headlights, and the lower rear fascia features cut-outs for the dual, chrome-tipped exhausts pipes.
The car’s power-folding, black canvas top matches nicely with the black tires, black rear fascia, and shadow-covered black louvers hidden within the front grille. The dog-dish hubcaps and raised white letter tires further set the look to this 1970s street machine.
The front passengers are treated to high-back leather bucket seats and a matching dashboard. That, combined with the high-pile carpet, really shows off Chrysler’s flamboyant design style of the era. Other interior options included black and tan leather and vinyl seats and coordinating carpet colors.
The driver’s instrument cluster of the ’Cubas were surrounded by wood grain and came complete with a 150-mph speedometer, an 8,000-rpm tachometer, oil pressure gauge, Temperature gauge, voltage gauge, and a clock. A switch to operate the three-speed intermittent wiper blades also lived within the dash.
On the floor was that awesome looking Hurst Pistol Grip shifter that rows between the four forward gears and reverse. Of course, the automatic was optional.
Several engine options were available under the Barracuda’s hood, including two Slant-sixes, four V-8s, and of course, the top-dog 426-cubic inch, V-8.
The big block 426 pumped out 425 horsepower to the rear wheels with the help of twin Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors. Out back, a Dana 60 rear end housed 9.75-inch gears set to a 4.10 ratio put the power to the pavement through skinny tires mounted on 15 x 7 steel wheels. To keep things cool, a 26-inch radiator sat behind the grille and the optional power brakes pulled everything to a stop. Not all Barracudas got such hardcore hardware, as the slant sixes and smaller V-8s were more at home just cruising around town.
But with the 426 Hemi factory package selected, the car also received upgraded suspension components and a reinforced chassis. All told, the car would hit 60 mph in roughly six seconds on its way to a quarter-mile run lasting 13 seconds – blazingly quick numbers for those days.
The last time it was on the auction block in 2007, it fetched $2.2 million. Seven years later and with the country on the happier side of the "great recession," the selling price rose drastically to $3,500,000 (6/16/2014).
The Chevelle SS gave the ‘Cuda a run for its money on the track, especially when fitted with its optional 454-cubic inch, big block V-8. That carbureted engine cranked 365 horsepower to the rear wheels through either a three-speed automatic or four-speed manual. Like the ‘Cuda, the Chevelle was a 2+2 design that allowed five passengers to ride in comfort.
However, the Chevelle enjoyed a larger production run than the limited ‘Cuda, so prices for restored Chevelles aren’t nearly as high as the Plymouth’s.
The 1971 Plymouth Barracuda and its high-performance ‘Cuda variant epitomize the muscle car era of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Not counting the car’s rarity, this ‘Cuda is still a valuable piece of American car history. Since the car’s rarity is impossible to ignore, its value absolutely skyrockets.
Generally speaking, Plymouth’s Barracuda and sportier ’Cuda variant were solidly built cars with the right looks to scare off its cross-town competition. Add to it the gnarly 426 V-8 engine under that Shaker hood, and the HemiCuda could hold its own against the best street machines of the era.
- Classic American muscle
- Powerful Hemi V-8
- Power-folding convertible top
- Its absolute rarity
- Slow performer by today’s standards
- MPG in the single digits
- Paying millions for a car too rare to drive hard