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1970 Plymouth Barracuda - Tennessee Volunteer

A 'Cuda With a 500ci Bite

By Geoff Stunkard, Photography by Geoff Stunkard

Moonshine-runner Robert Mitchum made the byways of the South famous in Thunder Road back in 1958, and scores of homebred NASCAR entries and drag machines have done little since to change that tradition of horsepower from the hills. In the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, the low rumble of big-block horsepower still disturbs the evening air on warm weekends, and pretenders to the street-supremacy throne still meet their destiny in late-night combat.

There is an old saying about "working hard and playing harder." When Dave Cogdill needed a diversion from his long hours of supervising concrete restorations of parking garages and buildings, this '70 E-body Plymouth proved up to the task. Purchased in 1998 for $10,000 from an auto swapper newspaper, the Barracuda had previously led a mundane life.

"When I bought it, the car had its original 318 small-block, an orange paint job, and about 75 percent of a restoration done," says the 46-year-old Mopar fan. "I drove it for a couple of years like that, then we went to work."

For Dave, this meant building a true street/strip beast by taking the car completely apart and fortifying everything. He beefed up the frame and set up the rear suspension, then local chassis-builder Bugs Rudd installed a six-point 'cage and added some quality tinwork where the rear seat once resided.

Next, Dave laid the foundation for power at Hensley Performance on the north side of Knoxville. Ken and Matt Hensley built him a 500ci street stroker using a Mopar Performance crank with a 4.15 throw, Manley rods, and Ross 10.25:1 pistons. A Comp Cams roller went into the middle of it, lifting the valves in a pair of Indy cylinder heads. A Weiand tunnel-ram supports a pair of 750-cfm Holleys that now jut menacingly through the hood. Headers are from Hedman, ignition is mostly MSD, and the motor can safely spin to 6,800 rpm.

In addition to racing in Super Stock, the Hensleys do a thriving trade with Mopar fans in the Southeast, so Dave had to look no further for the rest of the driveline. A Hensley-worked A727 automatic handles everything the engine can dish out, pushing the horsepower back to a 4.10:1 cog in the narrowed differential. A four-link helps keep the big M/T rubber out back planted to the ground.

Dave finished the remaining bodywork and prepped and painted the panels himself with Limco yellow urethane at home in his garage. The interior was already close to complete when he bought the car, so other than removing the back seat and adding a Turbo Action shifter and Auto Meter gauges, it was left as is.

Dave's job sends him all over the region, so the car sits in the garage for long stretches at a time. But when Dave comes home to play, the locals know to watch out for the '70 'Cuda with bright yellow paint, a serious attitude, and a 500ci rebel yell that keeps the spirit of Dixie muscle alive.

By Geoff Stunkard
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