Alright everybody, stop scratching
your heads. Yes this is a 'Cuda - a 1985 Plymouth
Turismo Turbo 'Cuda. Never seen one? There's a
good reason, the factory only built two. And you
thought a Hemicuda was rare? This is a preproduction
prototype that miraculously survived the scrapper's
torch when the program was terminated.
If you will recall,
the early 1980s saw the second birth of the
muscle car era with the introduction of the
5.0 Mustang. Dodge followed suit with their
Charger 2.2 and the Daytona Turbo Z. As the
Ford and GM offerings got quicker, so did the
four cylinder turbo 2.2s from Chrysler. Perhaps
the high water mark of the 2.2 turbo came when
Carroll Shelby stuck his signature on a special
edition Charger wearing black and silver paint.
That little sucker screamed for a four banger
pulling with its front wheels.
Seeing the image
potential of this pint sized barn burner, Plymouth
decided they needed an image car for their to
the Charger, the Turismo. Since Dodge had dusted
off the Charger name years before and met with
success, Plymouth thought it only natural to
revive their most popular muscle car name -
In late 1985, two
Turismo coupes got a liberal dose of Carroll
Shelby Charger parts, Shelby Charger drivetrains,
and 15" alloy wheels. One was painted white
with red strobe stripe decals and the other
red with black decals and a black interior.
The white car had a sunroof, the red car didn't.
All was right with
the world as the lil' 'Cudas made their way
around the Plymouth plant at Belvidere, Illinois....
until Carroll Shelby got wind of the project.
Reportedly upon seeing the Plymouths wearing
and using all the equipment he had put his name
on over at Dodge, Carroll wasn't happy. Apparently
he thought the Plymouth effort would cheapen
the image and exclusive nature of the Shelby
Charger. Not wanting to offend Shelby at that
critical time in Chrysler's partnership with
him, the Turismo Barracuda was quickly laid
to rest. Both cars had their decals removed
and a call went out to Fred Pierson.
Fred was Chrysler's
Midwest Training Center Manager in 1985, and
one of his duties was getting rid of scuttled
projects such as this. All he was told was to
make the cars go away, and in short order they
arrived on his stoop in Chicago. As the cars
were mechanically fit, they were put into service
as facility hacks, instead of pieced out for
training aids or technical school donation.
These cars also retained
the certificate or origin needed to title, license
and sell. Fred filled out the required paperwork
and purchased the white 'Cuda. The red version
was made a corporate donation to a trade school
in Ohio. Fred now wishes he had made the purchase
of both vehicles.
literal wolf in sheep's clothing served as his
weekend rapid transit until two years ago, when
he sold it to his Mopar crazed son, Al. Al had
known the car since new and has photos of its
ants twin still wearing the 'Cuda stripes in
front of the Belvidere plant.
Since the paint was
a little scruffy, Al decided to go back with
the paint scheme Carroll Shelby wouldn't allow.
Princeton Auto Body repainted the sides of the
car, but left the roof and hood alone, as the
factory paint still looks fresh. Then it was
off to Kenny Stoner at Stoner Signs in Princeton
for a set of computer generated stripe using
the old photos of the car. After a brief revamping,
the little screamer was back on the road.
Al likes to drive
his ultra-rare bit of '80s muscle car history.
The odometer reads 64,000+ miles and is climbing.
Other than the paint and tires, everything else
is original and near mint. The original red
interior looks new, and the engine has never
had any major work performed.
Al was told at a
recent car show that the other '85 'Cuda survived
its days as a trade school autopsy patient and
is now privately owned. Details on where or
what shape it was in were sketchy though.
Just when you thought you'd
seen it all, along comes something out of left
field. Who knows? Maybe somewhere out there
is a Plymouth Sundance wearing Road Runner stripes?
Stranger things have happened.