Ultimate Muscle In the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda
The Plymouth Barracuda was manufactured from 1964 to 1974.
The first-generation Barracuda, a hardtop fastback, was based on the A-body platform (shared with the Valiant). The first generation car featured distinctive wraparound back glass and was marketed from 1964 to 1966.
The second-generation Barracuda, built from 1967 to 1969, though still Valiant-based, was heavily redesigned. Body designs were now available in fastback, hardtop coupé, and convertible versions.
The third generation, offered from 1970 to 1974, was no longer based on the A-body, but on the Chrysler E-body. The completely new design was similar to the Dodge Challenger and available in hardtop and convertible body styles. The Barracuda was discontinued after the 1974 model year.
For 1970 and 1971, the Barracuda had two six-cylinder engines available as well as three different V8s: the 318ci, the 383ci with two-barrel carburetor and single exhaust, and the 383ci with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust 330HP.
The Cuda had the 383ci 335HP as the standard engine. It also had the 440ci four-barrel Super Commando, the 440ci six-barrel Super Commando Six Pak, and the 426ci Hemi.
The 440- and Hemi-equipped cars received upgraded suspension components and structural reinforcements to help transfer the power to the road.
The Barracuda was changed slightly for 1971, with a new grille and taillights, seat, and trim differences. This would be the only year that the Barracuda would have four headlights and also the only year of the fender “gills” on the ‘Cuda model.
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The 1971 Barracuda engine options would remain the same as that of the 1970 model, except that the 340 6-Bbl was gone, and the four-barrel carbureted 440 V8 engine was no longer on the option list, but could be had via a special order and perhaps a dozen cars were built with it installed; otherwise the 440-powered Barracudas had a six-barrel carburetor setup instead.
Like most muscle cars of the era, the third-generation Barracuda came with a spartan interior. The simple, wing-like dashboard carried very few convenience features, mostly consisting of an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player, a cigarette lighter, and a glove box lock. A three-spoke steering wheel was standard equipment, but Plymouth also offered a sportier Rim Blow option.
In addition to the rare 426-cubic-inch V8 Hemi, the 1971 Barracuda also came with the choice of two slant-sixes and four V8s. The 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda is the most sought-after and powerful of the bunch. It delivered 425 horsepower thanks to the twin Carter AFB carburetors with four barrels each.
Other mechanical components included the Dana 60 rear end, 9.75-inch gears with a 4.10 ratio, 26-inch radiator, and optional power brakes. Models with the Hemi also got a reinforced chassis and upgraded suspension.
Driving a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda (in peak condition) will let you get up to 60 mph in around 6 seconds or finish a quarter-mile in just 13. Both of those are truly impressive numbers for the time.
Unfortunately, for those who want to get behind the wheel of a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda or even see one, these models are incredibly rare with a price to match.
However, you can admire all the photos and videos you want or consider a non-Hemi 1971 Barracuda. Even so, expect to pay a pretty high price since even the models with less-powerful engines are sought after.
The Hemi Cuda wasn’t just fast in a straight line, thankfully. Compared to handling standards of muscle cars at the time, the Hemi Cuda could handle the curves better than most thanks to its upgrades. There were torsion bars up front, and the solid rear axle benefitted from an optional Sure-Grip rear differential.
The new body received tweaks in 1971 that made the Cuda even more menacing. It was the only year the car had quad circular headlights, simulated shark-gill fender vents and a shaker hood scoop painted matte black to keep the glare down while driving. ’71 would be the singular year the Hemi Cuda would get these aesthetic changes, adding more value to collectible models.
The ’71-’74 model also received a new, deep-set six-gill grille and new separate four-unit taillights, bringing the look of the third-generation car into even more aggressive territory.
There are muscle cars, and then there’s the Hemi Cuda — a exclamation mark on the muscle car genre. The Hemi Cuda exuded power, performance and exclusivity, easily setting the mark for vintage American muscle car values today.
Its wholly new design made muscle cars that came before it look dated, and the power the Hemi Cuda put down was positively authoritative.
In fact, the ’71 Cuda is widely considered to be the ultimate expression of the American muscle car, with a ’71 convertible commanding a mind-blowing $3.5 million at auction in 2014. Though pony cars would live on, muscle cars were a dying breed when the ’71 Cuda hit the scene, and it was the ultimate swan song of the muscle car era.