It's always a good idea for readers to approach any story like this with a healthy dose of skepticism. Over the years magazines have embarrassed themselves with bad predictions and readers have been assaulted by goofy drawings, but we've done our best not to cry wolf; our past predictions about both the '06 Dodge Charger and the '10 Camaro were pretty good forecasts, if not necessarily perfect line-for-line. Having said that, we are ready to come forward with our prediction for the '15 SRT 'Cuda-a collection of speculations that started as apparently random Internet rumors, and progressed to what we'll simply refer to as "tacit affirmation" by the very people who would know. Heck, there's even a reference to the '15 'Cuda on Wikipedia-so it must be true, right?

Our certainty over the imminent reappearance of one of the most respected muscle cars in history is tempered by one fact: Chrysler’s relationship with Fiat has largely gone untested when it comes to the Italians trusting Chrysler with home niche markets. And although we’re quite certain the ’Cuda’s design, engineering, and testing have all been finalized at this point, there’s still a lot that can go wrong politically (both internally and nationally) that can kill the baby in its bassinet. So in spite of even the best of intentions, the plan for a production ’Cuda can come off the rails.

First, the name. We're 95 percent sure SRT's new hot rod will be called 'Cuda and not Barracuda. The distinction is important because the Barracuda designation is more closely identified with the earlier '64-69 A-Body, while the 'Cuda moniker was exclusive to the later '70-74 E-Body version. Some web rumors and renderings have the new car with older A-Body styling cues, but the economics of platform engineering pretty much dictate that Chrysler use the current Challenger production line to build the 'Cuda, so it will necessarily be close in shape to the Challenger, itself an homage to the '70-74 E-Body of the same name.

Without a Plymouth brand to slide the ’Cuda under, it begs the question—why build a ’Cuda in the first place? Wouldn’t it compete with the Challenger? We got our answer last spring when Chrysler announced that SRT would become an autonomous brand, just like Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, and yes, like Plymouth used to be. (Factoid: Chrysler applied for trademark protection for the ’Cuda name in late 2010.)

SRT, previously a small group within Chrysler that survived off of table scrap resources from the Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram brands, will be fielding its own line of vehicles with its own engineering resources, its own brand strategy, and its own capital. Simply put, SRT will answer to no one at Dodge. To make a go of an independent brand capable of sustaining a group of freestanding dealerships, SRT needs to create a portfolio of products, and fast. The new '13 SRT Viper (sans Dodge badge) is the first of the SRT cars, but what do you slot in the lineup just under this rare halo car? If you're thinking "'Cuda," you're on the right track.

The ’Cuda is the perfect project for SRT. With SRT as its own brand, the Dodge name will be gone from its products, which opens the door for a lot more good stuff. In the past, SRT vehicles needed vetting by the parent brand, and SRT was essentially in competition for meager design, engineering, and brand resources. What does this mean for ’Cuda? It means SRT can now put cars like the Ford Shelby GT500 and the Chevy Camaro ZL1 in its crosshairs. By extension, that means big performance in the form of a standard supercharged 6.2L Hemi with nothing less than 600 hp, and possibly as much as 700 hp. The rumors have been whipping around the Internet for a year about a blown 6.2 Hemi, and even Chrysler employees talk around it openly at shows.