Jay Leno Goes Plum Crazy for Craig Jackson’s Hemi Cuda Convertible

YouTube/Jay Leno's Garage

Muscle car values went through the roof in the early 2000s, riding high on the hog of a U.S. housing bubble that saw non-stop construction put a lot of money in the pockets of ordinary Joes who happened to be successful in their trade. A lot of those folks bought dream cars. A lot of those dream cars had stonking Detroit V-8s underhood. And a lot of those V-8 dream cars changed hands at Barrett-Jackson auctions. Suddenly, people were paying six figures for Chevelles and GTOs. The bottom fell out from 2007 to ’09, and some sanity returned to the market, but not before the absolute darlings of the day, 1970–71 Hemi Cuda convertibles (just 21 were built over the two years), had cruised past $2 million for the very best. Today, they still occupy rarefied air in the muscle market.

This week, one such rare Cuda falls into the capable hands of Jay Leno, when he is joined by a 1970 in Plum Crazy and its owner, Craig Jackson, who is the chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.

The two discuss Barrett-Jackson’s premier auction each January in Arizona, which Leno calls the “Super Bowl of car events,” before getting into the specifics of Jackson’s Cuda, which he has owned since 1999. Jackson says he hunted for the right one for a long time. “When I saw this one, it checked every box,” he says. He reckons he paid “a little over a hundred grand” for it, which was not cheap in 1999, but far from where these cars were headed.

The car has a unique history as the only 1970 Hemi Cuda convertible export. After a period spent in England, the original 426 V-8 was replaced with a 318 as a way to make it more of a fuel-sipper during the dark days of the mid-’70s fuel crisis. Go figure.

After some back and forth about the way the Cuda stacks up to modern Mopar muscle, Leno and Jackson hit the road to let that Hemi breathe and continue a great conversation about a variety of cars that keep this hobby humming.

Leno-1970 Hemi Cuda Convertible rear 3/4 above
YouTube/Jay Leno's Garage
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