1970-1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda and 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi Convertibles
A positive result of Chrysler’s initial attempt to market Hemi E Body convertibles is that now they are among the rarest and most desirable muscle cars of all time.
For one thing, they have the wildest and best looking motor to ever leave Chrysler, in one of the best looking cars ever, with tops that go down. The also have the legend, the look, and the mystique. They are among the rarest of all muscle cars making them the ultimate Mopar muscle car of all time.
By definition, a muscle car is a huge engine stuffed into an intermediate body, and the 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda followed that formula to the letter.
Unwanted when new, within 10 years people started to seek out these special cars and pay a premium for them. By the late 1970s, they were roughly $10,000 cars. In the mid-1980s, they had gone to the mid $20,000 range. By the late 1980s, a good Hemi ‘Cuda convertible sold just into six-figure territory. In another 10-years, they were around a quarter of a million dollars. In December 1999, headline news was made when a 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible seized by police in a Washington State drug raid was sold at auction for $410,000.
By 2001-2002, Hemi convertibles became serious commodities, with a few 1971 ‘Cuda convertibles changing ownership in the $500,000-$750,000 range.
In late 2002, Collector Milton Robson of Atlanta placed a half-page ad in Hemmings Motor News for his one-of-two 1971 four-speed convertible, a car he had owned since 1988. Milton had a few lines about the car, with the price in big, bold type proclaiming $1,000,000.
Milton sold his car for $1,000,000 to an infamous broker known as much for his shady dealings and big mouth as anything else. Soon, the broker had the car on eBay, reporting it sold for $1.3 million. The deal didn’t materialize, and the car bounced around a little before ending up with a well-known Mopar collector in Illinois.
In September 2003, CNN published an article on million-dollar muscle cars being a reality. On the cover of the December 2003 Mopar Action magazine, Milton’s old car was featured with the headline “$1,000,000 ‘Cuda – The Inside Story.” Big dollar muscle was now headline news. Robson’s old blue car has moved around a few times since, most recently trading hands at auction in January 2007 for $2,420,000. Every sales result since the late 1970s had doubled the prior one.
Twelve months after its last million-dollar headline, in December 2004, Mopar Action featured a white 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible on its cover with the headline: “Worlds Most Valuable Muscle Car! $2 Million Hemi ‘Cuda.”
The feature car was the last Hemi ‘Cuda convertible built and one of the two export models produced, having been originally sold in France. It had recently passed through the hands of a few well-known Mopar collectors, the last being Carlos Monteverde of Kensington, England, who had recently sold it to noted Hemi ragtop collector Bill Weimann of Arizona.
In September 2005, Weimann reportedly turned down $4.1 million b.i.d. for this car at the Rand/Workman auction in New York. Another sale of a 1971 ‘Cuda convertible was reported in 2005 at $3 million.
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In January 2006, collector Dave Christenholz of Arizona sold his 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $2,160,000. As 1970 Hemi ‘Cudas have always traded for perhaps 30-40 percent less than 1971 model year versions, this result was spot-on. The buyer was none other than Bill Weimann, who at this point owned three other Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles.
Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles went full circle from being a little wanted curiosity when new to becoming the poster child and barometer for an entire market almost 40 years later.
The other featured car, also from Dave Christenholz’s collection, is a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi convertible, one of five four-speed cars produced and one of twelve Hemi convertibles total. With a Plum Crazy Hi-Impact paint applied to the car, it is the quintessential Challenger R/T. Hemi Challenger convertibles, although considered “upscale” cars from the ‘Cuda when new, have always traded for roughly half of comparable Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles in the marketplace.
In 2003, when 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles were selling for $1 million, a Hemi Challenger convertible sold for $450,000. They were built only for the 1970 model year and none of the 12 came with a Shaker hood; it was an available option that none of the 12 buyers opted to order.
Rescued in 2004 after years of being dissembled and locked away by a previous owner, Christenholz sent the car, in pieces, to the award winning Mopar restoration experts at Aloha Dream Cars in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Still fitted with its original numbers-matching drivetrain, it emerged from restoration in 2005 looking even better than it could have on the showroom floor in 1970.
In the Hemi E Body market, the Challenger was the value buy with one-year production versus two and twelve cars built versus 30, with the same stuff under the body.
Because they rarely change hands, the Challenger market has not been able to establish itself in a public forum, thereby keeping the values down.