The words Hemi and 'Cuda are easily combined in print, and in the minds of Mopar lovers everywhere. But, what if you want to combine them when the engine's a modern Hemi and the 'Cuda's a well-preserved E-Body? Where do you do it? In Matt Thun's case, you use the closest vehicle-assembly facility—namely, his two-car garage.
Rear View: Wilwood discs replaced...
Rear View: Wilwood discs replaced front drum brakes (which replaced the OEM discs). Five-spoke Billet Specialties wheels wrapped in Nitto 555s fill the fenderwells all around.
Matt's ride is one of the 4,989 'Cudas built before E-Body production halted in the spring of 1974. It was a replacement for a 'Cuda he'd owned years before, but regrettably had to sell.
"The previous owner had it for over 14 years, but only drove it 4,000 miles, so he hadn't done a whole lot with it," says Matt. "It had chrome all over the engine compartment, it was leaking oil, the seats were split, and it had those black rubber ‘knee-knockers' on the front and back."
Matt had plans for the 'Cuda that didn't include keeping it as it was. "I began wanting to restore it, and put it back to how it was from the factory," he says.
But it had front drum brakes (which weren't available on the E-Body after '72), and a non-Carter ThermoQuad four-barrel carburetor that replaced the OEM two-barrel. Once the front brakes were restored to discs, Matt turned to the E-Body's looks. "It then became [about] personalization, with stuff like spoilers and hood pins, and things that I wanted to do to my first 'Cuda, but couldn't," he says. That included a period-correct orange air cleaner that he made a factory-looking "318 Four Barrel" decal for.
Over time, the 318 showed its age, and Matt considered either rebuilding it, or replacing it with a 340. But a third choice soon emerged: The 5.7 Hemi. "In 2003, when I first heard about the new Hemi, I had the urge to call up my insurance man and ask him to tell me when they would total one out," says Matt, who later saw one in a 'Cuda at a Monster Mopar Weekend in St. Louis. The following spring, at Mopars at the Strip, he saw that car—and its owner—again. "I said that my 318 needed to be rebuilt," says Matt. "He told me he had a low-mileage Hemi out of a Dodge Magnum that he'd sell me for half the price of the estimate I had to rebuild my 318, or build a 340."
Not long after, that engine was Matt's. What made it work was a K-frame that was notched for A/C compressor clearance, a rear-sump oil pan, some engine-block trimming—to make the starter fit, and some "massaging" of the number 1 cylinder's header pipe for clearance.
Once done, Matt had a Hemi 'Cuda—one that offended some "purists." I've run across people that don't like that I've put that engine in an older car," says Matt. But Matt says there are also plenty who like his modernized 'Cuda. "Especially people who like the new cars, and those who have a mild interest in cars but may not own a classic. They seem to be intrigued by it. That keeps the hobby alive."
Interior: Extra care in restoration:...
Interior: Extra care in restoration: ’Cuda’s cabin looks 1974-fresh.
Matt adds that the swap revived his interest in his 'Cuda when he thought about selling it. Instead, he has a Hemi 'Cuda that's a looker and a nimble handler, thanks to the modern Hemi, which shaved around 100 pounds off the front end.
Is this a swap for you? Matt adds some more details before your vintage E-Body meets its new Hemi. "The alternator needs to come out, and you should take out the second valve-cover stud on the passenger side before you do the body drop, because that ripped the paint. With those two things out, there's plenty of room."
1974 Plymouth Barracuda
Owned by: Matt Thun, Olathe, Kansas
Engine: ’08-vintage 5.7L Hemi...
Engine: ’08-vintage 5.7L Hemi adds modern-tech power, while shaving around 100 pounds of the ’Cuda's front end. Some purists might not like it, but this modern-Hemi swap works. Radiator is a BeCool aluminum unit.
|Engine: Matt swapped in an '08-vintage 5.7 Hemi with help from Street & Performance (computer and wiring harness); Lokar (throttle linkage and trans kickdown cable); Glenn Baugus (who supplied the engine); Scott Shanks (source for the K-member); plus Dusty Fisher, Mike Johnson and Denny Holstrom (engine removal and installation help). Custom "Hemi" engine covers by Performance Contracting, Lenexa, KS (with carbon-fiber print finish by Dynamic Finishes, Kansas City, MO). Radiator's a 26-inch BeCool aluminum one with twin electric fans. Speedway Muffler in Kansas City, Kansas, installed the exhaust system that includes tti headers, 2½-inch pipe and Flowmaster Series 50 mufflers.
|Transmission: 727 Torqueflite rebuilt by Olathe Transmission, Olathe, Kansas. Shifter is the OEM console-mounted Slap Stik.
|Rearend: Original 3.23-geared open differential/pavement-striper
|Suspension: Restored original '74 'Cuda—heavy-duty longitudinal torsion bars, front and rear anti-sway bars and rear leaf springs—plus Monroe "GasMatic" shocks at all corners
|Brakes: Wilwood slotted-and-drilled four-wheel discs, power assisted
|Wheels and Tires: Billet Specialties' SLG 23s (17x7-inch front, 20x8½-inch rear) wear Nitto 555s (235/45R17 front, 255/45ZR20 rear)
|Body: Restored original '74 E-Body unibody wears all its original sheetmetal, plus its OEM vinyl top and side stripes. Bumpers are Keystone repro '70 Barracuda ones, while add-ons include fiberglass front/rear spoilers and aluminum rear window louvers.
|Paint: Single-stage Rallye Red acrylic enamel (sprayed on by a previous owner) still looks great
|Interior: Resto-modded with an OEM look. Original dash holds gauges restored by Redline Gauges, while '74 Barracuda seats wear repro vinyl covers, and the door panels got Gran Coupe-style woodgrain inserts. Edwards Brothers Upholstery in Lenexa, Kansas, did the seats, and G&J Upholstery in Olathe, Kansas, made a new headliner from NOS material that Matt installed.