It has been said that hot rods, muscle cars, big trucks, etcetera are simply big toys for grown children…well, if that is true, and we like to think it is, then no car better exemplifies it than Chris Britton’s 1970 Plymouth Cuda nicknamed, Frankencuda.
Imagine for a moment, you’re 10 or 12 years old again and you’re chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel of something, but the closest you’ll get to a car for a few years is the die-cast models you find at local toy shops or the Hot Wheels in the check out line of your local supermarket. With a bevy of wild and funky muscle machines to choose from, your imagination starts buzzing and when the time comes for you to have your own set of wheels, it will be as radical as the models and hot wheels you’ve been busy collecting…
Every Kid’s Dream
Well, Chris Britton never forgot that, and it only takes one glance at his wild-eyed 1970 Plymouth Cuda to know that. From the monster wheels to the big blower jutting toward the sky from atop its cast-iron perch, the bad fish screams CARtoons. Yeah, like all of our favorite hot rod comic strips by Carl Kohler and Pete Millar. It exudes that wild attitude and over-accentuated style that was previously only captured by comic book artists. No, don’t write this off as just another pro-street build. It is, in essence, a pro-street Cuda, but the flare of detail, style choice, and raw appeal make it more than that…they make it larger than life, and just like every kid at Holley’s Moparty that stopped in their tracks to gawk at Chris’ ride, we were all-in on Frankencuda.
So, we spent some time at Beech Bend Raceway shooting photos of it and interviewing Chris on the inspiration behind his badass build.
We started off by asking Chris about his personal background and how the car came to be called Frankencuda. Chris tells us, “I’m an auto technician and I’ve got a shop in Rogersville, Tennessee. I’ve been an ASE technician for almost my whole life. As you can see, Frankencuda is one of the cars we built at my shop. It’s basically just a creation that came out of my head – to take a Cuda and put a big blown engine in it and dub it the Frankencuda.”
“When we picked the car up, it was all together and looked good enough, but we started dissecting it and it soon became an extremely rough car. It was from Virginia, and that’s part of the rust belt, so everything was rusted and holed up. So, when we dismantled it, we discovered very quickly that we were going to have to do some extensive bodywork and replace whole panels on this car. So, from the roof to the cowl, you name it – it got the book thrown at it.”
Interestingly enough though, the rough shape the Cuda was in empowered Chris and his crew to go as wild as they wanted without feeling encumbered by an expectation to restore rather than modify. But it’s that rough exterior that drew us in. Perfection is all well and good. Concourse level cars are certainly impressive. But, just like all of our favorite toys growing up, the best ones are those that get played with.
Chris continued on his inspiration, “What better way to go about repairing it than just go Pro Street with a full-blown cage? We said, let’s just go radical – that’s the way it needs to be!”
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and we suppose that doesn’t stop at hot rods. So, if the floors were a little rotted out in the rear, no big deal, all the more reason for Chris and his team to weld in some tubs. We love it!
Just keep it radical. -Chris Britton
Chris touched on something we were all thinking, “Rat Fink probably comes to mind when people look at it. Or maybe one of those muscle machines where it’s got the big radical tires and crazy enormous engine sticking out. So, that was kind of the theme – just keep it radical and almost to the point where you wouldn’t believe the car would run. You should see people’s reactions when we’re driving, they don’t believe it would actually run!”
Lastly, Chris explained where the whole Frankenstein term got woven in. “With us, we just wanted to express that the car is made up of parts that I had and it’s not a fine or refined car, it’s just a car that’s in your face and got that wow factor. So, why not dub it Frankencuda?”
It is made up of a bunch of cars after all. “Now, it’s like a Hot Wheels for grown-ups, and that’s exactly what I was going for.”
When it came time to discuss the drivetrain, Chris was honest and open about the powerplant under the polished puffer. “It’s a pretty basic 440ci engine under that big blower. I put it on there while trying to prove a point to some of my gearhead friends that you don’t have to have a crazy modified engine to have a supercharger. Although, I am building a bigger engine for it presently.”
We asked Chris to elaborate on what he meant by that, “Well, I was trying to make a point by doing that. To take an 80,000-mile engine that I already had that ran good and had never been taken apart – we installed a custom grind cam and threw some accessories on it, but as far as touching anything else, well, it still has a bone stock rotating assembly as far as piston rods, crank etc. My friends didn’t believe it could be done.”
In fact, the 440ci still sports factory cylinder head gaskets if you can believe that. Chris told us, “The heads have never been removed – it’s an RV engine out of a ’77 Recreational Vehicle.
We asked what kind of boost it makes, “It’s de-tuned right now. It’s probably only making like five pounds. It’s nothin extraordinary – very conservative.”
Two more pieces of engine jewelry are the twin Holley Sniper throttle bodies sitting atop the Weiand supercharger. “I ran the Holley Sniper system, it was one of thier first roots style systems to accomodate forced induction. It was new to the market when I first installed it, and there was a bit of a learning curve, but it’s working flawless now. I really recommend it. The only thing I did was re-route the fuel lines because the way Holley has it would have covered up the Sniper logo, and I really liked that. Luckily, the people at Holley are so creative, they provide multiple ports and you can route it however you like to make it super clean. The linkage is all normal 4150 style stuff, so it’s really easy to install.”
Underneath the monster Weiand blower is a BDS intake manifold and front drive system. Because of the massive blower, Chris chose to run manual brakes for when he decides to turn up the boost with the new powerplant he’s got in the works.
To cool things off, the ice-cold Cuda now sports a BeCool radiator and a nice electric fan setup.
Frankencuda’s exhaust system consists of Summit ceramic coated headers. Chris tells us, “They work really well and it sports cutouts aft of the collector, so I can open it up and get really loud if we want to.”
As for the rearend, Chris explains, “It’s got a Dana 60 rearend that’s been cut and jigged up at the house. It operates on a 4 link system with coilovers now.”
Moving on to the spartan interior, Chris tells us it’s all about “Just ‘gitin ‘er done,” complete with Autometer gauges, Hurst shifter, racing seats, and an in-house fabricated roll cage. “Both sides have swing outs so we can get in without killing ourselves. It actually will tech for a certain mile per hour.”
Chris also went to the trouble of rewiring the whole car with a Painless system too.
Staring down into the engine bay of Frankencuda, it can be difficult to look past the massive Mopar lump, but underneath, there are some really interesting components. Chris says, “We went with a manual rack and Wilwood brakes. The rack is an AJE system that’s all tubular. It works wonderfully and has plenty of ground clearance. It does its job well. It also gives you all the header clearance you need too. That was the main reason I chose this system – in preparation for the Hemi that is to come. So, I definitely wanted that bit of versatility.”
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
When it came time to talk wheels and tires, Chris made sure to point out, “These are the “American-Made American Racing Torq Thrust II’s. I topped them off with some spiked lug nuts for flair. There are a lot of imitations out there.”
Chris’ future plans for the Frankencuda include the installation of a vintage Funny Car engine built by none other than famed engine builder Kieth Black himself. You might remember the engine from the Blue Max race car. Chris acquired the all-aluminum Hemi from some of his racing contacts and we can’t wait to see between the Frankencuda’s fenders very soon!