In the end, as we lament the end of Mopars musclecar era in 1971, it really came down to basic economics. After all, Hemi and Six Pack cars were not coming off the assembly line in droves, and if your brand is not selling, you may need to change it. While the company could have defanged the Hemi and kept it going as a smog mill, cooler heads prevailed and the legend left the period unscathed.
By the end of the 1971 model year, only 118 buyers (or dealership orders) decided to check off the 426 Hemi option on the E-body ‘cuda hardtop (less then a dozen more came in convertible form). This was a huge drop from the 1004 units built the previous year. The car had been radically reworked for 1971, with its fender ‘gills,’ cheese-grater grille, and giant billboard graphics. Coupled with the Shaker scoop, it was a package you either loved or hated.
Many of the guys who purchased Hemi’cudas those two years (71-71) did so to do a little bit of this and little bit of that. Usually part of that little bit included some quick jaunts down the quarter-mile, and as a result, the ones that turn up are often a little less optioned than a banker’s GTX if they were not ordered as sales pool cars.
Up until 2002, this car was not known in the hobby. During one of Tim Lopata’s Forge Invitational Musclecar Shows where Tres Wilson had his 1970 Hemi’cuda on display, an attendee came up and told Wilson he had a real Hemi’cuda in his garage down in LaGrange, Ga. The gentleman was a drag racer, and had bought the car locally (it had been sold new in the Atlanta area). He was interested in an offer on it, and already knew that ’71 Hemi’cudas were a rare breed indeed.