Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Plymouth Barracuda

The Plymouth Barracuda is a car that was manufactured by the Plymouth division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1964 through 1974. I just saw one listed on eBay. the current bid was 78,000 and the reserve hadn't been met.

Originally introduced a week or two before the Ford Mustang, early Barracudas were put into the "Pony Car" class, thanks to the Mustang. Originally much like a Valiant, the Barracuda struggled for several years to gain identity.

The second-generation Barracuda, though still a 108 in wheelbase A-body sharing many components with the Valiant, was fully redesigned with Barracuda-specific styling and its own range of models including convertibles and fastback and notchback hardtops. The phased introduction during this timeframe of the first US Federal auto safety standards provide the means to discern the model year of a second-generation Barracuda: the 1967 models have no sidemarker lights or reflectors, the 1968 models have round sidemarker lights without reflectors, and the 1969 models have rectangular sidemarker reflectors without lights.

As the pony car class became established and competition increased, Plymouth began to revise the Barracuda's engine options. While the 225 slant-6 was still the base engine, the V8 options in 1967 ranged from the 2-barrel and 4-barrel versions of the 273 to a seldom-ordered 383 in³ (6.3 L) "B" big-block. In 1968 the 273 was replaced by the 318 in³ (5.2 L) LA engine as the smallest V8 available, and the new 340 in³ (5.6 L) LA 4bbl was released. For 1969, Chrysler's largest V8, the 440 in³ (7.2 L) RB big block with 4-barrel carbureted in 1969 became available. There was even a limited production of 50 Super-Stock, non-street legal, Hemi-powered Barracudas (and 50 Hemi Dodge Darts) built in 1968 for use in drag racing. For the South African export market, a 190 BHP high-performance version of the 225 slant-6 called Charger Power was offered with 9.3:1 compression, a 2bbl carburetor, a more aggressive camshaft, and a low-restriction exhaust system. A handful of spinoff Savage GTs were also built, from the second generation Barracuda.

in 1969, Plymouth placed increased emphasis on providing and marketing performance. The 383 engine's output was boosted to 330 bhp, and a new trim package called 'Cuda was released. The 'Cuda was based on the Formula S option, and could be had with either the 340 or the 383 V8.

For 1970, the Barracuda lost all commonality with the Valiant. The all-new 1970 model was built on a shorter, wider version of Chrysler's existing B platform, called the E-body. The fastback was deleted from the line, which now consisted of coupe and convertible models. There was also a Dodge near-twin known as the Challenger; however, no sheet metal interchanged between the two cars ,and the Challenger had a slightly longer wheelbase. Both were aggressively styled, and the high-performance models were marketed as 'Cuda. The E body's engine bay was larger than that of the previous A-body, facilitating the release of Chrysler's 426 in³ (7.0 L) Hemi for the regular retail market.

Two six-cylinder engines were available — a new 198 in³ (3.2 L) version of the slant-6, and the 225 — as well as six different V8s: the 318, 340, 383, 440-4bbl, 440-6bbl, and the 426 Hemi. available. The 440- and Hemi-equipped cars received upgraded suspension components and structural reinforcements to help transfer the power to the road. Barracudas were available with decal sets, hood modifications, and some unusual "high impact" colors such as "Vitamin C", "In-Violet", and "Moulin Rouge".

Race car drivers Swede Savage and Dan Gurney drove identical factory-sponsored AAR (All American Racers) Cudas in the 1970 Trans-Am Series, with great promise (3 poles), but little success (0 wins). The AAR Cudas were equipped with the 340 cid "six pack" (three two-barrel carburetors).

With the 440-6 and 426 Hemi, the straight-line performance from regular production Barracudas became legendary. The 1/4 mile times for were in the vicinity of 13.7 seconds @ 103 mph to 13.4 s @ 108 mph - both among the fastest times of the day.

The Barracuda was changed slightly for 1971, with a new grille and taillights. This would be the only year that the Barracuda would have four headlights, and also the only year of the fender "gills". The 1971 Barracuda engine options would remain the same as that of the 1970 model, except the 4-barrel carbureted 440 engine was not available; all 440-powered Barracudas had a six-barrel carburetor setup instead. The 426 Hemi option would remain, and the Hemi-powered 1971 Barracuda convertible is now considered one of the rarest and most desirable collectible automobiles[citation needed]. Only seven were known to be produced; the six surviving have sold for US$2,000,000 or more each[citation needed].

In 1970 and 1971, two significant options were available: the shaker hood and the Spicer-built Dana 60 rear axle. The shaker hood was available with 340, 383, 440-4bbl and 440-6bbl, and 426 Hemi engines. The heavy-duty (and heavy) Dana 60, with a 9-3/4 in ring gear, was standard equipment with manual transmissions and 440-6bbl and 426 Hemi engines, and was optional on those with the automatic transmission. All engines were slightly detuned and the compression reduced to accommodate the new low-lead gasoline.

After another grille and taillight redesign in 1972, the Barracuda would remain unchanged through 1974, with dual headlights and four circular taillights. But as with all other vehicles of the time, these years saw a progressive decrease in the Barracuda's performance due to tightening safety and exhaust emission regulations. Engines were detuned year by year to reduce exhaust emissions, which also reduced their power output. At the same time, bumpers grew larger and heavier and heavy steel side-impact protection beams were installed inside the doors for 1973. By 1974, only the 318 and 360 engines were available. Higher fuel prices and performance-car insurance surcharges deterred many buyers as the interest in high performance cars waned; sales had dropped dramatically after 1970, and Barracuda production ended April 1, 1974, ten years to the day after it had begun.

The Barracuda is today among the most valuable of muscle cars sought by collectors, although the rarity of specific models and option combinations today is largely the result of low buyer interest and production at the time.

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