- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

During the 1970 model year, Plymouth manufactured a total of 19,515 Cudas, a vehicle that Henry Mauney Jr. describes as “a car just short of a race car for the street.”

Of those Cudas, only 635 were convertibles. An even smaller number — 14 — left the factory powered by a Hemi V-8. The pair of menacing-appearing air scoops on that hood are strictly cosmetic.

Mr. Mauney spent about a decade searching for a 1970 Plymouth Cuda convertible and looked at several that had mostly rusted away. He told a friend in Myrtle Beach, S.C., about his disappointing hunt and asked him to let him know if he ever found a good one for sale.

In the fall of 1999, Mr. Mauney’s friend called with good news about a Cuda convertible that had spent the last 14 years parked in a barn. Mr. Mauney raced to Maxton, S.C., to see the Plymouth and bought it on the spot. The odometer had recorded about 89,000 miles.

The forlorn car was sitting on four flat tires on its 108-inch wheelbase as he winched it onto his open trailer for the 100-mile journey home to Fort Mill, S.C.

“The car was covered with 10 inches of dust,” Mr. Mauney said.

On the trip home, the wind was stripping off the dust, and other motorists could see the muscle car on the trailer and were waving approval, honking horns and giving him thumbs-up signs.

“That was a hoot that day,” he remembers.

Once at home, Mr. Mauney disassembled his Plymouth, which had been painted black with cans of spray paint. That is when he discovered that his car had left the factory wearing a coat of red with a black convertible top.

With the car in pieces, he found the passenger compartment floor pans in good condition, but the ones in the trunk area were rusted. Those had to be replaced with healthy steel floor pans.

“I soon started a complete restoration and marked everything,” he said, adding that the trick is to bag and tag everything, which is an immense help during reconstruction.

Both quarter panels were riddled with rust, and Mr. Mauney discovered that installing new ones was more economical than repairing the originals. Rust inhibitors and primer were then applied.

When the time came to reassemble his Plymouth, he decided that he had always wanted a Hemi, and this was a good opportunity to upgrade his car to a Hemi-powered one.

From Chrysler, he obtained a 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 in a crate. The output of the Herculean engine is rated at 425 horsepower.

“It’s a clone as to the engine, but all upgrades were completed to make the car as original to factory specifications as possible,” Mr. Mauney said.

He strayed from the original color, instead selecting “Lemon Twist Yellow.”

“It’s the first yellow automobile I’ve owned in my life,” he said.

The finished product entails a lot more than just swapping an engine. Mr. Mauney installed the correct suspension components, torsion bars and brakes.

“It’s been a successful transition,” he said.

Back in 1970, the 3,480-pound car had a base price of $3,433, about a dollar per pound. The Plymouth is equipped with power steering, an AM radio, fog lights under the front bumper and hood pins to secure the engine hood at high speeds. Stopping chores are handled by the manual front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.

As with the rusted quarter panels, Mr. Mauney found that replacing both of the bumpers was a more efficient choice than repairing them.

All four tires are mounted on 15-inch wheels; the rear-drive tires are slightly larger than the front tires.

A new white convertible top was installed. The original, all-red interior was replaced. The dashboard is now black, as is the carpet, and a walnut-grain-trimmed console is on the drive shaft tunnel.

The car is equipped with a slap stick-shift lever and a rally dashboard with a tachometer and a 150-mph speedometer. Although he has never driven his car to that top speed, Mr. Mauney said, “I guarantee the car can run it out.”

The interior is dressed up with white sun visors, white front bucket seats and white door panels.

With the black hockey stick stripe on the rear benders and the black go wing spoiler on the deck lid, the Plymouth appears ready for action. However, since the 4 1/2-year rebuilding effort was completed in April 2004, Mr. Mauney has driven it only about 50 miles.

“I drive it mostly in parades or weddings,” he said, “or an occasional car show.”

For your car to become the subject of the Out of the Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hot rods accepted

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