(first posted 7/11/2011) Pity the poor Barracuda. It beat the Mustang to market in 1964 by 16 days, but was utterly trounced by that seminal (and genre name-giving) pony car. In their first full year (1965), the Mustang outsold the ‘Cuda by nine to one. Well, despite that huge glassy fastback, it was hard to fool anyone that the Barracuda was anything other than a Valiant Signet with a fishbowl grafted on. Especially from the inside out.
That hardly made it an inferior car per se, and the fold down rear seat and resulting flat floor made it highly practical for certain uses (more on that later). But the distinctive long-hood short-deck proportions of the Mustang instantly became iconic and a must-have; a glass-back Valiant just wasn’t going to do the trick, unless of course you found yourself in the right position to fully appreciate the Barracuda’s unique qualities.
The idea for what became the Barracuda had been tossed around in various forms at Chrysler for years. But when word of the Mustang’s development was out, a project to compete was put into overdrive.
And contrary to what might be assumed, the rear glass idea didn’t originate with the 1963 Corvette, but supposedly with the Super Sports Fury Coupe styling concept for the still-born 1962 models that were never built due to the last-minute downsizing. You can be the judge.
The Barracuda’s rear window was the biggest piece of automotive glass (14.4 sq.ft.) produced to date. Combined with the fold down seat and the opening hatch into the “trunk”, a seven foot long cargo area was available. And since the Barracuda had the same upright seating dimensions as the Valiant, it was a (semi) legitimate five seater; certainly much more so than the Mustang. That led to the Barracuda being marketed as much for its practical purposes as its sporty pretensions.
better than a Mustang in horse country
To start with, its sporty aspirations were fairly modest: a choice of slant sixes or the new 273 cubic inch LA V8 that put out 180 hp. That already was less than the Mustang’s 200 hp 289 base V8, never mind the 225 and 271 hp versions. For 1965, that was partly rectified with the Formula S package that included a 235 hp four-barrel version of the 273, along with suspension and steering ratio upgrades. A substantial improvement, and the ultimate A body setup for that generation, but still not exactly what it would take to get someone’s eyes off a Mustang GT.
The 1966 Barracuda had a new squared-off front end, which was mostly shared with the Valiant again. Other than that, there wasn’t too much new, except that sales slumped even further: now the ‘Stang outsold the ‘Cuda 16 to 1! A new Barracuda arrived in 1967, still sharing the new-for ’67 Valiant architecture and high cowl, but with at least its own unique sheet metal. It also came in two distinct hardtop styles, a (less glassy) but handsome fastback, and a rather unusual coupe with a roof line that evoked more than a bit of a gen1 Corvair coupe.
The ’67 Barracuda, in Formula S form, finally came into its own as a renowned performance machine thanks to its handling, now considered the best of the pony cars. That is, if one could put up with the little 273, and resist the optional and heavy 383 that was being shoehorned in as an option. The fit was so tight, power steering wasn’t even available. Big blocks in pony cars were great for the strip, but the heavy metal on their compact front ends created inevitable results in handling.
In 1968, that was resolved in a most satisfactory manner: the superb new 340 LA V8, which was no heavier than the 273. With its excellent breathing, it was underrated at an insurance -friendly 275 hp. The 1968 -1969 340 Barracuda S was the most balanced all-round performing car in its class. Of course, a cheaper Dart Swinger 340 was essentially the same thing.
Well, that’s all in the future. As this ’65 makes very clear indeed, it really was just a Valiant with a glass back. There’s nothing in this front passenger compartment to let anyone know that’s its anything other than that, except a “Barracuda” emblem on the inside of the front door. And no, folks weren’t buying it…
The spacious rear compartment made for lots of creative possibilities. One of them was to put a blown hemi under it, creating one of the seminal wheelie-mobiles, the aptly named Hemi Under Glass (“A Rolling Research Laboratory”). Well, I never got to experience that stand-up creation, but I do have a very vivid and sweet Barracuda memory. And it has nothing to do with its handling or performance prowess. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have ever happened in a Mustang or Camaro, thanks to the Barracuda’s rugged and practical Valiant origins and that seven foot cargo area.
Feel free to jump a couple of paragraphs ahead if you’re sick of my hitch-hiking stories. It was 1972, I was nineteen, and returning to Iowa after a several months-long thumbing trip up the West Coast. I got picked up in Cheyenne by three college kids in a red ’65 Barracuda late in the day, and rather than see me trying to hitch a ride in the dark, they offered to put me up. I hit it off with the sweet young driver of the plain hand-me-down slant six automatic ‘Cuda — anything but a sporty car — and spent a few days with them. She suggested a camping trip (for the two of us) into the rugged high country.
