You can argue that the 1970 model year was the pinnacle of the original musclecar era. It’s been said that everything that came before 1970 was just the build up, while (mostly) everything that succeeded that model year lived under its shadow, as horsepower, compression, and as a result, performance slowly slipped away. You can thank a pair of fuel shortages, the EPA and insurance rate spikes for younger drivers for that one.
It wouldn’t be until the mid-late 1980s when performance would make a comeback, but for the remainder of the 1970s and early ’80s at least, performance slipped into the perpetual black hole that many enthusiasts feared they would never see themselves out of. But if not for cars like the HEMI ‘Cuda and others, there would have never been a classic musclecar era in the first place.
Recently, a press release from Mecum Auctions crossed our desk regarding the actual 1970 HEMI ‘Cuda convertible that John Herlitz was given by Chrysler brass after the successful launch of the elephant-powered pony car. Scheduled to cross the auction block in Monterey, California on Friday, August 14th, the estimated bid is expected to bring between $2.5-3M!
John Herlitz’s 1970 HEMI ‘Cuda Convertible Hits Monterey
ESTIMATE: $2,500,000 – $3,000,000
By every definition, be it power, panache, rarity or any other quality, the 1970-71 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible is the ultimate muscle car of its time, combining the awesome power of Chrysler’s dual-quad 426 Hemi V-8 with classic pony car styling penned by 27-year-old John Herlitz under the watchful eye of Chrysler design chief Elwood Engel. The surly Engel was initially displeased with Herlitz’ efforts, but would later gleefully perform a burnout with an early prototype in the third-floor hallway of Building 128, where it was shown to company brass in the design auditorium.
Mr. Herlitz was rewarded for his efforts with this 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible, which has since been the centerpiece of some of the finest Mopar collections in the world. The factory broadcast sheet documents its origin as an executive lease or demonstrator, ordered with nearly every available option and finished in triple Black.
It is one of 14 Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles produced for the United States in 1970 and one of nine equipped with the A727 Torqueflite 3-speed automatic transmission, in this case teamed with the Dana 60 rear end, 4.10:1 Sure Grip differential, 7-blade Torque Drive fan, 26-inch radiator and front disc brakes comprising the A32 Super Performance Axle Package; power steering and brakes are also included. The A21 Elastomeric Bumper Group added the color-keyed front bumper, chromed outside mirrors and bright belt moldings, with a Shaker hood, hold down pins, fender-mounted turn signals, road lights, lower sill trim, chromed luggage rack and Rallye wheels with Goodyear Polyglas GTs completing the exterior appointments.
The extensive list of interior features includes leather bucket seats, Rallye instrument cluster and console with wood-grain trim, Rim Blow wood-grain steering wheel, A01 Light Package, solid state AM radio, power windows and top and tinted glass. To top it all off, Herlitz chose to delete body stripes or callouts and eschewed body-side moldings.
This one-of-a-kind muscle car boasts an enviable ownership history that includes membership in Las Vegas developer Brett Torino’s famous collection of Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles; it has also been cared for along the way by Mopar devotee Carl Sable, well-known British muscle car collector Carlos Monteverde and former chairman of Chrysler Finance, Darrell Davis. Restored in 2002 by Cummins Restorations in Michigan, it is without doubt the key to completing any comprehensive collection of the world’s finest historic muscle cars.
– The personal executive demonstrator of John Herlitz, who oversaw Chrysler’s 1970 E-Body design
– The original broadcast sheet shows Y22 executive lease car
– Ordered in Triple Black with nearly every available option
– From the Brett Torino Hemi Cuda convertible collection
– Formerly owned by Carl Sable, Carlos Monteverde and Darrell Davis
– 1 of 14 Hemi Cuda convertibles produced in 1970 and 1 of 9 with automatic transmission
– Restored in 2002
– Dual Quad 426/425 HP Hemi V-8 engine
– A727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission
– A32 rear end with 4.10 gears
– Shaker hood with pins, road lights
– Power steering and front disc brakes
– Rallye instrument cluster, woodgrain console
– Power windows and convertible top
– Rim Blow steering wheel, light package
– Elastomeric front bumper, luggage rack
– TX9 Black Velvet paint, leather bucket seats
– Space saver spare, Black soft top
– Rallye wheels with Goodyear Polyglas tires
– Copy of 1982 Texas title and registration
– August, 1998 bill of sale
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of Timeless Muscle Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.