1971 Plymouth Cuda Hides Super Rare Drivetrain Combo Under N96 Shaker Hood

1971 Plymouth Cuda Convertible 9 photos
Photo: Gause Garage/YouTube
1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth 'Cuda Convertible
Redesigned for the second time for the 1970 model year, the Plymouth Barracuda gained a brand-new platform as it entered the third generation. Shared with the first-gen Dodge Challenger, the E-body architecture turned the Barracuda into a fully-fledged muscle car.
The refreshed Barracuda brought nearly 49,000 customers into US dealerships in 1970. However, the golden muscle car era was already on its way to the history books, and sales dropped dramatically to around 16,500 examples in 1971. It was also the final year for Chrysler's high-compression big-block V8 engines, including the mighty 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI.

This event turned certain iterations of the 1971 Barracuda into rare gems. HEMI orders, for instance, dropped from 666 to just 114 units. The latter number includes seven convertibles, which are million-dollar classics nowadays. The 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) Six-Barrel cars aren't exactly common either. Selected by 1,784 customers in 1970, the 390-horsepower mill found its way into only 254 vehicles in 1971. And just 17 of them were convertibles.

But it actually goes beyond these high-compression powerplants. The 1971 Barracuda spawned more than 20 drivetrain/trim combos with single- and two-digit production figures. And they include nearly every engine offered that year, starting with the base 198-cubic-inch (3.2-liter) inline-six. But of course, this underpowered mill is far from desirable, so no cares about entry-level Barracudas, no matter how rare they are.

The HEMI Orange example you see here falls between the base slant-six Barracuda and the range-topping HEMI Cuda because it packs a 340-cubic-inch (5.6-liter) small-block V8. It was the second-most popular mill after the 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8 that year, with 3,440 units sold (nearly 21% of the total production). It was only available with the performance Cuda trim, and it's not very rare overall.

However, this Cuda has that one feature that makes all 1971 Barracudas rare: the convertible soft top. Specifically, it's one of only 292 Cuda Convertibles produced that year and one of only 140 shipped with the 340 V8 engine. Of these, 102 were ordered with the automatic transmission, and eight left the factory with the three-speed manual. This leaves only 30 units shipped with the four-speed manual. This HEMI Orange beauty is one of those rigs.

340-equipped Cudas don't get as much attention as big-block cars nowadays, but this one is spending its retirement years as a fully restored show car. In pristine condition inside and out, it has factory-correct features and a numbers-matching engine and transmission. The bright color and leather bucket seats are also correct to their factory specifications.

The Mopar does have one aftermarket secret: an N96-code shaker hood, which was added during the restoration. To keep things as authentic as possible, he added the correct "'cuda340" badge on the shaker.

Our host also tells us the car was originally shipped to Canada, which makes it even rarer than the claimed 30 units. It's most likely a one-of-one classic, but the fact that it's a perfect restoration is good enough for me. Hit the play button below for the full walkaround.

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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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