She had a dog, a brown medium sized mutt of particularly calm demeanor. I soon found out why: it demanded to be “run” for miles on end, following the Barracuda down the rugged gravel and dirt roads. I vividly remember looking back through that window, seeing it running along behind for miles on end, while we bounced along the rocky rough roads. We’d stop and open the door, but he wasn’t ready to get in yet for another few more miles.
The purring slant six instilled the highest degree of confidence as we headed up into the rugged high country. And the tough suspension was up to anything Wyoming could dish out, even way back in Marlboro Country. This was no place for a Mustang, despite being horse country.
It was already well into May, but the weather was getting colder and cloudier by the mile. We didn’t see another car all day. By the time we got to our destination, some rugged cliffs and outcroppings, it was drizzling and close to freezing. I have a vague memory of heating something in a can over a fire (Chef BOYARDEE, most likely).
We quickly cleared out that seven foot long cargo area and kept each other warm back there, as well as watching the rain turn into snow as the flakes swirled down and collected on that big glass pane. Wyoming in May! I was doubting the wisdom of my decision to leave sunny California.
And by the next morning, that window was solid white, under a couple of inches of fresh snowfall. Love under glass beats hemi under glass any day in my book, especially in that setting.
Back to the present: this ’65 Barracuda is typical of so many CCs I find and talk to the owners about. It’s a family hand-me down, from his uncle, if I remember right. And it’s been a regular driver much of its life. Exactly like the one in Wyoming, with the 225 cubic inch (3.7 L) slant six, except with a three-on-the-tree manual. Perfect car for the long haul, and impromptu camping trips.
The Barracuda may not have been a sales success, but I’m thankful Chrysler decided to make it nevertheless. The back seat of a Mustang would have been a bitch on that long, cold night in the mountains of Wyoming.
I’m amazed at the interior shots. I’d forgotten how many exposed metal surfaces there were in older cars. We’ve all become used to the plastic cocoons of today’s cars.
Spent many nights in the back at the drive-in whith my sweetie…… sold it in 1974 What a dumb ass i was !
I had one of these a white/blue interior 273/automatic……in Palm Springs 1978. In the heat of summer all the all the metal and CHROME was very hot to the touch!
Well, well, well…it was in one of these that I had my first “hot rod” car ride!
When I was 14, a couple of friends and I were out walking around one evening, going up to one of the guy’s houses to hang out for a time. An older school acquaintance saw us, pulled over and said “hop in”! Of course we did. I sat in back. The car was a brand-new 1965 Barracuda, blue, with a 273 and four-on-the-floor, shifted by courtesy of Hurst. Well, even tho’ I can’t remember the driver’s name – I really didn’t know him too well – one of my friends did – he laid into that 273 and we took off like a shot up the street! It was a thrilling ride – my first – and certainly not my last – in a “hot” car! Boy, was it fun! Eventually we were let off at the friend’s house about 15 minutes later, all fired-up with excitement and sufficient subject matter to keep us occupied until I had to go home – and for a long time afterwards!
As far as all the exposed metal in cars back then – true! Add to that no A/C for the most part, you had to keep a small towel in the car in order to lay on the window sill so as not to burn the underside of your arm when resting it on the sill. Ditto for fully-upholstered cars, because they all seemed to have a little chrome strip of metal at the very top edge – that got pretty hot, too! Your buddies were on their own!
I have always liked these first-gen Barracudas – I have a soft spot for Plymouth, anyway – many of you already know that. I liked the second-gen ‘Cudas even better – the coupe, especially, over the fastback style. Yeah, they were only a Valiant underneath, but style over substance! These cars at least had the style – and the largest piece of glass ever used in a car, I believe. that’s something to crow about, isn’t it?
Great car, great write-up!
I was always amazed that someone hadn’t used the name “Barracuda” sooner. (Although I’m glad that our pony cars weren’t fish cars.)
“Love Under Glass” sounds like the tentative title for a Woody Allen movie.
Well, this sure beats my drive-in experiences. All of which go back to when I had cars without a middle stack. There is something to be said for the good old front bench seat…
And the see-saw saga of Chrysler begins in that era.
I have to wonder…was it a lack of resources, which led to such a lo-buck aping of the Mustang…or a lack of inspiration? It seems MoPar had a shortage of both. Reeling from its brush with death right about the same time, and saved by the mild-mannered, imagination-free cadre of bookkeepers led by Lynn Townsend…Chrysler seemed to have all the ills affecting Studebaker after a similar run of hubris.
Fortunately for Chrysler and Lynn Townsend’s press agent…Chrysler had one thing going that Studebaker did not. A large, functioning dealer network…which enabled Townsend’s strychnine-as-medicine therapy, the Sales Bank, to enable things to function seemingly normal for a while.
Into the mix of this comes the ponycar craze. The Mustang broke no new engineering ground; it was the ultimate style-over-substance product…marketing vaporware. But the thinking behind it was revolutionary. A new market (kids); a new way to sell the same old product. Targeted advertising; narrowcasting.
