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.
The early ‘Cuda appeals to the eye
But the Corvair is more better.
However if to chose had I
The ‘Cuda would be the getter.
-The Poest, ungrammered
I was only seven when these came out, but I vaguely remember a dichotomy with the style. On the one hand, so obviously a Valiant. On the other hand, that huge and curved rear window. Trying too hard to be different, but not the way the long hood/short deck Mustang was different. Today, I think they’re great.
Perhaps a better suburban-dadmobile than a Mustang? Thrifty or ferocious (choose your powertrain) for the weekday commute. Can fit your wife and 3 kids, if her station wagon is in the shop. Can haul a handful of 8′ 2x4s for that weekend project.
Here’s a little tidbit about the cargo area in those fastbacks. In the Barracuda, there were a couple of releases on the sides of the panel that divided the two cargo areas. They were accessed from the trunk and, as one might image, simply dropped the divider down.
The Mustang, however, had an odd arrangement where the panel flipped ‘up’ via a wire handle, cantilever style. I guess the Ford’s setup would offer some slight security to partially cover whatever was being carried, but it still seemed odd.
The great thing about being British on this website is that I see all these American cars I know nothing about, and for which I have no cultural associations. I’m seeing them for the first time.
This looks really interesting, positively French in its wierdness. But then I find myself liking the appearance of many of the smaller US cars, which most of you despise for their small V8s or heaven forbid straight sixes. 180 broken horses and sub 13 seconds to 60, that’s a rocket ship compared to the bread and butter cars I grew up with. Check out the stats for an Austin Cambridge for comparison.
It will shock exactly nobody to learn my feelings on the subject: the ’65 Baccaruda had better engineering and specs than the ’65 Mustang. Maybe somewhat less so if we’re looking only at the available V8 engines, but overall, definitely, and if we look at the 6-cylinder engines, enormously. This isn’t shocking; the Valiant was also mechanically superior to the Falcon. And…so what? The Volvo was also mechanically superior. People still mostly bought inferior Fords and Chevs. Kept doing it for years, too. Better engineering isn’t enough.
As for design and style: I like the ’64-’65 Baccaruda front face in its own right, but I think this car works a whole hell of a lot better with the ’63-’64 Dart front end sheetmetal as in the photo attached to this post.
Baccaruda? Yep, here’s a ’65 Baccaruda radio ad; the pictured ’66 is not apposite:
That Dart front end looks great. I agree it integrates the front and rear styling well.
+1, I agree althought with the 1963-64 Dart front end reminds me of the Rambler Tarpon show-car and would had been more successeful had AMC president Roy Abernathy didn’t want it bigger to received a V8 and became the Marlin.
I wonder if it could had been the name? Had Chrysler had keeped the right on the Falcon name after they showed the 1955 dream-car or had Plymouth decided to use the Belmont name as a nod to the 1954 show-car if things could had been different.
Oof. I do feel like I have heard the song Bread and Butter before, but I never would have guessed a 47 year old accountant was singing that high part. But that’s a pretty accurate analogy to the Barracuda.
The styling doesn’t work for me, not because it’s too weird and quirky, but because it’s too old fashioned everywhere else. The partially skirted rear wheels and abundance of bright work everywhere they found a seam or edge is questionable even if the Mustang hadn’t stolen its thunder, it’s really not that much better executed than the Rambler Marlin. Something tells me The Newbeats wouldn’t have had the career and legacy The Beatles had regardless of their existence, and too it always seems as though enthusiast articles and videos from the cult of Mopar on the Barracuda emphasize that head start on the Mustang as if it would have been a runaway success if not for it. It just wasn’t that cool.
The Newbeats. This is being a little hard on the Barracuda. I would call Studebaker’s attempt at a sporty 1965 coupe the Newbeats of the market. I would compare the Barracuda with, say, Roger Miller who was making the charts in 1965, though not with anything that set folks on fire then or now.
I got an intro to these Christmas morning of 1964 when I was given a promo model of a 65 Fury III convertible and my sister got a Barracuda. Why my parents gave my kid sister a toy car remains a mystery, as I was the only one who played with it. The other mystery is the car choice. Maybe my father was sent out late and those were the best that were left. They were the only Chrysler cars anyone in my entire extended family bought in the 60s.
My parents bought me a promo model of a first-generation Barracuda for my birthday in 1966. The color was pale yellow. I also had a promo model of a 1965 Rambler American convertible in almost the exact same color.
Our Barracuda promo was baby blue and the Fury III convertible was that really pale Robin’s egg blue.
I remember that both of them had that friction drive mechanism.
My father’s cousin owned a 1966 Fury III convertible in that Robin’s egg blue color! It had a black convertible top and black interior. She and her husband owned that car until 1977.
