Let's face it, we here at Mopar Muscle do a lot of articles on '71 'Cudas. I guess the best explanation is that this particular E-Body has been the focus of more attention than others, from the Nash Bridges and Phantasm machines to the impossibly rare Hemi convertibles. There's something about the styling on these cars that gives them sort of an "ultimate supercar" viewpoint-the fender gills, the complicated grille, the hood treatments, and the graphics. This was literally the be-all to-end-all in horsepower excess, and the options that made 1971 special disappeared forever at the end of the production cycle.
That said, the changes between 1970 and 1971 had to start someplace, and those changes could well have begun with this flying fish "launch pad" created on August 2, 1970. This blue with white billboard graphic 'Cuda, powered by the 383 four-barrel (which had gotten a compression reduction for that year), is probably the first pilot convertible produced for the '71 E-Body model year. Owned by Claude Lozier of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, we became aware that this was not just another pretty restoration while we thrashed on the 383 Road Runner at Carlisle last year.
"You should really go over and see that '71 'Cuda convertible," someone said as we were swearing rusty bolts off of the exhaust system.
"Why? We already have three or four in the files," I replied. "We don't need anymore right now."
"Yea, but this one has 100005 stamped on the VIN tag...."
A walk across Carlisle's fields of green confirmed it. This car was special.
Claude, who makes his living as a security officer, found and bought the car in 1997. It was a basket case, but Claude was looking for a driver and E-Body convertibles can be hard to come by. The car, according to Claude's research, was used by Chrysler Canada to promote the Plymouth line in the western part of the nation. By the time Claude found it, the convertible had been seriously abused and partly scrapped out. The framerails were rotted, the inner and outer front fenders were gone, and the lower quarters were cut out. What was left was located in storage in Quebec.
The remains went to ASE Motorsports in Osgoode, Ontario, and the process of bringing the fish back to life began. In fact, when ASE's Al Stigter first saw the broadcast sheet, he was amazed; that's one reason he decided to take the project on. As built, the car had received many options, including the N96 Shaker induction system, front and rear spoilers, color-coded grille and bumpers, deluxe mirror group, and more. It was produced as a B5 blue/white billboard graphics exterior/blue interior, certainly a unique color combination. It was 1 (and the first) of only 32 Canadian 'Cudas that final year of the E-Body drop-top. The driveline consisted of the 300-horse 383, a 727 TorqueFlite, and a 3.55-cogged 831/44 rearend.
"Claude wanted a driver, but I told him I thought the car was a little too rare for that," says Al. "We worked to bring it as close to stock as we could without going over his budget. He's turned down some big offers on it because he really likes owning it. This wasn't about money."
ASE had their work cut out for them. The motor came out and got a solid rebuild. It was popped out .030, the compression was back up to 9.5:1 '70 specs, and a Mopar Performance hydraulic camshaft with .484 lift specs ended up in the center. The rest of the engine, from the AVS carb to the exhaust manifolds, is exactly as it was when the car left the assembly line in Hamtramack.
A new top came from Legendary, while the interior was redone in skins from that firm as well. The Rallye dash supports an R11 radio, which was the AM version. ASE finished the project by shooting the car back to its B5 beauty and applying a new pair of white billboard decals.
Claude tells us the car was his first-ever Mopar or collector car. He took it to several shows in 2001, including a debut at Carlisle's All-Chrysler Nationals where we shot the photos; it took the top honors in the Stock Plymouth E-Body there. What's more, he and his wife drove it down from Canada. Claude and Al both admit it's not perfect yet, but I think we'd all agree it doesn't get much better than this.
Pilot Car Pros And ConsPilot cars like Claude Lozier's 'Cuda are unique and hold a special significance to serious Mopar collectors because most were the first of that year's production runs. In some cases, parts used on pilot cars were not placed on subsequent production vehicles. In other cases, parts from the previous year might have been used up. They differ from prototypes in that pilot cars are the final step before full-scale production begins.
The downside is they may suffer from difficulties experienced while the production process was being finalized in terms of fitment quality. Certain pieces from outside suppliers may not have functioned as they should, and if the vehicle was used for serious testing by either the factory or media guys, chances are good that it was abused. In some cases, pilot cars were used for reference work and then subsequently destroyed. Regardless, those that have survived until today are unique treasures for their owners.