Rare Rides: Ooh Barracuda - the Fastback Plymouth From 1965
Today’s Rare Ride is a Plymouth Barracuda, but not the one which generally springs to mind whenever someone mentions the legendary nameplate. Rather, it’s the first of the line. Let’s check out this special fastback.
In the early 1960s, a race was on at the Big Three automakers. Ford caused a bit of a ruckus when it began developing a brand new compact with sporting pretensions, based on the existing Falcon model. Chevrolet already had such a car, in the form of the uniquely rear-engined Corvair Monza. Naturally, Chrysler wanted in on the game, but as usual, they were a bit short of funds over at the bank.
Budget in mind, Chrysler turned to designer Irv Ritchie, telling him to see what he could do with the existing Valiant chassis. Mr. Ritchie drafted up a fastback Valiant. The top brass at Plymouth liked the new design, and planned to use the very aggressive name Panda for their new car. Designers frowned at this, and the Barracuda name was selected instead.
The new Barracuda coupe was ready in 1964, debuting on April Fool’s Day. Most of the front panels were shared with the Valiant, but a new trunk and rear glass area was required to pull off the Barracuda’s unique greenhouse. The fabrication of the rear glass was one of the most costly parts of the Barracuda’s development, as the window measured 14.4 square feet. Chrysler worked with PPG to develop the window, which at the time was the largest window ever installed in a production car. The Barracuda went on sale two weeks before Ford’s Mustang.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Barracuda’s power matched that of the Valiant. Two different inline-six engines were available, in either 2.8- or 3.7-liters of displacement, with 101 or 145 horsepower, respectively. The upmarket engine offering was the 180 horsepower 4.5-liter Commando V8, a new engine for that year. Transmission options included a four-speed manual or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.
Chrysler added more performance and sporting elements in the two years following the Barracuda’s introduction as Ford and General Motors dove deeper into the intensifying pony car market. After the 1965 model year, the Valiant badge disappeared from the Barracuda entirely. At the same time, the V on the rear (which previously stood for Valiant) became a Barracuda fish logo.
The original fastback version of the Barracuda bowed out after 1966, replaced by a second-generation model that further differentiated itself from its Valiant stablemate. The stage was set for Barracuda to become a separate model in its own right.
Today’s V8-powered Rare Ride comes to us from east of Los Angeles, which is in California. It asks $12,000, has 61,000 miles on the odometer, and pairs white paint with a gold interior.
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