What kept production numbers low was the staggering cost of the Hemi option, at just under $900-or nearly a third of the base price of the car
In a day when clones and replicas are so commonly seen, it is a pleasure to see an authentic, factory-built 1970 Hemi 'Cuda coupe. Presented in its original Hi Impact Tor Red finish, its eye-catching beauty is complemented with white bucket seats and optional center console. Backing up the 425-hp V8 is the rock-solid 727 Torqueflight automatic and a 3.55:1 Sure Grip rear axle. While this is an authentic R-code 1970 Hemi 'Cuda, the vendor has told us that the engine in the car is date-coded March 3, 1969, and appears to have been a factory crate replacement, installed early in this car's life. Also added are white hockey-stick sport stripes applied to the rear quarter panels. Treated to a full cosmetic restoration about ten years ago, this included a correct repaint and freshening of the interior with an eye towards authenticity. Documenting the car's heritage are portions of the factory build sheet and the original fender tags. Currently fewer than 32,000 miles show on the odometer, which the vendor believes are from new. This Hemi 'Cuda represents a rare opportunity to obtain one of the most sought after high-performance automobiles in existence.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda
Years Produced:1970-71
Number Produced:760
Original List Price:$4048.40 (1970)
SCM Valuation:$175,000-$900,000
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Distributor Caps:$20
Engine Number Location:passenger side of engine block, on machined pad above oil pan rail and in front of motor mount
Alternatives:1970-71 Dodge Hemi Challenger, 1969-70 Mustang Boss 429, 1970 Chevelle LS-6
Investment Grade:A

This 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Coupe sold for $189,750 at the Worldwide Houston sale, held April 30, 2005.
The 426 Street Hemi engine is the most legendary powerplant ever fitted in a muscle car, its name still resonating like a pair of glass packs 40 years later. Out of all the body styles in which it was available from 1966-71, it was in the big-engine-in-a-small-car E-Bodies that the 426 was put to its best use. These classic long-hood, short-deck pony cars were turned into monster street machines when fitted with the Hemi V8, and today their popularity among collectors has driven prices into orbit.
Of the two 1970-71 E-Body Mopars, the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger, pure styling and name recognition of the ‘Cudas have made them the more popular model. Rare even when new, Hemi ‘Cuda production was limited: 652 coupes were built in 1970, dropping to just 108 in 1971. Convertible production numbers approach those of some classic European sports cars, with 14 droptop Hemi ‘Cudas built in 1970 and only seven in 1971.
What kept these numbers low was the staggering cost of the Hemi option, at just under $900-or nearly a third of the base price of the car. Take into account that the Hemi had a well-deserved reputation of being difficult to keep in proper tune, and you see why more buyers opted to instead spend $250 for a 440 Six Pack. This engine was rated at just 35 hp less than the Hemi’s 425, with nearly identical torque output, and was an almost equal street terror-but much easier to live with.
I have owned many Hemis and E-Bodies over the years, and can attest to the allure of these beasts, even though they were shoddily constructed. When tuned correctly, nothing sounds as beautifully aggressive as a 426 Hemi, yet slamming an E-Body door can result in an unwelcome cacophony. There is no satisfying “thunk,” like you might find in a bank-vault-era Mercedes, but rather the sound of an exploding hardware store. These are crude cars that were built to a specific price point, appealing to a young audience more concerned with looks and speed than NVH levels. Of course, many of these cars have since been restored, their inherent flaws ironed out by concours-level reconstructions that correct and perfect what Mother Mopar didn’t.
The market for Hemi ‘Cudas has become the barometer for the rest of the muscle car world, setting the pace as prices charge upwards. At the bottom of the food chain are the 1970 coupes, which can sell for as little as $150,000, while the ultra-rare 1971 convertibles stand at the top, with reports of private sales over $3m. The highest auction price we’ve seen for a Hemi ‘Cuda is $735,000 for a 1971 hardtop at the May 2005 Mecum sale in Rockford, IL.
Like other muscle cars, value is dependant on the basics, including production numbers, options, history, and condition. Cars with four-speeds, Hi Impact colors, original drivetrains and stacks of paperwork will bring the most money, meaning the connoisseur’s dream might be something like a Sublime Green ‘Cuda with the Super Track Pac, a 4.10 rear and a manual transmission, a white interior, white hockey-stick stripes, and fresh out of a well-known restoration shop in #1 condition.
Condition is paramount because it is just as expensive to properly restore a Hemi ‘Cuda as anything else on the road. A general rule of thumb for any muscle car restoration is that it will take a minimum of 1,000 hours of labor to bring a solid example to concours level. Simple math dictates that at $60/hour in a competent shop, you will be in for at least $85,000 in parts and labor, assuming no hard-to-get bits are missing. Just like with European sports cars, the smart money is on buying a “done” car that somebody else has restored.
As for the car pictured here, the prevailing market would stand at about $150k-$300k. If you think that’s a lot of money for a serial-production American car that’s not even a convertible, understand that if this car was a ’71, it might take $600k-$900k to park it in your garage.
While finished in a desirable and striking Hi Impact color with a white interior, the car does have a few deficiencies. First and foremost, it no longer has its original engine block, and suffers from “two pedal-itis.” With a four-speed, it would be valued at about 25% more. The car also has the 8.75-inch rear axle and 3.55 gear ratio that came standard with the automatic transmission, rather than a performance axle package (a Dana 60 with a lower gearset, like 4.10:1). It is described as having only portions of its original build or broadcast sheet, which is a concern, as what’s left may or may not denote the important items such as the Hemi engine.
Overall, the 1970 ‘Cuda Coupe appears to be an older restoration to driver rather than show level. From the pictures in the catalog, I can see numerous incorrect details, none of which are difficult to fix, but are indicative of the level of restoration. Remember, a decade ago these were $50,000 cars and nobody was spending $100,000 to restore them. That said, if the car is indeed as described, I would call the sale price market correct and both the buyer and seller should be pleased.
My advice to the new owner is to find a competent Hemi mechanic, have him set the carbs, lash the valves, recurve the distributor, and go out and make some Goodyear shareholders happy. I guarantee the guy down the street in his new Mercedes CL65 won’t be having as much fun, and he certainly won’t be the envy of every red-blooded American male.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

Comments are closed.