Funny Car Driver and Clutch Master Paul Lee Builds the Car of his Dreams

The 1970 Plymouth Barracuda was a third generation E-body and was definitely an epic player of the early muscle car era. It was the cousin to the Dodge Challenger and shared the same platform. The Cuda rolled with a 108-inch wheelbase. The body was 189.5-inches from bumper-to-bumper and it was 2-inches shorter than the Challenger.

That night he saw the legendary “Jungle Jim” Liberman in his Camaro Funny Car do a full ¼-mile burnout, then back up, stage and blow the doors off the guy in the other lane. From that moment, Paul was hooked on straight-line Drag Racing.

In keeping with the practice in this era, the Cuda was offered with many engine packages: a 225 slant six that put out 145 horsepower; a 318 V8 with 230 horsepower; a 340 V8 that produced 275 horsepower; 340+6 V8 with 290 horsepower; and a 383 V8 with 335 horsepower. The three optional engines were the Hemi 426 at 425 horsepower, the 440-4V Magnum at 375 horsepower, and the Hemi 440 Six-Pack with three two-barrel carbs at 390 horsepower. A stout four-speed floor shift manual transmission or a bulletproof three-speed Torque-Flite 727 automatic transmission were offered. A Dana 60 rear end was responsible for getting the torque and horsepower to the rear wheels. The various Cuda power plants were covered by three-hood styles; a standard “Flat” hood, an optional “Shaker” hood, and a “Power Bulge” hood that featured dual air scoops.

Paul Gets Hooked

Paul Lee lives in Anaheim Hills, California but grew up in New Jersey. Paul attended his first drag race at Atco Raceway back in Jersey at the age of 13. That night he saw the legendary “Jungle Jim” Liberman in his Camaro Funny Car do a full ¼-mile burnout, then back up, stage and blow the doors off the guy in the other lane. From that moment, Paul was hooked on straight-line Drag Racing. At age 17, he strapped himself into his Plymouth Duster and made his first pass down the quarter-mile. From there, he made hundreds of passes in many different door-slammers.

The 3.50-inch oval dual exhaust exits before the rear wheel openings. Exhaust heat was deflected by stainless steel heat shields that were secured with ARP 12-point stainless steel fasteners.

At the age of 30, Paul finally got into a top alcohol Funny Car. He cut his teeth while competing on “Nitro Nick Boninfante’s East Coast Funny Car Circuit.” Before stepping into that four-second, top fuel Funny Car, he spent years honing his driving skills. Now at the age of 50-something, Paul will be driving part-time for Gary Densham in his McLeod Performance Toyota top-fuel funny car during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season.

 A Man For All Seasons

In addition to racing, Paul has achieved several university degrees, graduating Summa Cum Laude from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has two post-graduate degrees in business and law from Rutgers University and is a member of the New Jersey Bar Association. When Paul is not blasting down a 1,000-foot drag strip at over 300 MPH, he is driving a very successful business.  Paul is the owner and President of McLeod Racing. His company manufactures high performance racing and street clutches, flywheels, hydraulics, transmissions and fluids.

When Paul is not blasting down a 1,000-foot drag strip at over 300 MPH, he is driving a very successful business.

Paul’s favorite car has always been the ‘70 Plymouth Barracuda. A couple of years ago, he got the itch to build the planet’s most insane street-legal ’70 Cuda. Paul’s brother Barry owns Pure Muscle Restoration, specializing in Mopar work down in Jacksonville, Florida. Barry had previously found and purchased a Plymouth Superbird in the backwoods of Alabama. The Superbird was resurrected to winning show quality.

Raising the hood exposed the Arrington 528 cubic inch V8 Hemi power plant.

When Barry found out Paul was looking to build a ’70 Cuda, he remembered a car that was owned by the same gentleman in Alabama. The gentleman and his son had taken on the Cuda as a father & son project. This particular car was originally a 318-powered stickshift car that was assembled at Chrysler’s Los Angeles assembly plant. The 318 had been replaced with a 340 as part of the project. Unfortunately, just after completing the car the son spun it out, clipping the front and rear on a guardrail. No major damage, but the father was so upset that he decided to sell it to Barry, who held onto it for his brother.

