Street Brawling Cuda – 1970 Plymouth Cuda

Street Brawling Cuda – 1970 Plymouth Cuda

1970 Plymouth CudaStory and photos by Cam Hutchins

Like a scene out of a “B” movie where prisoners are exchanged at Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin with machine gun-toting border guards looking on, George Kanavaros snatched his 1970 Plymouth Cuda in a “prisoner swap” for his 1969 Charger. It was just after midnight on February 21, with temperatures hovering around 42 below zero, and the cars had to be pushed across the border since neither one wanted to fire up. The spot, south of Regina at the North Dakota border, was picked, since it was halfway between Richmond B.C. and Detroit.

Once the paperwork was done at the “Guard Shacks,” each new owner drove off with their treasures strapped to trailers. The 1969 Charger was bought new at Keith Beedle Motors in Langley, B.C., and George restored it and ran it for 14 years before getting itchy and finding a street brawling Cuda from Detroit for sale online. The Internet was new to George back then, and maybe he regrets trading straight across for his prized Charger, but a 26,000-mile Cuda with racing heritage was hard to pass up.

Here is what he traded away – a fully-restored 1969 Charger RT 440 6-pack, bronze with black stripe and tan interior with power windows, AM 8-track Radio. The Charger had appeared in a few movies and commercials, and consistently ran mid-12s at Mission Raceway Park. It seemed crazy to his wife when he unloaded the Cuda at home and it came out of the trailer missing headlights and with a totally bruised look.

Kanavaros assured her this was a diamond in the rough and went about getting it running so he could do the dance of inspection and registration to get insurance and BC registration for his prize. His prize was backed up with proper paperwork and a VIN number and date codes that shows just what a treasure Kanavaros had got! This car was ordered to race but came with some pretty cool options not often found on even the most creampuff of Cudas.

1970 Plymouth CudaIt started life as an FC7 “In Violet” (Metallic) Purple 1970 Cuda, 440 6-pack 4-speed car with Trac Pac Dana rearend, Black interior and black vinyl roof. Pretty standard for a race car back in the day. Not so common was the tinted glass, Rallye Dash, S-83 Rim-Blow steering wheel option, AM/FM five-speaker Multi Plex stereo, or the special lighting group including map reading light, glove box light and trunk light. Group the A21 rubber bumper, painted body colour and set flush into the valance and fenders, along with body colour mirrors and special placement for the turn signals. Only nine cars came in this combo.

This 440 car also has the “Hemi” fenders that have the edge rolled flat to allow for the larger tires. The fattest thing available back in the day were F60 15×7 Goodyear Polyglass GTs. That is the way the car was delivered to the first owner in Detroit, Michigan, but nowhere near how Kanavaros got the car at “Checkpoint Charlie.”

After racing in Super Stock, the first owner switched up to the 426 Hemi engine and raced Super Stock D with a spray of Hemi Orange paint, and then stuffed in the automatic and raced Super Stock D Auto. The car was raced for a while in Ohio and then retired and came back to Detroit. It was put back on the street with its original 440 6-pack and it was just a big bad brawling street fighter. The vinyl roof was gone along with the fancy bumpers and mirrors. The side turn signal lights were removed and all holes brazed up. All the parts were stuffed in boxes that luckily got saved and came with the car.

It languished in a barn on a rancher’s property in Detroit for 19 years until Kanavaros traded for it. It had 26,000 miles and was sort of a mess. It was still running an auto with reverse manual valve body and the Dana rearend had 4:10 gears. Kanavaros got it through the city test and certified by a mechanic. He then put the 4-speed back in behind the 440 and when he went to get emissions testing at a B.C. Aircare centre, the tester could not drive a manual tranny, so Kanavaros had to run it up onto the rollers and go through the testing himself. A four-barrel was put on for the test at the time, and then the 6-pack was put on for George to play.

The Cuda was driven for 4.5 years as a rough street fighter. Over that time, it got new brakes and a better tranny and clutch, and more street bruiser attitude with a big cam. Then the decision was made to restore it and finally three years ago, he finished it, with much thanks to Glen May who allowed him to do all the work at May’s shop.

While restoring it, he rebuilt the original factory motor with dual-point ignition, and it was completely stock from carbs to oil pan, but the motor looked so good, he left the 440 6-pack on the engine stand and stuffed a beefy Hemi into the engine bay for fun.

The 4-speed manual tranny is a date code-matched unit and complete with the Hemi 18-spline shaft. The Dana 60 still has the 4:10 gears for motivation. To help put the power to the ground, Kanavaros runs L60/15 GT Tires that are a little taller and wider than original. Also helping to control the beefy Hemi’s power is a Caltrac split mono-leaf suspension with Caltra1970 Plymouth Cudac fully adjustable shocks in rear and adjustable front competition shocks. This setup allows Kanavaros to fully tune the chassis to help at the track.

As for the bodywork, the car was all original sheet metal without any rust. It was a mixed bag of new pieces stripped off the car when new and stuffed in boxes, or kind of worn pieces still on the car, like the sun-faded carpet and front seat belts, but no rear belts. The ultra-rare stereo and the not-so-rare visors were missing. A friend sourced the correct stereo on eBay and Kanavaros paid crazy money for a NOS (New Old Stock) unit. It had to have the two 6×9 speakers in back, a centre 4×10 up front, and a 4×4 in each corner of the dash. It even has the stereo splitter switch under the dash by the glovebox.

The seats are original and the dash, door panels and glass all are date-coded with the correct Chryco numbers. Also in the boxes were the original space-saving spare tire, jack and a wiring harness. The dash has two small holes for a mechanical Smith tach. Kanavaros is pretty handy and also did the body work and paint, but left the vinyl roof and front and rear glass to the experts. He also left the rim blow steering wheel to the experts in North Carolina that specialize in that sort of thing.

Finishing the car in 2014, Kanavaros has been driving it and his wife likes to go along for the ride, but prefers to drive it. They have been to a few places like Whistler and Sechelt for the Sleepy Hollow event, but maybe one day we will get to see Mrs Kanavaros race it on the track!

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