Plymouth AAR Cudas and Dodge Challenger T/As at Brothers Collection Museum Muscle Car Of The Week
The 1970 Plymouth Cuda AAR and the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A are two amazing muscle cars that have their roots steeped in SCCA Trans Am racing. In this video, an excerpt from the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals special shot at The Brothers Collection, we hear from AAR and Challenger T/A expert Dave Wise about what makes these street fighters so special. From the unique 340 in.³ V8, the high-performance suspension, the exclusive staggered wheels, and the side exit exhaust to the amazing graphics package and available High Impact colors, the 1970 Plymouth AAR Cuda and the Dodge Challenger T/A remain some of the most sought after Muscle Cars of all time.
It’s interesting to deconstruct the AAR in the context of the day. The AAR model was Plymouth’s street version of the comparable Trans Am series race car, as the rules of Trans Am stated that the automaker had to produce 2500 consumer copies of any race car campaigned in the series. Chevrolet had the Z/28 Camaro, Ford had Boss 302 Mustangs, AMC had the Javelin, and Plymouth chose to name theirs after Dan Gurney’s All American Racers team, who built and raced in the Trans Am series with highly modified Cudas like this one. To my knowledge, the AAR is the only production car named after the race team that used the car in a series. Or am I wrong? Shelby was the racer’s name, but they also built the original GT350 cars. Unfinished Mustangs left the line to be completed at the Shelby shop. In this case, AAR Cudas were completely built on the regular Hamtramck Michigan Plymouth assembly line, so it’s not like they left as unfinished bodies that were completed in the AAR race car facility.
The SCCA rulebooks stated that if a part special to the race car, a street version had to exist. So if the race car had special body modifications like spoilers, the street version had to have that as well. Certain safety items, roll cages, padding, and the like, didn’t have to be used on the street cars. It was cool to see that the Sports Car Club Of America sanctioning body did allow for the use of aftermarket performance parts on the race cars, provided that they were integrated in to the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s parts catalog. There are a lot of cool speed parts stamped with factory numbers on Trans Am cars.
Race versions had to run a 305 or smaller cube V8, but Chrysler didn’t have one of those, so the 340 was allowed for production. These were very stout blocks built with huge main bearing webs to support the forged crankshaft and 10.5: compression pistons.
It made 290 HP, Or at least that’s what Plymouth told the public. The 340 6-barrel was rated at 290 HP just like the Boss 302 and Z/28 in the competition, but we’ve seen dyno tests up around 320 HP for these engines. You could get a 4-speed or an automatic like this car, and the rear is stuffed with a Sure-Grip 3.55 gearset. These knocked-down mid 14-second quarter mile times, but they were really more about slot-car racing on open roads.
The AAR is a total package car, with improvements made to the suspension and body as well as the engine. Most obvious is the AAR logo-capped Strobe Stripe blinking out a pattern from back to front, leading the eye to the Organasol black textured fiberglass pinned down hood. These elements don’t jump out quite as much on a dark green car, but they still look awesome. The rear spoiler looks great from the back or the front, and is contoured nicely to the rear of the car. Bright rally wheels with staggered tires hide front disc and rear drum brakes, and specially muffled side pipes blast everyone you pass. Wide-eyed fog lights look to the future, and turn signals are hidden above the grille. Stiffer torsion bars and shocks work with the oversized sway bar to keep the AAR flat in the turns.
We dig the 150 MPH speedo and 8000 RPM tach, and a 4-way gauge shows oil pressure, temp, fuel and electrical juice. Below sits an AM tuner, and above is a clock… with delta at 0 minutes and hours on the inner ring. This AAR also sports a bench seat with a fold down armrest to keep the driver from sliding out the passenger window under hard left turns. This car has no frills.. And it doesn’t need any.
Be sure to check out the extended version of the Brothers Collection Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals episode found in the link below.
Brothers Collection Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals MCACN episode:
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