The rear Ridetech adjustable coilover shocks were equipped with Hyperco coil springs, which allow for easy ride height adjustment by rotating the lower shock collar.  This photo also shows an inside rear view of the Wilwood 6-piston caliper and 14-inch rotor.

The Car Comes Apart – and Goes Back Together

The Cuda was shipped out to California to Jim Basset, owner of Bones Fab Hot Rods & Muscle Cars in Camarillo, California. The 12,000 square foot shop would be the  second birthplace of this classic Plymouth. The dedicated crew totally disassembled and removed all the body panels except for the hood and roof. The factory frame was scrapped and replaced with an Art Morrison Maximum G Chassis that featured a Corvette C6 front suspension and DSE power-steering rack.

The heartbeat of this beast had to be a modern Hemi, but just not any Hemi. Paul turned to Arrington Performance CEO & President Eric Hruza and Vice President Pete Basica to machine and assemble the most badass Hemi powerplant they could manage.

Originally the Cuda was fitted with a factory 318 cubic inch V8 and a 4-speed D15 manual transmission. The factory package was replaced with a massive Arrington, Gen II Mopar aluminum block 528 cubic inch HEMI V8 with Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum cylinder heads and a Comp Cams valve train. A Holley Stage 5 intake manifold is the foundation for a Holley electronic fuel injection (EFI) that feeds the ProCharger F-2 Centrifugal Supercharger. The spark comes from an MSD ignition system and 8.5mm Super Conductor Spark Plug Wires. This mighty Hemi produces 1,140 horsepower on 93-octane pump gas!

For the rear end, the team selected a 3-link suspension with a Watts linkage to anchor a Strange Ford 9-inch rear end housing and 31-spline axles. A Strange S-series Nodular Iron Ford third member was fitted with 3.70 gears and a True Trac limited slip unit.

A set of RideTech shocks with Hyperco coil springs keeps the car up at all four corners. Stopping power comes from a Wilwood brake master cylinder that was plumbed to four 6-piston aluminum calipers and 14-inch rotors both front and rear. The Cuda rolls on a set of Weld RT-S SR71 forged aluminum wheels with black 5-spoke centers. The fronts are 18×10, and the rears are a massive 20×13. The Weld wheels were wrapped with Mickey Thompson Sportsman rubber, 26×12.00R-18 LT in front, and 29×15.00R-20 LT meats in the rear.

A worms-eye-view of the Art Morrison frame and front suspension, DSI power steering rack, Spal dual electric fans, 528-inch Hemi engine, headers, McLeod clutch and QuickTime SFI approved bell housing, and the Tremec 5-speed manual transmission.

The only original sheet metal on the Cuda was the roof and hood. The Power Bulge diagonal dual-scoop center section was raised one-inch to allow for clearance of the Pro-Charger F-2 centrifugal supercharger.

The heartbeat of this beast had to be a modern Hemi, but just not any Hemi. Paul turned to Arrington Performance CEO & President Eric Hruza and Vice President Pete Basica to machine and assemble the most badass Hemi powerplant they could manage. The aluminum engine block was fitted with the best internal performance components and a pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum cylinder heads for a total displacement of 528 cubes. The mighty Hemi is force-fed its air/fuel mixture by a ProCharger F-2 centrifugal supercharger. After the assembly and dyno break-in, the Hemi produced 1,140 horsepower at 5,500rpm and 1,077 pound-feet of torque on 93-octane gasoline.

Paul Lee’s ’70 Cuda is now everything he ever wanted – and you can see him driving it on the streets around Anaheim if you keep your eyes open.

A full race interior with a black suede leather padded dash houses the RacePak 250-KT-UDX digital gauge panel with engine RPM, speedometer, odometer, water and oil temperature, oil pressure, battery voltage, and fuel level. Internal indicator lights for low oil-pressure, high water temperature, turn signals, high beam, and parking brake.  How about, a Vintage A/C control panel in this go-fast Cuda.  The factory steering column housing was capped with a Grant GT 3-spoke, leather/suede wrapped steering wheel.

The removable transmission hump was fitted with a Hurst shifter and aluminum Hurst pistol grip.

A LoKar throttle pedal was teamed up with the Wilwood brake and clutch pedal assembly.