The Plymouth Barracuda is a 2-door car that was manufactured by the Plymouth division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1964-1974.
The first-generation Barracuda, a fastback A-body coupe based on the Plymouth Valiant, had a distinctive wraparound back glass and was available from 1964-1966.
The second-generation 1967-1969 Barracuda, though still Valiant-based, was heavily redesigned. Second-generation A-body cars were available in fastback, notchback, and convertible versions.
The 1970-1974 E-body Barracuda, no longer Valiant-based, was available as a coupe and a convertible, both of which were very different from the previous models. 1974 was the final model year for the Barracuda.
Automotive trends in the early-mid 1960s had all the U.S. manufacturers looking at making sporty compact cars. Chrysler's A-body Plymouth Valiant was chosen for the company's efforts in this direction.
Ford's Mustang, which significantly outsold the Barracuda, gave to this type of vehicle its colloquial name "pony car", but the Barracuda fastback's release on 1 April 1964 beat the Mustang by two weeks.
Plymouth's executives had wanted to name the car Panda, an idea that was unpopular with the car's designers. In the end, John Samsen's suggestion of Barracuda was selected.
The Barracuda used the Valiant's 106 in (2,692 mm) wheelbase and the Valiant hood, headlamp bezels, windshield, vent windows, quarter panels and bumpers; all other sheet metal and glass was new. This hybrid design approach significantly reduced the development and tooling cost and time for the new model. The fastback body shape was achieved primarily with a giant backlight, which wrapped down to the fender line. Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) collaborated with Chrysler designers to produce this 14.4 ft² (1.33 m²) rear window, the largest ever installed on a standard production car up to that time.
The Barracuda was able to return the Valiant's favor the next year, when the fenders and tail lamps that had been introduced on the 1964 Barracuda were used on the whole 1965 Valiant range except for the wagon.
Powertrains were identical to the Valiant's, including two versions of Chrysler's slant-6 six-cylinder engine. The standard-equipment engine had a piston displacement of 170 cu in (2.8 L) and an output of 101 bhp (75 kW); the 225 cu in (3.7 L) option raised the power output to 145 bhp (108 kW).
The highest power option for 1964 was Chrysler's all-new 273 cu in (4.5 L) LA V8. A compact and relatively light engine equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor, it produced 180 bhp (130 kW). The Barracuda sold for a base price of US$2,512.
1964 was not only the first year for the Barracuda, but also the last year for push-button control of the optional Torqueflite automatic transmission, so 1964 models were the only Barracudas so equipped.
In 1965, the 225 slant-6 became the base engine in the US market, though the 170 remained the base engine in Canada.
New options were introduced for the Barracuda as the competition between pony cars intensified. The 273 engine was made available as an upgraded Commando version with a 4-barrel carburetor, 10.5:1 compression, a more aggressive camshaft with solid tappets. These and other upgrades increased the engine's output to 235 bhp (175 kW).
Also in 1965, the Formula 'S' package was introduced. It included the Commando V8 engine, suspension upgrades, larger wheels and tires, special emblems and a tachometer. Disc brakes and factory-installed air conditioning became available after the start of the 1965 model year.
For 1966, the Barracuda received new taillights, new front sheet metal, and a new dashboard. The latter had room for oil pressure and tachometer gauges on models so equipped. The 1966 front sheet metal, which except for the grille was shared with the Valiant, gave a more rectilinear contour to the fenders. Deluxe models featured fender-top turn signal indicators with a stylized fin motif. The bumpers were larger, and the grille featured a strong grid theme. A center console was optional for the first time.
Although the first Barracudas were heavily based on the contemporary Valiants, Plymouth wanted them perceived as distinct models. Consequently, the "Valiant" chrome script that appeared on the 1964 model's trunk lid was phased out on the 1965 model in the US market. For 1966, a Barracuda-specific stylized fish logo was introduced, though in markets such as Canada and South Africa, where Valiant was a marque in its own right, the car remained badged as Valiant Barracuda until the A-body Barracuda was discontinued.
In profile, the 1967 Hillman Hunter-based Sunbeam Rapier Fastback coupe from Chrysler's United Kingdom company (the former Rootes Group), resembles the 1964–66 Barracuda. However the Rapier's designer, Roy Axe, said that there was no direct connection.
The second-generation Barracuda, now a 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase A-body still sharing many components with the Valiant, was fully redesigned with Barracuda-specific sheet metal styling and its own range of models including convertibles as well as fastback and notchback hardtops.
