Interior: Thanks to Legendary (and Ssnake-Oyl, who re-did all the belts), the 'Cuda 340's
Black paint on a car's body is a two-way mirror. Not only does it reflect what's next to it, but also what's underneath the paint. Any flaws in the prep work and finish will not only be seen, but magnified. You won't find any flaws on Phil Ecks' '69 Plymouth 'Cuda 340. Phil says auto-body technicians give it their closest scrutiny when he shows it: "I've had people who are body men come up and look at it, and they say, ‘How did he paint this? There's not even any swirl marks in it!'" Even more amazing is the lapse in time between when Phil started fixing up his longtime daily driver, and when it was completed to the jewel-like state it's in now.
Phil found his original A56-code 'Cuda 340 in late 1971, when its second owner put an ad for it in a local newspaper. Soon after, it was Phil's daily driver for well over a decade. "I drove it steady up until about 1986," he recalls. "Then, I started using it on occasion--it had the mileage on it, and it started to get a little rusty. I figured I could start doing a little work on the little things. I ended up tearing it apart and doing the front suspension on it." He also rebuilt its stock 340, adding a Mopar Performance camshaft and electronic ignition, and an Edelbrock LD 340 intake. After more than a decade of New Jersey winters, the original sheetmetal on the 'Cuda needed some much needed attention. "One of my buddies said he could paint it for me," says Phil, who took the 'Cuda to his buddy's shop in 1991. In 2000, with the A-Body nowhere near completion, that shop closed, and Phil had to tow it home. According to Phil, "That's where it sat until I finally had someone who would actually touch it. Nobody wanted to touch a car that was torn apart."
Engine: Phil kept the stock heads when he rebuilt the 340, but added 273 Commando valve c
It wasn't until 2006 that the 'Cuda saw the inside of a body shop again. Before then, he found out about body man and painter Mickey Beal. "I knew his brother-in-law through where I used to work," says Phil. "After a couple years of prodding my buddy, Mickey finally came down and took a look at it, and he accepted it as a project." He adds, "If it wasn't for him, it would probably still be in pieces." Fortunately, Mickey didn't need to do any major metal surgery, and his repair, metal-finishing, and paintwork was complete just four months after it rolled into his shop. Complete, that is, except for the black hood and body-side stripes that were part of the A56 'Cuda 340 package (and were the only color that the stripes came in). "The paint came out so nice that I said, ‘I don't know if I want to stripe it or not, because it's black,'" says Phil, who chose to leave them off.
It took some time longer for Phil to actually finish the Fish. "I could only work on the car in my spare time--nights and weekends," he says. In early 2008, it was finished and ready for its New Jersey historic plates. Before it finally hit the road, Phil added a set of BFG-shod Cragar S/S wheels and Legendary seat covers and carpets. But an assembly-line boo-boo was left as is--the Dodge logo in the steering wheel hub. It's likely that Hamtramck Assembly didn't have a correct Plymouth (or 'Cuda) one on hand when this car was on the final assembly line. Since its completion, Phil hasn't returned his 'Cuda to its former daily-driver status. "It's just a street driver, but I love running it around town." No doubt about a 340 that breathes out through tti headers and Dynomax mufflers adds to that fun. "I enjoy driving it," says Phil. "I get a lot of looks and compliments on it." He adds this advice for anyone who might be thinking of starting a Mopar resto project--or restarting a stalled one. "Don't give up on yourself, because it'll work itself out."
1969 Plymouth 'Cuda 340 fastback
Owned by: Phil Ecks, Jackson, New Jersey
- Engine: Phil rebuilt the Fish's 340, adding an Edelbrock LD 340 intake, tti headers and Dynomax mufflers, and Mopar Performance electronic ignition, a hydraulic camshaft and valve springs, while keeping the OEM heads, forged steel crankshaft and Carter AVS four barrel.
- Transmission: Original-equipment 23-spline 833 four-speed and Hurst shifter. They got this one right the first time.
- Rearend: OEM here, too--8-3/4 rear end with 3.91 gears
- Suspension: Restored original for this '69 'Cuda 340: Heavy-duty longitudinal torsion bars, anti-sway bar and HD tubular shocks up front, with leaf springs and HD tubular shocks in back.
- Brakes: Restored stock, with power-assisted Kelsey-Hayes front discs and 10-inch rear drums.
- Wheels and Tires: The classic fender-filling look of chrome Cragar S/S five spokes (15 x 6 inch front, 15 x 8 inch rear) on BFG Radial TAs (205/60R15 front, 255/60R15 rear).
- Body: Restored original '69 Barracuda fastback unibody wears all its original sheetmetal, scoops and chrome trim, but Phil left off the black-only A56 'Cuda 340 stripes this time around.
- Paint: Mickey Beal of Millstone, New Jersey, sprayed on the single stage X9 Black acrylic enamel.
- Interior: The visors and headliner are original, but Legendary's reprodustion Saddle Tan vinyl trim covers the seats, door and side panels. Ssnake Oyl restored the OEM front and rear seat belts.