Christmas morning 1964…spent at a neighbor’s home, as my Mother had her youngest (surviving) daughter.
I recall getting a GI Joe communications set (with an odd set of wired walkie-talkies) and the neatest of all, a crystal radio. Didn’t understand the concept of grounds at all, kept trying to clip it to the metal frame of the roll-away bed I was sleeping in…and antennas were similar mystery….but hearing Baltimore radio stations in my ear without any power applied seemed like I was getting something out of nothing (disregarding that it was much easier to listen to the Sears Silvertone tube console in the living room, though that wasn’t very portable.
In terms of car related gifts, in 1960 I think I got a 1959 Plymouth Fury Fire Chief pedal car…it had a bell rather than a horn (or worse for my parent’s nerves a siren). We had the pedal car probably another decade through my youngest sister to use it. Also got a 1962 Fury toy car (didn’t have to be assembled, so I guess it wasn’t a model?) probably in Plum Borough or maybe Garden City (we moved a lot back then so don’t remember exactly which house we were in but one or the other) which I liked. Strange I had all these
Furys back then, my Dad’s first car was a Plaza, but he never bought another Plymouth and otherwise only owned 2 Dodges in the 80’s (1980 Omni and 1986 600), otherwise no other Chryslers in our family (but Grandpa owned a Windsor).
Re: Barracuda…we take for granted I guess now that sporty cars have their own body, maybe based on platform like the Fox Mustang but otherwise looking little like their sedan relations, but before the 1964 Mustang jump on the pile, it probably wasn’t obvious that these would sell in huge numbers that they did, so the conservative route was probably to have these based on the hard points of the sedan so you could share a lot of parts and keep the unique parts cost down…so the Barracuda went this route, and I’d guess the Marlin as well? The Marlin had different roof and rear treatment but the front end looked just like a Rambler Classic. Certainly is better idea than having the hard points based on the sporty model and trying to make the sedan (and wagon maybe) fit them…because of this they look less sporty, since you can identify the sedan or wagon in the shape. But it certainly made them roomier and more practical.
Wish they had a sportswagon model, but I guess that wasn’t a thing yet.
Wonder why Chrysler/AMC had Nautical names where Ford went with western (Mustang, Maverick, Pinto? I’m not sure I ever knew what a Camero is/was before 1967. Seems a bit fishy to me (sorry for the bad pun).
If only Chrysler would have made it a hatchback to better access that vast cargo space.
A woman I knew once had one and commented that never did a car have more space inside but no way to get to it. It’s like a two door station wagon (a concept that was common in the early fifties and for some cars the only station wagon option for some reason) with no upper tailgate. I even like four door vehicles just for the ease of putting stuff in the back seat, and of course today with child safety seats instead of just tossing the kids in back it’s easy to see why we don’t see many two door cars any more.
That example with the Dodge Dart front end is interesting. It would give it a little more front end to balance the long fastback/huge rear window at the rear, if not exactly accomplishing Mustang proportions. There were all kinds of Plodges, both full size and compact, built in Canada but I don’t think they ever did one of those, did they?
One thing I never thought of back then, maybe because I lived in San Francisco, was the sun energy input with that huge fastback rear window. The CC example does have AC. Good idea.
If you were a Plymouth guy, as was my dad, you liked the Barracuda, which he liked to call the “Bacarruda”
My Dad liked Barracuda’s (in Detroit we called them Baccarudas). He bought a second gen car in yellow with a non-fast back body (darn) with a 3 speed on the column and a slant six (darn!). He liked it so much he bought one for my sister for her college graduation present, equipped much the same way except in gold. BTW, that hardware store is one of my favorite places to go in Eugene.
If I had to guess as to why the Barracuda emblem had a long tail on the last “a” for a year and then it didn’t for 1965, it was probably something as simple as a high defect percentage of badges, all concerning that long tail. Just eliminate the problem.
“If I had to guess as to why the Barracuda emblem had a long tail on the last “a” for a year and then it didn’t for 1965”
Or maybe trouble at automatic car washes?
Nah… Lynn Townsend learned they could save 1/20¢ per car by shortening the nameplate badge and ordered it to be changed…
I can’t imagine how much would it cost to replace the rear windscreen, which must be one of the largest for the 1960s vehicles.
I had the cracked windshield on my TransSport replaced when it was near its silver anniversary. It was scratched when I bought it used and I never got it replaced because I figured that huge thing would cost a lot. Surprisingly, it was just over $200 and even more surprisingly they could get one. They also told me that it was a really hard one to replace. After that I had to get a new side window, fortunately a fold out one. The same place sourced a later darker tinted one, so it was used not new.
I would wonder if you could even find a Barracuda rear window at any price, but you never know what the internet can come up with. I haven’t seen a Barracuda in decades, but then I live in the rust belt now.
