Old Cars Weekly archive – September 25, 2008 issue
The last hurrah for the high-compression 340 ’Cuda
Photos and story by Geoff Stunkard
In the last few years, the big-block 1971 ’Cuda has perhaps become the best-known icon of the American muscle car. Fueled by Nash Bridges’ antics and high-dollar resales, the demand and value of these cars has gone through the proverbial roof. Even the pedestrian slant six and 318-cid V-8 are in demand for conversion to big-inch power.
Although big inches may seem to have been the order of the day, the small-block ’Cuda 340 was praised in most period road tests as the best representation of how well-balanced this Plymouth E-body was.
Like the other engines in the 1971 Chrysler lineup, the hot 340-cid V-8 was on its last legs, due to increased government pollution controls. For ’71, it received a slight bump down from the original 10.5:1 compression ratio to 10.2:1, likely just enough to get it off the jagged edge. However, in 1972, the 340 fell down to 8.5:1; great for pump gas, but the writing was on the wall, and the emissions-laden 360-cid V-8 would soon replace it. The biggest plus of 1971 was the availability of Carter’s spread-bore Thermoquad carburetor as OEM equipment, which allowed the engine to cruise on two small barrels, but added fuel through larger secondaries when throttled.
The 340 ’Cuda seen here is owned by Jeff Dashiell of Salisbury, Maryland. Dashiell’s friend, Tony Maccari, told him about this great-condition 1971, which was located in Michigan at the time. Dashiell and partner Ed Maguire looked it over, and soon after the 69,000-mile gem, complete with the build sheet and window sticker, was on its way down to Delmarva Peninsula.
“I like the color, which is pretty unique for this model,” Dashiell said. “The condition was also great. We did need to put a clutch in it, but for the most part, this car did not need anything major.”
The color is GA4, Winchester Gray, which is uncommon on muscle cars from a time when so many high-impact paint colors were being offered. The build order also kept the large “billboard” call-out graphics off the car. The scalloped hood was standard and non-functioning, but it blends nicely with the scalloped 1971 grille. The car was finished with dual outside rearview mirrors on the doors and a Go-Wing spoiler mounted to the deck lid. In the end, the buyer got a cruiser with good handling, pep under the bonnet and conservative styling, which is saying something for a ’71 ’Cuda.
The original buyer had also opted for the A833 four-speed (with its Pistol Grip shifter) and the 8.75 banjo-type rear with 3.55 Sure Grip gearing.
The interior consists of standard white vinyl buckets and trim, with the infamous shifter jutting out of the console, AM radio and the standard dash set up with a 120-mph speedometer. A set of 14-inch Rallye wheels finish it off.
The package might not blow the doors off a 427 Camaro, but we have a feeling that this car may have been some middle-aged executive’s last hurrah, a chance to get in on the tail-end of the muscle era in a street machine that could be driven regularly, if needed.
Truth be told, many of those of us who are middle-aged today wish we could still order something like it.