Curbside Classic: 1965 Barracuda – The Bread and Butter Pony Car

I’ve already written my CC on the gen1 Barracuda here.  But when I spotted this fine original example at the neighborhood hardware store recently, I just had to shoot it. And ask questions later, when the owner appeared. He told me his dad bought it, and it’s now his to care for.

Having met the owner and looked at the car, I’m going to draw some generalizations about who typically bought these back in 1964. And those buyers didn’t have a lot of company, given how small their numbers were. If Mustang-Mania was the equivalent of Beatles-Mania in 1964-1965, the Barracuda was the equivalent of…The Newbeats.

Never heard of them? Good; my point is made.

I’d never heard of them, but their song Bread and Butter did make it to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts for two brief weeks in August of 1964. Went right by me that August. And we can safely say that the Barracuda made it to #2 in the pony car segment. Or did it?

The 1964 Corvair Monza and Spyder alone sold 152K units, or some 13k per month. The 1964 Barracuda sold 38k units for the 1964 MY, which in its case started in April. If we assume that went through September, then it sold at the rate of 6k units per month.  Dancing in the Streets, anyone? And the new 1965 Corvair kicked that up a notch.

Meanwhile, the new Mustang was selling at the rate of some 40k per month. I Want To Hold Your Hand, in other words.

The Barracuda was the only pony car that used a five-passenger seating capacity as a selling point.

As well as its vast cargo space. Making lemonade out of lemons…

I’m quite familiar with that 7′ long cargo space, having spent a cozy snowy night up in the mountains of Wyoming with someone to keep me company, and warm. The Barracuda was an eminently practical car; a fastback station wagon.

With a bumper hitch, even. Which all leads me to the obvious conclusion that its buyers were inherently more practical and much less faddish than Mustang buyers. And less avant garde and more risk averse than Monza buyers. Or something like that.

Who else but a very practical person who takes care of their things passes on an original Barracuda to his hardware-store going son? Who is of course carrying on the tradition.

I know, I’m indulging in stereotypes. But there’s little doubt that there’s some truth to it. The Barracuda was of course technically a Valiant in 1964, carrying the Valiant script on its lower rear. I found this shot from a Google search, and not surprisingly, it’s my own, from a ’64 I shot in Portland a few years back and posted here.

Our featured car doesn’t have that, but then its PLYMOUTH script across its trunk lid is missing too, which made me wonder if this might be a ’64.

The ’64s had a different dash, straight out of a Valiant, with one large speedometer and three small gauges, and still used push buttons for the automatic. The ’65s were given a new IP and a cable-operated console mounted shifter that looks a bit like an aftermarket item.

One more tell-tale: the tail of the “a” on the end of Barracuda was longer on the ’64s (and early ’65s). Why that was changed is anyone’s guess.

But this one has the short tail.

Dad’s Barracuda came with the 180 hp 273 V8, teamed to the Torqueflite. That made for a decent performing car, but nothing too exciting. According to a Car Life test, that combination in their hands resulted in a somewhat leisurely 0-60 run in 12.9 seconds. The 235 hp version with a four speed bettered that with a 9.1 second run in the hands of Car and Driver. Decent, but no threat to the 271 hp 289 Mustang in a drag race. It would have been spanked. Stay tuned for a comparison of those two and a 180 hp 1965 Corvair Corsa.

I waver about the Barracuda. I have a very practical side that loves Valiants and such, and this speaks to that side. And of course I’m tainted from certain memories made in the back of one that could not have been made without extreme measures in a Mustang. If I was given the choice in 1972, when I was traveling around the country, the Barracuda would win hands down.

But then I have another side, and that would favor…the Corvair.


My more in-depth 1965 Barracuda CC is here