- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

Upon graduation from the military academy at West Point Jim Spencer’s first car was a Chevrolet Corvette. He has always been enamoured of powerful cars.

Almost 20 years passed before he and muscular products made by Chrysler became acquainted. Several muscle cars later he was watching a televised antique car auction with his wife, Ida, when she noticed that several cars crossing the auction block had brought outrageous prices and each one had a hemi engine under the hood.

She made a passing comment, something about having a hemi-powered car would be like money in the bank. Her husband took that statement as passing tacit approval to start shopping.

In the summer of 2004 Mr. Spencer saw a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible offered for sale on eBay. Since the car was located near Leesburg he kept an eye on the bidding and when the price established by the seller was not reached he contacted the seller.

Mr. Spencer had seen the pictures posted on the internet and they looked good and learned the car had recently been restored in California by a firm that had a reputation for doing good work. He went to inspect the car of which he says a total of seven were built in model year 1971. It doesn’t hurt to look, correct?

Whe the owner opened the garage door and he first glimpsed the MoulIn Rouge Pink ‘Cuda with the optional white billboard on its hindquarters, he was smitten. When the owner fired up the 426-cubic-inch hemi V8 factory-rated at 425 horsepower and that unmistakable rumble came tumbling out the dual rectangular exhaust tips that protrude through the valance beneath the rear bumper, he was hopelessly ensnared.

Mr. Spencer learned that when the rare car underwent restoration the engine and automatic transmission were rebuilt even though the odometer had recorded only slightly more than 40,000 miles. “The engine was overhauled to original specifications,” Mr. Spencer says.

As desirable as the Plymouth was, Mr. Spencer told the owner that he couldn’t afford such a fine machine. “I can’t either,” the owner reportedly told Mr. Spencer.

He explained to Mr. Spencer that all he had done was put 20 per cent down and a company that specializes in antique car loans would pick up the rest. Because the seller had owned the car less than a year the loan process would go quickly he assured Mr. Spencer.

With two sons and a daughter in college Mr. Spencer thought, “Why not?” The theory being that if he required extra cash for college expenses, the car could be sold. “It’s a guaranteed quick sale if needed,” he explains.

With the loan approved, Mr. Spencer’s wife drove him out to retrieve the Plymouth. It was her initial viewing of the pink and white car. She approved.

After her husband was settled into the white bucket seat behind the three-spoke rim blow steering wheel with the 150 mph speedometer and 8,000 rpm tachometer with a 6,500 rpm red line in front of him, she followed him home to their Alexandria home.

Stainless steel hood pins ensure that the engine hood stays secured during high speed romps. Crowning each front fender is a small signal light which can be seen by the driver to alert him that the turn signals are activated.

Mr. Spencer reports that his car is equipped with power windows, power steering, power front disc brakes and “a non-original antenna”. “I still like it,” he is quick to say. Besides the four headlights a pair of fog lights is suspended beneath the front bumper.

The front tires are P235/60R15-inches with the rear tires are slightly larger at P275/50R15-inches, which support the car on its 108-inch wheelbase.

Besides the white upholstery, the cockpit of the Plymouth is accented with a black dashboard and black carpeting. With the convertible top raised, the view to the rear is still good, thanks to the rear window being glass.

With the odometer just now approaching 43,000 miles, Mr. Spencer hopes to exercise his ‘cuda with a drive to Carlisle, Pa. this summer to attend “Chryslers at Carlisle.” He’ll be sure to take along his favorite accessory that came with the car, a pair of fuzzy pink dice to hang from the rear view mirror.

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