THE PLATES DON'T LIE.. WHILE JIM MCINDOE'S CUDA MAY LOOK LIKE A NICELY RESTORED EXAMPLE. LOOK A LITTLE DEEPER AND YOU'LL SEE THAT IT'S 100-PER-CENT PURE BADNESS
PLYMOUTH CUDA PACKING HEAT!
We were at Beach Hop the year after I’d bought the Cuda, and my daughter asked me what plate I’d get for it if I were to buy one. I said it’d have to be ‘BAD440’,” Jim says. “She asked me why, so I told her: Because it’s got a 440, and it’s a bad motherf#cker!” There’s no denying that statement, although it may come as a surprise to learn that Jim’s pride and joy was always supposed to be a ’57 Chev. “I’ve always wanted a blown ’57 Chev, like the Running on Empty car,” he explains — and he’s now building one, 11 years after the Cuda pushed that dream to the side. “We were at Beach Hop one year, having breakfast, and I had my back to the street. Every time I heard a car [that] I liked the sound of, I’d turn around, and it was always a Mopar!” The other thing worth knowing about Jim is that he doesn’t muck around. Putting his Bowtie-badged aspirations on hold, he’d found what seemed to be the perfect car almost as soon as he got home. Having settled on a Dodge Challenger after deciding that a Cuda would be too expensive, it seemed that luck was on his side, with a ’74 Plymouth Cuda popping up for sale in Kerikeri. Again, knowing that Jim’s not the sort to muck around, you
better believe that it took a full decade to bring the Cuda up to the standard you see here. “We didn’t plan to do what we did; it evolved into this,” Jim says. “I just wanted a quick tidy-up, so [that] I could get it on the road and use it.” The stripped Cuda was taken to Mike’s Auto Body for Mike Dunn to demonstrate his skills, and all seemed to be going to plan — until the internet got involved. Jim went into work one day only to have Stephen Saunders show him the Magnum Force online catalogue, and that was that. He couldn’t shake the thought of swapping the front torsion bars for tubular A-arms, and the rear leaves for a four-link with Watt’s linkage. This proved to be the beginning of the snowball effect, as Jim soon discovered that the Magnum Force K-member front end was not compliant with New Zealand standards. Getting in touch with Justin Hansen at the LVVTA, Jim was provided with all the information needed to bring the Magnum Force front up to scratch. “Justin made it very easy to follow, and I’d really like to thank him for that,” Jim says. “He gets a bad rap from a lot of people, but he’s a car guy like us who wants to see people build their cars properly and safely.” The front end changes included swapping the supplied two-inch drop spindles for Nissan Navara units, which had the same drop and almost identical mounting points, and fitting Toyota Hiace tie-rod ends. Just like that, the inherent bumpsteer issues of the design were a thing of the past. While this was happening, the supplied rubber rear bushes were swapped out for Nolathane items, while the four-link set-up saw a touch of re-engineering to bring its driving dynamics up to standard. More impressively, all of this work was done by Jim, Brother Ed, and a handful of the
boys at Jim’s company, McIndoe Group. Completing the underpinnings to such a standard suddenly meant that nothing less would suffice. Mike Dunn was given instructions on exactly what Jim wanted for the exterior, and, while there’s no doubt that he’s delivered, it wasn’t an easy process. Take that rear valance, for example. Jim wanted four exhaust exits with rolled edges to complement the quad tail lights. Starting with a sheet of panel steel, Mike spent weeks perfecting Jim’s vision. This included a flush-mounted rear bumper, made entirely by hand, while the front bumper was narrowed and shaved of its bulky over-riders. While all this was happening, Dave West, from Dave West Automotive Engineering, was screwing together a little something to sit inside the shaved and smoothed engine bay. The brief was a high-compression 440ci big block, and that is what he delivered. The big block was bolted to a 727 TorqueFlite auto, and backed by a beefed-up Chrysler 8¾-inch diff. However, while the Cuda was being built to be driven hard and fast, the build itself was slow and steady. The handiwork of Mikey Samuelson at Class A Kustoms is perfectly representative of this ethos, with PPG Sublime chosen for the main colour, Cuda stripes painstakingly applied by hand, and 14 layers of clear yielding an unbelievably smooth finish. That high-standard finish covers every part of the car, including the interior, which has been swathed in Dynamat. Despite the fact that no one will see the interior paint, it had to be done to the same exacting level so that Jim would be happy with it.