The new Barracuda was styled chiefly by John E. Herlitz and John Samsen. It was less rectilinear than the Valiant, with coke-bottle side contours and heavily revised front and rear end styling.
Design cues included a concave rear deck panel, wider wheel openings, curved side glass, and S-curved roof pillars on the notchback.
The rear portion of the roof on the fastback coupe was more streamlined, and the back glass, raked at a substantially horizontal angle, was much smaller compared with that of the previous model. Also, the use of chrome trim on the external sheet metal was more restrained.
During this time frame the first U.S. Federal auto safety standards were phased in, and Chrysler's response to the introduction of each phase distinguishes each model year of the second-generation Barracuda:
- 1967: no sidemarker lights or reflectors.
- 1968: round sidemarker lights without reflectors.
- 1969: rectangular sidemarker reflectors without lights.
As the pony-car class became established and competition increased, Plymouth began to revise the Barracuda's engine options.
In 1967, while the 225 cu in (3.7 L) slant-6 was still the base engine, the V8 options ranged from the 2-barrel and 4-barrel versions of the 273 cu in (4.5 L) to a seldom-ordered 383 cu in (6.3 L) "B" big-block, the latter available only with the Formula S package.
In 1968, the 273 was replaced by the 318 cu in (5.2 L) LA engine as the smallest V8 available, and the new 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA 4-barrel was released. The 383 Super Commando engine was upgraded with the intake manifold, camshaft, and cylinder heads from the Road Runner and Super bee, but the more restrictive exhaust manifolds specific to the A-body cars limited its output to 300 bhp (220 kW).
Also in 1968, Chrysler made approximately 50 fastback Barracudas equipped with the 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi for Super Stock drag racing. These cars were assembled by Hurst Performance and featured lightweight items such as lightweight Chemcor side glass, fiberglass front fenders, and hood with scoop, lightweight seats, and sound deadener and other street equipment such as rear seats omitted. An included sticker indicated that the car was not for use on public roads; it could run the quarter-mile in the mid-10s in 1968.
For the South African export market, a 190 bhp (140 kW) high-performance version of the 225 slant-6 called Charger Power was offered with 9.3:1 compression, 2-barrel carburetor, more aggressive camshaft, and low-restriction exhaust system.
A handful of Savage GTs were also built from the second-generation Barracuda.
In 1969, Plymouth placed increased emphasis on providing and marketing performance. A new option was the Mod Top, a vinyl roof covering with a floral motif, available in 1969 and 1970. Plymouth sold it as a package with seat and door panel inserts done in the same pattern.
The 1969 version of the 383 engine was upgraded to increase power output to 330 bhp (250 kW), and a new trim package called 'Cuda was released. The 'Cuda, based on the Formula S option, was available with either the 340, 383 and new for 1969 the 440 Super Commando V8.
The redesign for the 1970 Barracuda removed all its previous commonality with the Valiant. The original fastback design was deleted from the line and the Barracuda now consisted of coupe and convertible models. The all-new model, styled by John E. Herlitz, was built on a shorter, wider version of Chrysler's existing B platform, called the E-body. Sharing this platform was also the newly launched Dodge Challenger; however, no sheet metal interchanged between the two cars and the Challenger, at 110 inches, had a 2 in (51 mm) longer wheelbase than the Barracuda, at 108 inches.
The E-body Barracuda was now "able to shake the stigma of 'economy car'." Three versions were offered for 1970 and 1971: the base Barracuda (BH), the luxury oriented Gran Coupe (BP), and the sport model 'Cuda (BS). In 1971 only, there also was a low-end model called the Barracuda Coupe, which (like other Coupe series Chrysler Corp. had in 1971) had a fixed rear passenger window and minor B pillor instead of roll-down rear passenger windows. The high-performance models were marketed as 'Cuda deriving from the 1969 option. The E-body's engine bay was larger than that of the previous A-body, facilitating the release of Chrysler's 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi for the regular retail market.
For 1970 and 1971, the Barracuda and Barracuda Gran Coupe had two six-cylinder engines available — a new 198 cu in (3.2 L) version of the slant-6, and the 225 — as well as three different V8s: the 318ci, the 383ci with 2-barrel carburetor and single exhaust, and the 383ci with 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust 330 hp (250 kW) SAE gross. The Cuda had the 383ci 335 hp (250 kW) SAE gross (same as Dodge's 383 Magnum) as the standard engine. It also had the 440ci 4-barrel Super Commando, the 440ci 6-barrel Super Commando Six Pak, and the 426ci Hemi. The 440- and Hemi-equipped cars received upgraded suspension components and structural reinforcements to help transfer the power to the road.
