Courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers

This beautiful 1970 ’Cuda was finished in Jamaica Blue with light blue accents and gold pinstriping. There are no wild graphics, but its quiet demeanor hides the fact that it carries engine code “R,” designating the 426-ci Hemi.

Plymouth built just 652 hard-top Hemi ’Cudas in 1970. This one is unrestored and is perhaps the most preserved of any, with just under 17,000 miles since new.

This ’Cuda’s factory-original Hemi is still intact and features a high-duration hydraulic-lifter cam, 10.28:1 compression ratio, forged rotating assembly and dual Carter four-barrel carburetors. Completing the sinister appearance is the optional Shaker hood.

Documents with this incredible low-mileage ’Cuda include the dealer invoice and bill of sale. The chance to acquire such a low-mileage muscle car as this ’Cuda is perhaps as rare as the car itself.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda
Years Produced:1970–71
Number Produced:652 (1970 Hemi cars)
Original List Price:$5,300
SCM Valuation:$155,000–$255,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:Driver’s side instrument panel behind windshield
Engine Number Location:Stamped on right side of block above oil pan rail on machined pad
Club Info:Plymouth Barracuda Owners Club
Alternatives:1970–71 Dodge Challenger Hemi, 1974 Pontiac Firebird Super Duty, 1969–70 Ford Mustang Boss 429
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 15, sold for $220,000, including the buyer’s premium, at Worldwide Auctioneers’ Ron Brown Estate Collection auction, held on October 23–24, 2015, in Fredericksburg, TX. It was offered without reserve.

By 1970, Mustangs, Camaros and Firebirds were already leaving their marks on blacktops all over America, and even AMC was in the fold with the AMX. Trans Am racing was adding more fuel to the fire, and drag racing with nearly factory bone-stock cars was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon at the track, or a Saturday night on the streets.

The Big Three were in an all-out marketing race aimed at hard-working young men willing to finance their need for speed. Insurance companies were behind the curve, and Goodyear was giddy with robust tire sales as guys ripped and melted their back tires to shreds. It was a good time to be young and foolish.

This was the climate that the E-body platform was introduced into in 1970. It included two cars by Chrysler: the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda.

The Pentagram boys may have been late to the frothing pony car race, but better late than never. And with an all-powerful Hemi fitted under the hood, the E-body was the baddest street machine around.

Small fish, big fish

Within the performance E-body lines, the cars carried the shortened ’Cuda name on the Plymouth side, and hot Challengers got the R/T designation. The opening salvo for the ’Cuda line came in the form of a punchy 340 V8 and ranged all the way to the villainous 425-hp 426 Hemi V8. Between those two engine options lived the 340+6 (three 2-barrels) on the AAR ’Cuda and Challenger T/A models, 383, 440 and 440+6. Naturally, buyers could opt for a 4-speed or the sturdy 727 TorqueFlite automatic “Slap Stick” transmissions. Plenty of other options were also available, which allowed buyers to add some creature comforts.

For the purposes of this profile, we will only discuss the 1970 Hemi ’Cuda coupe. We’ll leave the convertibles off the table, as well as Hemi Dodge Challengers. There are different value dynamics for each of those. We will also dispatch all the 1971 models since they are far more rare. With that, we have cut the field down to 368 Hemi ’Cuda coupes built with an automatic transmission and 284 with a third pedal (652 total).

Not all Hemis are equal

The 1970 Hemi ’Cuda coupe market has been about as predictable as a roulette wheel. Just when you think you’ve got it pegged, another car bounces into a slot, enters the market and falls on its face, while others seem to win big.

To help explain that, you have to understand that not all Hemi ’Cudas are created equal. Some are the product of imagination, built around a VIN plate from a rusted-out Swiss-cheese body, and others are great examples with superb documentation that have been properly restored with as many OEM parts as possible. There are also preservation cars, not unlike our subject car, that remain largely untouched. But even among preservation examples, there are varying degrees of quality. An unrestored car isn’t automatically a great car.

Recent values have been ranging from about $165,000 to $200,000 for reasonably good examples with automatic transmissions. Best-in-the-world 1970 coupes have fetched as much as $350,000 with a Pistol Grip 4-speed in between the seats. The current ACC Pocket Price Guide pegs them at $155,000 to $255,000, which is a broad range, but as noted, there are many factors in play that can make one example worth more than another.

Going fishing

So how about this car? This sale wasn’t its first auction appearance.

It was first up for grabs at Mecum’s Indy sale in 2013 (ACC# 219511). It did not sell with a reported high bid of $275,000 — our analyst called it a “crazy high bid for the condition.” It was further reported to be the first time the one-owner example had been publically offered for sale.

Our field analyst continued that that car was rough on the edges and had most certainly been repainted, and rated it a condition #4+. Another associate had also relayed to me the same information, that indeed the car had been resprayed in the same factory color at some point in its life, and that the overall condition was less than stellar. While this does not necessarily make it a bad car, it most certainly plays a role in the car’s overall valuation.

The car popped up for grabs again at the Mecum Indy sale in May 2014, where it did find a new owner at $199,800 including the buyer’s premium (ACC# 254552). From there, this car then appeared on eBay Motors, where a Texas dealer sold it for $249,000 on May 26, 2014.

I examined the numerous images posted by the selling dealer on eBay. He did a great job of saying very little about the car, instead allowing bidders to come to their own conclusions by posting plenty of photos. Evidence of the repaint showed in those photos, as well as some black spray paint applied to the chassis.

Some rust bubbles were forming on the A-pillars and along the rear window channel. The interior appeared to be in good overall shape and the engine bay and trunk needed attention. There were also a few incorrect items and some “day two” additions noted on the car, but those would be rather simple to correct by the new owner.

The car looked more or less the same as presented at the Worldwide Auctioneers sale in October.

Catch it, clean it and fry it up

While our subject car could be considered a preservation example, it is lacking in a few important preservation areas. But on the plus side, the low miles are great and the original numbers-matching drivetrain is still in the car. However, there are no bold graphics or bright colors, so by Hemi ’Cuda standards, this car lacks some sizzle. A third pedal would also be a magnifying game changer.

I personally would consider this ’Cuda coupe a good, but not exceptional, preservation example. Considering that, and given all the data and reasonably good comps to work with, I call the price paid predictable — and correct — for this particular car.

A new owner could likely restore it to maximize the value, but that might be a break-even or a losing financial proposition. With the miles as low as they are, driving it too much most likely would depress the value further. So what do you do with it?

Whatever the new owner decides for the future of this car, hopefully he can tack on a few spirited miles to relive the days when Hemi E-bodies ruled the streets.

(Introductory description courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.

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