‘Cuda Graveyard

I’m always on the hunt for old iron, whether it’s tucked away in the corner of a barn gathering boxes and dust, or has been shoved outside and left-for-dead. Pursuing every lead that falls into my path, my quest for Chryslers always seem to elicit long-winded adventures. A few weeks back, a simple Craigslist search spiraled into a 300 mile long escapade that lead me to dozens of abandoned Mopars

With results narrowed down to Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler models from 1914-1980, I stick to a tight price of only $4,500 bucks and below. My typical selection consists of about 100 cars that can usually be assigned to one of three categories; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Browsing my local listings I nearly scrolled right past a car that I would consider to be both ugly and bad; a 1941 Plymouth coupe.

Too young to be street-rod and too old to fall into the league of premo-Mopar muscle, this isn’t exactly the kind of car you hang posters of above your bed. Couple that with a butchered body and obvious neglect and now it’s really turned me off. In this case it wasn’t the car listed for sale that had me drooling, but the one hiding in the background.
It’s distinguishing body lines adorning the quarters, the graceful slope of the roofline, and is that purple paint? I recognized that car anywhere, it was an E-body ‘Cuda!

Now for those unaware, the Plymouth E-body ‘Cuda is one of the most esteemed muscle cars of all time, and a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been dreaming of an pink ’71 ‘Cuda since I was a little girl, needless to say I was feeling pretty stoked to see one still out there in fixerup condition.

Bragging about my “carspotting” skills, I immediately showed my latest discovery to my father hoping he was ready for a roadtrip. Being equally obsessed with E-bodies, dad promptly called the listed number and gathered more details on the forgotten fish. The car in the background of the photo was a 1973 340/4 speed ‘Cuda. According to the owner, she was a complete basketcase but he has another ‘Cuda, a ’71 (SCHWING!) that’s supposedly much better off. Having dreamt of rescuing an E-body ‘Cuda for decades, it didn’t take anymore information to get us on the road and ‘Cuda bound!

Now I like to think I’m pretty ambitious when it comes to restoring rusty old Mopars. I can overlook missing fenders and rotted quarters, I don’t mind a hacked dash or Flinstone-mobile floor pan. Heck, even crusty frame rails don’t phase me, but tragically this was a car that I couldn’t even fathom personally restoring.

A candid shot of my dad scowling as I try to justify bringing home this rot-box Cuda

Being Mopar obsessed with a specific confutation with ‘Cudas, I can’t even comprehend how such a beautiful machine can be subjected to this negligence.
By no means am I trying to say this car is “unrestorable”. From the body panels, to the frame rails, Auto Metal Direct (AMD) makes every replacement piece you would need to rebuild this car. Unfortunately, the end cost of buying every replacement piece of metal exceeds the budget of your Average Joe (AKA me).

The rusted out floor pan left a gaping hole where bucket seats and a 4 speed shifter should sit. Her weathered body panels sported a thick coat of bondo to hid badly maimed metal. With the frame rails hacked and rotted away, the crusty remains of the “uni-body” supported the entire weight onto four haphazard cylinder blocks

While I can still envision this car’s vast potential, she’s a project that exceeds “ambitious” and toes the line of insanity. I imagine it would take a serious sentimental attachment to consider bringing this one back from the dead. It’s current owner, who had bought it as his first car, didn’t even consider her as more than a parts vehicle. While it’s tragic this car ended with such a lonesome fate I take comfort knowing her valuable pieces may someday breathe life to a fellow abandoned ‘Cuda.

Walking away from the neglected ’73 ‘Cuda left my heart filled with bitter sympathy. Nevertheless it didn’t slow me down, I was still eager to check out the ’71 (I mean, it couldn’t be any worse than this one right?). Bounding through the thick pine tree forest, my mind filled with fantasy as I approached my derelict dream car.

1971 Plymouth Barracuda 318/automatic. Nothing fancy, yet still rare to see in this condition.

Resting easy on four full tires with most of the body intact, it wasn’t hard to picture this car getting a second chance at life. I imagined myself dragging it home on our car trailer, welding in all the new AMD metal, even lovingly sanding for hours without complaint. In my dream I give her a stunning coat of FM3 Panther Pink with big metal flake and wacky ’70s stripes. With tall Cragar five spokes, a shaker hood, and wicked 440/4 speed she would be that baddest street machine in town. Shattering my delusions almost instantaneously, dad followed behind and with just a glance vetoed the car. Completely outraged, I initially tried to convince him I could give the Barracuda a new life. After much debate, examination, calculation and pulling my head from the clouds, we all agreed this car was just a tad more than I could manage. So with heavy hearts we said our goodbyes to the pitiful Plymouths

While it’s always cool to uncover lost Mopars the whole situation left me a little bummed out, so naturally before leaving I asked the owner if he knew of any other ‘Cudas, Roadrunners, Super Bees, or old Mopars of any kind in the area. To my surprise he informed me of small junkyard just a few miles south that specialized in Mopar muscle cars. He said he saw a ‘Cuda in the yard before, amongst a dozen Roadrunners and Chargers. So just like that, my passion for rusty old Mopars had my on the road again to seek out another adventure.

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