1964 Plymouth Barracuda
The Plymouth Barracuda was a cousin to the classic Pontiac GTO and Ford Mustang and it came to being about the same time, in April of 1964. Just as the GTO evolved from the Tempest and the Mustang evolved from the Falcon, the Barracuda started life as a Plymouth Valiant with a large glass rear window. All three vehicles had similar leaf spring rear suspensions but the Barracuda featured torsion bars rather than coil springs in the front which proved to give it a better ride.
The early Barracudas came with a 273 cubic inch V-8 that only developed 180 horsepower and a two-speed push-button Torqueflite automatic transmission. When compared to the GTO and Mustang its initial appeal to young drivers was lackluster and while the fastback design would be copied by both Chevrolet and Ford over the years the 2,000 square inches of rear glass looked a bit awkward at the time. The interior was "sportified" with bucket seats but the dashboard was unexciting and the rear seats were uncomfortable. However one appealing feature was that the back seat folded down to extend cargo space into the trunk.
1965 Plymouth Barracuda
However, just like the early GTO's and Mustang's, the Barracuda quickly evolved into a true muscle car with the addition of a performance package that included a "Commando 273" cubic inch engine that came with a four-barrel carburetor and a modified cam shaft, pistons and heads capable of producing 230 horsepower. The suspension was also beefed up with bigger springs and torsion bars and an anti-roll bar. The overall package took the car from zero to sixty in eight seconds.
1967 Plymouth Barracuda
When the Plymouth Barracuda redesigned in 1967 at the hands of John Herlitz and John Samsen its long nose and shot rear deck qualified it for the nick name "Pony Car" and assured it of "classic car" status. A convertible and hardtop known as the "Knotchback" were added to the line and the slope of the fastback was softened a bit. Most importantly, it received new performance options that included a 340 cubic inch engine that put out 275 horsepower and a 383 cubic inch big-block "Super Commando" engine that produce 300 horsepower the following year. And then in 1968 the Chrysler 426 Hemi was offered as an option for the racing circuit.
1970 Plymouth Barracuda
The next significant remake came in 1970 when Plymouth broke completely away from Valiant components and dropped the fastback design. Once again John Herlitz was put in charge and the result was a shorter car known by insiders as the "E-body", which was also used by the Dodge Challenger. The new car was called the "Cuda" and it came standard with a 383 cubic inch engine that produced 335 horsepower. They also offered a 440 cubic inch Commando engine with three two-barrel carburetors and the enlarged engine compartment easily held Chrysler's 426 Hemi, now available to the public.
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During the first two years of sales Plymouth sold about 88,000 Barracudas compared to 100,000 GTOs and 680,000 Mustangs and as with all muscle cars, sales dropped significantly in the early 1970s when pollution control regulations limited engine horsepower. Production of the classic Plymouth Barracuda was stopped in April of 1974, exactly ten years after it began, and the Plymouth line of cars was dropped in 2001.