And the lack of understanding in the other shops, showed in what they responded with.
The initial Camaro, as Paul discussed, was a lame attempt to follow the strategy. A new body on an old chassis…but the body didn’t break ground; the chassis was lacking, the result was chaos. And the Marlin…Dick Teague’s concept looked good, if not inspirational; but it got lost in communicating it to the boardroom. Meddling by the suits guaranteed failure.
And the Barracuda A handsome car; but obviously the same Valiant your grandmother drove. As a before-its-time Duster, it’s not bad. But give a 17-year-old with money or an obliging parent, a choice between a Valiant with a modded greenhouse…as Detroit always did with their full-size lines…or a MUSTANG!!!…he’ll pick the gussied-up Falcon, every time.
Temper, temper! How many coupes today have rear windows that roll down and no B pillar? That’s worth it to me!
Sorry – I left that out of my post!
One of Lynn Townsend’s mantras was that Chrysler would not be an industry leader on his watch. In his view, the company’s attempts to lead the industry in the 50s and early 60s had been a disaster, and he saw no reason to place those kinds of bets. Instead, he would make the safer wager, which was to let others do the prospecting, and then step in if there turned out to be some gold. With every new trend that came along under his leadership, Chrysler was always late to the party or done on the cheap or both.
I thought the sales bank was a part of what did Chrysler in.
Anyone able to briefly explain to me how it helped things function normally?
The theory was that the sales bank would speed the process of getting inventory to dealers – dealers could peruse the inventory lists, find a car already built and get it shipped right down, without having to wait for production scheduling. Also, it was supposed to smooth out production cycles, allowing extra cars to be built when sales were a little slow, providing a cushion against capacity constraints when sales picked up.
The reality was that Chrysler was a volume junkie – the main metric everyone was being evaluated on was moving the metal. And really, after 1973, the good times were few and far between, so overproduction really became a chronic problem. Things reached a crisis in 1978-79 when things slowed down fairly suddenly, and caught Chrysler by surprise. They had inventory stacked up absolutely everywhere around Detroit and Windsor where they could find a field to rent in 1979, and the cars would become weathered and vandalized, making them substandard vehicles from a dealer’s perspective. Iacocca shut the sales bank down as one of the first things he did when he came over.
Thanks for this explanation. Potentially dumb question: what happened in ’78/’79? Second energy crisis didn’t unfold for a few more months, right? And Chrysler’s cars had already been flopping for a few years before then, weren’t they? What was the factor at this juncture?
It was mid 79 when the second gas shortages came, but Chrysler had problems even before this. By 1978, their quality was in the toilet, and cars that should have been bread and butter sellers like the Volare/Aspen were on everyone’s shit lists because of the awful quality of the 76-77 cars. The Monaco that we saw the other day was horribly uncompetitive, the Cordoba was getting a little old, and the full-sized Plymouth and Dodge were gone. Even sales of the Newport and New Yorker were getting soft. The Horizon and Omni were newly out, but were limited to 300K units because of engine supply constraints, and with cheap gas were not yet the hot products that they would become. In comparison, GM was hawking fresh A and B body cars that were making Ford and Chrysler’s stuff look really dated. Going by memory here, but as I recall it, inflation was starting to really pick up and the economy was starting to wobble a bit after some strong years in 1976-77. In short, the company was really a hot mess by 1978 with a horribly dysfunctional management system that flowed from two co-chairmen who absolutely hated each other.
Uh-oh, now I had better get ready for all of the nasty comments from the Mopar crowd for all of the Mopar-hate that I am recklessly spewing. 🙂
It’s worth noting that the dealerships quickly figured out that all they had to do was wait until year’s end when Chrysler was desperate to unload all the cars that had built up in the sales bank, then buy them at steeply discounted prices.
Unfortunately, Chrysler sales had gotten so bad by the late seventies that, even at year-end fire-sale prices, none of the dealerships were interested in buying anymore product. So, Chrysler ended up with huge inventories of cars sitting on lots around Detroit. As pointed out, Iacocca quickly put an end to such madness.
I’d just gotten a good job and we were looking for a car in the summer of 1965. We looked at Mustangs, Chevelles, and Barracudas. I wasn’t all that impressed with the Mustang, seeing it as an overpriced Falcon; but I’d seen enough Valiants and Darts around to think that the Barracuda’s obvious Valiant ancestry wasn’t a problem. We ended up with a black on gold Barracuda with the 2-barrel 273, 4-speed, positraction, and a radio. I’d been hearing and reading a lot about radial tires, so it wasn’t long before our car became probably the first Mopar car in our area to be running Michelin tires. They were kind of funny-looking, really dark brown instead of black, and whined like crazy at speed, but I liked the way they contributed to the car’s handling.
