Photos & text courtesy of Mecum Auctions
In 1971, Plymouth unleashed the hairiest version of the Cuda that the world would ever see. While other makes were often settling into the blandness of post-supercar America, the Rapid Transit System showed up with an almost-defiant ‘look at me; I dare you!’ appeal. Some hated it, some loved it, and today’s serious collectors of muscle cars frankly cannot seem to get enough of it.
The Cuda was in its second year of action as the E-body sport-body platform for Plymouth. The sensible 1970 grille had been replaced by a dramatic scalloped version, and chrome ‘gills’ were placed into the front fenders. You could then build onto this standard equipment even more extra cost trim and special appearance items. This 1971 Cuda 440 Six Pack was factory equipped to boldly make a statement.
For instance, the car received enough optional items to require two fender tags. Among the visual cues were the huge broadside graphics that denoted engine size, rear window louvers, deck wing, paired front spoilers, Shaker hood, hood pins, road lamps, Rallye wheels shod in Goodyear Polyglas GT rubber, and dual chrome racing mirrors. Ordered in gold with optional chrome edge trim and a black vinyl top that matches the graphics package, the result is one of the most iconic creations to come from Detroit; nobody ever had to second-guess what a ’71 Cuda was all about.
Beauty was more than skin-deep, however. Under that quivering Shaker scoop was 440 cubic inches of high-compression street power, topped with a trio of Holley 2-barrels that screamed power both figuratively and literally. This torque monster was legendary for its street manners, and in this car is backed by an A833 4-speed transmission stirred with a Hurst Pistol Grip shifter, the aggressive gear-jammer that Chrysler made famous. Additionally optioned with the A33 Track Pack, the car received the bullet-proof Dana 60 Sure Grip rear with 3.54:1 gearing and heavy-duty Hemi-type cooling components. The 15x7-inch Rallye wheels completed this, giving the car’s notable rakish look a final touch.
Inside, the car is equipped with vinyl black upholstery, front bucket seats, factory tachometer, 150-MPH speedometer, optional clock, optional rear speaker, and boot-mounted Pistol Grip. No expense was spared in the nut-and-bolt refreshing that has been done to this car, and this shows from any angle. With increased insurance costs and a slowing economy, only 108 Cudas were built with the 440-6BBL/4-speed package in 1971. The engine was retired from the Chrysler E-body model line when this model run concluded, and those crazy exterior options ended as well; a kinder, gentler Cuda was all that remained. As noted from the start, this car could be termed hairy. While Cuda production was not high in 1971 for any one engine combination, even fewer of them received the level of appearance components this highly optioned example was built with. For somebody who understands the heritage of American red-blooded muscle, this car represents a gold standard few others can match.