The Truth About Cars » barracuda The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 19 Jul 2014 05:27:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » barracuda How Hemi Magic Made It To The iPhone (And Its Competitors) Wed, 18 Apr 2012 15:06:41 +0000

The chances are good that, as a TTAC reader, you use a smartphone. Among the literate, educated people who make up our reader base, ownership of a touch-screen phone with more computing power than a stack of DEC PDP-11s is the rule, not the exception. Google claims that over 250 million devices are running Android. Apple sold as many as 44 million iPhones in the past quarter. To some degree, the entire globe runs on these devices. Most of us couldn’t do our jobs or manage our lives without them.

The chances are not good that, as a TTAC reader, you own one of the two hundred and two 426 Hemi Super Stock “A990″ Dodge Corornets and Plymouth Belvederes built. 93 TorqueFlite Dodges, 8 four-speed stick Dodges, 85 TorqueFlite Belvederes, 16 four-speeds. They were up to five hundred pounds lighter than their non-A990 brethren and were known to turn quarter-mile times in the high ten-second range with trap speeds between one-twenty-five and one-thirty. Modern supercars like the GT-R and Ferrari 458 can’t hang with a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere. Think about that.

Now think about the fact that, without those ’65 Mopars, your smartphone wouldn’t work quite the same way it does today.

As produced, the so-called “A990″ Coronets and Belvederes were actually too light for the NHRA; they had to have a hundred-pound “off-road skidplate” added back to them in order to compete. Chrysler pulled out all the stops for their 1965 factory drag racer. They also pulled out everything from the rear seats (of course) to the passenger windshield wiper. That’s wasn’t enough. The NHRA wouldn’t permit the widespread use of aluminum body parts in a “stock” car, so Chrysler tried another tack at saving panel weight. A special run of body parts was stamped, using lightweight steel. As everybody who has ever tried to race a showroom-stock car around a road course or down the strip knows, however, the glass in a factory vehicle is murderously heavy.

Enter “Chemcor”, a special project from the Corning Glass company. According to Wikipedia, Chemcor is made as follows:

The glass is toughened by ion exchange. It is placed in a hot bath of molten potassium salt at a temperature of approximately 400 °C (~750 °F). Smaller sodium ions leave the glass, and larger potassium ions from the salt bath replace them. These larger ions take up more room and are pressed together when the glass cools, producing a layer of compressive stress on the surface of the glass… creating high compressive stress deep into the glass. This layer of compression creates a surface that is more resistant to damage from everyday use.

The A990 cars received Chemcor glass panes all the way ’round. The additional surface toughness allowed it to be much thinner while meeting the same impact requirements, although were Chrysler to pull the same trick in a Dart R/T today the NHTSA might have something to say about it. Come to think of it, the NHTSA might have had something to say about it back then, perhaps at lunch in the London Chop House or wherever such things were privately done, and as a result no Mopar, and no car, ever used Chemcor again. Corning put the process, and the results, away in its vault, and did not develop or sell any more products with Chemcor glass…

…until the day Steve Jobs came to visit. I will let Walter Issacson, Jobs’ biographer, take it from here, quoting a speech he gave after Jobs’ death:

Steve Jobs when he does the iPhone decides he doesn’t want plastic, he wants really tough glass on it, and they don’t make a glass that can be tough like they want. And finally somebody says to him, because they were making all of the glass in China for the fronts of the stores, says, “You ought to check with the people at Corning. They’re kind of smart there.” So, he flies to Corning, New York, sits there in front of the CEO, Wendell Weeks, and says, “This is what I want, a glass that can do this.” So, Wendell Weeks says, “We once created a type of process that created something called Gorilla Glass.” And Steve said, “No, no, no. Here’s how you make really strong glass.” And Wendell says, “Wait a minute, I know how to make glass. Shut up and listen to me.” And Steve, to his credit, shuts up and listens, and Wendell Weeks describes a process that makes Gorilla Glass. And Steve then says, “Fine. In six months I want enough of it to make–whatever it is–a million iPhones.” And Wendell says, “I’m sorry, we’ve actually never made it. We don’t have a factory to make it. This was a process we developed, but we never had a manufacturing plant to do it.” And Steve looks at him and says what he said to Woz, 20, 30 years earlier: “Don’t be afraid, you can do it.” … Wendell Weeks said he called his plant in Kentucky that was making glass for LCD screens, and said, “Start the process now, and make Gorilla Glass.” That’s why every iPhone in your pocket and iPad has Gorilla Glass made by Corning.

