Article and show photos by Larry Crain
Additional photos supplied by Kyle Cothren
Sometimes we can start out on a project that we think “oh this will be a cheap and easy build.” Then next thing you know you’re bleeding cash and the credit card is maxed out with the project still not finished. Kyle Cothren of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida found himself in a similar situation with this 1971 Plymouth Cuda, and after completion of the project appropriately nicknamed the car Stranglehold.
The Stranglehold Cuda was found in a barn in South Carolina where it had been sitting for about 30 years. The owner had no real interest in selling it as it was his dream car and was going to finish building it one day. Kyle had kept an eye on the old Cuda over the years in the hope that the owner would one day change his mind about selling it. Years went by and the owner of the Cuda passed away without ever seeing his dream car completed. The old car sat for another seven years before a deal was struck with Kyle and the owner’s family.
The 1971 Plymouth Cuda started off factory black with white billboards, factory louvers and a 383 big block equipped with a 4 speed transmission. The story goes that the previous owner had a friend that had owned a 1970 Hemi Cuda and couldn't make the payments which led to a mysterious fire. The friend then sold him the factory Hemi drivetrain after the insurance settlement was made with the intended purpose of turning the 383 71’ Cuda into a Hemi Cuda. When Kyle purchased the 1971 Cuda all of the previous owners accumulated parts, including the Hemi drivetrain, was his for better or worse - till wallet do us part!
Kyle racked up 8 years of sending time and money building before the Stranglehold 1971 Plymouth Hemi powered Cuda was finished. The 383 equipped Cuda now runs what Kyle has researched to possibly be a 1969 Hemi (believed to be warranty block since the motor pad contained no VIN). With the original Hemi 4 speed and a factory Dana 4:10 rear end Kyle had turned what was once another man’s dream into reality. The Hemi engine has a big cam so the jets had to be replaced in the carbs, as they had been drilled out for racing, and he was going to cruise in it. The Cuda has manual brakes and steering from the factory since she was built to run and race.
The interior is factory stock although the “hemicuda” badge on the dash was not an original option; it was placed there by the previous owner and left there as a memento of his dream. The beautiful black exterior sports the factory-style Hemi Billboard on the rear quarter panels, black vinyl top and the hood features the factory shaker scoop.
When Kyle finally hit the road with the Cuda, he had kept the car true to its roots with only the electronic ignition being updated and 275/60 tires on the rear to handle the Hemi. His wallet might be a lot lighter now, but Kyle finished what was once one man’s dream that had become his. Now the only stranglehold Kyle has is keeping the Hemi fed!