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The Rarest 'Cuda!

Story: Randy Holden Photos: Rob Wolf Reprinted with permission Mopars Collector's Guide 3/'00

So you thought Hemicudas were rare? Found! 1 of 2 Factory Built '85 2.2 Turbo 'Cuda!!

side view of car Alright everybody, stop scratching your heads. Yes this is a 'Cuda - a 1985 Plymouth Turismo Turbo 'Cuda. Never seen one? There's a good reason, the factory only built two. And you thought a Hemicuda was rare? This is a preproduction prototype that miraculously survived the scrapper's torch when the program was terminated.

If you will recall, the early 1980s saw the second birth of the muscle car era with the introduction of the 5.0 Mustang. Dodge followed suit with their Charger 2.2 and the Daytona Turbo Z. As the Ford and GM offerings got quicker, so did the four cylinder turbo 2.2s from Chrysler. Perhaps the high water mark of the 2.2 turbo came when Carroll Shelby stuck his signature on a special edition Charger wearing black and silver paint. That little sucker screamed for a four banger pulling with its front wheels.

side view of car Seeing the image potential of this pint sized barn burner, Plymouth decided they needed an image car for their to the Charger, the Turismo. Since Dodge had dusted off the Charger name years before and met with success, Plymouth thought it only natural to revive their most popular muscle car name - the Barracuda.

In late 1985, two Turismo coupes got a liberal dose of Carroll Shelby Charger parts, Shelby Charger drivetrains, and 15" alloy wheels. One was painted white with red strobe stripe decals and the other red with black decals and a black interior. The white car had a sunroof, the red car didn't.

All was right with the world as the lil' 'Cudas made their way around the Plymouth plant at Belvidere, Illinois.... until Carroll Shelby got wind of the project. Reportedly upon seeing the Plymouths wearing and using all the equipment he had put his name on over at Dodge, Carroll wasn't happy. Apparently he thought the Plymouth effort would cheapen the image and exclusive nature of the Shelby Charger. Not wanting to offend Shelby at that critical time in Chrysler's partnership with him, the Turismo Barracuda was quickly laid to rest. Both cars had their decals removed and a call went out to Fred Pierson.

interior view of car Fred was Chrysler's Midwest Training Center Manager in 1985, and one of his duties was getting rid of scuttled projects such as this. All he was told was to make the cars go away, and in short order they arrived on his stoop in Chicago. As the cars were mechanically fit, they were put into service as facility hacks, instead of pieced out for training aids or technical school donation.

These cars also retained the certificate or origin needed to title, license and sell. Fred filled out the required paperwork and purchased the white 'Cuda. The red version was made a corporate donation to a trade school in Ohio. Fred now wishes he had made the purchase of both vehicles.

Regardless, this literal wolf in sheep's clothing served as his weekend rapid transit until two years ago, when he sold it to his Mopar crazed son, Al. Al had known the car since new and has photos of its twin still wearing the 'Cuda stripes in front of the Belvidere plant.

red cuda photo Since the paint was a little scruffy, Al decided to go back with the paint scheme Carroll Shelby wouldn't allow. Princeton Auto Body repainted the sides of the car, but left the roof and hood alone, as the factory paint still looks fresh. Then it was off to Kenny Stoner at Stoner Signs in Princeton for a set of computer generated stripe using the old photos of the car. After a brief revamping, the little screamer was back on the road.

Al likes to drive his ultra-rare bit of '80s muscle car history. The odometer reads 64,000+ miles and is climbing. Other than the paint and tires, everything else is original and near mint. The original red interior looks new, and the engine has never had any major work performed.

Al was told at a recent car show that the other '85 'Cuda survived its days as a trade school autopsy patient and is now privately owned. Details on where or what shape it was in were sketchy though.

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, along comes something out of left field. Who knows? Maybe somewhere out there is a Plymouth Sundance wearing Road Runner stripes? Stranger things have happened.


Al still owns this car and would be happy to answer any questions you might have ... or entertain a offer!!

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