Operation Rescue Fish: Michael Reed’s 1970 AAR Cuda

There are plenty of enthusiasts and hot rodders who have great stories about owning their rides since high school or even younger, but what about the guys that happened upon their street machines later in life? Does the fact that they aren’t the original owner, or longest owner diminish their story? We don’t think so. Especially a story like Michael Reed’s.

We caught up with Reed at last year’s Goodguy’s PPG Nationals in Columbus, OH. If you follow our Facebook and social media, you might have seen our impromptu interview about Michael’s gorgeous 1970 AAR Cuda. 

We ran down some of the particulars and were shocked when he stated the car had only 30 thousand original miles on the clock. You read that right – a 1970 AAR Cuda with 30 thousand original miles! 

Removed from storage. The Cuda’s resting place for the last 16 years.

Michael had this to tell us about his beloved Cuda, “In January of 2013, I was having lunch with my friend Kerry. During our conversation he said to you have to come and see this car I’m working on. Kerry works out of his garage as a hobby doing body and paint work. After lunch I went to his home and there in his garage is a 1970 Plymouth AAR CUDA. I look the car over and besides the body work being done the car looked to be pretty good.”

“I need help” written on the windshield dust.

“So he tells me that he’s doing the work for a person named Ryan, but was unsure at the time what the future of the car was going to be. I wrote down the VIN number and did some investigating and it was for sure an original AAR CUDA – it only had 30,000 original miles on it.”

With only 30 thousand miles on the clock, we are sure glad this fish is back on the road.

“A month went by and Kerry called me and said to come over because Ryan was going to be there. I met Ryan and we talked about the car and he said he was probably going to sell the car. So, I said I would like to have first chance to buy the car. I thought it over and asked Kerry to find out if Ryan would sell it as is and I would finish it from there. Ryan said yes and he sent me two proposals, which were too much so I declined. About a week later he called me – he changed his mind and we agreed on a price. I bought the car.”

That 340ci had seen better days, but Michael put in the wrench time and got her back to her old glory.

“Ryan works with the widow of the original owner. Their daughter was selling the car. The car had been in storage for 30 years – 16 years in a two car garage and 14 years in a storage unit. The reason it was put in storage was the engine. It was running rough and we later found out it had two bent push rods and valves. Suffice to say, the engine was repaired.”

“After I purchased the car Kerry finished the body and paint and I repaired some of the mechanicals. After two years the car was road worthy and safe to drive.”

A classic case of, “it looks worse than it is.” We’re sure with a thorough cleaning, and some vinyl repair, this interior was as good as new.

“In 2014 I put the Cuda in the Detroit Autorama, where I met Charie. (widow) and the daughter Jordan. They were both excited and overwhelmed on how great the Cuda looked. They brought me more documents from the Cuda and more history. Chaire never knew why her husband quit driving the Cuda. So I told here what had happened.”

“In 2017 at the Goodguys nationals in Columbus, Ohio, the Cuda was in invited to the Grand National Roadster Show, for a special event called the All American Muscle Show. I loaded up the Cuda in my trailer and went to Pomona California. It was a once in a life time experience – I had a great time and met a lot of great people while I was there.”

The AAR Cuda was ice-cold then, and it’s ice-cold now!

“I’ve been having fun with the Cuda, meting people who have had one or have known someone who has had one, and just watching the people look and take pictures, it’s a great feeling.”

Often, time isn’t always the best measuring stick to use when talking about ownership. Perhaps it is the level of care taken, the lengths one goes to, the long nights and early mornings, the busted knuckles, and dirty fingernails – maybe it’s shepherding a project to completion that makes someone the true owner of a classic car…of course, there will be those who say “well, the title has my name on it, so I’m the owner.” And sure, that’s true…but are they really? 

Mike’s AAR Cuda was sitting just right when we walked past. We are so glad we got the whole story!

Do you have to customize a car, or even care for it to be the real owner? The mechanic in us wants to say yes, but the enthusiast in us wants to say no. If you have love for the car, and you paid for it…youre the owner. But it’s when people go to extreme lengths to enjoy their ride, and make sure their ride is able to be enjoyed by others that really gets us excited. 

Michael might not be the first or second owner of this extremely rare Cuda, but he sure took ownership of it like no other. We aren’t saying the previous owners didn’t love the car, but we are saying that Michael has gone to great lengths to ensure this piece of American automotive and racing history is around for a lot longer.

This comeback Cuda is definitely a predator.

See, other than wicked good looks, the AAR Cuda is badass for a whole host of reasons. The AAR shield isn’t just for show. It’s there for everyone else on the road to know, this fish means business. For those of you who aren’t versed in Mopar lore, those three letters mean a lot. “All American Racers” to be exact. 

The AAR Cuda was developed by Plymouth and famed racer Dan Gurney, for the 1970 Trans Am series. Arguably the coolest racing series in American automotive history! We’re talking stripped down, factory-sponsored muscle cars.  

We can’t imagine this car in anything but B5-Blue.

There were two identical Cuda’s piloted by Swede Savage and Dan Gurney. Racing against the likes of Parnelli Jones in Ford’s Boss 302 Mustang, and Mark Donohue in Penske’s AMC Javelin, the Cudas definitely had to bring some heat. Although, they were never really able to compete with their smaller, more nimble opponents, the AAR Cuda remains a very rare and sought after muscle car.

Plymouth equipped the street version of the AAR Cuda with it’s 340ci (5.6L) Six Pack. But interestingly enough, the class required the race version be de-stroked to 303.8ci. Not to worry though, Gurney had plenty of tricks up his sleeve to even the playing field, like acid-dipping the body, using titanium components, and using cast-iron spray on an aluminum transmission case to pass tech. 

But that’s a story for another day. Just know, Michael Reed’s AAR Cuda is the real deal! Just take a look at the build sheet and gallery below. As always, check back with us for more Street Muscle.

Photo gallery

VIEW FULL GALLERY >

Build Sheet:

Owner: Michael Reed

Year: 1970

Make: Plymouth

Model: AAR Cuda

Engine: 340ci Six Pack (30k original miles, numbers matching)

Transmission: 727

Rear-end: 8-3/4, 3:91 Posi.

Suspension: Factory stock

Wheels/Tires: Factory stock

Interior: Factory bucket seats

Paint: B5-Blue

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
Read My Articles

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