The legendary 1970 Plymouth AAR Cuda returns with a modern twist engine from the golden muscle era


Introduced in 1970, the third-generation Plymouth Barracuda is among the most desirable Mopars from the golden muscle car era. The HEMI version is particularly sought-after due to its short-lived and low production run.

Specifically, Plymouth sold only 666 examples in 1970 and 114 in 1971. The convertibles are rarer than hen’s teeth, with 14 delivered in 1970 and seven sold in 1971, and cost millions of dollars when in pristine condition.But the HEMI ‘Cuda isn’t the only rare iteration of the E-body Mopar. The 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) cars are also hard to come by, while the entry-level six-cylinder cars are even rarer.

The latter doesn’t get much attention due to its low output, but Plymouth sold only 557 cars fitted with the 198-cubic-inch (3.2-liter) “slant-six” in 1970 and 1971. But I’m not here to talk about six-cylinder mills or big-block V8s. This piece is about the AAR ‘Cuda.

A one-year-only gem, the AAR was born as a race car sporting the initials of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers team. Powered by a 305-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) V8 rated at 440 horsepower, it competed in the 1970 SCCA Trans-Am championship. It wasn’t exactly successful, finishing last in the standings, but it spawned a cool production model.As per SCCA regulations, Plymouth produced a streetable version of the AAR. And even though it didn’t look as aggressive as its race-spec counterpart, it did stand out thanks to unique side graphics, a rear spoiler, and a black hood.

It wasn’t as powerful either, but it came with a unique 340-cubic-inch (5.6-liter) “Six-Barrel” V8 good for 290 horsepower. The layout was identical to the Challenger T/A, Dodge’s take on the homologation special.Plymouth sold 2,724 AARs in 1970, including 1,604 automatics and 1,120 manuals, but the nameplate did not make it into 1971. Come 2023, the ‘Cuda AAR is a rare, desirable, and expensive gem, to the point where many enthusiasts convert their Barracudas to AAR specs.

Most of these conversions are usually only about visuals, but I’ve seen a few fitted with custom-made 340 “Six-Barrel” mills. The orange clone you see here takes it to a different level with a modern powerplant.

Specifically, it rocks a 5.7-liter HEMI sourced from a 2016 Dodge Charger Pursuit. If you’re unfamiliar with these police-spec cars, they share firepower with the R/T, which means the V8 cranks out 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet (536 Nm) of torque.Yup, the swap is a bit unusual, but the modern HEMI packs more punch than the AAR’s 340 V8, so it’s definitely an upgrade performance-wise. But what about the AAR conversion? Is this clone true to the original? Well, it certainly appears so in terms of graphics, and it even comes with an AAR-style hood.

On the flip side, the project is far from finished. While the engine and the transmission are under the hood, the wiring is not yet in place. The interior also needs to be reassembled, and the owner says the steering, brakes, and HVAC system must also be installed or adjusted.As for the bodywork, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the ‘Cuda has all the original sheet metal except for the trunk floor. The bad news is that the paint shows quite a few chips. But I guess that’s not an issue if you’re gunning for the unrestored survivor look.

Either way, it’s an exciting project that’s getting some attention on eBay, with bidding at $27,700 with about a couple of days to go. Not exactly cheap, but still a long way off original AAR prices. The latter commands more than $75,000 in Fair condition and costs more than $200,000 in Concours shape.

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