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Plymouth Barracuda

Published: 26th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Plymouth Barracuda
Clean rear end styling with exhausts exiting through the rear valance Clean rear end styling with exhausts exiting through the rear valance
Compact body looks well proportioned from any angle, note inverted hockey stick decals on rear wing denoting 440ci engine Compact body looks well proportioned from any angle, note inverted hockey stick decals on rear wing denoting 440ci engine
440ci V8 Magnum engine with Six-Pack carburettors obscured by air filter housing which protrudes through bonnet 440ci V8 Magnum engine with Six-Pack carburettors obscured by air filter housing which protrudes through bonnet
Vinyl trimmed bucket seats with wood rim steering wheel and Rallye dashboard Vinyl trimmed bucket seats with wood rim steering wheel and Rallye dashboard

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What is a Plymouth Barracuda?

Introduced in early 1964 just two weeks before Ford’s legendary Mustang, the Barracuda could almost be deemed to have been the very first Pony Car though the Mustang was accredited this accolade! The Plymouth Barracuda was a compact design based upon the A-Body chassis platform taken from the sister Valiant and also shared by the Dodge Dart.

Its distinctive fastback styling featured the largest rear window fitted to any car at the time, which in very hot weather caused interiors to sizzle! Clearly no where close to being a true muscle car at its inception with a lowly 170ci slant-six engine as standard with an optional 225ci slant-six and 273ci V8 available, fortunately the Barracuda was to develop into one of the all time great muscle cars with the high performance tuned models marketed as ‘Cudas.


In the first year of production the Barracuda sold reasonably well with 23,433 produced, though it was easily eclipsed by the Mustang. In 1965 the Formula ‘S’ performance option was introduced which was little more than heavy duty suspension, tacho, wide oval tyres and special emblems and trims, though a creditable 64, 596 cars sold that year. In 1966 the model underwent a minor facelift, and for ‘67 the Barracuda was redesigned using a longer wheelbase plus a much more powerful 383ci V8 was offered.

Unfortunately the engine was so big that it caused problems with the standard-fit power steering pump fitment which had to be dropped! The Barracuda finally emerged as a full blown muscle car in 1970 with the model being built on the E-body chassis platform which it shared with Dodge’s Challenger that looked very similar, but none of the body panels were interchangeable. Penned by chief designer Bill Brownie the Barracudas body featured “Coke bottle” rear styling with a short boot and the E-body chassis was now able to handle the huge power increase from the 440ci and the ultimate 426ci Hemi V8’s. The ‘Cuda featured key area body reinforcing and heavier duty suspension and drive trains to handle all the extra power. A torsion bar suspension layout featured at the front, with semi-elliptical leaf springs at the rear with a live axle. Engine options included 340ci, 383ci, 440ci and 426ci V8’s with three and four-speed manual transmission or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic. Power output on the 383ci engine was 330bhp and the 426ci Hemi was 425bhp with a treepulling torque of 490lb ft @ 4000rpm. The ‘Cuda with a 440ci V8 and Six-pack carburettors (3X2) caused problems once again with the power steering pump fitment! Driving a ‘Cuda with no power steering and drum brakes all round, you had your hands full!

The driver’s door featured side impact beams and the steering column was collapsible in the event of a front impact. The Shaker hood scoop on the bonnet was an option and fitted directly onto the engine which caused the scoop to literally shake with movement! Interiors featured bucket seats, with full cluster Rallye Pack instrument gauges being an option. Colour options included the bright and somewhat lurid “Lemon Twist” “Vitamin C” and “In Violet”! Dan Gurney’s All American Racers team raced ‘Cudas in the SCCA Trans-Am Series, which produced 2800 cars road going versions to allow homolgation for motorsport. Known as AAR ‘Cudas these cars featured special 340ci Six-pack engines, side exiting exhausts, GFRP hoods and scoops and ducktail spoiler. The zenith of the ‘Cuda as a muscle car was probably 1970, and in 1971 it underwent a minor facelift with changes to the front grille and segmented tail lights and it was the last year of the Hemis. Towards the end of production, with emission regulations a contributory factor, engine options were 318ci and 360ci with output a mere 245bhp on the latter and after 1974 the ‘Cuda was no more. Interestingly the high performance ‘Cudas sold in much lower numbers than the original Barracuda, and for example in 1970 only 18,880 Coupes, 635 Convertibles were produced. However, lower production means a rarer commodity and nowadays the ‘Cuda is a highly sought after classic. Rarest of them all is the Hemi convertible, with only eight built: all are still alive!


