History of the Barracuda!
The Plymouth Barracuda was introduced to the world on April 1, 1964. As Chrysler stated it: "A new
kind of Plymouth has been introduced - the Barracuda whose fast-back rear window is one of the largest
ever used in a production automobile... 14.4 sq ft of tinted glass." Beneath that massive glass area, the
Barracuda featured a unique rear utility compartment with a rear seat whose back folded forward like the
kind used in the rear of station wagons. An advertising saying of the time said it made "sport of utility."
Henceforth I'd like to say the Barracuda is the world's first Sport Utility Vehicle!! Sure it doesn't have four
wheel drive but neither do most of them today! Two weeks away (April 15, 1964) lay the introduction of its
soon to be arch nemesis, the Ford Mustang. However, the Barracuda wasn't scheduled for production on
the assembly line until May. Thus, although the Barracuda was introduced first, the Mustang beat the
'cuda onto the roads. Some people assume that either car was a response to the other. If anything was
Chrysler responding to Ford. But, it is highly unlikely that either project saw the other. In other words, no
competition was planned. The Barracuda was released on the popular Valiant line as a compact
"muscle" car. Chrysler cut the roof and rear trunk area off and added the convex tinted glass and a
stubby trunk. It was a package option on Valiants, specifically on the Valiant Signet 200. Also unique to
the 1964 model year was the dashboard, which featured rotary and push-pull controls for the heater/fresh
air system. The fish emblem is not to be seen on this year as the emblem did not debut until 1966,
instead the Valiant V is present on the steering wheel, the parking lights covers, and at the base of the
rear window. Also there is Valiant script under the rear trunklid. Except this is only original on the first
800 Barracudas made. I am not sure what the case may be at other plants, but I know my Hamtramck
made car does not have this. They made 23,433 shiny new 1964 1/2 Barracudas. The advertised
delivered price was $2,365. Power Steering added $82, the 273 cu. in. V-8 engine another $131 and air
conditioning was available at $364.
In Canada, Windsor built their Barracuda's and maintained the same delivery schedule as did Detroit,
but did not follow the same conventions for model numbers, Vins, or codes. These vehicles are
exceedingly difficult to decifer as information becomes increasingly hard to locate. All Canadian built
1964 1/2 Barracuda's begin with the same prefix codes as a Detroit built Lancer 6 cyl!
The car came standard with a the 225 slant six but you could option for the 273 V8. It seems that
early on, the 170 slant six was designated as the "base engine" in some Barracuda advertisements.
However, soon to follow sales brochures advertised the 225ci as the "base Engine" with no mention of
the smaller 170ci. But it does seem that Chrysler delivered cars with the 170ci when ordered that way.
Also to go with the new car was a brand new engine. Before 1964, a V8 was never offered in an A-body.
With the intro of the Barracuda and the Dart becoming an A-body, the LA small block family was started.
Somewhat based on the old polyspherical A-318, debuted the LA-273ci V-8 engine. Designed with the
Valiant platform in mind, the 273 produced 180 horse power, had mechanical lifters, 8.5 to Compression
Ratio, and a two barrel carburetor. The 273 was engineered to fit within the narrow engine bay of the
Valiant. In fact, if one was to do an engine swap in an early A-body, the k-members are the same! The
k-member is the same one that was used for the slant sixes, however Chrysler made special motor
mounts and headers so the engine could clear the steering shaft.
The transmissions are simple. Standard was a three speed, non-synchro gearbox, shifted on the
column. The optional four speed is the now legendary "Hemi" A-833 (this was the only year that it was
available for the slant-six). The optional automatics are the A-904-G backing the six and the A-904-LA
behind the V8. This was also the debut for the small block 904. All automatic 1964 1/2 Barracudas were
shifted via pushbutton controls on the dashboard.
This is also the same year as the debut of the Hemi (even though as a limited, race-only engine). Is
this another coincedence? Were the two destined for each other? Star crossed lovers? Only the Mopar
gods know for certain.
The 1965 model year closely followed the 1964 1/2 year. The Barracuda was introduced in April, so
when the 1965 model year started up approximately 7 months later, there was very little outward change
of the Barracuda. In fact, it is almost impossible to tell them apart from afar. There are few differences in
this year. The Valiant script under the trunklid never existed, the heater/vent controls became left-right
sliding units, and the automatics had either column or floor shift, even though they used the same
"pushbuton" cable A-904 transmission. All floor shift automatics utilized a small console. At night you
can see an American car first. The Barracuda became the first American car to have the parking lights
stay on as you turned on the headlights.
Two great things were introduced in the 1965 model year. First up is the Commando 273 V-8. It
sports 235 horsepower, 55 more than the low performance 273. It features a four-barrel carburetor, dual
breaker points, non-silenced air cleaner, high-performance camshaft, high compression ratio of 10.5 to 1,
low back pressure exhaust and crinkle finish valve covers. To go along with the new performance engine,
was a performance package, the Formula S. The Formula S featured a tachometer, 14-inch wheels,
heavy duty suspension, and the Commando engine. Often thought to be part of the package, the stripes
are actually an option. You could get them whether you had an S or not.