Other Barracuda options included decal sets, hood modifications, and some unusual "high impact" colors such as "Vitamin C", "In-Violet", "Sassy Grass Green" and "Moulin Rouge".
Swede Savage and Dan Gurney raced identical factory-sponsored AAR (All American Racers) 'Cudas in the 1970 Trans-Am Series. The cars qualified for three pole positions but did not win any Trans-Am races; the highest finish was 2nd at Road America.
A street version of the AAR 'Cuda was produced, powered by the 340 cu in (5.6 L) "Six Pack" (three two-barrel carburetors) engine.
The Barracuda was changed slightly for 1971, with a new grille and taillights, seat, and trim differences. This would be the only year that the Barracuda would have four headlights, and also the only year of the fender "gills" on the 'Cuda model.
The 1971 Barracuda engine options would remain the same as that of the 1970 model, except the 4-barrel carbureted 440 V8 engine was not available; all 440-powered Barracudas had a six-barrel carburetor setup instead.
Thus, in 1970 the big-block power options offered to the customer were 1) approximately 270 hp (200 kW) SAE net in the high performance 383-4V, 2) approximately 310 hp (230 kW) SAE net in the 440-4V and 3) approximately 335 hp (250 kW) SAE net in the 440-6V. In 1971 the big-block power options offered to the customer were 1) 250 hp (190 kW) SAE net in the 383-4V and 2) 330 hp (250 kW) SAE net in the 440-6V.
The 426 Hemi remained available with 350 hp (260 kW) SAE net, and the 1971 HemiCuda convertible is now considered one of the most valuable collectible muscle cars. Only eleven were built, seven of which were sold domestically, and examples of these cars have sold for US$2 million.
In 1970 and 1971, the shaker hood and the Spicer-built Dana 60 rear axle were available. The shaker hood was available with 340, 383, 440 4-barrel and 440 6-barrel, and 426 Hemi engines. The heavy-duty (and heavy) Dana 60, with a 9.75 in (248 mm) ring gear, was standard equipment with manual transmissions and 440 6-barrel and 426 Hemi engines, and was optional on those with the automatic transmission.
With a new grille and single headlights (very simialr to the 1970 model) and four circular taillights for 1972, the Barracuda would remain basically unchanged through 1974, with new body side stripes, and minor changes to the bumpers to conform with federal impact standards being the only significant variations. Big Block engines (383, 440, & 426 Hemi) were no longer offered. Additionally; convenience/comfort items such as power windows, and interior upgrade (leather seats and plush carpeting) options were dropped, though a sun roof could still be ordered. For 1972 only, three engine choices were offered: a 225 six, the 318 (base engine for both 'Cuda and Barracuda) and 340. The 225 was dropped after 1972, with the 318 and 340 (replaced by the 360 for 1974) being the only engine choices. The only real performance options retained were the 4-speed manual tranmission (equipped with a Hurst shifter) mated to a performance ratio (3.55 to 1) rear axle for the 340 and 360 engine, giving the car a respectable (for the time) 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds.
As with other American vehicles of the time, there was a progressive decrease in the Barracuda's performance. To meet increasingly stringent safety and exhaust emission regulations, big-block engine options were discontinued. The remaining engines were detuned year by year to reduce exhaust emissions, which also reduced their power output. There was also an increase in weight as bumpers became larger, and starting in 1970, all E body doors were equipped with heavy steel side-impact protection beams. 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 while 1973 showed a sales uptick, Barracuda production ended 1 April 1974, 10 years to the day after it had begun.
