As you are probably well aware, the term "street car" is somewhat relative. In reality, we all know that a street car is one that, no matter the engine output or suspension set up, is reliable, legal to drive on the road, and offers driving comfort a notch or two above a tuned road racer. There are a lot of folks, however, who tend to push the definition of "street car" to sometimes obscene limits-more often than not in an effort to gain notoriety in the bench racing olympics.
Matt Delaney, a commercial real estate businessman in Shreveport, Louisiana, knows a thing or two about what it takes to make an honest-to-goodness street car. He's been around the block a few times, rubbed elbows with more than a few goonies who tout their 10-second, slicked and stripped straightline screamers as street machines, and over the years has built a solid knowledge base on what it takes to produce quality cars with a high-performance twist. His latest creation, this '70 Hemi 'Cuda, rolls all of that experience into one of the baddest real-world street cars we've ever seen. Take a closer look and we think you'll agree.
Matt picked up the 'Cuda about four years ago from a gentleman who had originally intended to restore the car. A funny, if sad, story. Sometime in the '70s, this old fellow decided he wanted to restore the 440-powered 'Cuda. To that end he had disassembled portions of the car, and acquired a good bit of NOS parts for the eventual rebuild. Before this, however, he had traded his original 440 for a rebuilt engine. It was only after he dove into the restoration that he realized the significance of matching numbers.
Oops.Thoroughly torqued-off at his own blunder, the gentleman stashed the 'Cuda in a barn, where it remained for 14 years until Matt came along and managed to pry the car from the owner, but only after agreeing to buy out all the parts the old man had collected over the years.
At the time, Matt was not sure exactly what he wanted to do with the 'Cuda. He did know that whatever direction the project took, he wanted an absolutely perfect platform from which to work. Although the 'Cuda was practically rust-free and in exquisite condition, Matt stripped the car, dipped it, replaced the floor trunk for good measure, rewelded the subframes, and added gussets to the inside of the frame rails for extra rigidity (instead of welding in subframe connectors).
For three years, the 'Cuda sat in staging while Matt pondered his options. Then, in 1997 he figured it out. He always wanted a Hemi 'Cuda, but "couldn't bring myself to stay original." So, Matt decided to build the car to look pretty much stock inside and out. It had to have exemplary street manners, be reliable, and still kick some serious tail on the street and at the track. A Hemi it would be, but with a most significant twist.
Matt contacted Ray Barton at Ray Barton Engines and told him he wanted to build a "new" Hemi engine that would have the bottom end response of a 440, but with the upper horsepower capabilities of a Hemi. Ray put together a package that consisted of a 528 cid Siamese Mopar block fitted with Manley rods, JE pistons, aluminum Mopar heads, Pro Flow valves, a Comp Cams valvetrain featuring Dick Landy stainless roller rockers, and an Indy intake manifold. The clincher was that the Hemi would also be fuel injected.
Rance Baxter of Rance Fuel Injection received the Indy intake, which was drilled to accept the direct port EFI system, and provided a base fuel map developed from another Hemi Rance had built, although that one was for a 426 cid engine. Once the EFI setup was completed and installed, Matt took the car to Norwood Autocraft in Dallas so the 'Cuda could be chassis dynoed in order to make the wide open throttle adjustments with the four-speed tranny. The results were right on the mark. The fuel-injected Hemi was able to achieve 480-500 lb/ft of torque in the 2,800-3,000 rpm range-an output Hemis typically don't see until around 4,000 rpm.
With the WOT settings established, Matt is now able to customize his EFI system to meet specific driving conditions via a laptop computer that plugs into an on-board port located in the dash.
Matt's original goal was to see how fast he could make his 'Cuda while retaining streetability and still have reliable transportation. Mission accomplished. This way-out 'Cuda not only makes a healthy 500 horsepower (which he says is restricted due to the 1000 cfm throttle body), it is frequently driven throughout the Shreveport area, and Matt doesn't hesitate to take it on long interstate hauls. He reports that the car averages around 14 mpg around town, and 15 mpg on the highway. As for quarter-mile performance, how does 11.67 at 119 mph on street tires sound?
A streetable Hemi? That...and a whole lot more. Just goes to show what can happen when high tech meets vintage iron.