The first and last of a model are often the most collectible. That is certainly the case with Hemi-powered Chrysler E-body cars. Of course, the first and last Hemi ’Cudas and Hemi Challengers were almost the same thing. The totally new 1970 Barracuda/’Cuda was a great success along with its sibling, the new Dodge Challenger. Then, almost as suddenly as it began, the whole musclecar climate changed in 1971.
Rising insurance rates, falling compression ratios, forthcoming government safety/emissions regulations and the impending ban on leaded gasoline all contributed to the rapid decline of musclecar sales. 1971 became the swan song for the mighty Chrysler 426 Hemi. Showroom traffic slowed as sales dropped by two-thirds from 1970. Hemi ’Cuda production fell to 108 hardtops (60 with 4-speeds and 48 with TorqueFlite automatics) and seven convertibles (5 auto/2 manual). Hemi Challenger production for 1971 amounted to a mere 71 hardtops (no Challenger convertibles were ever offered).
Desirability and prices are high for any 1970 or 1971 Hemi ’Cuda or Hemi Challenger, but the added rarity of the 1971 models gives them an added edge. Our feature car belongs to Barry Boyles. Its sedate color combination and dog dish hubcaps might have made it a sleeper if it weren’t for the huge quarter panel “billboard” graphics that spell out “HEMI” across the doors. The protruding Shaker hood scoop is a little tough to miss, too. Barry’s car also has the rear deck spoiler and the A67 Backlight Louver Package
Horsepower was downgraded slightly for 1971 ’Cuda engines except for the mighty Hemi. It retained its 425 horsepower and awesome 490 lb-ft of torque. To say that Hemi ’Cudas had stump-pulling power was an understatement. The Hemi retained its dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors – this marked the end of dual quads on production cars. Chrysler held out longer than anyone, to their immense credit.
Hemi ’Cudas were not as balanced as the small-block 340 models (especially the 290 horsepower Six Pack AAR ’Cuda), because they were nose heavy. The traction-challenged Goodyear F60-15 Polyglas GT tires didn’t help the situation, but they did make “smog alert”-caliber burnouts possible.
The 1971 Hemi ’Cuda could be criticized on a number of practicality issues, but the car was never meant to be sensible transportation. The Hemi ’Cuda was all about raw pavement-peeling power. It was the epitome of the “Rapid Transit Authority” (a catch phrase used in Plymouth high performance advertising campaigns), and, as such, it’s easily one of the top Mopars ever built