We camped in it a couple of nights on the way from Tacoma to southern California the next summer, and discovered that it’s not all that handy to be sleeping in the place where all your gear and luggage are piled. It was a cool experience to wake up under that big window though.
We started to have problems with rear end noise, with repeated trips to the dealer. Each “fix” only lasted a month or so, and finally we met at the dealership with a zone representative. He insisted that the tires be swapped for some that didn’t whine so he could better hear the noise; it wasn’t difficult for the dealership to come up with a set, and he agreed that the differential was noisy and needed to be replaced. Sure enough, it was quieter when we got it back, but by that time we had gotten tired of the hassle, the car had nearly 50,000 miles on it, and we didn’t want to keep it after the warranty ended, so we traded it on a new red 1967 VW Beetle. Yes, I was quite impatient in those days…and still accused of that.
A year or so later I saw the car and talked to the owner. He swore that the 23,000 miles it showed when he bought it (from another dealer than the one we’d traded it to) was original, and said that they’d told him they’d had to replace a blown engine, but he hadn’t had any problems with rear end noise.
I had other first-generation A-body cars later, but that was the only Barracuda. I did run across a 1965 six-cylinder white on blue 4-speed Barracuda – this was probably in the 1990’s – and lined up a fellow Mopar freak to buy it. Afaik he still has it.
I guess after all these years I can confess..In 1970 I worked at a large used car lot. My job was clean up. Today they call it detailing.
A 65 blue Barracuda got traded in. Filthy inside, and out, and lots of miles on the clock. A salesman comes to me late in the day, waving a 10 dollar bill. Get that car spotless before you go home kid, and the 10 is yours.
I put my head down and vacumed,hosed,scrubbed,and took SOS pads to the white walls. One of the guys that worked in the shop showed up. The guy was bombed, and reeking of Rye.
“Ya ever wanted to know how to turn back an odometer kid”..says the dude. I nod…..”tonight you gonn’a learn”
With his tools and and guidance,and my sober hands, we had that speed head out, disasembled,and the odo reading 25K ,and re and re about an hour.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was. All you needed was steady hands.
The Barracuda was my first. but it sure wasn’t my last.
Love this original ‘Cuda…. I’d gladly take one of these over the the bloated current or early 70’s version. That picture of the ‘Hemi under the Glass’ sent me scurrying to another ‘go to website’ – check it out.
There’s plenty of other topics that ‘ll interest the connoisseur of vintage automobiles and bikes. cheers!
Add me to the column of the folks who like the original Barracuda. My wife’s family legend has it that her grandfather traded in his 1958 Corvette on an original Slant Six/three speed mans trans Barracuda after he remarried! Talk about a paradigm shift…
I have a similar story to Zackman’s, a friend who was three years older than me finally got his driver’s license. He had been saving up money for several years previous to this, and he bought a 1966 Barracuda with a 273 and four speed. He picked me up walking home from school and took me for a ride. He displayed the car’s absolute ease at smoking the rear tires (remember this is 1974 or so, early malaise era) and the pace at which he mastered speed shifting (not using the clutch) was pretty impressive, too.
We drove around for hours. We were gone so long, the sun had set and my mother was totally freaked out! She had sent my two older brothers out to look for me, fearing I had been run over by a bus or some other disaster. Needless to say, this was small town Ohio, my mother called Louie’s mother after I got home (we all went to the same church, too!), and got him grounded for a month!
Of course, Louie wasn’t too fond of me either for a while after that, but he got over it. In fact, it wasn’t a month later that Louie’s older brother decided he wanted to go drag racing and whom did they call when they needed help building the race car and at the strip? (this is a whole other set of stories for another time)
Ever since that time, I have reserved a place in my fantasy garage for a small block first gen Barracuda…
…and the hits just keep on comin!
I always had a soft spot for these early Barracudas. They were certainly among Chrysler’s better looking cars in 1964. But I never so much thought of it as a Mustang competitor, but as a really cool fastback Valiant. And wow – a Barracuda with a 3 on the tree. Way to go Chrysler!
There was a hilarious Car and Driver feature around 1965 in which one of their editors called the Chrysler-Plymouth marketing department and asked them to explain the Barracuda’s marketing strategy. It’s reprinted in the Brooklands Barracuda portfolio.
I like the original Barracuda front-end better than the 1966 restyle. I’d rather have the Barracuda’s big brother though, a 66-67 Dodge Charger.
PS: The blue Barracuda pictured is a 66. The caption that appears if you hover over the pic says it’s a 67.
Bought one in ’70 that was “running rough and was going to blow”. Bought it cheap (less that 900$) and had it towed to my mech. Trouble was a bad U-joint and he said the slant 6 would run forever, almost did too. I drove it for eight years and 75K then sold it for 900$. What a sweet ride.
