'70 Plymouth 'Cuda AAR
Owned by: Chris Picco, Ontario, Canada
Engine: Doug Lipps from Competition Automotive rebuilt the numbers matching 340 for the 'Cuda. It was mounted to their engine dyno and produced 359 hp at 5,600 rpm. After the dyno seesion, it was shipped off to Mauro Brocca from Brocca Enterprises.
Exhaust: Factory exhaust.
Transmission: The AAR was converted to a four-speed before Chris purchased the car. Being a self proclaimed four-speed guy, he didn't have the heart to convert it back to an automatic. He now enjoys shifting gears with a Hurst pistol grip.
Rearend: 8 housing with a 3.91 Sure Grip.
The completely stock interior was immaculately restored by Chris and his friend Mauro.
Suspension: Rebuilt factory suspension.
Brakes: Front factory discs with factory drums out back.
Wheels & Tires: Kelsey Tire Reproduction BFG Bias Ply E60 front and G60 rear tires mounted to factory wheels.
Body: As rare as an AAR may be, it's even rarer that you find one with all original parts. This `Cuda wears all original and NOS body parts. Many of these parts were sourced from his good friend Rick Simpson. Metal master Sam Civello was able to throw everything together on the factory body and have it work seamlessly. Rick also gifted him a pair of NOS rear taillight chrome trim and an NOS AAR spoiler for his birthday. After the majority of the bodywork was completed it was taken to Ernie Barrett at Vetteworks of Canada in Port Perry, Ontario, for final bodywork and paint.
Paint: Ernie dressed the car in a fresh coat of BASF Glasurit single stage FJ5 Limelight, the original color.
Interior: Mauro Brocca and Chris tackled the interior in time for the Chryslers at Carlisle show in 2008. All the parts came from Dante's interior products and Legendary Auto Interiors. The bone stock interior even features the original AM radio, eight-track, and three speaker dash with rear speaker fader switch.
Ever since I was a young kid, my Dad, who was a Mopar guy, always had something cool in the driveway. It was about 25 years ago that I had my heart set on getting a Lime Green 'Cuda. But, my interest was even more specific--I wanted an AAR. I just loved everything about those cars, from the fiberglass hood, duck tail spoiler, to the strobe stripes. It was honestly my dream car growing up. We all have them, don't we? The AAR was one of the reasons I switched careers in 2001 in order to become more successful in life. I told everyone who would listen just how badly I wanted this car. I even started the website cudaworld.com because of this passion.
One of the most recognizable features of the AAR is the strobe stripes.
Hoping my new website would help me track down a viable and original car, I checked it every single day for one to be posted. Sadly it didn't happen, and life continued on. Resigning myself to the fact that I would have to buy my car in the U.S. (I'm from Canada, eh) and travel to inspect it, I continued the search and chased each lead I got.
My parents live about one hour from my house, and on the way there for a visit one day, I was day dreaming about the car. As my wife and I were driving I caught a quick flash of a car under a cover at the top of a driveway in a wooded area. This convinced me to stop and turn around. I knew the shape of the car and the lime green lower rear valance could make it a 'Cuda. As I approached the gated fence I was greeted by a man on a lawn tractor and he welcomed me in for a quick look.
What lies beneath? Well, Plymouth sort of gave that away with the 340 Six Barrel air clean
To my surprise it was a "barn fresh" '70 AAR 'Cuda, and it was FJ5 to boot. The car retained most of its original paint from the beltline up. The lower rear quarters had some real shady bodywork done to them, and the lower heels of the front fenders had some noticeable work done as well. After looking closer, I was blown away by how original the car appeared with the exception of the butchered patch jobs. Immediately I asked him how much for the car and of course his original response was "It's not for sale." I continued to talk to him but, concerned his kindness would be receded, I decided to lay off.
I called him again that night and asked for another visit. I went to visit the car a number of times before finally asking him if he would mind if I followed along on his restoration and posted updates on my website Cudaworld.com as a live feature. He agreed and thought that would be cool.
About six months after finding the car I received a call from his wife mentioning they decided to sell the car and thought I should have the first crack at it. Even the locals that knew about the car were not contacted as the couple felt it was in better hands with me. I instantly printed out my fender tag codes and headed to Janetville, Ontario, to review the tags. I was a little puzzled by the lack of a console and the '72 bucket seats in the car. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the car was converted to a four-speed by the second owner only months before the present owner bought the car.
Being a four-speed guy, I wasn't too concerned. Knowing this, I made an offer for the car and it was accepted. On December 3, 2002 I got to drive the 'Cuda for the very first time. My life-long dream and goal of owning a real Limelight AAR 'Cuda had finally been realized. The grin from ear to ear could be seen for miles as I drove her home.