Related rant: was it ever worth it to use road salt? That TransSport had aluminum wheels and after a few years in the NE they had to use a sledge hammer (on the tires, not the rims!) to get them off. I had previously changed a flat tire myself, but obviously would have been SOOL then. Also the spare tire disappeared when the steel thing at the end of the cable holding it on rusted off, and the last straw on the poor thing was the rear coil spring bases rusting away and about to collapse at any minute.
In the olden days car bodies weren’t galvanized and started rusting away within minutes. Unless things have changed since 1990 maybe a lot of other important things are still plain steel?
Wouldn’t more plowing and sand or something be better?
Another salt story: one time I was driving a Horizon east at night from San Francisco through south Lake Tahoe. I was going about 70 when the car’s electrical system totally shut down. Engine off, all lights off. Somehow it all came back much to my surprise after a few seconds. I stayed overnight at Tahoe and the next day was sunny. The car was basically encased in salt.
There are plenty of used Barracuda windows for sale at $500 or less.
Unless a car is vandalized, the only panel less likely to be replaced is the roof.
The hatch of an 82-92 Camaro uses a comparable glass. Those are practically free.
My dad had a ’64 Valiant with a 273. No one ever complained the car didn’t have enough power especially my dad. If I had been looking to buy a new 1965 car, the Barracuda would win hands down. The rear seat configuration reminds me of a slant six Plymouth Duster I wish I’d kept with the “Space Duster” package that I made good use of. The Barracuda would have been a stylish way for me to haul my paintings to art shows. I don’t care about 0-60 times or whether someone else’s car can outrun me or not or if its V8 engine was big enough.
If I were trying to buy one of these now, and it still had a 273 with a 2 barrel unmolested, I’d be thrilled. A Slant Six would be fine too. The only change I’d make would be to swap out the intake so I could change it to a 2 barrel carb instead of the Holley 1-barrel. That Holley gave me a lot of reliability headaches with the Duster when I owned it in the early 90’s. At a car show I’d walk past all of the Mustangs to look at an original early Barracuda.
The Mustang was all about the look. It was the “in” car, hands down.
But the Barracuda’s Valiant underpinnings made it a better driving car than the Mustang, all other things being equal.
Chevy guy that I am, I’d still take the Monza.
Plymouth introduced the Barracuda two weeks before the Mustang arrived. I’m sure they knew that the Mustang was coming, but maybe they didn’t know how different the Mustang would be from the Falcon on which it was based.
By virtue of its styling, the Mustang was obviously intended to be a real sports coupe, at least in terms of appearance if not in mechanical specification. With it’s long-hood, short deck, full wheel cutouts and rear panel kick-up, it looked the part.
That is something that can’t be said for the early ‘Cudas. It’s obviously just a Valiant with a big rear window, a slightly different grill and bucket seats. That’s not to imply it was inferior to the Mustang, but it may explain the market’s lukewarm reception to it.
In 1967, the styling became more “sporty”, but it was still pretty conservative. They really got it right in 1970, but the end of the pony car boom was nearing the end.
BTW, my buddy Dave had a ’66 Barracuda with the high-performance 273 V8 and a 4-speed. It was a great car. Reasonably quick and very reliable, it went over 100,000 miles without any major problems. It might still be on the road if he didn’t eventually sell it to some kid who wrapped it around a tree!
Chrysler Corporation wasn’t the only competitor to underestimate the impact of the Mustang.
At Ford, the Mustang project had simply been dubbed “Special Falcon.”
One reason GM management didn’t take the Mustang all that seriously at first was because they thought that the public would simply view it as a re-bodied Falcon. The Corvair Monza, meanwhile, had established a track record of success. The upcoming 1965 model would be all-new, and a styling knockout. But it would not be enough to stop the Mustang stampede.
I had a ’64 Valiant and a buddy had a ’65 Barracuda. I was so excited to see it until I saw the interior and realized that it was the same car as my dull Valiant, but with an over-sized rear window on the back. Then – not so impressed anymore.
Imagine if Ford did that to the Mustang – took a Falcon Sprint and turned it into a fastback.
That was the Barracuda.
None of the photos showed the Chrome plated fuel tank filler line that intruded into the luggage space.
I always thought the British version of the original Barracuda, the second-generation Sunbeam Rapier, was rather intriguing.
Rootes liked using American styling cues as a general rule. This car’s predecessor looked like a shrunken Studebaker Hawk.
By the way, Devo also covered “Bread and Butter” with their own little twist.
The Newbeats also aped the “Motown” sound for their song “Run, Baby, Run”
Wow, how long ago that was!! 🙂
You think “Bread and Butter” is obscure? In ’64 the Newbeats released “Tough Little Buggy” with the refrain, “My little Corvair-air, my little Corvair!” My guess is Barracuda outsold this record.