Chrysler’s E-body platform birthed some of the most notorious muscle cars ever to roam the earth. Mecum Auctions will sell two professionally restored pilot cars as a set: a Plymouth Cuda Convertible and a Dodge Challenger R/T Convertible. They sport Serial Numbers 4 and 21, respectively. Each car is powered by a V-code 7.2-liter (440 cubic-inch) Six Pack V8 engine mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. These two stunning machines were built on August 1, 1969, and are the earliest known examples of convertible 440 Six Pack Cudas and Challengers.
The Challenger was an exciting introduction in 1970, with the Dodge Hamtramck plant starting production of the new E-body models in the late summer of 1969. Before full-scale mass assembly, test-built vehicles are commonly used to make adjustments. Constructed on Saturday, August 1, 1969, Serial No. 100021 is the second Dodge E-Body convertible built and the first 440 Six Pack Challenger convertible produced.
The R/T designation lasted just two years, retiring at the end of 1971 along with the 440 Six Pack engine. Convertible R/T models were only built in 1970; none were offered in ’71. This car is likely the first of just 61 examples ever built by Dodge that received Six Pack power.
Six Pack engines were only six months old when this car was built; before 1970 releases, they were available in a run of special Super Bees in the spring of 1969. Easier to tune than the 426 HEMI®, many buyers found the package extremely adequate in all driving situations.
This Challenger painted Bright Red (FE5) with a color-matched white top and premium white vinyl interior, is a stellar example. Behind the matching-numbers 440 Six Pack engine went the A33 Track Pak, A833 4-speed, bullet-proof 3.54 Dana 60 Sure Grip differential, and performance cooling-system upgrades. It also received a power convertible top, power steering, power front disc brakes, and chrome five-spoke wheels with Goodyear Polyglas tires.
The interior matches its driveline appeal: a six-way driver’s-side bucket seat, premium vinyl upholstery, wood-grain-type center console, Hurst Pistol Grip shifter, power windows, A01 light group, matched chromed mirrors, tinted glass, AM/FM stereo, and Rallye dash with tachometer. Beyond the superb FE5 Bright Red paint are hood pins, chrome tips, a luggage rack, a performance hood, 440 Six Pack callouts, an R/T-notated stripe, and a flip-open gas-filler cap.
Restorations by Julius in Chatsworth, California, refreshed this car to outstanding condition. This sale includes the Chrysler Registry report, a copy of the May 1970 “Dodge News Magazine,” a copy of the December 1969 “Car Life” magazine featuring a Six Pack convertible road test, and restoration invoices and photos.
As powerful as this Challenger is, it won’t cross the auction block alone. Its close relative, a 1970 Plymouth Cuda, will accompany it—a car that shares the Challenger’s birthday, birthplace, exclusivity as the first of its kind, and unusually high options.
The Barracuda went upscale in 1970 with the new E-body models. Like the Dodge Challenger, the Barracudas were built at the Hamtramck assembly plant. Serial No. 100004, this unique Plymouth pilot car was job No. 8 and may have been one of the first to bear the Cuda moniker. It is the first convertible created with the V-Code 440 Six Pack engine, adding to its desirability.
The 440 Six Pack and other options pushed Cuda convertibles out of the price range of many buyers back in the day. By the end of 1970, only 17 440 Six Pack 4-speed Cuda convertibles were built, 16 of which were built after this one on Saturday, August 1, 1969.
Pilot cars are unique, often having particular features and components that production vehicles do not. For instance, the Dutchman panel between the rear window and decklid is not the standard part and is slightly smaller than the production piece. Code V68, to delete the side stripes, was also not used once production began, and two other codes on the tag were stamped erroneously. Still, this particular car is singular in its appearance, and it is quite possible it was specifically created to test appearance and option combinations on the new model.
Painted Alpine White (EW1), in addition to the stripe delete, it also received a power-operated black convertible top, a stunning contrast when combined with the blackout tail panel, inset grille, and subdued use of chrome and color. The Rallye wheels use Goodyear Polyglas F70-14 tires, and other exterior options include road lamps, a driver’s-side remote mirror, and chrome exhaust tips.
The inside of this car is also unique because of the upscale options placed on BS27V0B100004. This included PRX9 premium-grade leather seats, P31 power windows, and P37 power top. It had power steering and power front disc brakes as well. The car further benefited from the deluxe R22 AM/8-track stereo system. Of course, the crowning touch for 1970 muscle-car fans was the new Hurst Pistol Grip, which beautifully matches the wood-grain steering wheel. The Pistol Grip was standard on 4-speed models that year and this one is backed up by a Dana 60 differential. The Cuda has performance cooling equipment like the 26-inch radiator as well. Again, because of the very early nature of this car, the Track Pak is not coded on the fender tag but has been documented as correct for this vehicle.
Only two white 440 Six Pack 4-speeds are known to have been built. Professionally restored in 2005, this color combination understated the extreme performance aspect of this vehicle. The first V-Code 440 Six Pack Cuda convertible was built. This car’s unique pilot components, upscale option list, and early build date support its provenance atop the pecking order of E-body convertibles.
Both vehicles boast V-code 440 Six Pack V8 engine power and 4-speed manual transmissions, built on the same day and sharing the designations as “firsts.” They are estimated to fetch $750,000 – $900,000 once they cross the auction block at Mecum Kissimmee 2024. The cars are set to cross on Friday, January 12th.
The 1970 E-Body Pilot Car Offering Image Gallery: