PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA HISTORY
The Plymouth Barracuda was produced from 1964 until 1974. It was the first official “pony” car and was released to the public a mere two weeks before Ford’s Mustang. While it was the first of the muscle cars its sales lagged way behind the other early muscle cars such as the Camaro and Mustang. It did not become the monster that caused its modern day reputation until the 1970 model year and by 1972 governmental emissions regulations tamed this savage beast back down to a pussycat.
The first Barracudas were built on the Valiant chassis and were called the Valiant Barracuda. This chassis was officially known as the A-body. This is also the same chassis that the very popular Dodge Dart was built on. It was offered with only three engine options in 1964. Your choices were the 170 slant six, the 225 slant six or a 273 V8 rated at 180 horsepower or 235 horse power. Independent tests reported quarter mile performance elapsed time of 17.8 seconds at 72 m.p.h. This first year production model feature the biggest rear windshield ever put in a car up until that time, bucket seats and a fold down rear seat. There were just over 23,000 of these units manufactured in 1964.
In 1965 the 170 slant six was dropped from the engine lineup. The 225 was still offered along with both of the 273 V8 horsepower options. Plymouth added what was called a “Formula S” performance option but the performance was lacking in this package. 1965 tests showed a slight improvement in quarter mile performance with an elapsed time of 16.1 seconds at 87 m.p.h. Production increased in this model year to approximately 64,500 units.
In 1966 the Barracuda was redesigned with a new grill and other changes. This was also the first year of the highly recognizable fish emblems. The horsepower ratings were improved for the 273 (now called the "commando") to 235 horsepower. This years model was tested in the quarter mile at 17.6 seconds with an 81 m.p.h. speed across the line. The engine options remained the same and only 38,000 units were manufactured.
1967 brought the Barracuda to the forefront of the performance car market. The wheelbase was increased and the 383 V8 engine option was added to the lineup and the slant six was dropped. The bigger 383 boasted 280 horsepower and really bumped up the performance of the Barracuda. This engine when combined with the “Formula S” option package gave the Barracuda the ability to spank many of the Fords and G.M.’s of the day. The “S” package added a heavy duty suspension and a better tire combination. The new 383 engine was supposed to bring the car across the quarter mile stripe in the mid 14's at over 100 m.p.h. There were three body style options in 1967. A fastback, a notchback and a convertible gave some variety to the line. There were approximately 28,000 coupes, 30,000 fastbacks and 4,200 convertibles made for this model year.
The only real changes for the Barracuda in 1968 were engine related. The 225 slant six was brought back and the 273 V8 was discontinued. A 230 horsepower 318 V8 was introduced along with a 275 horsepower 340 V8. The 383 received some modifications to bring its horsepower rating up to 300. The new 340 engine turned in a respectible quarter mile of 14.93 seconds at 96 m.p.h. There was a very limited number of Cudas built with Hemis in 1968 but none were released for sale to the general public. These new engine options were starting to make the Cuda a serious contender in the pony car market. There were approximately 20,000 coupes, 22,500 fastbacks and 2,800 convertibles built in 1968.
In 1969 all bets were off and Mopar started meaning more power. This was the first year that Plymouth offered the real deal ‘Cuda. Plymouth bumped the horsepower on the 383 up to 330 and added a 390 horsepower 440 option to the lineup. The 275 horsepower 340 also remained for this year. The only real problem with these big motored cars was that no disk brake option was available. Stopping these behemoths with drum brakes was not an easy thing to do. The handling was also bad due to improper weight distribution. There were approximately 12,700 coupes built, 17,700 fastbacks and 1,400 convertibles.
1970 brought the big time oomph to the Barracuda line. The ‘Cuda was moved to the same E-body chassis as the Dodge Challenger but with a slightly shorter wheelbase. Appearance was also brightened up by some radical new color choices such as Go Mango, Plum Crazy and Panther Pink. The engine options were the 340, 383, 440 and the 426 Hemi. The 44o could be purchased with either a single 4 bbl carburetor or the six-pack option. The difference between Barracudas and ‘Cudas were the hood scoops, ‘Cudas got the scoops. The Hemis came equipped with the famous “shaker” scoop. The cars equipped with 440’s and Hemis had a beefier high performance suspension which helped keep the power on the pavement. This was also the first year of the AAR “Cuda. This car was modeled after Dan Gurney’s All-American Racer which was used in the Trans-Am racing series. The AAR ‘Cuda was built with a 340 V8 which sported the infamous six-pack carburetor setup. This car also had a very sophisticated suspension system and wider tires for better handling. The AAR 'Cudas were not all that successful on the Trans-Am circuit but the new big blocks were tearing up the drag strip. Production 440+6's would turn the quarter 13.7 seconds at 103 m.p.h. and the Hemis did it in 13.4 seconds at 108 m.p.h. It didn't take much "tuning" to vastly improve these numbers. For 1970 there were approximately 19,000 coupes, 635 convertibles and 1,500 AAR’s built.
In 1971 the AAR “Cuda was dropped from the line. This was also the last year of the Hemi ‘Cuda. The Federal government was getting so stringent with emissions controls that the Hemi was no longer viable from a manufacturer’s standpoint. Available power plants for this year were the 318 with 275 horsepower, 340 with 275 horsepower, 383 with 300 horsepower, 426 Hemi with 425 horsepower and the 440 six pack at 385 horsepower. There were some minor cosmetic changes from the previous year including a redesigned grill, front fender vents, redesigned tail lights and dual headlights. This was the only year that the 'Cuda would sport a total of four headlamps. There were approximately 6,200 coupes and 370 convertibles built for 1971. The reign of the ‘Cuda was beginning to fade.
In 1972 the convertible option was dropped from the Barracuda line. Even worse was that Plymouth was forced to drop not only the mighty Hemi from the line but also the 383 due to emissions control. The only engine choices for this year model were the 318 and the 340, both of which had to be detuned to the point that these cars could barely get out of their own way. There were only approximately 7,800 coupes built in 1972.
There were now major changes for the Barracuda line in 1973. Plymouth did add the 360 V8 option to go along with the 318 and the 340 but it only added 5 horsepower over the 340. There were approximately 10,600 coupes built in 1973.
In 1974 the 340 was dropped from the line and the only engine options were the 318 and the 360. There were only about 5,000 units produced and this was the last year for the line. The Barracuda line was considered a failure in the marketplace during its 10 year run but they have come full circle to become one of the most desirable collector cars in recent history.
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