When your goal is to build the car you've always wanted to drive, you'll stop at nothing to get it done. Such was the case with Irvine, California's Larry London and this '70-vintage E-body 'Cuda. This custom project, done almost entirely in his father's driveway, has taken a little over three years for this Southern California native.
Wanting a modern g-Machine with the fervor of a vintage Trans-Am style racer would require research and a well-developed game plan. London wisely chose a high-winding small-block over the heavier grunt of a big-block, and the lighter weight of the LA-based 360 will offer much better balance to the chassis for cornering prowess.
The small-block Mopar would be based on a factory crate bottom end for reliability and simplicity, but the improved breathing provided by the top-end components would deliver near 350 ponies to the rear wheels. London assures us this powerplant has only begun development, and was intentionally left "mild" to make suspension tuning easier. Once the cornering prowess has been refined, expect more scream from under the Plum Crazy hood.
The PN P4876906 Mopar Performance short-block boasts the same stock cast iron heads it shipped with from mother Mopar, but Larry used MP's own porting templates to increase their flow. The MP cam opens the intake valves .501 inch with 288 degrees of duration. Exhaust finds its way out of the 360 with cam specs at .513-inch lift and 292 degrees of duration. Once past the valve, exhaust flows through a set of TTI Step headers, with primaries growing from 1-5/8 to 1-3/4 inch. The rest of the exhaust system checks in with 2.5-inch Dynomax pipe and mufflers.
To ensure precise fuel delivery under hard cornering, London chose a FAST Fuel Injection system with MP 4BBL Throttle body, Ford SVO 30lb injectors, and homemade fuel rails. He modified the base of his K&N air cleaner to better fit the powerplant. The EFI lives atop an MP M1 single-plane intake.
"I always knew that I wanted to do fuel injection and make it handle like it wasn't supposed to," London said with a smile.
The engine's power is delivered through a 2,600 rpm stall Continental converter before meeting the Pro-Built Automatics (Calimesa, CA) 727 slushbox. We know 727s for small-blocks are fairly rare, but necessary in this case as power transmits aft to the 8 3/4-inch rear axle.
Since he was doing it himself (along with his father Tony), London relied heavily on experience gained under a previous car--a '74 Cuda, which was his daily driver at the time.
"We had the '74 'Cuda built already, and we could look at for reference when we needed to see exactly how things went together" he said. The "newer" 'Cuda also served as a source for the '70. "There were times when we looked at parts from both cars, and used whichever was better."
One of the more challenging things London dealt with was fabricating the chassis connectors so that they molded into the frame. London knew a solid foundation would be required to wrest the purple fish through the corners, and with added power and handling prowess came a need for increased structural strength.
"We bought square tube for the subframe connectors. We had to lie on the ground while welding them in, and it wasn't as pretty as it could have been when we were done. We used an epoxy to cover up the areas were the welding and sanding went bad so the modified chassis would look as good as it worked, and better match the overall quality of the car."
The suspension is bsed on a mix of the best the factory and aftermarket have to offer. The solid chassis supports .960 torsion bars, factory 7/8 inch rollbar, boxed lower control arms, tublar upper A-arms a 3/4 inch leafspring relocation kit, 11/16-inch C-body, tierods and a Firm Feel Stage 1 steering box.
Polyurathane bushings were installed to firm up suspension feel and limit flex. The rear springs are Mopar's own "XHD" leafs. The optional factory 3/4-inch rear anti-sway bar is also in place.
Anchoring the suspension on all four corners are typical top-end g-maching components. As we've shown you on our pages, arming a Mopar E-body is getting easier all the time, but Larry was deep into the project long before products began showing up to market. However, London had an advantage most builders only dream of: a job at Brembo! While building the car at home in the evenings, he was working at Brembo Brakes during the day. His wheel and brake system are customized so that he could get the calipers as far out as possible, and is based on the popular and inexpensive '73-'76 A-body spindle.
"I took the wheel into work and we set it up to see exactly where the caliper was going to end up," London explained. "The first thing we did was design the bell to locate the rotor. Once assembled, I took it home and spec'ed it up. I just hung the calipers on there, and mocked them up with a block of wood to decide where we wanted it. We measured the important angles designed the adapter bracket." The car now has Brembo 4-piston calipers with 320x28mm 2-piece floating discs.
London is pleased with the tire and wheel combination, and we like it too. "Nobody believes me because they seem to fit so well." After months of research the final combination checks in with a set of four Centerline Starlite 17s. The fronts are 8 inches wide and wear Firestone Firehawks measuring 245/45ZR-17s. The 9.5 inch wide rear hoops sport 285/40ZR-17 Firehawks. The results are outstanding.
Many parts had to be custom fabricated in the quest to make this car happen. The fuel system is a great example of something all serious street machine builders should focus on and develop to suit their specific needs. The switch to EFI prompted the need. "We took a long length of Aeroquip steel line, cut it to size, and put the steel fittings on," he explained. "Most people use aluminum because it's lighter. It's not really that big of a difference in weight, but at least I know they're going to last a long time because they're industrial strength. The tranny lines are made of the same stuff too."
In order to captain this 'Cuda, London needed a cool cockpit. The interior boasts a Sony CD palyer, six Boston Acoustic speakers, a Phoenix Gold 4-channel amp and 5-band Kenwood equalizer mounted inside the ashtray well. His craftmanship can be further seen by the custom-built dash with Autometer Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite instruments. A Grant Signature Series steering wheel provides the helm for this car. Culver City Auto Trim helped upolster the stock black interior. The stock seats will soon be replaced by two Sparco Torinos.
Although this Mopar beauty looks good, London admitted there's more work to do. He plans on installing an MSD crank trigger for the ignition/injectors. He's also looking to add progressive throttle linkage.
"I also want to get a Gear Vendors overdrive unit, change the rear gear to 3.90:1, and really get the suspension dialed in."
So now three-plus years later, the determination London has about perfecting his dream car shows clearly, and there's no doubt we'll be seeing this 'Cuda carving up the streets of Southern California for a long time.
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