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Apr 25

Barracuda: birth of a legend

You might say the Barracuda was the original pony car since it actually beat the Mustang to market by two weeks. The Barracuda made it’s debut on April 1, 1964. Despite the unique styling and cheaper price the Mustang outsold the Barracuda 8:1.

The Barracuda comes from humble beginnings as a performance option to the rather pedestrian Valiant. In the mid 60s the big there were looking for exciting small cars to entice buyers who wanted a sporty feel and the Barracuda would be Plymouth’s first entry. The first Barracuda came with a 225CI slant 6 as the base engine producing 180hp and doing 0-60 in 12.9 seconds. That may sound awful for current times but in the 1960s this wasn’t bad at all.

A “Formula S” package would emerge that combined an upgraded suspension and more horsepower to provide a much better driving experience. The better suspension featured stiffer springs and antiroll bars as well as special “Formula S” badging. The biggest improvement came under the hood with the addition of the “Commando” 273ci that was rated at a very conservative 275hp. It’s generally thought by Barracuda experts that this engine made more like 325hp. 0-60 would be in 8 seconds flat with the quarter mile elapsing in just 16.1 seconds (over the base models 17.8). This at a time when 0-60 of 12 seconds was considered to be great.

In 1967 the Barracuda would become it’s own car and move away from the Valiant. The car was completely redesigned with coupe and convertible variants now available. The engine bay was also enlarged to hold the larger 383ci engine. The base car would still be the 225 slant six but the 340 and 383 would be options. By the end of 1967 a fastback would also be added to the mix.

The 383 option, while very potent proved not to be popular because of it’s added weight and size. The size meant that the engine bay would not accommodate things like air conditioning or power steering. Also the exhaust manifold were restrictive due to space restrictions meaning the 383 would not reach it’s full potential in the Barracuda. The 340 option however did prove quite popular because it’s lighter weight and smaller size meant it was great for racing. It could run the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds and run to 60 in just 7.1 seconds.

1968 would see the addition of the 426 Hemi. The Super Stock Hemi package was made for drag racing only with the windows being replaced with lexan, the body acid dipped and everything that could be removed was. The rear seats, window cranks, radio, sound deadening, and other unnecessary parts were all removed. This meant the car would run a blistering mid 10 second quarter mile on the awful drag slicks of the day. There are some albeit anecdotal stories of these cars running 8s on modern tires.


The A body was nearing the end of it’s life by 1969 however the Barracuda would round out it’s first generation with a bang. For the first time the ‘Cuda moniker would appear on the car and the 440 would make it’s first appearance. The 440 would rocket the Cuda from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds and a quarter mile in 14 flat. Car and Driver ran the car on 10 inch drag slicks to a 12 second quarter mile complaining that the car still could not get traction.

By 1969 The Barracuda had certainly become a force to reckon with on the strip and the street. The first era in the legendary Barracuda saga was coming to a close. In 1970 Plymouth would debut the Cuda on the E body platform. Join us later for a look at the Cuda.

Sources: Allpar.com Motor Trend, Car and Driver, NHRA, “Challenger Cuda: Chrysler’s Potent Pony Cars”

2 comments

  1. Nice write up!

  2. RenoWrench

    MOPAR or no car!

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