After selling his 1969 Plymouth Road Runner for a mighty sum of $1,800, Raymond Brown walked into Northwood Chrysler Plymouth in Toledo, Ohio on March 30th, 1972 and filled out a sales order for a brand new 1972 Plymouth ‘Cuda 340. To show he was serious, he dropped $200 cash as a down payment.
Wanting a car with more go than fancy goodies, he ordered it without power steering, power brakes, and A/C. After all, those just added more weight to the car! Being as this was the first year for the de-tuned and de-rated horsepower low lead gas smog-control engines, he wanted no accessories that robbed horsepower on his custom-ordered ‘Cuda.
Raymond decided he wanted to shift the gears himself so when it came to choosing the transmission, he checked off the D21 option for the pistol grip four-speed manual. To keep things simple and classy, Raymond decided to go with TX9 Black on the ‘Cuda’s exterior topped off with a bold white side stripe. On the inside, black was his color of choice as well for the interior. The total sale price with all fees and taxes came to a grand total of $3,568.10. This was shortly after Nixon had dropped the federal tax on car sales, so he got a break on that.
About three weeks after ordering the car, he received a call from the dealership letting him know that somehow his ‘Cuda had been ordered wrong. His brand new ‘Cuda had showed up at the dealer but instead of being black with a white side stripe, the one with his name on it happened to be white with a black stripe! Somebody had gotten the order backwards it seems.
They wondered if he’d be interested in purchasing the mistake car and offered a small discount. He firmly told the dealership “no,” he wanted it the way he ordered it so the dealer went ahead and re-ordered the car. Shortly after, Raymond took delivery of his brand new correctly-ordered ‘Cuda on May 9th, 1972. “Interestingly, the white one was sitting on the showroom floor when I went to pick mine up a few weeks later. I often wonder what happened to that car and where it is now if it survived,” shares Raymond.
Once the paperwork was completed, Raymond’s first stop was a gas station to put 13.2 gallons of gas in (the price of gas then was $.31 cents a gallon for a total of $4.21!). Raymond says he has a complete log of every gallon he has put in the car for the last 44 years! In the first three months, there were a couple of trips back to the dealer for minor issues such as a rear main seal leak, oil pan gasket and clutch bearings but all was fine after that.
After driving it bone stock for about a year and a half, Raymond decided he wanted a little more power, so he decided to install an Edelbrock Torker manifold, Holley 750cfm Double Pumper carburetor, heavy duty clutch and Appliance branded headers. He also relocated the battery to the trunk as well.
Wanting the exterior to look a little more sporty, he walked into his local Dodge dealership and ordered a brand new 1970 AAR’ Cuda rear spoiler and front spoilers and installed them himself. Shortly after these changes were done to the ‘Cuda, Raymond says the only accident he has ever had in 53 years of driving occurred. As Raymond tells it, “a hippie in a junker Pontiac Tempest rear-ended me at a traffic light. Damage was about $130 in 1974 dollars and of course, he had no insurance.” Fortunately the ‘Cuda was fixed quickly and Raymond continued to enjoy it.
In 1976, Raymond moved to the Detroit, MI area and had the car repainted three years thereafter for a better looking finish. Instead of the factory tape stripe, he decided to have the stripes done in pearl white. Having never liked the Organasol black paint on the rear tail light panel, he decided to also have that sprayed pearl white.
Once the ‘Cuda was home from the paint shop, Raymond says his neighbor made a comment that the car now looked like a black pearl. The name stuck with Raymond so much that he had it painted on the rear panel as you can see. He also decided to replace the stock rims with a set of American Racing wheels. The car went into many car shows on the ISCA circuit after that and the usual cruise nights on Telegraph and Woodward Avenue which included some stoplight drag races too!
Around 1989, life happened as it usually does and the ‘Cuda went into storage for almost 25 years. Over that time, Raymond had many offers to buy the car but he held onto it, knowing someday that he would have a second childhood and would want to get it back on the road and hit the cruising circuit again. That moment came on July 14th, 2014 when the car was pulled out of storage and was taken to Godfather Racing in Fraser, MI where the engine and transmission were pulled and everything was given a good going over.
With the drive train pulled, the car was transported to LaFata Auto Body in Roseville, MI for a complete repaint and refinishing of the trim. To demonstrate the effect of inflation, the passengers side mirror had to be replaced. Raymond says the mirrors were an $8.20 option on his sales order and one replacement was $362! Ouch!
Back at Godfather Racing, the engine was bored out because a head gasket had leaked on the #8 cylinder and had corroded pretty badly. New pistons and a cam were installed and the front drum brakes were converted to a full disc set-up. The original gas tank had rusted through so that was replaced and the electronic ignition was replaced with brand new pieces. The Appliance headers that Raymond had installed in the early ’70s were replaced with brand new set from TTI and a brand new exhaust system was installed also.
When all the mechanical and body work was completed in January 2015, the car came home briefly before going to Top Notch Upholstery and Trim in Livonia, MI for new seat covers and carpeting. Raymond says this is the second summer he has been terrorizing the neighborhood with his reborn ‘Cuda and he’s been loving every minute of it! He says now his only challenge is to figure out how to take the’ Cuda with him when that time comes one day!