When it comes to classic muscle cars, you can argue over which one was the quickest and the prettiest all day long. The winner will be a matter of taste or whether you’re a GM, Ford, or Mopar guy. But when it comes to value and rarity, there’s only one king: the 1971 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda convertible.
Why? Well, let’s just say it’s mostly because almost no one wanted this car when it was new. Drop-tops were no longer in fashion in the early 1970s and insurance rates were extremely high for big-block muscle cars, so Plymouth sold only 12 HEMI-powered ‘Cuda convertibles in 1971, which was also the last model year for the mighty 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8.
Three of these cars were shipped overseas while two were sold in Canada, leaving only seven examples on U.S. soil. Come 2022 and these super-rare Mopars have become incredibly expensive. To the point they’ve climbed atop the vintage muscle car mountain with seven-figure price tags.
It all began in 2007 when a blue example changed hands for $2.2 million. The car was perfect in every way but had a replacement, period-correct HEMI. In 2014, an all-original example (including the HEMI V8 and the Hurst shifter) crossed the auction block for a whopping $3.5 million and became the world’s most expensive muscle car.
The HEMI ‘Cuda Convertible is also the fifth most expensive U.S. vehicle sold at auction, behind a couple of rare Shelby Cobras, a 1964 Ford GT40 prototype, and a one-of-one 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88. And it would have conquered fourth place if the Winchester Gray example auctioned off in 2021 would have reached its $5.75 to $6.5 million estimate. The convertible failed to sell with a $4.8-million high bid.
How many of the 12 1971 HEMI ‘Cudas are still around? We don’t know for sure, but their limited availability and insane price tags have prompted enthusiasts to put together tribute versions. While some stand out as faux HEMI cars, some look so authentic you need to check the VIN to find out its factory specifications. The Sassy Grass example you see here is one of those cars.
Featured by “Muscle Car Campy,” this 1971 ‘Cuda wasn’t born with a HEMI under the hood or black “HEMI” decals on the rear fenders, but the owner added both to turn an already spectacular muscle car into an attention grabber. What’s more, the drop-top features a four-speed manual, which makes it a tribute to one of only two cars built in this layout for the U.S. market.
And here’s the crazy part: this convertible was already rare even before the conversion because Plymouth sold only 292 units in 1971. And assuming it was born with the four-speed manual, it was one of only 68 equipped with this transmission. But maybe the donor car was wrecked at some point and it didn’t make financial sense to restore it to its original specifications. If that’s the case, then turning it into a HEMI was a wise choice.
Anyway, the car looks the part, sounds gorgeous, and it’s a significantly more affordable way into 1971 HEMI ‘Cuda ownership. Check it out in the video below because there’s a lot of in-car footage to enjoy.