(first posted 7/31/2013) Let’s get one thing straight: I love these E-bodies. While I might give a slight edge to the Challenger (I especially love the full-width taillights of the ’70), the Barracuda is equally good looking. One thing that let these cars down, however, was their cheap interiors. My brother’s first car was a 1973 ‘cuda 340. I drove it many times, and could never get over the sit-on-the-floor driving stance and doors that came above your shoulders. Nonetheless, I will always love them for their style. And the seldom-seen Gran Coupe spruced up the often stark interiors quite a bit.
At the start of the 1970s, Plymouth was still a serious contender against the other two members of the “Low-Priced Three,” with big, comfortable Fuselage Furys; solid B-body Satellites and Belvederes; the stone-reliable Valiant and its new Duster sibling; and, of course, the all-new ’70 “Bacaruda.”
Base Barracuda and sporty ‘cuda variants had returned from 1969, as had the convertible, but the fastback–the original Barracuda body style–was gone for good. However, there was now a pleasing new luxury variant available as the Gran Coupe.
Yes, the Gran Coupe was the top-of-the-line Plymouth, unless you considered the sporty ‘cuda model more worthy. Like its similarly-equipped Challenger Special Edition (SE) sibling, it was likely a response to the Ford Mustang Grandé (CC here) and Cougar XR7: a plush ponycar for those buyers so inclined.
The Gran Coupe added leather bucket seats in a special sew style (proto-Brougham?), a center console and other refinements. The leather buckets were also available optionally in the ‘cuda.
But the really cool feature of the Gran Coupe was its Flair Bird-like overhead console, which included low-fuel and door-ajar warning lights. Unlike the overhead console on my mother’s 1992 Grand Caravan ES, there was no digital clock or compass, sad to say. Note the “Gran Coupe” badging on the door panel.
Gran Coupes also got wood-grain trim that wrapped around the spear-shaped door panels. This particular example also has A/C, Slap-Stick automatic transmission, and rarely seen power windows. My brother’s ’73 had the Slap-Stick and console but, sadly, no A/C. Despite the white interior of his car (Hemi Orange and white top, non-original 340 Billboard decals on the outside), it was VERY hot in there while sitting at a light since the fresh air vents were not powered. The result was sweat dripping off your nose while waiting for the light to turn green!
I rode in the back seat once, and it was tight to say the least. At least the rear quarter window rolled down–right, Zackman? Very unusual to see power-window buttons on one of these!
While many pan the E-bodies as rip-offs of the 1969 Camaro, I beg to differ. Yes, they do bear a resemblance, but I think the ‘cuda and Challenger look better. What’s more, you don’t see fifty 1970-74 Barracudas at every fricking car cruise and show–unlike 1969 Camaros. Ooh, a Camaro, how original!
Interestingly, the Gran Coupe package was also available on the convertible for 1970 only, which created the somewhat incongruous “Gran Coupe convertible.” Obviously, they did not get the cool overhead console.
The model returned for ’71 as a V8-only coupe, but there were far fewer produced; only 1,615 of the plush $3,029 hardtops found buyers. Come 1972, only a base Barracuda and defanged ‘cuda were available (with 318 and 340 V8s only) with no convertible in sight.
On the outside, Gran Coupes received an argent-finish rear panel, bright side moldings, wheel lip and belt line moldings and the expected “Gran Coupe” crests on the tail panel and front fenders. Coupes started at $2,934 with the Slant Six and $3,035 with the base V8, and $3,160/$3,260, respectively, in drop-top guise. Finding one today is not especially easy, as only 8,183 coupes and a mere 596 convertibles were built. And unlike the ‘cuda model, no one is making fakey-fake “tribute” Gran Coupes.
So, seeing this one was a treat. At first blush it appeared to be a Plum Crazy ‘cuda, but my Brougham radar spotted the cool Gran Coupe badges a split-second later. I had never seen a Gran Coupe in person before, and the colors on this one were great. I love the overhead console! The only changes I’d make are a set of whitewalls and full wheel covers. Hey, the Rallye wheels look great, but this Broughamiest Barracuda shouldn’t try so hard to blend in with the rest of the ‘cuda herd!