Probably would be a good idea at this point to mention the Rambler Tarpon, which as the “almost” precursor to the 1965 Rambler Marlin, could have preceded the Barracuda and Mustang in early ’64, if only its (I believe) Chicago Auto Show appearance in January 1964 had actually led to a production run.
If I remember correctly, the idea was abandoned (and later transposed into the Marlin) because the Rambler American (on which it was based) could not fit the 287/327 line of V8s they had at that time, and it would have had to soldier on with only the 232 straight six.
If only the smaller (block) 290 had become available a few years earlier, things might have been different….
Maybe someone can post a photo, as I cannot at the moment….!!
Have you seen our Marlin CC? :https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1967-rambler-marlin-the-humpback-whale-amcs-deadly-sin-1/
The Tarpon looks like a Rambler with a fish-bowl, and would have flopped like the Marlin. The Javelin was much better.
Agree about the Javelin. For my money it was the best looking of the pony car lot.
Really wish Chrysler had sent these down under they would have fitted into the Valiant line up no problem and being a gussied up Val would have been a plus where noone mentioned the Mustang being a Falcon underneath at the time Falcons were not a well reguarded car not yet anyway it took till 67 for the Falcon to out shine the Zephyr.
Boning in a Barracuda…Priceless 🙂
It’s worth noting that although there wasn’t a Barracuda hardtop or convertible until 1967, there was a very nice looking Valiant Signet hardtop and convertible. They were discontinued when the Barracuda coupe and convertible were introduced in 1967.
Although the Signet can’t technically be included in the Barracuda sales figures (there was also a Falcon convertible and hardtop to compete with the Mustang versions), some might say that the early Barracuda’s sales are skewed because they don’t include the Signets.
I owned a 65 for many years, four of them being in college (and a few adventures under glass). It was the slant 6/auto combo. Not exciting but dead reliable. I finally sold it when the rust took its toll (its first 20 years in New England). Too bad you can’t get repro sheet metal and patch panels like the Mustang…
Preferred the later models front end but adore more the 1970 onwards Cuda’s/
If memory is correct the near-flawless 1971 ‘Cuda convertible, 4-speed, 440 red for sale in Modesto, CA… parked on the street sitting there for weeks in I believe was 1977 (at least in the general era) with an asking price of $2,800 (memory distinct about that and engine/tranny/color/condition/etc)
Memory nags me that the 440 had the three dual carb option as the chrome label on the hood scoop boasted.
No funds or safe place to keep it.
“South” Modesto had the el cheapo used car-only sale lot with a Superbird for $1,800 bucks. 440 blown, replaced by 383. Auto tranny but body in 8 outta’ 10 condition due to minor dents and dings from local dirt-track racing.
My instincts told me the future value would increase.
My prognostications, as so many others over the years, were accurate.
the ‘Warren Buffet” of my socio-economic group but lacking discretionary funds accompanied by a series of jobs with firms that kept closing for various reasons.
Ramen and turkey hot dogs were vital vittles keeping hunger at bay.
Better than starving while staring at acquired American Iron, I suppose.
Will work for vittles, y’all.
Was rather like you. I was Wowed by the 1969 1/2 Dodge Charger Daytona in late 1969, and then the 1970 Plymouth RoadRunner SuperBird in early 1970. There was at least one of each in my small home town. Thing was, I didn’t turn 16 and get my license until the fall of 1970. And, aside from a paper route and mowing lawns, I didn’t have much money for a used car, let alone a new car. But, I just knew – like you – that those cars would be rare and valuable in the years to come. And, I actually went to look at several used SuperBirds and one Daytona in the Columbus and surrounding area in the years before going into the Air Force. What I was wise enough to recognize was that they would not make ideal daily drivers. Would need a small, economical daily driver. The Daytona was silver with a red rear stripe and wing, and didn’t have the appeal to me as I wanted a red or orange car.
Oh, and back to the Barracuda. About 1979, I found an ad for a 1971 440-6 Pack ‘Cuda which I failed to go look at. The price was under 2 grand, IIRC. Just another one I wish I’d have had the money to buy before the values skyrocketed. Especially since they had very close to the performance of the Hemi, but were reportedly easier to keep well-tuned.
y want picture interior cargo and seat rear, tankyou
I got my 65 Barracuda formula S in 1966. You can say what you want about the Mustang but they couldn’t touch my Cuda. If you took it to the strip they racede you with the 390 Fords, not the Mustangs and the 396 Chevys, not the 283s. According to the Ohio State Police, I had my Cuda at 130 MPH in 3rd gear, just shifting into 4th. I have almost gotten into fights over that one. Wish I had kept the ticket. LOTS of fun and good memories in that Cuda.
