By on January 24, 2019

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.

[Images: seller]

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35 Comments on “Rare Rides: Ooh Barracuda – the Fastback Plymouth From 1965...”

  • avatar

    Lord how I love these cars ~ _far_ better than GM & FoMoCo’s offerings in 1965 .


    • 0 avatar

      The verdict is back on popular acceptance of the styling of the Mustang over the Barracuda, but it seems to me that every single mechanical component of the Barracuda was far superior to its Falcon-sourced equivalent used in the Mustang.

    • 0 avatar

      > _far_ better than GM & FoMoCo’s offerings in 1965

      I don’t know, a ’65 Mustang GT fastback with a 4 speed and even just an A-code seems so much better now, and probably even back then.

      • 0 avatar

        Well ;

        It depends on some details but out of the door when new, these were far better drivers than GM or Ford’s light compacts, the suspension and brakes alone (drums remember) were light years better and easier to peak and tweak .

        Remember : I’m a die hard GM (Chevy) Fanboi so I have bias towards Chevy II’s having owned quite a few over the decades .

        I understand the styling of both the Mustang and Chevy II were far more popular when new but if you’ve ever driven and worked on all three, you’d understand .

        I can’t see $12K (!) for this nice little Pony Car, if ever I were rich or got caught up on all my projects I’d grab one of these early ones and set it up using mostly stock MoPar parts from other Mopars….

        This would make a seriously good canyon carving cross country car, not so much the jacked up rear end tire shredding things most Americans want their Hot Rods to be .

        I like to drive, long distances, quickly if not fast and comfortably .

        This funny looking car checks all the boxes for me, I suppose it’s one of those ‘Old Man’ things as I remember mostly older folks buying MoPars back in the day .

        There are two old beat up but not dead Yukon Yellow ones in Torrance, I’d take either one dents and all and have a whale of a good time with it both up fixing and then tearing up the Mulholland Highway and Angeles Crest in it .


  • avatar

    OMG, this was my dream car as a little kid. In the first grade we had a gym teacher who had one. I thought he and the Barracuda were the coolest things on earth :)

  • avatar

    This model’s styling is an acquired taste, but the second generation was a genuine looker, particularly with the fastback.

  • avatar

    One small gripe. No one knows these engines by their displacement in liters. The V8 is the 273 which, interestingly, had solid lifters. The two sixes were versions of the legendary Slant-Six, known for the fact that it was rotated 30 degrees about its axis to accommodate lower hood lines. Displacements for the slant six were 170CI and 225CI. The Slant Six was about as bulletproof as an engine could be. Versions of it served for decades, last being available in the Dodge Tradesman van (if memory serves).

    A ’65 Valiant 200 wagon was out family car for five years. This Barracuda brings back a lot of visceral memories.

    One cool thing about the Valiant and this Barracuda: Cabin ventilation was in the form of a black box in the footwell with a door on it that had a formed sheetmetal handle that you turned 90 degrees, not unlike a barn door latch. No other car I’ve ever seen had anything like it.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the cid. Had a friend that had a 65 (maybe 66??) in blue. One thing I notice immediately on this one is the absence of a dash mounted vacuum gauge which my friend had on his. From the windshield back I really liked these. Always thought the front needed something more aerodynamic looking design wise. Big fan of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass funny car too!

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, yes, the Hemi Under Glass. It was great being a kid in the mid ’60s, there was a real spirit of craziness (Can-Am racing, goofy drag cars like “Color Me Gone” and the Hemi Under Glass, serious drag cars like the Swamp Rat, Art Arfons J-79 powered Green Monster land speed car, Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, the list goes on and on) and kid fantasies could be indulged by buying the AMT model kits for all of them or by going slot racing.

    • 0 avatar

      The crotch cooler was the next best thing to air conditioning.

      I had a 225 Valiant and couldn’t kill it. Slower than molasses though.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      1965-66 Mustangs had the same arrangement on the heater box, plus a big vent under the dash on the driver’s side. That vent was actuated by a pull knob mounted under the dash.