With its sporty image, and excellent performance, the ‘Cuda offers its driver as much thrills as any hot Mustang! A slightly upright seating position with the steering wheel close to your chest might feel strange but Cudas are easy to live with. The 318 and 340ci powered cars feel a tad more nimble at the front end than the more powerful heavier engined models and this does mean that the handling is more balanced.

Heavy duty torsion bar suspension, and anti-roll bars help ensure good handling and though the ride comfort will be on the firm side (for an American car that is), it won’t shake the fillings out of your teeth when going over bumps in the road! The feel from the standard power steering is extremely light, but an after market firm feel steering box is now available which is very reasonably priced and an option many enthusiasts would go for. For a muscle car running on drums the brakes are quite good, although compared with a modern car, they’re lacking in bite, and again, many enthusiasts would consider an aftermarket upgrade on the front discs. Cars fitted with the ‘Six-Pack’ carburettor set-up (3x2 barrel) can be difficult to live with due to them being temperamental from time to time. Although relatively short in length compared to other muscle cars from the Mopar stable, the ‘Cuda is still bloody wide at around 6’6”, will it fit your garage?


Prices on ‘Cudas are still on the up with entry level for a car that’s useable but requiring a fair bit of work will be around £5000 - £6000 for a 1973/74 model. Expect to pay more for a 1970 or 1971 car, and circa £15,000 -£20,000 plus for a pristine example. One of the ultra rare Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles has topped the $2 million dollar mark!

What To Look For

  • The ‘Cuda is prone to rust in a number of areas which include around the rear window, boot floor, front bulkhead around the heater plenum, and of course the usual places where water from the road splashes up around the rear quarter panels, wheel arches and behind the front wings. Massively thick doors have stood the test of time well, but check the underside and lower edges.
  • Huge lazy V8 engines, gearboxes and rear axles are virtually bullet proof, with the TorqueFlite automatic transmission and rear axles having an excellent reputation for strength and longevity. Some cars featured the extra heavy duty Dana 60 axles. However, it’s worth checking the originality and history of a car, which may well have been modified and raced in the past.
  • A car that’s led a hard life will by now be requiring restorative work. There are also many cars for sale in the USA that have been ‘cloned’ into 440ci big block cars that originally had smaller engines. These can fetch almost as much as the real thing. Make sure you know exactly what you’re buying.
  • Original matching numbers cars will nearly always fetch a higher premium than a modified car. Fortunately there’s no problem with the availability of replacement running gear parts.
  • Complete panels are much harder to source, though quarter panels are available as are some repair sections.
  • Interiors wear reasonably well, and are enhanced by the Rallye dashboard instrumentation which was available as an option. Interior trim such as seat covers, door panels, etc can all be purchased from specialists in the USA, notably from the Year One company which has a huge inventory of parts.
  • There are even specialists who will be able to completely refurbish items like original dashboards back to mint condition, but this doesn’t come cheap and you have shipping costs too.


The most sought after model will be the powerful ‘Cudas of 1970-1971 with Hemis at the top of the desirability list, and that’s if you can source one as they’re not that plentiful. Surprisingly enough the 225ci slant-six was still an option up until 1972, but it would find few takers nowadays! The ‘Cuda offers good handling with excellent performance and is a fine example of Mopar Muscle which is almost two feet shorter in length than the also heavier Dodge Charger as a comparison. Virtually any V8 optioned ‘Cuda is a good bet, though pure petrol heads will want the 383ci or 440ci with Six-pack and Shaker hood for starters!

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