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.
There's something about early E-bodies that give them a timeless image, which is why Dave
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.
Pop a set of Indy aluminum cylinder heads on a stroker 440 and garnish with an eight-barre
The competition image also shows up inside Dave's 'Cuda...
...with the passenger area replaced with Spartan sheetmetal.
This is no strip-only player. Dave puts street miles on the 'Cuda whenever time and weathe
Car Craft Q&A
Car Craft: Why did you make this car so radical?
Dave Cogdill: I've had lots of street cars-Darts, Road Runners-but they were just things we put together under the shade tree. I wanted this one to be a big-time, flat-out Pro Street-style car. I wanted the four-link, the Indy heads, and all the good stuff, and I hope to get it on the track soon. We took it up to Bristol for the Hensleys' Mopar Mania last June, but they wouldn't let me run it without a harness.
CC: What was your first impression when you began driving it?
DC: (laughs) Well, it made me a little nervous. The first time I really got after it, it wanted to go sideways in every gear. You sort of learn how to drive these cars-you can cruise in them, but when you really give it the gas, it can be a handful. I guess I could say it still makes me a little nervous.
CC: Tell us about who helped you out.
DC: Ken and Matt Hensley put the motor together for me, and I picked up one of their transmissions for it as well. A race-car chassis guy down in south Knoxville named Bugs Rudd did the frame, the rollcage, the tinwork, and the narrowed 8 3/4-inch rearend so we could get the axles and big tires on it.
CC: How's the car scene in Knoxville?
DC: For Mopar guys, we have the East Tennessee Mopar Association here, so we have a lot of connections. Most of us meet in an old Kmart parking lot, and it seems like more and more cars come out every weekend. It's about 40 percent Mopars and the rest are mixed; it's like a big car show.
Car: '70 Plymouth Barracuda
Owner: Dave Cogdill, Knoxville, TN
Engine: Balanced 500ci stroker Mopar 440 wedge by Hensley Performance, Mopar steel stroker crank, Ross 10.25:1 pistons, Manley rods, Indy Street aluminum cylinder heads with 2.08/1.94 valves, double-roller timing chain, MSD/Mopar ignition, Hedman headers, 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers, undercar exit
Induction: Weiand Tunnel with two Holley 750s, Holley fuel pump, 16 gallon RCI cell
Camshaft: Custom Comp Cams roller grind designed by Hensley Performance, Crane roller rockers, Comp double springs
Output: 750-plus horsepower at 6,800 rpm
Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite by Hensley, Turbo Action valve body, 9.5-inch PTC 3,500-stall converter, Turbo Action SCS shifter
Rearend: 8 3/4-inch Chrysler, 4.10:1 Richmond gear, Sure Grip
Brakes: Factory standard drums
Wheels and tires: Weld 15x6, front; 15x10.5, rear; M/T Sportsmans, front; M/T 31x18.50-15, rear
Interior: Stock front seats, Auto Meter gauges, custom tinwork by Bugs Rudd
Body mods: Hood cut for clearance
Paint: Limco Yellow urethane by Dave Cogdill
Cost to build: Approximately $25,000