  • avatar

    Seem like a very good deal to me. My buddy had one with the 273 two barrel carb and the push button auto.

  • avatar

    The original fastback Barracudas (I had no idea there were two generations before the ‘Cuda) rank right up there as some of the greatest American car designs of all time. One of the few cars from this era I actually dream of owning.

  • avatar

    Above, this article does not mention one important detail: the Order Code of the car.

    I had a ’65, mine was Order Code H. That got you the big Stromberg 2BBL, the 4-speed with Hurst shifter, and -most importantly- 4:11 rear axle gears with a Track-Lock rear diffy. If you stayed with the stock 13-inch tires, the car was lightning-quick. You couldn’t get your foot to the floor in First without having to lift and shift to Second. Consequently, I’d start in Second and beat a lot of guys because they were busy rowing the shifter while I had one less shift to make. The only drawback is that the car would run out of breath at about 90. Consequently you could blow away a lot of cars from stoplight to stoplight, but in the quarter they’d pass you.

    I had a guy with the Commando motor and 14-inch rubber challenge me. It was no contest at all, because he did not have the torque to get his car going. He gave it all up in the bigger tires.

    Wish I’d kept the car, it was a lot of fun. You could slide the car anywhere you wanted to put it; the Track-Lock would let you do all kinds of wild stuff. It also saved my bacon late one night when I made a fast turn onto a narrow street covered with wet leaves and cars parked on both sides…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m in love with every Barracuda from every era.

    I’m not familiar with the feature/price/generation nuances of these cars, but $12k for a clean ’65 seems reasonable.

  • avatar

    As college students at the time, my pals and I found this first Barracuda a bit awkward looking. The 273 was just OK. The car itself was about three times as tough as any Falcon tin box or derivative, though.

    When the next gen happened then you had a great car. One of those pals with a rich Mom got a 340 Formula S for graduation. Now THAT thing would boogie! No tire-shredding uselessness, the thing flat out got up and went. Wouldn’t mind one today myself.

  • avatar

    Rear glass replacement lying low in the weeds
    Bet your pricing gonna ambush me
    You’d have me down, down, down to my knees
    Wouldn’t you, Barracuda?

  • avatar

    I had a ’65 Barracuda. It was given to me by a family friend and, considering the condition of the car the price of zero dollars was appropriate. It had the 225 slant six with the A904 Torqueflite. Not fast or quick by any means but it was cheap transportation for a kid without money and he was grateful to have it. No 19 speaker 8000 watt sound system, just an AM radio with one lonely speaker but that’s all anyone in my social circle had and it did the job. Handling was….turn the wheel left and you went left, right and it went there too. The Valiant underpinnings were evident.

    I could cruise with a buddy and toss the empties into the cavernous space in the back or park with the girlfriend and, well, enjoy the cavernous space in the back. A few gallons of gas (at 29 cents per gal) and respectable fuel economy for the day meant the good times didn’t end early. If memory serves I got $25 for it when it was truly used up; the guy buying it wanted it for the rear glass which was rare and pricey if you needed a replacement.

    Good memories…..

  • avatar

    Lordy, lordy… this made me image search for the R&T cover, “Era of the Fastbacks”.


    Now I’m completely down that rabbit hole.

  • avatar

    My Mom’s first car—bought new out of college. A cop pulled her over something and asked her why she didn’t by a Mustang.
    “Will my answer have anything to with me getting a ticket”
    “Then just write me a ticket”
    (Her family did not buy Fords because of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic views—views completely rejected by his descendants.)

  • avatar

    Lovely car, but I can’t help but think you’d be toast in an accident if you had one. No seat belts, no airbag, largely metal dash. We’ve come a long way since 1965 in terms of safety. Not so much in terms of styling.

    • 0 avatar

      Add to that a steering column that’d come back atcha if the front of the car was pushed back. And an engine that would intrude into the cab. Belts must have been at least an option as my ’65 had lap belts (my hand-me-down ’63 Fury had them too and they came with the car). Really doesn’t matter though if the closing velocity is much more than a fast walk; the structure had essentially no crashworthiness if judged in todays terms.

