The Plymouth Hemi Cuda Saga

The 'pony' class of car in America referred to inexpensive, compact but sporty convertibles and coupes. Typically they had a long bonnet and a short boot line and a good choice of customisation options. They were very popular during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Poor Plymouth. They launched their new pony, named the Barracuda, a full fortnight before Ford brought out the Mustang. However rather than grabbing the market ahead of it's rival Plymouth only managed to sell a small number compared to the runaway success that the Mustang had.

It was not a bad car. A lot of the mechanical parts and bodywork were lifted from an earlier model, the Valiant, in order to cut costs down and there was a good choice of engines ranging from a 3700 cc straight six up to Chrysler's new 4.5 litre V8 which generated 180 brake horsepower, giving the car all the power it really needed. Most of them had automatic gearboxes, but fairly basic interiors, although these could be upgraded if the buyer wished. Rearward visibility was superb because there was an enormous rear window which stretched almost as far as the rear bumper; a very specialised piece of glass indeed. The sale price at the time was a very reasonable US$2512.

Numerous updates followed but there was still the spectre of the Mustang in the background, mopping up most of the orders and so the Barracuda was not the runaway success that it perhaps deserved to be.

However in 1970 a much improved Barracuda, this time called the Hemi Cuda, was launched. The roof of each combustion chamber was hemispherical; this gave improved burning of the fuel and along with other updates the 7 litre cc V-8 engine was able to put out a huge, for the time, 425 brake horsepower. Maximum speed went up to 170 mph with the nought to 60 acceleration time of 5.8 seconds.

This car was no shrinking violet. Colours available were striking to say the least with names such as Moulin Rouge, In-Violet and Sassy Grass Green. There was no pretence about this being an economy car; a driver was lucky to get 6 miles to the gallon!

Sales were not spectacular; this was after all just a souped up version of a regular production car; but perhaps because of that lack of sales second-hand Hemi Cudas have appreciated in value in America and, if in good condition, can often sell for more than Ferraris or Bugattis of the same era.

This is somewhat surprising; after all it was only an upgrade on a fairly humdrum, and not particularly popular car. Sometimes there is just no accounting for taste.

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