I have owned and driven my 'Cuda for 40 years. It all started when I graduated from high school. I started working, and my parents let me drive their two-tone '64 Rambler Ambassador. I only drove it as needed; it wasn't much of a looker or head turner. I drove it occasionally to high school, but mostly just to work.
While working and still living at home, I tried to put away as much money as I could so I could buy a car of my own. Most of my friends drove GM products, and there were a few Javelins and Dusters. No one drove a 'Cuda, which was the car that I wanted.
Finally, in late 1971, I had saved enough money to start looking for a car to call my first car. I started looking for a new 'Cuda, specifically one with a Hemi. However, I soon found out that I wouldn't be able to afford the insurance associated with a new Hemi 'Cuda.
In 1972, while answering an advertisement for a '71 'Cuda, I found my dream car. It was orange with black billboards, a 383 engine, and a four-speed with a Pistol Grip shifter. The car only had 1,300 miles on the odometer. James, the owner at the time, stated that he was getting married and needed the money. Besides, he also said that his wife to be couldn't drive a stick. That day, I drove it home with borrowed tags, and have been driving it ever since.
It still has the original matching-numbers engine, transmission, and drivetrain. However, as young guys do, I couldn't resist checking out the speed capabilities with some street racing.
Orange accents in the interior...
Orange accents in the interior make a nice contrast, and custom emblems with
The 383 has never been rebuilt,...
The 383 has never been rebuilt, but a Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine belt system has been added to operate the air conditioning, power steering, and the alternator, while an Edelbrock top end with a 750 carburetor finishes off the engine.
The orange 'Cuda was, and still is, like family to me. It was the getaway car when my wife and I got married in 1977. My friends who attended the wedding decorated the car with the traditional streamers, white shoe polish, and tin cans tied to the bumper. It rained late in the day before the reception was over, and I insisted that I had to wash the car before my new bride and I left for our honeymoon. All was well until the next day when I noticed that the porous billboard decals allowed the shoe polish to permanently retain the pre-honeymoon messages written on the car. Several weeks later, I had to have the damaged panels replaced.
The car was a daily driver for about 15 years, and I racked up about 105,000 miles. I remember using studded snow tires in the winter, and even had two complete sets of wheels and tires--one for winter and one for the other three seasons. Thereafter, other vehicles came and went as daily drivers, which allowed the 'Cuda to be driven much less often. The years rolled by with kids and family activities consuming life, until about mid-'09. That's when I met Fred Graefe III, owner and operator of F and F Speed Inc. My car was basically in good shape; however, we discovered some rust areas that weren't previously visible.
While I certainly have an appreciation for pure, back-to-original vehicle restorations, I wanted a slightly different look without going overboard. I had for the most part run the car with headers, wide rims and tires, traction bars, etc., for most of its life, and I didn't want to take the car back to a purely stock condition. The changes included painting the billboards on the car with the word 'Cuda on the door instead of 383.
I'm happy about the way the car turned out, and I am anxious to enter it in some shows. Most of all, I'm looking forward to driving a spruced up 'Cuda that I can be proud to still call mine.
'71 Plymouth 'Cuda
Calvin Kiser, Freeland, Maryland
- Engine: Calvin tells us the engine did not need to be opened up for a rebuild, but a Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine belt system is used to operate the air conditioning, power steering, and the alternator. An Edelbrock top end with a 750 carburetor finishes off the engine. Headman Headers and polished 3-inch exhaust send the sounds out the back.
- Transmission: A rebuilt 833 means gear changes are done when Calvin says so.
- Rear: It's a basic 83?4 with 3.73 gears
- Suspension: The front of the car is supported by a Magnumforce tubular suspension, and the rear is supported by the factory springs, stock shocks, and custom-build traction bars.
- Brakes: Making sure Calvin gets whoa'd in time is a chrome master cylinder and brake booster by Classic Performance Products, and 13-inch Wilwood brakes.
- Wheels/Tires: Billet Specialties Legacy II wheels measuring 18x8 and 20x9 1/2 support Goodyear RS-A tires measuring 225/45/18 and 255/45/20.
- Paint/Body: The guys at F and F Speed in White Hall, Maryland, covered the body with several coats of Tor Red--which coincidentally looks orange. Even with over 105,000 miles on the car, it was in relatively good shape, only requiring minimal bodywork. The billboards were painted on, and the 383 designation in the billboard was replaced with 'Cuda. The firewall and inner fenders were smoothed, and the factory driving lights were recessed into the bumper.
- Interior: Statler's Auto Upholstery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, handled the interior resto-modding by covering the seats in leather, adding a billet steering wheel and a Polk/JVC sound system.
When Calvin and his wife got...
When Calvin and his wife got married in 1977, his friends decorated the car with the traditional gala of streamers, white shoe polish, and tin cans tied to the bumper. All was well until he noticed that the porous billboard decals allowed the shoe polish to permanently retain the pre-honeymoon message written on the car. Several weeks later he had to have the damaged billboards replaced.