Barry Bates says he got bit by the “’Cuda bug” in 1990. What the auto technician at Martinsburg, West Virg.–based Country Roads Tire and Auto means is he has an eye for Plymouth ’Cudas made between 1970–74.
“I had never been around to personally see ’70 to ’74 ’Cudas, but I was driving down the main strip in our town, and on the corner there was the most incredible done-up ’Cuda I’ve ever seen,” remembers Bates. “It looked like it was just ready to kick butt. I pulled over and started drooling over this car.”
It was an all-black 1973 ’Cuda with skinny tires in the front and fat N50 15 tires in the back, and Bates knew he needed to own one of his own.
But the road to finding his dream muscle car was a winding one. In the next 16 years, he bought and sold two ’Cudas, before finally finding his ideal muscle car in 2006.
It took six years for Bates to buy his first 1973 ’Cuda. Later he added a 1971 to his collection. Both cars needed a lot of work, and in what Bates can only describe as a, “short lapse of sanity,” he sold both. Filled with regret, he immediately decided he’d find a ’Cuda to drool over again.
Bates did just that in 2006. He found his now prized 1973 Plymouth ’Cuda on eBay and purchased it at the “Buy it now” price because, as he puts it, he couldn’t risk losing it. Though he’s added his own touches to the car, it was largely a finished product when he found it, he says.
The hopped-up 440ci generates 500hp and is mated to a 727 automatic Torqueflite transmission, which “can smoke through all three gears,” despite being a highway-geared car, Bates boasts.
He painted his red ’Cuda’s hood scoops black and added the black spoilerette himself. He says he wanted to move the contrast of red and black toward the front of the car.
“I love the combination of black and red together, especially with black interiors,” he says. “Ultimately I would love to have an all-black car, but I do think this car looks nice with the red and black.”
Despite his affinity for all-black ’Cudas like the one he’d seen more than two decades ago, Bates said he doesn’t plan to repaint the whole car.
For now, black American Racing Torque Thrust D wheels and a few more black accents are first on the agenda for his ’Cuda. Bates also said he would like to add a four-link rear suspension, tubular control arms with coil springs up front, rack-and-pinion steering, fuel injection, and a supercharger as funds allow.
Even without his wish list for the car complete, it’s an excellent show car, he says. It has won first in class in the E-body modified division of the Mason Dixon MOPAR meet in the past.
His ’Cuda has also consistently been ranked in the top 30 bodies at various shows and is often featured at cruise-in nights in West Virginia, where he lives.
The only drawback to having his dream car: It sometimes feels too precious to drive.
“I’ve only put 2,000 miles on it,” he admits. “I try to drive it enough to keep its seals good, but it’s a fair-weather car. There’s also a risk of someone running into it any time you take it out, which would be devastating.”