I have one of these sitting in my grandpa’s barn. We plan to fix it up but the poor thing was under a tarp for twenty years so it looks like crap and needs a new floor-pan, about the only thing that works are the doors and the engine turns over but won’t start. Beautiful car man.
It’s worth noting that the horsepower figures Ford advertised for the Mustang were outright chicanery, overestimated by at least 20 horsepower. A lot of V8 Mustang owners found this out the hard way when they came up against a V8 Barracuda and were handily trounced by the supposedly much weaker Mopar.
But Mustang owners did have the better looking of the two cars and, frankly, considering that the lion’s share of Mustang sales were secretary specials, most Mustang owners really didn’t care all that much about the Ford’s low performance.
Chrysler might have won the sixties’ early ponycar performance and practicality race, but Ford won it in sales, and that’s what really counted.
The instrument panel in photo #8 was taken from where? A Cushman trike? Yikes!
In the minority, certainly, but I like these better than the 1967+ cars. I don’t see a single bad line.
It’s surprising so few of these turn up at shows,E bodies are usually the only Barracuda seen in the UK.There’s a strong resemblance to the English Sunbeam Rapier.
my first thought was Rapier- this is high power H120 version
These had the common problem with the Barracuda of sharing a too-tall firewall & cowl with the sedan. I suppose the Mustang might have been the same, but that had the firewall moved back slightly compared with the Falcon which made it look lower, and a lower roofline.
Thanks Roger the H120 could really fly with 2 Webers and overdrive.I had a Rapier automatic which was a bit of a slug when it was going.It was the only lemon I ever owned
the Mustang was pure Iacocca style over substance, tell em anything just sell the cars.
Mopar fans like to claim the ’65 Cuda was first Pony car, but it shared too much sheet metal with the Valiant to be unique enough. In fact, the early models were called “Valiant Barracuda”. Look at the ‘V’ badges, for one thing.
The Mustang had its own sheet metal completely, compared to the Falcon. No sharing.
If the ‘Cuda had been more successeful, we might talk of “Fish-car” instead of Pony-car and who know what if AMC had decided to go with the original plans of launching the fastback Tarpon based on the American instead of using the chassis of the Classic to create the Marlin?
These were attractive, well packaged cars for sure. Seems like the same formula that later worked so well for the Duster. But the Mustang was a hurricane sales success, that any car would have a tough time competing against.
Attractive? No, the Duster was a much better looking car. The Mopars of the mid sixties were plain at best, and just awful looking, at worst. All would change in ’68 for the B-Body cars, and then the E-Bodies came along. If the Barracuda had been even close to as good looking as a Mustang, it might have been a real success. Might have, because even when it was a better looking car than the Mustang (from ’70 until ’74), it still didn’t sell very well.
Wow, a lot of Mustang bashing. I see little “Falcon” in the Mustang other than the instrument panel…. I see a Valiant with a bubble back glass when I see these Barracudas.
They are curious but unattractive vehicles to me. Give me a 2nd generation Barracuda, Falcon ripoff, or lame Camaro/Firebird any day of the week.
The first generation Barracuda was distinctive when new and remains so today. Yes, in reality maybe it was not much more than a Valiant with a fancy roofline, but to my eyes the designers really made something unique out of it. I’ve always loved the way these look, even though the second generation Barracudas were arguably prettier. My fantasy garage is made up of every 1960’s American compact car, and were I ever able to start acquiring such vehicles, an early Barracuda would be one of the first on my list.
Just a P.S. to Paul and all involved in making CC what it is–thanks for giving us this great site to enjoy!
The first-gen Barracuda was the official ‘uncle’ car in my family-two of my uncles had 1965 Barracudas, and one had a 1966. Uncle Al (the one who had the 1966) bought his new. It was white, had a red interior, and had the indestructible slant-6/Torqueflite combo for the drivetrain. It was the official ‘loaner’ car in the family-if dad’s car was being fixed for some reason (accident/mechanical glitch/aftereffect of dad doing something stupid,etc.) Al would loan us his Barracuda. I always thought the fold-down rear seat and the drop-down panel in the trunk was pretty cool-if you could thread it through the trunk opening, you could haul it. Uncle Al used to use it for road trips-one of his trademarks was the ever-present roll of toilet paper in the back (“You never know when you may need it”). He drove it everywhere. It never failed him (or us) once. He sold it in 1978 (after marriage and his first kid came along) and bought a used Mercedes 240D. The Barracuda re-surfaced in the mid 80’s after a friend of one of my other uncles (a non-Barracuda owning one) bought it. He calls my uncle Steve and tells him about the ‘immaculate white 1966 Barracuda’ he scored. After describing it to Steve, mentioning it as being ‘immaculate’, ‘garage-kept’, and ‘Runs great’ (along with having an Alaska Airlines parking sticker in the window-Al’s employer) Steve informed his friend that the car spent every second of it’s life outside the first 12 years of its life, and was meticulously kept up. The friend asked him “How do you know this?” Steve replied: “That was my brother’s car-he bought it brand new”. Unfortunately, the Barracuda was heavily damaged in an accident a few years later and was shoved out in the back and forgotten. Uncle Al passed away in 1990. I always wanted to find another white 1966 (slant-6/at) Barracuda to fix up as a tribute to him. Some day…..
