11/21/2006 - Dan Lienert
One of the world's rarest cars, a 1971 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda convertible, could fetch over $4 million at auction.
Huge, honking, American classic cars have a rabid following. That's in part because of patriotism, America's former dominance of the auto industry and other factors, such as the sheer size of the United States, which has made it easy to drive any size car you like.
The wide variety of big, classic American cars also helps foster enthusiasm. You can choose between flashy Cadillacs; old-school, tank-like Packards; elegant Cords and Auburns of the 1930s; vintage Jeeps; swanky sedans of the late '40s and '50s; Corvettes; Thunderbirds; menacing Lincoln Continentals; '50s cars with fins; '60s cars with suicide doors; '70s you-know-what-mobiles; Vipers; Escalades--you name it. Or, like us, you can appreciate all of these cars.
But of all the classics, the "pony cars" of the late 1960s and '70s--affordable performance vehicles such as Ford Motor's Mustang and General Motors' Chevrolet Camaro--have perhaps more fans than any others. One of these muscle cars, Plymouth's 1971 Hemi Barracuda convertible, is exceedingly rare and incredibly expensive; it is perhaps the most sought-after muscle car, which would make it a candidate for the most sought-after American car overall.
Plymouth only built 11 Hemi 'Cuda convertibles, and Canada's RM Auctions will offer one in January at its annual "Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona" auction in Phoenix. The car's estimated value is over $4 million--not a bad return, considering it sold for $5,000 in 1971.
The Barracuda of model years 1970 to 1974 and its near twin, Dodge's Challenger, were answers to the Mustang and Camaro. But the Plymouth and Dodge pony cars came late to the party, could not match the sales of their competitors and were off the market after model year 1974.
The Barracuda and Challenger are perhaps the sexiest pony cars, largely because of their stylish front ends with partially hidden headlights. The 1971 Hemi 'Cuda convertible is so desirable because of a combination of looks, rarity and top-of-the-line performance chops. It features a 7.0-liter, 425-horsepower V-8 engine, a distant relative of the early aircraft engines Chrysler built during World War II and a forerunner of today's well-known Hemi power plants.
RM's 'Cuda has only 282 miles on it and comes with a complete history and factory documentation. Of the 11 Hemi 'Cuda convertibles, RM's car is one of only three with the desirable four-speed manual transmission. This is the first time the car has been offered for auction.
Declining sales and concerns about insurance and warranties for such a powerful performer doomed the Hemi 'Cuda convertible. For model year 1972, Plymouth killed both the 'Cuda convertible and the 'Cuda's Hemi option.