Will this 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda Convertible ring in 2022 with fresh muscle market mojo?

1970 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible front three-quarter

January is here, and the month-long auction frenzy that is Kissimmee then Scottsdale is about to kick off. Muscle car fanatics look forward to this magical time every year as it brings out the heavy hitters in the muscle car world. None heavier hitting than this 1970 Hemi ’Cuda Convertible at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale. Whether you’re a casual or a serious car buff, it is well established that the 1970–71 Hemi ’Cuda Convertibles are the most coveted among high-end muscle cars. Its enormous power and incredible rarity have made it the object of desire for many—a car which only the collector with the deepest pockets can afford. ’Cuda Convertibles rarely surface for public sale, so any appearance at auction is a rather big deal.

For nearly two decades these vehicles have been seven-figure collectibles, and they still command the highest prices within the muscle car market—$3.05M for Excellent-condition (#2) cars and $3.9M for Concours-perfect (#1) cars. Offered only for two model years with a production run of just 25 vehicles, combined with the near-mythical status of the 426 Hemi engine, the ’Cuda droptop presents a killer combination of factors. Time and time again it has achieved values that even rarer models like the 1969 Pontiac Trans Am Convertible (8 produced) have not been able to claim. As such, the ’Cuda Convertible is a kind of lodestar that sets the tone for the overall muscle car market’s trajectory.

1970 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible engine bay

Of course, when considering any collectible Mopar, the options (or lack thereof) are major drivers of collectibility. The add-ons help enthusiasts position how a car fits into the hierarchy of its sister machines, and the ’Cuda offered by Mecum this month has a number of fantastic extras sure to pique the interest of Mopar diehards. Most recognizable among these extras is the high-impact FY1 Lemon Twist yellow paint, sans iconic hockey stripe, and the original owner even chose the prominent “Shaker” hood scoop. The interior is an incredible shade of Saddle Tan, which nicely complements the bucket seats and center console complete with Slap Stik automatic shifter. The transmission is a 727 Torque Flight, which means that the 8-and-3/4-inch rear axle was offered instead of the more desirable Dana 60. Another ding is the absence of a Rallye gauge pack, but more significantly, our resident Mopar guru Colin Comer reported in his 2019 article about this car that it has a replacement engine.

Since it was up for sale that year, the ’Cuda appears to have changed very little. It had received an excellent rotisserie restoration by Legendary Motorcar in Ontario, Canada, and judging from the images, the car has been driven hardly at all.

1970 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible rear three-quarter
1970 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible interior

The big difference from 2019 to 2022? Value potential. When it sold at Mecum’s 2019 sale in Indianapolis, the ’Cuda brought a strong $1.98 million at a time when the appetite for muscle was in slumber. This time around, Mecum’s estimate for the car is $2.4M to $2.7M, a sign of just how far the muscle car market has moved in the last two years. The estimate corresponds with a condition between #3 (Good) and #2 (Excellent) according to our latest data, but we think this Hemi ’Cuda Convertible could go for higher. Originality of components plays a role, but as usual it may come down to how badly two people want in.

What we can say for sure is that the result of this auction should give us a good read on the state of the muscle market as 2022 kicks off. In 2019, it seemed inconceivable to many that we’d see another surge of muscle car values; everything pointed to prices leveling out as older collectors downsized or left the hobby all together. A strong sale here would most certainly point toward continued growth in the segment—at least for the short term. This car crosses the block on Saturday, January 15, so we will soon have our answer.

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