“Gorilla Glass” was a marketing gloss on “Chemcor”. In a way, the two names perfectly symbolize what’s changed in America since 1965. “Chemcor” just sounds all space-agey and forward-thinking, the sort of optimism that Donald Fagen sprinkles all the way through his “The Nightfly” solo record. “Gorilla Glass”, by contrast, has the sheen of explain-it-to-the-dumb-proles to it, a ridiculous exaggeration based on the idea that, while people might be frightened by chemicals, they have no problem feeling good about gorillas.

“Gorilla Glass” it is, and its use has expanded to dozens of other smartphones and small devices. I’ve personally spiderwebbed two Gorilla Glass phones, but check this: when I went to Palm Beach late last year, I accidentally (meaning drunkenly) walked into the ocean with a spiderwebbed Droid3 in my pocket, and the display didn’t short out. Good stuff, even if it can’t quite stand up to gorillas in smartphone-friendly thicknesses.

Best of all, although future Gorilla Glass production is likely to come from China, for the time being a lot of is it made right where it was invented: in the United States. American ingenuity, American production. Makes you feel good. Here’s another American idea: let’s go ahead and try it again, in a 350-horsepower, maxed-out, 2.4-turbo Dart. Call it the Super Stock. Light Chemcor glass, Quaife diff, no-fluff, quarter-mile-oriented. After all, there are still some of us who rank a kick-ass Mopar way above a not-so-simple smartphone.

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Down On The Alameda Street: 1967 Plymouth Barracuda Convertible Tue, 20 Sep 2011 13:00:32 +0000 Back when I lived in Alameda, California (also known as “The Island That Rust Forgot”), I photographed and posted nearly 600 interesting street-parked cars and trucks on Jalopnik. The first one was this Cadillac Cimarron d’Oro, back in May of ’07; the next 499 may be found here. I moved to Denver last year… which means the ITRF has had ample time to add many new DOTS candidates. I was on the island for a very brief time over the weekend and managed to shoot a couple of them.
This specimen wasn’t actually parked on the street, though it was in a blue-zone spot in a public parking lot downtown. I’ll make an exception to the “must be parked on the street” rule for a handicapped-placard-equipped Datsun 411.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the forgotten ’67-69 Barracudas, which ended up hidden in the shadows cast by the goofy Valiant-with-vast-fastback-glass versions that came before and the Baby-Boomer-nostalgia-inducing E-body versions that came after. I had a couple of friends at Alameda High with ’67 Barracuda fastbacks, which they were able to buy cheaply because— even in the early 1980s— nobody wanted them. This car is still an A Body, like the Dart/Valiant, but the sheet metal no longer looks quite so Valiant-ish.
Apologies for the crappy phone-camera photos here; one uses the camera on hand when a car like this appears. This extremely rare convertible looks a little rough, but I didn’t see any rust and it appears to be on the road to restoration.
The important thing is that it’s a classic Detroit pony car convertible that still sees the street as its native habitat. Perhaps it will be worth too much for street use in a few years, but for now it’s still out there.

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Curbside Classic: 1966 Plymouth Barracuda Thu, 13 May 2010 14:56:28 +0000

Pity the poor Barracuda. It beat the Mustang to market in 1964 by 16 days, but was utterly trounced by that seminal (and genre name-giving) pony car. In their first full year (1965), the Mustang outsold the ‘Cuda by 9 to 1. Well, despite that huge glassy fastback, it was hard to fool anyone that the Barracuda was anything other than a Valiant Signet with a fishbowl grafted on. That hardly made it an inferior car per se, and the fold down rear seat and resulting flat floor made it highly practical for certain uses. But the distinctive long-hood short-deck proportions of the Mustang instantly became iconic and a must-have; a glass-back Valiant just wasn’t going to do the trick, unless of course you found yourself in the right position to fully appreciate the Barracuda’s unique qualities.

The idea for what became the Barracuda had been tossed around in various forms at Chrysler for years (didn’t all of them?) But when word of the Mustang’s development was out, a project to compete was put into overdrive. And contrary to what might be assumed, the rear glass idea didn’t originate with the 1963 Corvette, but with some styling concepts for a proposed Super Sports Fury Coupe for the still-born 1962 models, that were never built due to the disastrous last-minute downsizing. I can’t find a picture of the fastback clays, but one can see a hint of the the direction even in the production 1960 Valiant rear window.

The Barracuda’s rear window was the biggest piece of automotive glass  (14.4 sq.ft.) produced to date. Combined with the fold down seat and the opening hatch into the “trunk”, a seven foot long cargo area was available. And since the Barracuda had the same upright seating dimensions as the Valiant, it was a (semi) legitimate five seater; certainly much more so than the Mustang.That led to the Barracuda being marketed as much for its practical purposes as its sporty pretensions.