Because of a dispute with NASCAR over the use of the Hemi engine, Richard Petty did not compete
in that class of racing during 1965. Petty built a Hemi-powered Barracuda and tried straight-line racing.
The car was stripped down to almost a bare shell, and even with substantial structural reinforcements,
Petty described the car as quite flexible.
For 1966 minor changes were made for the final year of the 1st generation Barracuda. On the exterior, the
front and rear of the car was redesigned, to have more solid edges. The grill is slanted top forward, with a
similiar 2 piece grill, but now of an "egg-crate" design. The tailights are boxier and split by the rectangular back
up lights. The interior closely mimics that of the 1965 model year. Also new for the 1966 model year was the
brand new Torqueflight A-904 transmission. Now the transmission was no longer cable shifted. Now it had a
solid linkage on the transmission and park was no longer a separate function. The last big new thing for this
year is the debut of the fish emblem. However, there is a catch with the new symbol and the 1966 Barracudas.
Early production Barracudas do not have the fish symbol, but rather the regular Valiant "V". A large percentage
of 1966 Barracudas came with the fish, making the "V" versions rather rare. A quick way to check if your car
came with the V is to check the build date (see if its early) and if your back windshield has the V. A true "V"
car should have it in both the front and back.
There are very few differences option wise between 64 and 65. those differences can be found on the Dealer
Brochure's and Option Number Pages.
Supposedly there is something that made the 66s a little more special. I have heard that the D/Stock
version of the Commando 273 was available in Barracudas in 1966 rated at 275 horsepower. It was available as
both a limited production factory option, and an over-the-counter dealer option in '66. The option was intended
to help the A-body Mopars to compete in the D/Stock class with an advertised LBS/HP ratio range of 10.6 to
11.29. The option, which was offered from the factory without warrantee, included a Holley 4160 carb, adapter
plate, a 284 degree .495" Intake & .505" Exhaust lift camshaft, spring set, tuned headers dumping into the
stock exhaust, and, in the D/Dart tested by Car Craft in August of '66, a 4.86:1 8-3/4" sure grip 3rd member.
1966 was the inaugural season for Trans-Am Racing. Chrysler sponsered teams this year, sporting Dodge
Darts and Plymouth Barracudas. This is one of only 2 years that Chrysler would sponser the teams for the
series, the other being 1970. 1966 was a good year as Chrysler placed 5 cars in the top 7. It is said the reason
Chrysler backed out of the fledgling Trans-Am series is because that Nascar and drag racing brought more
crowds which equaled more sales. However, in 1967 there was a privateer in a 66 Barracuda that took the
checkered flag, and finished tenth overall that year.
Bob Riggle uses a 1966 Barracuda for his Hemi Under Glass. His original was a 1965, but something
happened to it, so he built a sequal to it out of a 1966. The hemi is placed right in front of the rear tires and the
entire engine, including blower, is in full view from the rear glass. Because this car is a purpose-built wheel
stander, he cut a hole in the floor where the transmission tunnel would be, to put a window so he can see the
ground even as the car gets air.
1967 brought about the
second generation of the
Barracuda. This new
generation shared hardly
anything with its Valiant and
other A-body siblings
(especially the fastback). This
radical alteration is largely
accepted as a response to the
Ford Mustang and its sales in
its first three years as
compared to the Barracuda's. Also, to compare with the Mustang, it got a notchback and convertable
model as well (the Mustang had to catch up in the fastback department). The notchback and convertible
shared more with the Valiant as compared to the fastback.
Another area in dire need of a redesign was the engine compartment. Instead of stuffing a V8 where a
slant six was designed, the engine bay was large enough to fit in a large block, specifically, the 383.
The barracuda came with almost every engine option this year. You could get everything from the
sveldt slant-six to the burly 383. For automatics, the 727 backed the 383 while the 904 was behind the
273s and slant six. For sticks, the four-speed 833 backed all the V8's while a three speed non-synchro
backed the six.
We all know that the big news in 1968 was the HEMI put in a stripped
down Barracuda. This was a drag race only package, it didn't even
come with a warranty! It featured a race-tuned Hemi (slightly higher
comprssion and Holley carbs instead of Carters)and a seriously
lightened body. Acid-dipped doors, lexan in place of glass, factory
delete of anything not essential (e.g. back seat, sound deadener,
window cranks). Lightweight van seats on aluminum brackets were
used in place of the factory bench. It ran the quarter in the mid 10's in
'68. Today, these cars have broken into the eights!
In other news the Barracuda hadn't changed much. Other than the
HEMI powerplant option there really was not much new in the '68 that
wasn't already in the '67 besides a different grill.
1969 Production Totals
8 cylinder hardtop
8 cylinder fastback
8 cylinder convertible
Formula S 340 4bbl
Formula S 383 4bbl
1969 is the last year of the A-Body Barracudas. The next year they would help form the ill-fated E-Body
line that was heavier but sleeker. The 69s are visually very similar to their 67 and 68 predecessors. There
were minor changes in the grill and other areas of cosmetics.