Dream Fish: John Foster Jr.’s Pro Street 1970 Cuda

Those who enjoy automobiles tend to share a trait, they’re all dreamers. We love to create our ultimate build in our minds, 1,000 different ways. Some are totally fixated on just one vehicle and find a way to obtain it so we can build that vision we have in our mind. John Foster Jr. chased the car he obsessed about, a 1970 Plymouth Cuda, until he scored one and then built his Pro Street dream ride out of it.

If you take a peek into John’s past, it’s easy to see why the horsepower hooks were set so deep in his personality. John got his first taste of the car culture life when he was just three years old, after his parents were hired as the General Managers of Minnesota Dragway in 1959. The family ran the quarter-mile facility and brought in the biggest names in drag racing until the facility closed in 1976.

Now, imagine if you’re a young John and into cars. Your family runs a track, so you get to be the ultimate pit kid and see all the coolest cars each week. Well, one racer brought John into his pit on a regular basis, and those interactions helped to push John toward an obsession with the Plymouth Cuda.

“One of the local professional racers was John Hagen, who raced in Super Stock, and eventually, Pro Stock. He had a series of Barracudas and Cudas, and always let me hang out around his cars in the pit area. It was then that I started drawing ‘70 Cudas and fell in love with that body style, and knew one day I would have one. Unfortunately, John Hagen was killed while racing in the ‘80s, before my dream materialized,” John says.

The first car that John purchased after high school was a Cuda, but it was a 1972 model. When John got the car it had just 35,000 miles on the clock, was rocking a 340 under the hood, and was totally stock. John got to work modifying the car by adding a tunnel ram intake, a pair of four-barrel carburetors, had a custom paint job sprayed on it, and redid the interior. The Cuda hit the car show circuit and John still owns the car to this day.

John still yearned for a 1970 Cuda of his own so he could fulfill the dream he had as a kid. He had a vision of what the car would look like, and what parts he wanted to use, he just needed a car. Well, one of John’s friends knew he was looking for a ’70 Cuda and found one for sale in Sioux City, Nebraska. John purchased the car in 1997 as a Pro Street project car that had been started but needed a lot of work.

The Cuda went to Bob Fuller at C&F Race Cars to get the chassis work started. Bob built a custom 4130 chromoly four-link rear suspension for the car. The supports is home to a narrowed Dana 60 that’s filled with Strange Engineering axles, 4:56 gears, and a Detroit Locker. Bob also created a custom chromoly chassis for the Cuda as well.

Mike Shoop at Maple Grove Auto Body got the call to make the Cuda a real show-stopper. The car rolled off the assembly line in 1970 wearing a white suit. John wanted something different, so had the car painted a bright Lemon Yellow hue from Sherman Williams. The OEM hood was replaced with a fiberglass unit so it would clear the big intake and carbs John bolted up to the engine. A rear Go-Wing was also added to give the car a sporty look.

While the Cuda was at the spa getting the chassis and bodywork finished up, John got to work on the Mopar’s powerplant. Travis Knowlton’s shop, Knowlton Thunderhead Racing Engines, took the OEM 440 block and punched it out to 496 cubic-inches. Inside the engine, a Mopar Performance crankshaft slings the Eagle connecting rods and Ross pistons up and down. A Milodon oil pan and Melling oil pump keep the engine lubricated.

The top end of the engine features a set of Trickflow aluminum cylinder heads that have been outfitted with valvetrain parts from COMP Cams and Indy Cylinder Heads. On top of the heads, you’ll find a giant Indy 4500 Dominator intake manifold that’s paired with a Holley Ultra Dominator 1250 carburetor. A Product Engineering fuel pump sends fuel to the engine, while a full complement of MSD ignition products lights off the combustion process. The exhaust is evacuated out of the engine thanks to a set of 2.125-inch custom headers from C&F Race Cars that are mated to a set of Spin Tech mufflers.

John wanted to keep as much Mopar DNA in his Cuda as possible and that includes the transmission. Chuck Lofgren from Lofgren Auto Specialties built John a beefy Chrysler 727-B slushbox to bolt up to the engine. A TCI 10-inch torque converter was added to the package. John shifts gears through a Precision Performance Products shifter.

Inside the Cuda, you’ll find a 12-point chromoly roll cage that was built by C&F Race Cars. Keith Nybo brought the gray tweed interior together using 1990 Dodge Daytona front seats along with a custom dash and door panels. The AutoMeter gauges and all the other wiring was handled by Tom Short at Autocraft Specialties.

John kept things classy and classic for the Cuda’s wheels, tires, and brakes. The WELD Aluma Star wheels are wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber in the front and Hoosier in the rear. To bring the car to a stop, John added Wilwood brakes to each corner.

According to John, the Cuda drives really nice considering how modified it is. The car makes more than enough power and is very reliable. John has even had the chance to take the Cuda out on a few NASCAR tracks at different events and stretch its legs, the final result was an ear-to-ear grin.

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A lot of work went into John’s Cuda and he has made it a point to get as much enjoyment out of the car as possible. John acknowledges that his parents were a major driving force behind bringing this project to life.

“The 1970 Cuda is in loving memory of my Mom and Dad, who passed away just a few months after the car was finished. It went on to sweep the MOPAR awards at the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals the following year. The car has also won many Best of Show awards on the ISCA car show circuit, and has been featured in numerous magazines and on ESPN. It most recently won the Best of Show at the Holley MoParty in Boling Green Kentucky in 2020,” John says.

Not many people get the chance to build the car that they dreamed of since they were a kid. John Foster Jr. never gave up and turned his dream into a real-life street machine. Hopefully, John’s story will inspire others to keep working towards finishing that build sitting in their shop.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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