Engine choices by Chrysler for the 1970-74 Barracuda included the following:
- C: 225 cu in (3.69 L) Slant 6 I6: 1970–71 145 bhp (108 kW) SAE gross, 1971-72 110 bhp (82 kW) SAE net
- G: 318 cu in (5.21 L) LA V8 (2-barrel carburetor, single exhaust): 1970-71 230 bhp (172 kW) SAE gross, 1971 155 bhp (116 kW) SAE net, 1972-74 150 bhp (112 kW) SAE net
- H: 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8 (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1970-71 275 bhp (205 kW) SAE gross, 1971 235 bhp (175 kW) SAE net, 1972-73 240 bhp (179 kW) SAE net
- J: 360 cu in (5.9 L) LA V8 (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1974 245 bhp (183 kW) SAE net
- J: 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8 (3 × 2-barrel carburetor): 1970 290 bhp (216 kW) SAE gross, used in T/A
- L: 383 cu in (6.28 L) B V8 (2-barrel carburetor, single exhaust): 1970 290 bhp (216 kW) SAE gross, 1971 275 bhp (205 kW) SAE gross, 1971 190 bhp (142 kW) SAE net
- L: 383 cu in (6.28 L) B V8 (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1970-71 330 bhp (246 kW) SAE gross, 1971 250 bhp (186 kW) SAE net
- N: 383 cu in (6.28 L) B V8 Magnum (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1970 335 bhp (250 kW) SAE gross.
- U: 440 cu in (7.2 L) RB V8 Magnum (4-barrel carbureted): 1970 375 bhp (280 kW) SAE gross, (1971 370 bhp (276 kW) SAE gross, 305 bhp (227 kW) SAE net only in Satellite GTX and Plymouth Sport Fury GT)
- V: 440 cu in (7.2 L) RB V8 Six-Pack (3 × 2-barrel carburetor): 1970 390 bhp (291 kW)/490 lbf·ft (660 N·m) SAE gross, 1971 385 bhp (287 kW) SAE gross, 1971 330 bhp (246 kW) SAE net
- R: 426 cu in (6.98 L) Hemi V8: 1970-71 425 bhp (317 kW)/490 lbf·ft (660 N·m) SAE gross, 1971 350 bhp (261 kW) SAE net. Costing an extra US$1,228 with very few sold.
SAE gross HP ratings were tested with no accessories, no air cleaner, or open dyno headers. In 1971, compression ratios were reduced in performance engines, except the 426ci and the high performance 440ci, to accommodate regular gasoline. The compression ratio would be reduced on the high performance 440ci starting in 1972. 1971 was the last year for the 426ci hemi.
Chrysler may have underrated their performance engines. There are current tests by Mopar Magazine and others, which built and dyno-tested the 426-8V, 440-6V, 440-4V, 340-6V, and 340-4V in 100% stock configuration (SAE net). Results have come within 1% of the above rated power SAE gross HP.
Publishing SAE net ratings became required by federal law starting with the 1972 model year. SAE net ratings were produced and published for many engines in 1971, but it was not a requirement. Therefore, SAE net ratings could be estimated from SAE gross ratings before 1971 based on want was published in 1971.
Chrysler Corp. had plans to continue the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A for 1971, even publishing advertisements for a 1971 Dodge Challenger T/A. However, no 1971 Dodge Challenger T/A was made. Similarly, no 1971 Plymouth AAR Cuda was made.
The 383 Magnum was the standard engine for the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee, 1970 Plymouth Cuda, and 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. It was not available in any other models. However, before 1972, American automobile manufacturers were allowing customers to special order nearly any engine they wanted. Thus, you could get a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury S/23 with the 383 Magnum, which likely had 270 bhp (201 kW) SAE net. This engine was very difficult to start in cold weather until the compression ration was reduced in 1971. It was introduced in 1968.
The 440-4V was only available in the 1971 Satellite GTX and 1971 Plymouth Sport Fury GT, where it was the standard engine for both models.
A 1975 Barracuda was planned before the end of the 1970-74 model cycle. Plymouth engineers sculpted two separate concepts out of clay, both featuring a Superbird-inspired aerodynamic body, and eventually reached a consensus upon which an operational concept car could be built. Due to a rapidly changing automotive market, the concepts were scrapped and the 1975 Barracuda was not put into production. The Barracuda was abandoned after 1974, a victim of the 1973 energy crisis.
In 2007, Motor Trend magazine reported a rumor that Chrysler was considering reviving the Barracuda in 2009. However, the Barracuda has not been reintroduced alongside the third generation Dodge Challenger.
The Barracuda is a collectable car today, particularly high-performance versions and convertibles. The small number of Barracudas is the result of low buyer interest when the vehicles were new; therefore, outstanding examples fetch high appraisal values today. Original Hemi super stock Barracudas (and similarly configured Dodge Darts) are now prized collector vehicles, with factory (unaltered) cars commanding high prices.