Being offered publicly for the very first time since the early 1970s, this special 1970 ’Cuda — built for Plymouth by legendary customizer Chuck Miller — is a mechanical jewel of many facets.
Its history within the Rapid Transit System Caravan, the touring factory group of custom cars that were displayed at major auto shows and car dealerships in 1970 and 1971, is also very important. Operated for Plymouth by ISCA Promoter Bob Larivee, the Rapid Transit System Caravan featured four Plymouth cars including this ’Cuda. Its restyling and paint scheme were designed by pioneer Hot Wheels artist Harry Bradley. Between 1970 and 1971, this car went back to Miller for new paint and a refitting of the taillamp panel, as per Bradley’s latest refinements. That original lacquer paint is still on it, as are Miller’s other changes.
As an early production car, this 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda wears serial number 100005. It’s believed its 440-ci 6-barrel driveline has been intact since new, and there are fewer than 1,000 miles showing on the odometer after all these years. Every change seen formed onto this body was completed in steel. The nose was constructed from four identical angles welded into a single insert, completed with custom-made corners and a mesh grille, with Cibié headlamps mounted behind. The rolled front pan features a split-spoiler layout with integrated lower lens housings. Sidepipes, wide tires on Cragar wheels and 1/8-inch-steel dirt flaps are on each side. Miller added custom taillamps, a faux parachute, metal changes and chrome caster-style show wheelie bars to the rear. When this ’Cuda was found, those wheelie bars were still in the trunk, along with the original Rapid Transit System Caravan show sign.
Furthering its desirability among Mopar collectors is its impressive aspect of preservation. The paint Miller sprayed on it in late 1970 is still remarkably intact, showing some aging though still bright and giving its near-strobic effect. The mint interior appears almost untouched, and the engine bay, sprayed black by Miller in 1969, shows many signs of originality. A special apparatus that allowed the shaker scoop to “shake” without needing to start up the car is still on the unrestored car as well.
The custom-car world was never the same after Chuck Miller arrived, and the Rapid Transit System Caravan tour is still unequaled. Add in the fact that Hot Wheels’ Harry Bradley designed this car, and it’s easy to see this 440-powered 1970 ’Cuda’s historical significance and why it is certain to become a treasured part of a new collection.
|1970 Plymouth ’Cuda 440 Rapid Transit Show Car
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|VIN plate on the driver’s side instrument panel behind windshield
|Engine Number Location:
|Pad on the right side of the block to the rear of the engine mount
|1970–71 Dodge Challenger Hemi, 1974 Pontiac Firebird Super Duty, 1969–70 Ford Mustang Boss 429
This car, Lot F152, sold for $2,200,000, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum Auctions’ Indianapolis, IN sale on May 19, 2023.
After its tour of duty on the Rapid Transit System Caravan, this custom ’Cuda was sold to Anthony Fridecky in the Detroit area. One night, his son decided to see what kind of burnout those wide Goodyears could produce. But he lost control, hit a curb, and damaged the driver’s side front wheel. (When the car recently resurfaced in Mopar Action magazine, it was still wearing the spare.) Infuriated, Dad put the ’Cuda into storage in 1976.
The one that got away
In the early 1990s, Steven Juliano, a Shelby Cobra collector from Southern California, began looking for the four Rapid Transit System Caravan Plymouths. He first acquired the “Chicken Head” Road Runner from Chuck Miller himself. The Hemi Road Runner was bought after being found in Kalamazoo, MI. The neglected Duster was spotted in a Detroit parking facility, and Juliano managed to buy it, too. But he was never able to get his hands on the ’Cuda before passing away in 2018 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Juliano knew the ’Cuda’s location, a garage under the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, ON. He even touched the car once while attempting to purchase it, but despite having the means, could not get the longtime owner to sell. Fridecky hoped to donate the ’Cuda to a museum someday, but that day never came. Early this year, an accident left the 90-year-old with mounting medical bills, and he was forced to part with the car. He had a friend contact Miller, who moved it to his shop and facilitated consigning it in Indianapolis.
This ’Cuda is a unique work of fine art, its authenticity and provenance clear. So is its condition, with 967 miles showing and reported to still smell new inside. Then there are the artists, Harry Bradley and Chuck Miller.
Bradley worked at General Motors Design for four years but is better known for his work penning custom cars for Detroit’s Alexander Brothers, including the famed Dodge Deora custom truck. It won the Ridler Award at the 1967 Detroit Autorama, the highest achievement in the hot-rod and custom-car world. Bradley designed the first Hot Wheels cars for Mattel, then opened his own design firm and taught at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. All this, while challenged from the effects of polio as a youth; Bradley died in May of this year at the age of 83.
Chuck Miller’s Styline Customs is also a legend in the Detroit area. He opened it in 1963 at the age of 20, assuring his legacy just five years later when he too won the Ridler Award, an unheard-of achievement at that age. He created the famous Red Baron hot rod in the late ’60s, a wildly popular Hot Wheels and model-car kit at the time. Miller built two of the Rapid Transit System Caravan Plymouths, the “Chicken Head” Road Runner and our subject car.
Underneath its outrageous lacquer is an otherwise-stock, original 1970 ’Cuda 440 6-barrel with serial number 00005. I would speculate that it may have been a “pilot” car from the first day of E-body assembly at the Hamtramck plant. While concept and show cars are sometime hastily cobbled together, Miller’s workmanship here is worthy of any carrozzeria.
What value can we place on a one-of-one vehicle such as this? To start with, we can look at the sale of Steven Juliano’s three Rapid Transit System Caravan cars at Mecum Indy 2019. The restored 1970 Hemi Road Runner built by Roman’s Chariot Shop in Cleveland, OH, sold for $341,000. The unrestored and well-preserved Miller-built ’71 Road Runner that replaced the ’70 on tour sold for $236,500, The restored 1970 Duster that toured both years, which was abandoned outdoors for a decade before Juliano rescued it, sold for $264,000. Within this context, Mecum’s pre-sale estimate of $500k–$750k for our subject car seems completely reasonable.
Before the car crossed the block, Chuck Miller delivered a message from the owner: “Anthony Fridecky owned this car for 50 years. He had it put in his garage; it hadn’t seen daylight in 50 years. His whole wish is whoever the lucky owner is — show it. He hid it, and he doesn’t want it hidden anymore. This belongs to America.”
With that, three bidders, two on the phone, one in-house, drove the price up over the $1m mark. But they were just getting started. One phone bidder dropped out, and the last two standing pushed it to the $2.2m final sale price.
This is a tough one to account for, as is the sale of any custom car. Our usual tools, like the SCM Platinum Auction Database, don’t really apply. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and no amount of analysis could have predicted such a result. For the bidders, this must be the ultimate Mopar. For the rest of us, it was well sold.
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)