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ABRIDGED AND EXCERPTED FROM HEMI: A History of Chrysler's Iconic Engine in Competition
This image from MCACN 2014 shows the most expensive American musclecar to ever sell publically. This B5 Blue 1971 Hemi'cuda convertible crossed Mecum's block in Seattle in June 2014, bringing in $3.5 million dollars.
The following text is an abridged exclusive for MoparMAX readers from Geoff Stunkard's upcoming 192-page book entitled HEMI: A History of Chrysler's Iconic Engine in Competition. The book will be released in July 2015, and we will have several short segments here as part of Mopar Musings or as stand-alone features. This issue, Stunkard recalls the 1971 hemi'cudas as winners then and now. Updates on the book are being put onto facebook under the name HEMI: Chrysler's Unique V8 in Competition.
As the decades have gone on, the 1971 Chrysler model year has gained notoriety for many general musclecar fans. With emissions testing taking center stage, this year marked the end of the Street Hemi program. While some basic work was done to on a more compliant version of the engine, (Tom Hoover had even built a Six Pack intake package for his personal Barracuda to play with), in the end it was decided to let the powerplant retire unaltered at the end of 1971 production that July.
After all, mechanical starvation would not have served the company nor its end users well, and this decision certainly helped seal its legacy among aficionados of packaged American horsepower. The redesigned Charger got the same trap-door 'air grabber' design that had showed up on Plymouth B-body designs back in 1970; both brands were restyled that year, and the performance two-door model of the Coronet was dropped entirely. Today, however, no Street Hemi package is more noted than the 1971 Hemi'cuda convertible, of which a mere dozen or so examples eventually came off the assembly line.
The 'cuda featured a fairly radical reworking of the grille, immense side graphics with engine callouts, optional high impact colors, and more in its second season. It was frankly over-the-top even among a breed which set that standard. It and other designs for 1971 are sometimes a love-hate affair among even Chrysler fans. With insurance rates up, all the final year Hemi vehicles could be considered rare. Since both the B-body and Challenger R/T convertibles had also been discontinued for 1971, the Hemi'cuda was the sole survivor of this body option; it warrants additional discussion, as it too was a winner.