The E-Body has reached "exotic" status in the Mopar family. Their prices are soaring, and the cars are in high demand. In recent times, shops have been pumping out some crazy modified Challengers and 'Cudas. One look at Bill Ewell's '70 'Cuda and you might assume that it's just another shop car. But when you find out that his hands were involved in every part of the build and that most of the work was done in his driveway, you'll know you assumed wrong.
Bill has owned many A- and B-Bodies since he was in high school. he was never really a fan of the E-Body, but they eventually grew on him over the years. In early 1998, he began looking for an E-Body. He searched from California to New Jersey, but nothing came up. Then a coworker told him about one stored in his neighbor's garage. Bill remembered seeing the white 'Cuda around town a few times, but it wasn't for sale, so he just continued to drive his '69 340 Swinger. Several months went by, and he heard from a friend that there was a white '70 'Cuda for sale. He knew there was only one white one in town, so he called his coworker to get the scoop. It turned out the 'Cuda was now for sale, so Bill went and purchased it that day. It was clean, numbers-matching, and powered by a 383 backed by a four-speed.
The ride height was lowered...
The ride height was lowered but the body was left untouched. Bill feels that Plymouth hit the nail on the head with the 'Cuda, and he didn't want to do anything that would change that.
Bill drove the 'Cuda for about a year until the clutch started slipping. Being the gearhead that he is, he knew this was a great time to do a full restoration. Every car starts with a dream or a vision, and he was dreaming big. He felt that Plymouth hit the nail on the head with the looks of the 'Cuda, and he wanted his car to have the same look with just some minor cosmetic changes.
"I wanted to lower it, put modern wheels on it, and go over the top with performance," Bill says.
After some debate about what color to paint the car, a friend suggested black. "What's better than a triple-black 'Cuda? Nothing!" Bill exclaims. From that day on, the car was known as Black Betty. That name choice took on an eerie element because almost every time they worked on the car, that song, performed by Ram Jam, would play on the radio.
The interior was left unmolested...
The interior was left unmolested except for a few upgrades. With all the custom, crazy interiors seen in E-Bodies these days, Bill didn't want to go down that same road. A simple Pioneer audio system plays the tunes as he cruises down the street shifting his Tremec 5-speed with the pistol grip.
Well, you can't make a car look evil unless you match those looks by putting in an equally menacing powerplant under the hood. The latest trend was to install a new fuel-injected Hemi, but Bill wanted to be different. Shortly after getting started on his project, the opportunity to buy a 451 stroker came up. His buddy, Bobby Reese, had a 451 short-block sitting in his shop for one of his race cars. Bill persuaded Bobby to sell him the engine so he could put it in his 'Cuda. Together, they built the engine into a total screamer and put a Tremec TKO five-speed behind it.
For the body, Bill enlisted the help of his friend Zeke Ballinger, who had restored several cars and was up to the task of paint and bodywork. For several years, they worked on the car in Bill's driveway, getting all the little things fixed and attaching the car to a rotisserie. Zeke sprayed it down with PPG and U-Tech basecoat and clearcoat, which was followed by 65 hours of wet sanding and polishing by Bill. "I have learned so much about paint since doing this project. there's nothing like learning on a black car," says Bill.
After the paint was finished, things slowed down while Bill went through a divorce. He feared the car might have to go, and he would never be able to finish it. But, thankfully, he was able to keep the car and complete his project.
One of the first things people...
One of the first things people notice are the different colored wheels. Bill liked the red ones so much that he had to have them on his car, but he didn't want to break away from his triple-black theme, so the rear ones were painted black.
With the shaker scoop removed,...
With the shaker scoop removed, it's still hard to tell the 383 was replaced with a 451. A set of ported Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads and a Holley Street Dominator intake manifold help the big-block take in as much air as it demands. To get it all out, a set of tti 1 7/8-inch headers do the trick.
A small wrench was thrown into his plans for a black-on-black look for his low-slung 'Cuda when he was experimenting with colors over chrome. Bill was mesmerized by red, but he didn't want to stray from his black-on-black vision. When it came time for a wheel choice, a friend suggested that he do a set in red and a set in black-something that would be totally unorthodox. he liked the idea, which gained support when he thought back to the old cars that would run mismatched wheels. So he went through with it and couldn't be happier. "Some hate it; some love it. I love it, and that's all that matters," he says. He does get questions about it a lot, but he just laughs and acts like he's colorblind.
The 'Cuda was finished in early 2007. its first show was the '07 Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas, where it was a big hit. they even invited him to display the car at the Cannery Casino. Black Betty took home first place in the E-Body Modified class and won Best of Show (Modified).
Bill continues to attend shows, but he really wants to get out and drive the car more. "There is no fun in building them if you can't enjoy them," he says. Building cars in your driveway is never easy, but building them any other way isn't nearly as rewarding. This sinister-looking fish was made to drive.
'70 Plymouth 'Cuda
Bill Ewell, Colorado Springs, Co
Engine: A 451 ci ensures that this 'Cuda isn't just a looker and that it moves out, too. It was assembled by Bob Reese with the assistance of Bill. A steel stroker crankshaft, Mopar .600-lift camshaft with Crane 1.6:1 rocker arms, and ported aluminum Edelbrock cylinder heads provide the power. TTI 1 7/8-inch headers with 3-inch collectors evacuate the exhaust from the big-block and feed it into tti 3-inch pipes and Flowmaster mufflers.Fuel, Air, Spark: The big-block is fed by a Demon 750 carburetor and a Holley Street Dominator intake manifold. A complete MSD ignition system with M.A.D. Enterprises upgrades to the wiring harness and charging system.
Transmission: A Tremec TKO 5-speed offers superior performance, comfort, and drivability over the factory four-speed.Rearend: A beefy sure grip Dana 60 with 4.10 gears.
Suspension: The front now features Firm Feel upper control arms, factory lower control arms, aluminum strut rods, and .960 torsion bars. For the rear, ESPO custom springs are used to lower the ride height 1 inch. Bringing the E-Body to a halt are 11 3/4-inch factory front power discs with vented and slotted rotors and TSM 11-inch rear discs with vented and slotted rotors.
Rims & Rubber: Coy's C-5s measure 18x8 up front and 18x9.5 in the rear. Bill had the fronts painted red; the rears remain true to his black theme. Modern day rubber gives this fish all its grip with BFGoodrich G-Force T/A KDW tires. The front tires are 245/45ZR18s, and the rears are 285/40ZR18s.
Paint & Body: Zeke Ballinger can be credited for spraying down this black beauty, while Bill assisted with the bodywork, wet sanding, and polishing. It now features a shaker hoodscoop and flat-black hockey stripes on the rear fenders.
Interior: Bill didn't want to follow the trends of custom interior 'Cudas, so his retains a factory appearance with subtle changes that are hard to identify. The factory seats have been recovered and are six-way adjustable. The Rallye Dash has an updated tach and clock; a Pioneer CD player and speakers make up the audio system. Other interior renovations include new black carpet from ACC, a pedal dress-up kit, a Pistol Grip shifter, and a new Rim Blow steering wheel.