Ahhh … growing up in the 60’s, cool ads , cool cars, that interior might have a lot of hard surfaces …. but it looks inviting…I like my Jetta and its interior …. but it can be dark and boring.. The Barracuda was cool …But the Mustang was cooler… add Shelby variants …. sorry Chrysler.
I had one of these back in the late 1980’s. I got the car from my grandmother, who inherited a 1969 Valiant with 14,000 miles on it from her sister. The Barracuda was a really clean looking car after the school votech restored and repainted it. It was white with a red interior and a 225 slant six. The car really seemed dated by the late 1980s. My currently daily driver is almost 20 years old and it just blends in with traffic. I guess the pace of car design has slowed over the last 30 years.
Dave in Tucson, have you ever come across this 65 Barracuda down there in Tucson? It use to be my mothers car from new. It now belongs to a MOPAR loving couple living there in Tucson.
These cars are beautiful artful sculptures. The interiors are gorgeous with great seats and the details shown in the pictures of the rear with the seat down are exquisite. But that dash is actually painful. It drags the whole affair right back to grandmas four door stripper Valiant. How unfortunate. I have some personal experience with these cars and love them.
I had one of these, and it was, as pictured, red on the outside and red on the inside. I loved it
And yes, that fold down back could be handy at times!
Paragraph 5: “To start with, its sporty aspirations were fairly modest: a choice of slant sixes or the new 273 cubic inch LA V8 that put out 180 hp. That already was less than the Mustang’s 200 hp 289 base V8, never mind the 225 and 271 hp versions.” Actually, the new 180 horsepower 273 V8 was more than competitive with the base Mustang V8 at introduction, which was the 164 horsepower 260 for the 1964 1/2 models (the 200 hp 289 replaced at the start of the 1965 model year). And initially, the Mustang only offered a 210 hp 289 r-barrel as an option as the 289/271 wasn’t added until June, 1964 or very late in that model year. The 289/210 offered for ’64 was replaced by the 289/225 as the “step-up” V8 for 1965.
Had a 1965 Cuda in high school, Summerland Key, FL. White with a blue racing stripe, blue leather interior and Micky Thompson mag wheels. Very cool car! Got it used in 1966. One of the coolest cars I’ve owned.
While our family never owned any Mopar products when I was growing up, one of the other Dads in our Scout Troop owned a ‘Cuda (that’s our Country Squire in the background) – the photo is probably from the early 1970s. The “sportiest” car my Dad ever owned was the 1971 Vega that eventually became my first car.
Friend of mine had a 66 Formula S, 273 with 4 speed and Sure Grip. At local Va. drag strips it dominated it’s class consisting of dozens of Mustangs and a smattering of Camaros. He got drafted and the Cuda was gone before I could buy it. I was stuck with my slant 6, 3 speed 1960 Savoy. As close as I ever got to (semi) musical car ownership.
Plymouth had a great radio ad for the new “Baccaruda”.
I remember seeing one of these at the Melbourne motor show in ’64 or ’65. They had it displayed with the front up in the air and the roof and rear window facing the front of the stand. I was amazed at the huge window and it never occurred to me at the time that what I was admiring was just a fastback Vailant. Mind you, in those days, coming off those wild 225-only R and S series Valiants, the Valiant had a pretty exotic reputation anyway. But the show appearance came to naught, and they never tried selling the Barracuda here. Wonder whatever happened to that show car?
I built a 1966 Barracuda AMT model kit back in my youth, I loved that glass and also the grille divider. Looking at that interior hardware – the rear seat locking mechanism- compare that to today’s plastic, breakable fasteners to those sturdy steel bits.
Chryco must have gotten a discount on carpet for the rear areas of these and the ’66-’67 Chargers.
Great story Paul. We never tire of your hitch hiking adventures.
I’ve posted this pic before, but it kinda never gets old:
“Love under glass” now that brings back some fond memories of my old ’66.
Nice car too, handled well, the 273 had enough pep, and the ’66 dash was sooo much classier than the earlier ones.
A friend had a ’66 Barracuda and then later on, a ’70. The older one was a much better car, but wow, was it ugly. The newer one was pretty terrible as far as reliability went, but was a lot better to look at and drive. He had to sell it because a baby was on the way, and the interior was already falling apart by the time the ’73 cars came out. The old one is long gone, the newer one has been restored and has been reengined from the original 383 (block crack was found after a spun bearing) to a stroked 440. My friend wanted to buy it from the 80 year old guy who owns it now, but he wants way too much for a car that’s not a super clean restore job.
