1970 CUDA 4 SPEED CONVERTIBLE UPGRADE TO 426 HEMI

1970 CUDA HEMI CONVERTIBLE                                 NO 79

The “King of the Muscle Cars” only 14 Hemi Convertibles were built in 1970

Engine: 8 – cyl 426 cid / 425hp 2x4 bbl Hemi

Shaker Hood                                                                 4 Speed transmission

Curb Weight: 3395 lbs (1,540 kg)                             Wheel Base: 108 in (2,743.2mm)

Motor Trend tested the 426 Hemi ’Cuda in their May 1970 issue, reaching 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 14 seconds at 102 mph

The Hemi ‘Cuda was forced into scarcity due to the extra $900 it cost to build which was nearly a third of the standard purchase price of the entire car, the rising cost of insurance, and governmental fuel and emissions changes.

At $250, the 390 bhp 440 V8 became the norm which made the Hemi Cuda a rare exception and the even rarer Hemi Cuda Convertible the “Holy Grail” of Muscle Cars.

Chrysler Performance / The Legend of Building 135

Always known for its engineering excellence, many of the Chrysler firsts have been listed on other pages in this journal. On this page we will examine post-WWII engines many of which are reflected in the Lang Collection.

Taking cues from war time work on a WWII replacement engine for the P-47 fighter that featured a hemispherical combustion chamber, Chrysler introduced the Hem (its original 331 cid developed 180 hp) as the ‘Fire Power V8” in its 1951 Chryslers. Each Division thereafter developed their own V8 engine with hemispherical heads. In 1951 Fire Power V8 Chryslers were faster and had more horsepower than any other stock North American car right off the floor. These first generation Hemi’s powered Chryslers until 1959.

The year 1958 brought about a sea change in how Chrysler developed their vehicles. That year all engine development was brought under central control in Building 135 as Highland Park Engineering. Prior to this time all the engines were developed individually by each division. This led to the fact that parts for each Division’s engines were not interchangeable. All that changed when engineering was centralized. This led over the next few years to some of Chrysler most iconic engines. In future engines such as the Slant Six, the 361 cid V-8, and the 383 cid V8 (see the Yellow 1970 Cuda) were used across platforms where applicable. The horsepower race was led initially by the 413 cid Wedge Head V-8 (see the 1961 Chrysler 300G) before the introduction in 1964 of the 426 Hemi (see 1970 Hemi Cudas) which blew away the competition. All these engines came out of Building 135. The high performance bays of that building were the hollowed Rooms 13 and 15, truly the Mecca of High Performance of the 60’s.

Another legend of the times came out of Building 135. It is rumored to this day that several Chrysler engineers tested their handiwork out on the mean streets of Detroit. Called various names in the various areas of Drag City, the Telegraph Rd branch called it the Gray Ghost. They drove a non-descript old primed Belvedere and cruised the hangouts looking for competition. This writer’s brush with this version of greatness started at the Daly Burger drive-in in Redford. It was Fall of 1964 or `65 and one of our charter members was driving an impressive brand new muscle car (make which will remain nameless here) and he accepted a challenge from the this old beater. Naturally all the others members crammed into that drive-in that night wanted to see this race so we all piled back into our cars to go out to the field of combat.

The conversation in the car as we drove north was excited. But my buddy quieted things down with these sage words of wisdom. “That car looks hideous but it’s got new red line tires and it runs as smooth as silk. I’ve heard about this car … Chrysler jocks testing out new equipment. And the kid’s car is new, only has 128 miles on it. The rookie’s gonna to get crushed.”

So we all turned north on Telegraph and went out past the old start line at Seven Mile with its painted while line at the quarter mile mark out to the brand new Lodge Freeway extension west of Telegraph. There was no traffic because that year it ended four miles down the pike in the middle of nowhere at Orchard Lake Rd. And just like the movies, all us spectators and our cars were lined up on both shoulders to observe history. The excitement didn’t last long because the race wasn’t even close. We were a less than hundred yards or so down from the start and the Belvedere was already leading by thirty feet. Afterward the Ghost circled around to see if anyone wanted another race but the question was met by awed silence. That was the quickest damn car any of us ever seen! Wonder to this day what they were testing that night.

And that’s the Legend of Building 135!