The original Plymouth Barracuda hit the streets on April 1, 1964 and was based on the company’s Valiant, a fairly universal platform that had two-door coupes, sedans, and wagons. While initial sales were okay, it wasn’t until 1970 that the ‘Cuda really hit its stride. In that year, all relation to the Valiant was severed and the car was built on Plymouth’s E-Body (which shared its underpinnings with the Dodge Challenger) which was larger than the Valiant. And a larger body meant that Chrysler’s 426 CID Hemi V8 could fit under the hood.
High-performance Barracuda models from 1970 to 1974 (when the line was discontinued) were marketed as ‘Cudas, taking that name from a special trim package from the 1969 model year Barracuda. And the name wasn’t the only change. The fastback variant, which had jumpstarted the Barracuda, was removed from the line, leaving coupe and convertible options. The line had an entry level Barracuda, a luxurious Gran Coupe, and the sporty ‘Cuda, which had the option of the Hemi V8 (hence the name Hemi ‘Cuda).
The ‘Cuda models featured tougher suspension setups and structural reinforcements that allowed the massive power of the Hemi to hit the ground without a bunch of wheel spin and squirrely steering. Not many people had a chance to test this out, however. The Hemi package was more expensive than the standard ‘Cuda by $900. That may seem like small price to pay, but it actually constituted a 33% price increase over the basic model. As a result, only 652 Hemi ‘Cudas were built in 1970, of which 14 were convertible models while the rest were coupes. There was a 440 CID non-Hemi V8 option that cost only $250, which accounted for many of the model’s sales.
The Hemi ‘Cuda was rated at 425 horsepower, which was delivered to the wheels through either a Torqueflight automatic transmission or a four-speed manual. There were only 284 models produced with the manual transmission. Performance figures were very impressive for the time. 0-to-60 mph took 5.8 seconds, and the Hemi ‘Cuda could do a standing quarter mile in 14 seconds with a speed of 102 mph. Considering that the ‘Cuda didn’t receive much special build attention and was basically a standard Plymouth coupe with a giant engine, that’s pretty impressive.
As noted, the 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda is a rare car, so if you’re looking to pick one up, you better have a lot of money. When the second-ever produced Hemi ‘Cuda hit the Barrett Jackson auction block in 2005, it fetched a price of $329,400. But, if you can spend that sort of cash, you can enter into one of the most elite car owners groups in the world.