ODe to the Dodge Challenger / Plymouth Barracuda

Chrysler took a risk by being the only muscle car Company to actually make their ENTIRE line of engines available for the Challenger and Cuda

Robert Frey posted in Mopar
4y ago

By 1970, Chrysler was the late to the pony car party after Ford had already launched out of the gate with the venerable Mustang and GM was hot on their heels with the Chevrolet Camaro and it's twin the Pontiac Firebird. Building off of their E-Body platform, Chrysler released the Dodge Challenger and it's Plymouth counterpart, the third generation Barracuda.

To meet the challenge of Ford and GM, Chrysler took a risk with their pony car entries by being the only company in the muscle car business to actually make their ENTIRE line of engines, from the subtle 225 Slant Six to the 426 Hemi you could hear turn over several blocks away, available in both the Challenger and the Barracuda along with a wide array of options to customize your ride. This meant that Chrysler's E-Body offerings were the most versatile pony cars in the market at the time. I could go into detail about all the different engine options and the iconic Shaker Hood, but that seems to be a whole post or article in and of itself.

In 1970, both the Challenger and the Barracuda were entered into Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship or Trans-Am Series. Dodge contracted with Ray Caldwell and the legendary Autodynamics team in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Two "sub-lime" green Challenger T/A (Trans Am) race cars were built by the team (#76 and #77) and were driven largely by Sam Posey, but also by Ronnie Bucknum and Tony Adamowicz. While the team earned a few top three finishes, a lack of a development budget led to Dodge leaving the series at the end of the season.

Plymouth, meanwhile, contracted with All American Racers with drivers Swede Savage and Dan Gurney in identical Barracuda AAR racecars. The team finished second at Road America and qualified for three pole positions but never finished first.

Of course this was ultimately all for naught as the muscle car era had virtually come to an end by the mid 1970s in the wake of rising insurance costs and the pressure to use low-lead and lower octane fuel. The first generation of Challengers ended in 1974, only five years after their release alongside the end of the Barracuda, 10 years after their original release. The later models offered less options and big block models of the engines were discontinued, resulting in a marked decline in performance. Because of the limited run of production for both cars, Challengers and Barracudas from this era have become collectibles. Particularly models with big block and Hemi engines, and especially the 1971 HemiCuda convertible as only 13 were built, with seven sold domestically in the United States.

This 1971 HemiCuda convertible was sold at auction for $3.5 million in 2014

This 1971 HemiCuda convertible was sold at auction for $3.5 million in 2014

There was a period in the late 1970s to early 1980s where a "second generation" of Challenger was introduced, but the cars were really only Challengers in name and were actually captive imports of Mitsubishi's Galant Lambda.

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

The third generation of Challenger was introduced in 2007 following the successful return of the Dodge Charger in 2005. Both cars were designed with the intent to be reminiscent of the previous models from the muscle car era. This generation has thus far proven to be remarkably more successful and a number of variations are available from the SXT models that currently sport a Pentastar V6 to the R/T and SRT variants that sport Hemi V8s and can be fitted with Scat Pack and Shaker Hood packages. And of course on the far extreme is the SRT Hellcat with a monstrous 707 HP supercharged 6.2L Hemi SRT Hellcat V8 engine - great on a drag strip with the right tires, but less than ideal for a daily driver considering it's fuel economy requires some dealerships to tack on a "gas guzzler" tax when selling them.

But what about the Cuda? Odds are that we won't see it return anytime soon. For one, Plymouth doesn't exist anymore. However, much like the Neon, it is entirely possible that the car could be released under Chrysler or even Dodge. Some industrious enthusiasts have taken to modifying and customizing their third generation Challengers to at least mimic the old HemiCudas on a cosmetic level. An official model though seems unlikely at the moment.

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Comments (3)

  • Newest member of the family

      4 years ago
  • great history lesson, I've promoted it to Best of USA and the D_TRB USA facebook page! ^Joachim

      3 years ago
  • Good stuff!

      4 years ago