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One sick fish: radical ’70 Plymouth Cuda throwback

31 July 2018



When we featured Brendon Tordoff’s Cuda on the cover of our April 2007 issue, he mentioned the car wasn’t finished. It is now, as you’ll see on the cover of our September 2018 issue. Here’s the original.



Being in the wheel and tyre game, Brendon Tordoff sees his fair share of nice vehicles. But a situation like this, while often a blessing, can have its share of dramas. Sure, whatever car he buys can quickly and easily be decked out with some great rims, but how does one choose which vehicle to purchase? 

This decision plagued Brendon for a few years. While he knew he wanted a project, and knew that project would have to be finished to his impeccable standards, the decision was a tough one. Meanwhile, friends began their own projects, some rods, some muscle cars, all raising the bar of Brendon’s desires. 

It was during Beach Hop 2004, when Brendon was at his mate Kev’s place having a couple of quiet ones and reading a magazine, that he saw a modified Cuda.
“That’s what I want!” was the call. Much to his dismay, the lads retorted, “That’s a Cuda, do you have any idea how much they are worth?”
“Expensive, I guess,” was the only reply Brendon could muster. 

Undeterred by his mates’ comments, and once back home, the search began and Brendon wasn’t going to give up until the perfect vehicle had been found. It was a full nine months before that perfect vehicle was finally located. Even better, it wasn’t a complete wreck, and it wasn’t over the budget. 

At the time, the car was in the hands of a construction company owner who had taken it as part-payment from a customer who couldn’t pay his bill. The great news was that the construction company only wanted to sell the Cuda for what it was owed, so getting the car of his dreams didn’t break Brendon’s bank. 

Sounds too easy? Well, it wasn’t. 

Brendon’s luck was about to go from out of this world to destroying his world. The car was in Canada, and the very day the cash changed hands was the same day the Canadian wharfies went on strike. 

In New Zealand, strikes may delay us for a day or two. The Canadians were obviously a tad more pissed off, and didn’t go back to work for a full three months. The only thing that stopped Brendon from packing up and heading over to live with the car for that time was the fact he had a cousin who lives in Canada, and who was able to store the vehicle until the dispute was settled. 

It was during this three months of waiting that a copy of Chip Foose’s Build Book was purchased, showing the step-by-step construction of one of the world’s most publicized and modified Cudas. No doubt reading the book and learning all the trucks made the wait all the more painful, but it did give Brendon time to source parts and fine-tune his plan for exactly how he would modify the Cuda upon its arrival. 

After three months in storage and one month in a shipping container, the vehicle finally arrived, and thankfully was exactly as described. But, despite being in good condition for a 35-year-old vehicle, it was far from being as good as the one Brendon had fallen in love with a year earlier. It would be a further two years to transform that sad state to the standout Hot Wheels–type car you see before you. 

When looking at the vehicle the Intro Billet wheels are the first things that grab you, and so they should. Measuring in at 22×10 inches at the rear, and 20×8.5 inches in the front, there is no way miss their size or shine. Despite their size, fitting them was quite possibly the easiest part of the build. Getting the vehicle down to a respectable height over them was a far greater challenger. 

To sit the 245/30R20 and 295/25R22 Continental tyres up high into the guards, Brendon enlisted the help of Derek Mitchell at Mitchell Motorsport. Derek and his team of fabricators constructed a custom, unequal-length four-link rear suspension setup. Along with the help from height- and damper-adjustable QA1 coilovers, the rear end has been dropped a total of 130mm from standard. To bring the diff back to the centre is an adjustable Panhard rod, complete with adjustable roll centre. 

Up front, the vehicle’s chassis rails have been modified to lift the torsion bars around 100mm, yet still provide a decent amount of suspension travel. 