To start with, its sporty aspirations were fairly modest: a choice of slant sixes or the new 273 cubic inch LA V8 that put out 180 hp. That already was less than the Mustang’s 200 hp 289 base V8, never mind the 225 and 271 hp versions.  For 1965, that was partly rectified with the Formula S package that included a 235 hp four-barrel version of the 273, along with suspension and steering ratio upgrades. A substantial improvement, and the ultimate A body setup for that generation, but still not exactly what it would take to get someone’s eyes off a Mustang GT.

The 1966 Barracuda had a new squared-off front end, which was mostly shared with the Valiant again. Other than that, there wasn’t too much new, except that sales slumped even further: now the ‘Stang outsold the ‘Cuda 16 to 1! A new Barracuda arrived in 1967, still sharing the new-for ’67 Valiant architecture and high cowl, but with at least its own unique sheet metal. It also came in two distinct hardtop styles, a (less glassy) but handsome fastback, and a rather unusual coupe with a roof line that evoked more than a bit of a gen1 Corvair coupe.

The ’67 Barracuda, in Formula S form, finally came into its own as a renowned performance machine thanks to its handling, now considered the best of the pony cars. That is, if one could put up with the little 273, and resist the optional and heavy 383 that was being shoehorned in as an option. The fit was so tight, power steering wasn’t even available. Big blocks in pony cars were great for the strip, but the heavy metal on their compact front ends created inevitable results in handling.

In 1968, that was resolved in a most satisfactory manner: the superb new 340 LA V8, which was no heavier than the 273. With its excellent breathing, it was underrated at an insurance -friendly 275 hp. The 1968 -1969 340 Barracuda S was the most balanced all-round  performing car in its class. Of course, a cheaper Dart Swinger 340 was essentially the same thing.

The spacious rear compartment made for lots of creative possibilities. One of them was to put a blown hemi under it, creating one of the seminal wheelie-mobiles, the aptly named Hemi Under Glass (“A Rolling Research Laboratory”).  Well, I never got to experience that stand-up creation, but I do have a very vivid and sweet Barracuda memory. And it has nothing to do with its handling or performance prowess. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have ever happened in a Mustang or Camaro, thanks to the Barracuda’s rugged and practical Valiant origins and that seven foot cargo area.

Feel free to jump a couple of paragraphs ahead ahead if you’re sick of my hitch-hiking stories. It was 1972, I was nineteen, and returning to Iowa after a several months-long thumbing trip up the West Coast. I got picked up in Cheyenne by three college kids in a ’65 Barracuda, late in the day, and they offered to put me up. I hit it off with the sweet young driver of the plain hand-me-down slant six automatic ‘Cuda, anything but a sporty car, and spent a few days with them. She suggested a camping trip (for the two of us) into the rugged high country to some geographic feature, which I only vaguely remember.

She had a dog, a brown medium sized mutt of particularly calm demeanor. I soon found out why: it demanded to be “run” for miles on end, following the Barracuda down the rugged gravel and dirt roads. I vividly remember looking back through that window, seeing it running along behind for miles on end, while we bounced along the rocky rough roads. The purring slant six instilled the highest degree of confidence as we headed up into the rugged hills. And the tough suspension was up to anything Wyoming could dish out, even way back in Marlboro Country.

It was already well into May, but the weather was getting colder and cloudier by the mile. We didn’t see another car all day. By by the time we got to our destination, it was drizzling and close to freezing. I have  a vague memory of heating something in a can over a fire (Chef Boyardee, most likely). We quickly cleared out that seven foot long cargo area and kept each other warm back there, as well as watching the rain turn into snow as the flakes swirled down and collected on that big glass pane. And by the next morning, that window was solid white, under a couple of inches of fresh snowfall. Love under glass beats hemi under glass any day in my book, especially in that setting.

Back to the present: this ’66 Barracuda has obviously been well attended to, and probably isn’t used as an impromptu camper in the Cascades. Its also not exactly typical CC fare. But I missed out on shooting a raggedy ’65 that a tenant had sitting in her driveway; it went away just before I started hunting old cars. So this nicely restored one will have to do, as old Barracudas aren’t exactly so common anymore on streets, even in that time-warp of Eugene.

It has the original 180 hp two-barrel 273, automatic, and no power steering; an interesting combination. It seems to me that that slush boxes usually tended to come with slush steering, and sticks more likely had manual steering. Someone probably ordered it this way, maybe a former thrifty Valiant driver looking more for a practical rear “cargo area” than a cramped Mustang. The Barracuda may not have been a sales success, but I’m glad Chrysler decided to make it nevertheless. The back seat of a Mustang would have been a bitch on that long, cold night in the mountains of Wyoming.

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