    • 0 avatar

      ’65 Valiants and Barracudas had standard lap belts as did all cars sold in the US that year. You are, however, right on the other points.

      Before getting the ’65 Valiant wagon, my dad had the use of a company car, a ’64 Volvo Amazon wagon. Coming home from a company dinner in 1964 at the World’s Fair one night (and with a couple Swedish execs in the back seat and my mom in the front), the champagne he (and the others) had been drinking got to be a bit too much and he hit an obstacle on Queens Boulevard that caused the car to roll three times before coming to a rest. The Volvo was totaled. Everyone walked away with, at worst, bruises and mild cases of whiplash. In a move I will never understand, we got the Valiant the following year. I spent a lot of time riding in the cargo area of the Valiant. It’s a wonder any of my generation survived.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        If memory serves, those Volvos had lap and shoulder belt combinations essentially like what is sold today. My Dad had a 69 or 70 144S sedan, which had those belts. And one of my college room mates had a ’66 (i believe) P1800 that was similarly equipped.

        Those belts probably had a lot to do with the fact tbat your Dad and his buddies walked away from the crash. At least they all (apparently) used them, which certainly wasn’t the rule back in the day.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      All cars had to have front seat belts by January 1, 1968. Some states required them before then.

    • 0 avatar

      OMG. Stop with the concern trolling.

      Millions drove cars just like this for millions of miles with no incident. Most rusted, failed mechanically and simply worn out.

      Are you as concerned about people on bicycles, skate boards, ATVs, motorcycles, mopeds, people falling and slipping in the shower?

      This car has gone 54 years without encountering a fatal accident. The chances of it ever being in one are miniscule. Same as that 59 Chevrolet used in the carnival stunt IIHS produced.

      I’ve been driving a 63 Valiant Signet for 38 years [with seat belts, in LA, as a daily driver for the first 14 years]. Should I now set my hair on fire and clutch my pearls because an internet poster is worried about “what if” ?

      Let’s see: not drinking and driving, not texting, wearing a seat belt and using signals, mirrors and maintaining tires, brakes and suspension, driving instead of concentrating on everything else but….

      And still, even today, 50% of fatalities come from people too stupid to wear the belts provided.

      Be more concerned with that than someone taking an old car out for an occasional Sunday drive.

  • avatar

    Huge grain of salt as I’ve only ever seen these in photos, but I really like this interior. Fastback rather than a hatch, but I believe the rear seats fold down to create a big cargo area.

    Detroit’s interiors really seemed to go downhill between about ’64 and ’74. I feel like this was partially an inability to deal with safety standards gracefully, partly cost cutting, and partly a general decline in taste (both inside the industry and in society at large). I’m curious if anyone has any insight on that trend, though.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear seats do fold down but the fairly low height of the trunk opening limits the cargo carrying ability. Still a lot more length than what you’d get in a conventional trunk config. You could throw a twin-sized mattress in the back and two people could stretch out with some comfort.

      Chrysler was known for having large and usefully shaped trunks in that era. Today’s aero-styling, a result of CAFE requirements is my guess has reduced sedan trunks to vestigial jokes compared to older three-box designs. I’m a bit old-school in believing that a car I pay for should prioritize impressing the people on the inside as opposed to those viewing from afar.

  • avatar

    Looks a bit similar to the Sunbeam Rapier, sold in the US as the Sunbeam Alpine GT, albeit that had a split rear window ie. rear 3/4 windows, proper C pillars and a regular square rear screen.

    Chrysler owned the brand and retired the marque after the car was axed, so I wonder if there was any transatlantic design influence…

    • 0 avatar

      I think the Rapier and Alpine GT were two different cars. While the roof of the GT did, indeed, have a resemblence to the first generation Barracuda, the Rapier was much more akin to the 1953 Studebaker Loewy coupe.

  • avatar

    A Heart fan, I see. My dream has always been to get a ‘cuda and keep this song at the ready on whatever sound system I’ve installed, just for stoplight encounters and Cars and Coffee.

  • avatar

    This car does a lot to contextualize the AMC Marlin.

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