1970 Plymouth AAR 'Cuda Has It All: Rare Option, Numbers-Matching V8, Lemon Twist

Introduced a few weeks before the Ford Mustang, the Plymouth Barracuda is technically America's first pony car. But the Mopar doesn't get much credit for that. And not only is it overshadowed by the Mustang, but the first two generations of the Barracuda also get less publicity than the Chevrolet Camaro, which did not arrive until 1966.
1970 Plymouth AAR 'Cuda 9 photos
Photo: Matt Gause/YouTube
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Is it because the Barracuda didn't get a proper high-performance engine until 1967? Or it could be because Plymouth's pony car was significantly less popular than the Mustang. Whatever the case, the lower sales turned the Barracuda into a rare and expensive classic nowadays.

The third-generation HEMI is the best example. With only 780 examples sold in 1970 and 1971, the HEMI 'Cuda can easily fetch more than $300,000 at public auctions. But I'm talking about Concours-ready hardtops with numbers-matching engines. Add the convertible body style into the mix (only 21 sold in the US), and we're talking about seven-digit figures.

The 1970 'Cuda you see here doesn't pack a 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI V8, but it's almost as scarce thanks to a rare combination of packages and options. For starters, it's an AAR model. Developed specifically for SCCA Trans Am homologation, this 'Cuda is a one-year wonder as production didn't continue beyond the 1970 model year. In addition, Plymouth sold only 2,724 examples, which is only 5.5% of that year's total output of 48,867 vehicles.

What makes it special beyond the limited production run? Well, it came with a unique "strobe" stripe running across the beltline and with the "All American Racers" logo on the rear fenders. It also has split front spoilers, a ducktail-style rear wing, and a black hood with a functional scoop.

The engine was unique to this car as well. Plymouth dropped a 340-cubic-inch (5.6-liter) under the hood but replaced the regular four-barrel setup with a trio of two-barrel carburetors. The latter increased output from 275 to 290 horsepower, enabling the 'Cuda to cover the quarter-mile in a little more than 14 seconds. And even though it wasn't as powerful as a big-block car, the AAR 'Cuda was agile thanks to its race-inspired suspension system.

How many of the 2,724 examples survived to see the 21st century? There's no official figure to run by, but most Mopar experts agree that fewer than half are still around. And far fewer than that are still on the road as restored classics. The Lemon Twist example you see here is one of those cars.

Spotted at the 2023 Holley MoParty in Bowling Green, Kentucky, this AAR is one of 1,604 vehicles fitted with an automatic transmission. Not impressively rare by these numbers, but things become much more interesting when you look inside. Because this AAR was ordered with an overhead console, a feature you'd usually see in the more luxurious Gran Coupe trim.

And it turns out that only 11 AARs were specified with the console. Moreover, this is the only car that also sports an FY1 Lemon Twist finish. All told it's one of those Mopar most of us will never see in the metal. And that makes it just as rare as a 1970/1971 HEMI 'Cuda Convertible.

Restored from bumper to bumper a few years ago, the AAR still packs its numbers-matching 340 V8 under the hood. The A727 automatic gearbox is no longer original, but it's a warranty-issued unit, pretty much the next best thing you can have.

Is this AAR 'Cuda a seven-figure gem? Not really, but it's definitely worth more than $200,000 (not that it's for sale or anything). And speaking of which, the world's most expensive AAR 'Cuda as of this writing is an unrestored, all-original, one-family example finished in Moulin Rouge. It was auctioned off for $308,000 (including fees) at Kissimmee 2023.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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