Ray Barton 604ci Hemi-powered 1974 Plymouth ‘Cuda

Southern Rod & Custom takes one of America's most iconic muscle cars and turns it up to 11

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Antony’s ‘Cuda was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine

UNLIKE many people who have built street machines over the years, the owner of this amazing ’74 Plymouth ’Cuda actually started out with a plan. “I saw the episode of Overhaulin’ with the ’Cuda build for Joe Rogan and I immediately started looking for ’Cudas,” Antony Atkin begins. “I just so happened to have an issue of Street Machine that had an amazing Mustang build in it, which led me to Southern Rod & Custom.”

It’s great to know that not only does SM inspire people to build awesome cars, but it also gives shops like SR&C a platform to showcase their amazing talents.

As for that inspirational Mustang, it belonged to Neville Brodie and was featured on the cover of SM, Dec ’06. “It was a turquoisey-green one, and I remember it had cross-bracing under the bonnet,” Antony explains. “I saw that car and thought: ‘Man, this guy knows how to put a car together.’” Of course, Antony’s talking about SR&C’s Shane Rowe, and he has nothing but great things to say about him.

Mopar restorers will probably complain that this car never came out with billboard graphics and that these aren’t correct anyway. Well, they might not be correct, but they are spot-on

As it turns out, Shane speaks pretty highly of Antony as well: “He’s probably one of the best customers I’ve ever had to deal with, especially over a long period,” Shane says. “You lose a lot of them, especially with a big project like that.”

When it comes to the direction of a build, one thing that’s very important is that the workshop and the client are on the same page. That was definitely the case with the relationship between Shane and Antony, and it’s apparent in the finished product.

The rear bumper is tucked in, the number plate has been relocated to below the bumper, and an aircraft-style filler mounted. The tail-light lenses also lost their chrome highlights

Whereas most people would start off with a car then go shopping around looking for someone to build it – and quite often getting put off by how much it was going to cost – Antony did it the other way around. He talked to Shane first, got an idea of the cost involved, how long it would take and the process, then went on the hunt for a car.

If he’d followed the usual path, we’d probably be talking about a Camaro, because deep down, Antony’s a GM guy. “I had three XU-1 Toranas when I was a kid, but once I saw that ’Cuda, I was like: ‘Holy shit!’ I’d never seen one before.”

Antony admits the budget did blow out a bit, but that was mostly because he wasn’t willing to make any compromises on quality. “I could have put a crate motor in it for six or seven grand, but I wanted the biggest-horsepower and biggest-cube motor they could build, so that cost a lot more,” he explains. “I could have done stuff a lot cheaper, but I did everything as top-notch as I could possibly do it.”

The hood scoops on the ’74 ’Cuda aren’t usually functional, but SR&C opened these ones up to let people have a sneak peek of the injector stacks

The only thing that was below par with this build was the condition of the original car. It was complete and running, but was pretty stuffed; about the only thing left of it now is the internal skeleton. Every single panel on the car was replaced with reproduction parts, which might sound drastic, but it’s a lot easier than trying to repair panels that have copped 40 years of abuse.

The whole floor was also replaced and in the process the transmission tunnel was refabricated to be central in the car. Most US cars have the engine shuffled over to the right-hand side to make room for the steering and brakes on the left, but of course, that becomes a real pain in the arse on a right-hand-drive car – especially when you’re trying to stuff a giant Hemi in the engine bay!

That’s 604 cubic inches of Ray Barton’s finest and it makes 970hp and a shitload of torque – actually, two shitloads

Not just any old Hemi either. It’s the biggest, baddest, naturally aspirated Hemi in the Ray Barton Racing Engines catalogue. Measuring up at 604ci thanks to a 4.56in bore and 4.625in stroke – the stock 426 was 4.25 and 3.75 – it’s filled with Diamond pistons, a Chrysler 4360 steel crank and I-beam race rods measuring up at 7.1in long with a .990in Chevy journal size. With big cubes you need lots of air, so the Stage V heads are filled with 2.375in and 1.9in valves to make sure there’s plenty of airflow.

