If you were a bit of an extrovert and had a penchant for arriving everywhere sideways and in a cloud of smoke back in the Seventies, then you probably owned, or dreamt of, a 425bhp Plymouth ’Cuda… finished in Plum Crazy for good measure. Debuting a full two weeks before the Ford Mustang in 1964, the ’Cuda was considered the first of the muscle cars.
It went on to become an all-out street brawler that frightened the paint off all its rivals, but it had to wait until the 1970 model year before it could be taken really seriously. Based on the compact Plymouth Valiant, the lean-looking fastback featured a massive wraparound taillight and a stubby bonnet.
Engine options included V6s and V8s — the most potent of which produced 235bhp. But it was eclipsed by the ’Stang, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird in terms of styling and performance before the decade was out. Something had to be done to get it back on track. Right on cue, the legendary 426 cubic-inch (7.0-litre) Hemi arrived.
This monster of a big-block almost doubled the original car’s horsepower when the new-look Cuda hit the streets in 1970. Five V8s were available this year but it was the enormous 426 that got the blood pumping. The 425bhp motor had one mission — to pin the brave (make that foolish) driver to his seat with the force of a rocket at launch.
Not literally, but it sure felt that way when you buried the throttle. And I guess that’s where the term ‘loud pedal’ was derived; the ’Cuda sounded like thunder. When you shoved the pistol-grip shifter into first and dumped the clutch, the rear rubbers had no chance; countless sets of F60x15s died a wonderfully fiery death.
Plymouth had to stiffen up the ’Cuda’s leaf springs (stop laughing back there…) so they would be able to cope with the car’s immense acceleration. An extra heavy duty Dana axle helped too because with 680Nm of torque, Plymouth had to pull out all the stops when this thing got going. Keeping the hopelessly nose-heavy ’Cuda in a straight line required not just a firm grasp of opposite lock, but a degree in physics probably helped.
The fire-breathing monster sure looked the part what with its hockey stick sport stripes, bonnet pins, scoops, rally wheels and rear spoiler but those who bought it for its performance also made sure to tick the optional 11.3in front discs options to improve the hefty car’s stopping power. But of all the options, it was the R-code street Hemi 426 that was the most important. The relentless race-bred engine was one of the most legendary ever built.
For the 1971 model year, changes were kept to a minimum. It got a more complex six-inlet grille and fender gill louvres while the convertibles, of which just 374 were produced, are amongst the rarest and most expensive muscle cars money can buy. Expect to pay up to Dh500,000 for one of these topless beauties. You may want to curb your enthusiasm for sideways action though…