This barn-find AAR Cuda is “as original as original can be”
With Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter on our team, we often get to ogle forgotten cars that have been frozen in time. That doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the dust-covered gems discovered by other automotive hunters.
This week we enjoyed watching a video from Ryan Brutt—also known as The Auto Archeologist—which featured a 1970 Plymouth AAR Cuda that had been in hibernation for decades. Although Brutt first saw the car in 2016 and it was returned to running condition in 2019, this just-released video was unveiled just in time this weekend’s Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, November 20–21, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, where the rare muscle car will be on display.
“Yeah, it’s bad,” Brutt says during a walkaround of the Cuda while it sat untouched in its owner’s Iowa barn. And Brutt didn’t mean “bad” as in “good.” There was so much crud on the Plymouth that it was hard to make out its cool paint job until after it had been cleaned up and brought back to life.
Plymouth added the AAR Cuda to its ranks in March 1970, inspired by Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers (AAR) Plymouth Cudas, which competed in the SCCA Trans Am series. The AAR Cuda’s 340-cubic-inch V-8 is fed by three two-barrel carburetors and mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. With its aggressive strobe stripes and blacked-out cold-air intake hood, the car is easily recognizable. Only 2724 AAR Cudas were built, all in 1970.
Brutt featured the Iowa barn find car on the cover of his 2017 book, Muscle Car Barn Finds, so he was excited to see it back on the road when the two met again at the 2020 Mopars on the Mississippi show in Dubuque, Iowa—just a few miles from where the ’Cuda sat for decades.
“This thing is a time capsule,” Brutt says. “… It’s as original as original can be.”
Bill, the car’s owner, says the first time that he saw the Plymouth muscle machine, he “was pretty thrilled with it”—so much so that he eventually made it his own in 1972. Bill used the Cuda as his daily driver for “about 10–15 years,” and he occasionally street raced it … if someone was foolish enough to challenge him to a quarter-mile showdown. By the mid-1980s, however, family priorities pushed the car to the back burner. Fortunately, that meant putting in the barn, not the classifieds.
Bill tells Brutt that several of his high school friends got rid of their favorite muscle cars and later regretted it, so he wasn’t about to let that happen to him. He decided to keep the Cuda, even if it seemed impractical. Now a 1970 Plymouth AAR Cuda in #3 (Good) condition has an average value of $71,000.
Bill says he waited long enough to get the car back on the road again. He is in his late 60s, and he says, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around to enjoy it.”
We aren’t the only ones who are glad that he did.