For the balance of 2002 through October of 2003 I drove the car and loved every mile I put on it. The original dream of ownership quickly changed to a dream of restoring her. The interior was showing its age and the engine compartment hadn't been touched since new.
The Restoration Begins
Bolt by bolt, part by part, the car was catalogued, bagged, and tagged. My basement quickly became restoration central, and the bulk of the car ended up downstairs. A one car garage doesn't have a lot of room to work and store parts. The first plan was to get the car over to Sam Civello's home for metal repair. Sam and I have been best of friends ever since I tried to buy his 'Cuda in 2001, but that's another story. Sam is one of those hard to find metal guys gifted in the art of repair and fabricating. He knew exactly what I wanted.
The 'Cuda was media blasted, and we could see the severity of the rear quarter rot and knew this car would need rear quarters. Sure, aftermarket quarters would work but that was the easy way out. After searching endless leads, I found one quarter in Connecticut, and one in New York, which meant I would be taking some road trips. Upon arriving in Connecticut, I was blown away by all the parts the guy had. I picked through everything and ended up with more NOS metal and a mint original dash pad. Learning more and more about metal repair, I continued to feed Sam with NOS and rust-free steel. Once again this original body was back to its former glory and we could begin test fitting fenders, doors, and trunk lid.
I knew I had the best metal guy in the business, but I would need someone who could do the paint work. After all, 90-percent of what people care about is paint and body. After hitting every local cruise night, car show, and car event, the hottest cars had one common denominator, Ernie Barrett from Vetteworks in Port Perry, Ontario.
After a long wait, Chris is anxious to get his AAR out on the roads and out to shows.
Don't let the name fool you! Ernie has been restoring muscle cars, hot rods, pro touring cars, and of course Corvettes for years. His vast knowledge and reputation was the cornerstone to my selection, and if anyone has restored a car, they know how important picking someone is. Ernie was fair and was willing to take direction from me. With help from Resto Rick, Jeff Bangert, from Transamcuda.com, and all those wonderful survivor cars at the big shows, I was able to recreate the factory paint processes on my AAR.
Simple things like the fenders, door tops, and the blackout on the hood were done first. The grey primer under the car and the black out in the engine bay were very important steps on my car. Ernie was incredible and paid close attention to the door gaps, body lines, and alignment to ensure the car was straight as a board. He chose to use BASF Glasurit single stage paint.
The Engine Build
After the 'Cuda was in paint, the engine build was next. Doug Lipps from Competition Automotive quickly got started on rebuilding the numbers matching engine for the car. Once completed, the motor was shipped off to Mauro Brocca from Brocca Enterprises and Jeff Cabot from Cabot Enterprises. Jeff was instrumental in painting the engine, K-Frame, rearend, and an assortment of other parts. Mauro is a stand up guy, and knew I was in a jam and lacked the space for reassembling a painted car. He agreed to help me with the final assemble in order to make it to the Chryslers at Carlisle show in 2008. Being that show was only five months away, Mauro dropped everything to help me out.
Fellow Mopar nut and best friend Rick Simpson from Topshelfcars.ca was all too happy to tow me everywhere I went. For my birthday Rick gave me a set if NOS rear taillight chrome trim and the following year an NOS AAR Spoiler.
As the body, suspension and drivetrain were coming together, my interior from Dante's was ready to be installed. Guys like R/T Specialties, Frank Badalson, YearOne, ECS Automotive, and Jim Tanner were essential in acquiring parts.
NOS parts were used when available; however Bias Ply tires in the size E-60 were non-existent. Kelsey Tire was tapped for those. As the melee of restoring parts for final assemble continued, we eventually had everything ready. Mauro spent many hours ensuring all the parts were ready for install and that my timeline for Carlisle was in check--it was completed with one week to spare.
A Dream Realized
Kevin Hamil from Gtaindetail.com came over to help apply the NOS AAR Stripes. I used NOS Stripes because they have a subtle texture to them while reproduction stickers are flat black.
The 'Cuda has truly been a labor of love for me. The friends I have made along the way have been awesome and are ones I will keep forever. The support I got on the car from all sides was phenomenal and was an experience that will live on with the car for the rest of its life. For my first restoration of any car, this is one that I am very proud of and has become a bench mark for the next car I take on. The original owner of 29 years was reunited with the car at Carlisle along with his wife, daughter and grand daughter making this very special. This car is rolling proof that you can work hard toward any goal and achieve it.