The Kinsler eight-stack injection sure looks the business and is controlled with a FAST ECU. It’s a pretty angry combo, but that’s just how Antony wanted it

While it’s tough to beat a blown Hemi, that really wouldn’t have suited the style of this build, so instead, Antony opted for a Kinsler eight-stack EFI set-up that fits neatly under the stock bonnet. While the scoops on the bonnet were originally just for looks, Shane opened them up and made them functional to get some air – and a few sneaky peeks – into the intake system. Getting the gasses out required some more masterful fabrication in the form of custom headers with massive 2.25in primaries and twin 3in pipes, all done in-house at SR&C.

All that grunt needs a rock-solid driveline and Antony didn’t skimp on that either. There’s a Mega Torq 727 Torqueflite with a Gear Vendors overdrive behind it, which heads back to a nine-inch filled with a Strange 3.9:1 centre and 40-spline axles. A quick glance at the driveline specs might make you think this car was built simply to go fast in a straight line, but that was never the plan.

There’s nothing left of the factory torsion-bar and leaf-spring suspension, with Shane opting for a much more modern offering from XV Racing Products. “They base all their stuff on the C6/7 Corvette platform,” Shane says. “Their work and their ethics and the whole set-up are really top-notch. They’re all ex-GM engineers and the like doing it, and are renowned for building high-end track suspension. There are others that sit the car really low on its guts, but they don’t really work well.” In the rear, SR&C fabricated a four-link with a Watt’s link, and the car is hauled up by six-piston Baer brakes on 14-inch rotors. Of course, those brakes aren’t worth a damn if there’s no rubber on the road, but that’s another thing this car’s not short of. The 19×10 and 19×12.5 Budnik Fontana rims are wrapped in 275/35 and 345/30 Michelin Pilots.

The seats are Recaros that have been modified to mount the seatbelts internally. If it looks a bit like a modern European car, that was exactly the plan. The door trims are factory stock, with a little bit of tweaking from SR&C on the door handles and armrests

The perfect bodywork is highlighted by the ink-black paint, which is broken up by a tweaked version of Plymouth’s billboard graphics. Ordinarily, these were a sticker and you could have them in either black or white, but Ryan Carter at Stylemaster Designworks – who also did the original concept artwork for the car – came up with a slightly larger version that has been sprayed in a custom-mix grey with a touch of gold pearl – hence the difference in colour in some of the photos.

Shane admits that he thinks every car should be painted black, but over the eight-year course of the build, there was some discussion of painting it another colour, possibly even a lime-green. In the end though, they stuck to the original plan: “It had to be black, that was the look, like a Mopar version of Mad Max’s car,” he says.

A TCI shifter is housed in the custom-made console, while a tablet handles the entertainment, navigation and reversing camera

Now that the ’Cuda is finished, to say that both Shane and Antony are thrilled with it would be an understatement. “When I met Shane for the first time we had the exact same vision for the car, so it was a pretty easy build in that way,” Antony says.

Shane agrees. “From the artwork we had Ryan from Stylemaster originally do [above], the finished car turned out perfect,” he says. “Nine times out of 10 that doesn’t happen. But we stuck to the plan right through, and that’s the secret to the car – it came out how everybody wanted it.


Paint: PPG Black with custom grey billboards

Type: Ray Barton 604ci Hemi
Inlet: Kinsler
Injection: Kinsler 2 5/8in stack injection
Heads: Stage V custom aluminium
Valves: 2.375in (in), 1.9in (ex)
Cam: Custom solid
Pistons: Diamond
Crank: Chrysler 4360 steel stroker
Conrods: Hemi race I-beam
Radiator: PWR custom made, Derale fans
Exhaust: Custom 2.25in primaries, twin 3in exhaust
Ignition: FAST dual sync

Box: Mega Torq 727 Torqueflite with Gear Vendors overdrive
Converter: CE custom 3000rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 40-spline Strange centre, 3.9 gears

Front end: XV Racing Products cradle
Shocks: Afco Superate (f & r)
Steering: Flaming River electric power rack-and- pinion
Brakes: Baer six-piston calipers, 14in rotors (f & r); Wilwood master cylinder

Rims: Budnik Fontana; 19×10 (f), 19×12.5 (r)
Rubber: Michelin Pilot; 275/35/19 (f), 345/30/19 (r)