I bought the first Barracuda sold in my town of Owosso Michigan, the1st one in town was a 6 banger. That being said I told Bob Rouike the owner of the Chrysler/Plymouth dealer I wanted a V8 and the next one that came had a Hurst 4 on the floor and I said sign me up. As far as the slant 6, when I was at Fort Knox I signed up to be a driver and every time I came to the motor pool I asked for the Dodge 6 cause the slant six would lay a line of rubber while the fords were like driving a wash tub, very sluggish and no burnouts. Well back to the Cuda, I made what I considered some fine improvements, I slipped on some blue line tires with Mickey Thompson Mags and blue racing stripes above the rocker with Barracuda letters applied in gold, the car was all gold inside and out, also cranking the torsion bars up to raise the front of the car a bit. Then in the spacious back I ripped out the thin carpet and laid down !/2 inch foam rubber pad and topped it off with 1 1/2 inch thick shag rug, hence earning the name Ass Under Glass. When cruising the Gut in Lansing Michigan, Girls would come up to the car and say I ain’t getting in that thing! It was not fast but very cool and fun for camping errr……What ever. Still looking for another one at the right price but not many 4 speeds out there. A great car, Mustangs just never thrilled me and weren’t nearly as useful. Never took any real good pictures of the thing which I’m very sad about.
The Mustang vs. Barracuda comparison has to take into account the trajectory of Ford vs, Chrysler. We know that Chrysler had overcome a series of adversities by the mid 1960s. There was the 1957-58 quality control debacle, The Newburgh insider trading scandal. The extinction of DeSoto, Exner’s heart attack and the bungled 1962 “down sizing” travesty and subsequent thrash to undo the damage, improve quality and make Dodge and Plymouth salable again. It was a lot of work but they managed to do it. Chrysler can be forgiven a little for being focused on all that and maybe not being being sharply tuned into new markets.
By 1964Ford has committed millions of dollars to “Total Performance” in all types of motorsports as exemplified by Ford vs. Ferrari. Also Indy and Lemans. Partenerships with Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby. 1964 brought the 427 and Ford was cleaning up in stockcar racing.
While Chrysler was struggling to survive its setbacks they managed to continue to increase their own performance development with the 300s, the new big block 413 and 426 wedge super stocks. They also had their very sexy Turbine fleet that they were lending to select citizens for testing. Chrysler was seeing racing success at the drags and in stock cars thanks to the “ugly” but lighter 1962 and 63s. But Chrysler’s performance participation was not a unified effort like Ford’s. Chrysler was mostly building big cars for older buyers. Ford was appealing to younger buyers with the Falcon Sprint and the the Mustang. Because of Fords corporate wide performance effort when the Mustang came along Ford had a comprehensive marketing plan to make it appeal to a wide and diverse range of buyers. They were able to sell it to little old ladies and performance enthusiasts alike. Ford made it very easy for almost anyone to see themselves behind the wheel. It certainly didn’t hurt that they spend big on a massive PR and advertisement campaign. It was the first advance ad campaign I saw. Ford spent months teasing everyone with ads showing the new car under a cover to keep people wondering what it looked like. I was 6 years old and after a while whenever I saw one of the TV ads or a print ad in Life or Time Magazine it would get my attention. I remember talking with my best friend across the street, also a 6 year old boy, wondering what we were going to see when they finally yanked off the sheet. Living in NY I attended the 1964 World’s Fair. The Mustang had finally been revealed by that time and it was everywhere at the fair as well as being the official car of the New York Mets who were playing their first season at brand new Shea Stadium right next to the Fair. The Mustang was everywhere. Ford had done a masterful job of positioning it to be seen and talked about. Having the one and only Carrol Shelby building the GT350 which was an immediate success was event stacked upon event building real credibility for the Mustang in most people’s eyes.
The Barracuda? There was no comparison. Hardly anyone was paying attention to its arrival. After getting a good look at the Mustang and its long list of options plus the availability of a convertible, one look at the Barracuda revealed how much it was lacking. Ford had been busy long before the Mustang design had been finalized carefully laying the groundwork and preparing potential car buyers for something new and exciting. In a way it was like the Edsel campaign but this time they did it right.
Chrysler’s effort looked like what it was, a hasty, last minute, half measure that melded a somewhat inspired roofline concept to whatever product line was handy to be tossed into the market somewhat tenuously but without further comprehensive development.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always wanted one so I bought a 4 speed 65 in 1986 for $500 bucks and still have it. They aren’t great cars but they are still pretty neat.
This car is a dream car it is a car that will get up and go the layout of this car was impeccable
That metal bar in the shot with the rear seat down (presumably a grab bar to raise or lower the seat) looks like automotive jewelry today.