When viewing a vehicle like Brendon’s, with such impressive rims, there isn’t much more disappointing than seeing standard brakes, especially if standard means drums. Thankfully, Brendon is from the same school of thought, and went straight to the top shelf. It was the team at 0800 Brakes that sourced the front and rear Alcon four-pot calipers and huge discs. 
Believe it or not, though, the suspension and brake work was all at the simple end of the build process, as it was done right the first time. This was unfortunately not the case with every aspect of the build — the Plum Crazy paint, for example, is the second application. Brendon was less than satisfied with the original painter’s attention to detail, so decided to find someone else to do the job right. 

Once the offending paint was removed, Brendon decided to have more body modifications performed before the second attempt at paint. With the door handles shaved shaved along with some rear trim, it was Prestige Collision Repair which flawlessly coated the car in its new purple hue. 

The interior was as frustrating a task as the paintwork. After shelling out big bucks for Recaro seats, Brendon had them trimmed in dark leather. The rear seat was to be retrimmed to match, at great cost, but unfortunately it ended up resembling some form of futuristic spaceship seat. Needless to say, Brendon was less than impressed, and the vehicle was sent to upholsterer number two, who sorted out the mistakes from the first round. 

Contributing to the interior’s makeover, there’s a Momo shift knob modified to suit, and to add a modern touch to the interior, the custom carbon-fibre dash face has been fitted with a host of Auto Meter Cobalt gauges. These, combined with the modern seats and billet steering wheel, lift the ’70s interior to a point where it’s better than most modern vehicles. 

Although only completed just before Christmas 2006, the car has hit the streets regularly, no doubt each time with a healthy load of passengers, and they’re not short of entertainment. 
If it’s not the looks the vehicle draws, or the sound emanating from the motor, then everyone’s kept entertained by the serious audio system Brendon’s installed. The boot of the vehicle has been re-upholstered to include a pair of Alpine amps, with crossovers for the front doors, and an Alpine 12-inch sub. To set these off, they are all mounted behind clear perspex and lit with purple neon. Not only does the install look good, thanks to Alpine component speakers up front, it sounds just as impressive. 

With a car looking this good, you wouldn’t be too worried what it goes like, as long as it goes, right? Not so for Brendon, who ensured the stock 383 big block received a bit of a tickle. The block was bored, fitted with ported heads, and topped with a Holley carb, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, and MSD 6A ignition — it’s got no shortage of get up and go. 

However, it might be because he’s owned a few V8 Commodores in his time, but the lure of more power must have got to Brendon. Rumour has it the Cuda may soon see a bit more engine work [rumour was correct, but ‘soon’ may have been a bit optimistic! — Ed.].
Regardless of whether this happens or not, you can bet every dollar you have that he will proudly be cruising at Beach Hop this year. Undoubtedly, this will start the process all over again, with some new-to-the-scene chap stating to his mates “I want one” as SIKFSH cruises past. 

Try as hard as they like to pry the car off Brendon, though, it’s just not going to happen. After all the trials and tribulations of the build, Brendon has sworn never to sell the car … and why would he? Perfection is a hard thing to improve on. 

Vehicle: 1970 Plymouth Cuda
Engine: 383ci big block Mopar, ported heads, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, Holley four-barrel carburettor, aftermarket steel headers, twin 2½-inch exhaust
Driveline: Chrysler 727 TorqueFlite transmission, Chrysler 8¾-inch diff, 3.55:1 diff ratio
Suspension: QA1 adjustable coilovers, custom four-link rear, adjustable Panhard rod, adjustable roll centre
Brakes: Alcon four-piston calipers, 355mm front discs, 340mm rear discs, Alcon rear handbrake calipers, custom aluminium brake hats, braided brake hoses, 
Wheels/Tyres: 20×8.5-inch and 22×10-inch Intro Billet wheels, 245/30R20 and 295/25R22 Continental Sport Contact 2 tyres
Exterior: Shaved handles, shaved rear bumper, Plum Crazy paint, Cuda ‘hockey stick’ graphic, tinted windows, HID headlights
Interior: Recaro front seats, custom rear seat, full interior retrim, Billet Specialties steering wheel, custom Momo shift knob, custom carbon-fibre dash panel, Auto Meter gauges, Alpine head unit, Alpine component speakers, Alpine subwoofers, Alpine amplifiers