MAY 2024: MOM’S ’71 CUDA IS THE PERFECT MOTHER’S DAY CAR STORY

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Mother’s Day is a day when everyone celebrates mom—because mom deserves a day.

Most Mother’s Day stories involve flowers and restaurants, but this one is all about Mom’s ’71 Cuda.

Here’s how the story began: “September 1971. Mom walked into Bill Luke Chrysler Plymouth car dealership in Phoenix, AZ looking to buy her first car. She was 38 years old, newly divorced and didn’t even know how to drive a car”.

Misty’s mom was a newcomer to the car game so she relied on her family’s advice: ”My brother was 16 years old at the time and he influenced her to pick the beautiful Metallic Tan Cuda that was on the showroom floor. My mother was never a car person other than as a passenger in the cars that my dad built but she became the proud owner of her own muscle car”.  

She picked a very unique example of a ’71 Barracuda: “It had a rare combination of options that made it unique for an early 70’s muscle car. Automatic transmission on the column, (perfect for a first-time driver) 383 engine, Power steering, power brakes, tan interior, full premium wheel covers (you either love them or hate them), air conditioning and the GT2 Tunisian Tan metallic paint (which was a plus in Arizona)”.

Misty formed an instant connection with her mom’s car: “The Cuda entered my life 2 weeks before my 11th birthday. My brother taught my mom how to drive it and the rest is history. I remember going everywhere in the car. My mom would take me cruising in the Cuda before I was old enough to drive. I eventually learned how to drive behind the wheel of the Cuda and it became an even more important part of my life”.

There were many big family moments: “I drove the Cuda to my Prom and graduation and spent many weekends cruising in it as well. My older brothers enjoyed the Cuda as you can only imagine–I remember my mom telling them that they needed to take it out and open it up so the engine wouldn’t load up”.

Mom’s Cuda was a great form of therapy: “The car was a special part of our family history as we navigated through a difficult time in our lives. My mom and I were on our own for a number of years as one brother got married and the other went into the military. We would often hop in the Cuda and drive it to the Grand Canyon or Sedona and hike the mountains”.

There was a point in the Cuda’s history where it migrated into non-daily driver status so things changed: “In 1978 my mom transferred to Denver for work and decided that the Cuda should stay in Arizona, so she gave it to my brother who had returned home from the military. He owned it for a number of years and when my mom would come back to town to visit, she always had the Cuda to drive”.

Retirement wasn’t friendly to the Cuda: “The years in the hot Arizona sun and heat took its toll on the car and eventually it sat and continued to deteriorate. After owning the car for 20 years my brother decided he didn’t have the time or money to invest into restoring the Cuda, so he ended up giving it to my oldest brother who expressed interest in restoring it”.

The Cuda’s story changed even more: “After it sat for another few years untouched it was sold to someone outside the family. Much to the dismay of the rest of us in the family, the car was gone without giving us the opportunity to keep it”.

That change in ownership was a problem: “My mom would always talk about the Cuda and how disappointed she was that it was no longer in the family. I reassured her that someday I would find it and buy it back. Little did I know just how profound that statement was. Twelve years later I did find the Cuda in a town about an hour north of me. It had been sitting in a storage shed waiting to be restored, torn apart and in pieces”.

Misty was highly motivated to bring her mom’s car back to the family: “When I contacted the seller, I informed him of my situation and that I no longer had the VIN number for the car but all the unique options on the car made me think that it was our car. He told me that the original warranty card with the original owner’s name and address was on it. I asked him to send me a picture of it and I was able to verify that it was my mom’s car with her name and address on the card”.

This was a highly emotional moment for the family: “I was in tears when I called my mom to tell her that I found the car and bought it back. She went with us to pick it up and cried as she saw us pulling the car out of the storage shed and putting it on the trailer to take her home. All the original parts, engine, transmission, trim, glass, and interior were still with the car.

That’s when the real work began on Mom’s car: “The next year and a half were a labor of love as we started the process of rebuilding the car. It was a hard time to get services and parts due to Covid, so the process was slow and tedious, and my mom was probably more impatient than we were.

Misty explained how she was on a very real deadline: “Mom was struggling with her health and memory, and I knew I was fighting against time for her sake. I wanted her to see her car finished and to ride in it with me again. Unfortunately, I was unable to make that happen. Some of the last conversations I had with her were still about the Cuda and how special the car was to our family”.

The Cuda project was eventually completed because Misty was still highly motivated to save her mom’s car: “Six months later the car was complete. and I entered it in its first car show. A 1971 Plymouth Cuda, fully dedicated to my mom. Her beautiful car, restored to look exactly like it did the day she brought it home. The car, the story, and my mom are what makes the car stand above the others. People are moved by it and that is what keeps her legacy alive. Little did she know how truly special her car would become”.

 Was it worth it? Misty has the final words on that question.

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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