Dave Crawford’s 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda is a former drag monster returned to its legacy.
Hemi E-bodies are something that have garnered a sort of mentality among Mopar enthusiasts. Some have gone so far as deride the short-lived model design as “Chrysler’s Camaro,’ while others would have nothing but ‘Cuda’s and Challengers sitting in their garages. The truth is, these cars have indeed become iconic to the breed, coupled with financial notoriety at auction and privately, Nash Bridges’ drop top ’71 Plymouth on prime time, and new Challengers in the dealer lot in 2010.
But E-body models are not easy to come by nor cheap to restore these days. That same level of exposure has made the pieces that make up the sum total quite expensive, Hemi or not. For instance, things like NOS grilles have been priced ‘legendarily,’ and good Shaker pieces warm the heart and fatten the wallet of anyone lucky enough to have them available for purchase. It’s not a game for the faint of heart.
Dave Crawford of Piqua, Ohio, had been through the Shelbys and Corvettes; he has decided that finding a real Hemi ‘Cuda would be a challenge worth undertaking. So he began a search some years back to locate one that would meet his desires as owner and be worth the cost and effort to restore. The car he came up with was pretty special.
Back in the seventies, two brothers in Illinois has wanted to go drag racing, so they had bought a fairly loaded used 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda. This car has been purchased by a
Springfield, Ill., businessman for his wife, who hated it. The color was loud – FY1 Lemon Twist Yellow (a HIP – High Impact Paint – option), with a black hockey stripe and Shaker hood. Inside, the car had black skin, power windows, six-way adjustable seat, center and overhead consoles, deluxe leatherette interior, and AM/8-track radio.
There is no record of how they did with it, but they did blow the engine up. They sold the car, showing 2400 miles, and the rest of the original drive line in the late 1970s. Once it entered the hobby, and was restored to 1990 standards by another owner, it ended up with noted collector Bill Wiemann. With the original motor gone, the car had a legitimate 1970 warranty block in it and solid provenance – partial broadcast sheet, fender tags, the original window sticker, etc.
That’s when Galen Govier entered the picture. Galen maintains his registry of cars, and he was looking at a 1970 GTX that had the wrong Hemi engine in it. As he went through the process, he discovered the the engine in the X was from the ‘Cuda; the only serious damaged has been to one head and cylinder and the brothers had sold it. The GTX owner had dollar signs in his eyes, and he wanted a LOT of money for it.
Wiemann reported trying several times to get a more reasonable price for it to no avail, and finally decided to sell the
So Dave went ahead and bought it, planning on redoing the car back to premier condition. He got the name of the engine’sowner, and somehow managed to get the motor bought for more realistic money. The body, in the meantime, ended up at the now-closed Aloha Automotive shop in Wisconsin, where Andrew White had been working. 9,000-mile car rather than restore it for his collection.
“That car was in -2 condition,” he recalls. “We did have to panel-repair the quarters where the wheel wells had been cut out for tire clearance, but other than that, it was pretty straight forward. The previous restoration had been poorly done, but a lot of original equipment was still on that car.”
Andrew, who now operates Apex Autosports in Grafton, Wisconsin, did a second car for Dave, another ’70 Hemi ‘Cuda in FC7 ‘In Violet Metallic’ (Plum Crazy in Dodge nomenclature). The warranty block ended up in that car and the Lemon Twist deluxe machine is now back in its entirety, right down to NOS Goodyear tires. Thanks to Tim Lopata and his crew at the Forge Invitation Musclecar Show, we got a first-hand look at it; in the last couple of years,the FY1 car has won several 1st place awards; the FC7 example will be featured in the June issue of Mopar Enthusiast Magazine. (www.moparenthusiast.com)
Hemi cars may not be as unique as they once were; aftermarket engines and engineering have
made them more commonplace than they ever were back in the day. Nonetheless, to have a ’70 ‘Cuda that is the real deal is special, to have on this nice puts you at the top of the charts, and, sorry to you nay-sayers, they will never be as easy to find as a Camaro!
Words and Photos by by Geoff Stunkard
Apex Autosports LLC
801B Beech Street
Grafton, WI 53024
(262) 375 2402