Cars We Remember: 1965 Plymouth Barracuda memories
Dear Greg. It was late 1964 and I was looking for the latest trend in new cars and everyone told me to look at the new Mustang. I went to my Ford dealer in my hometown of Chicago and the Mustang sure looked great from the outside.
I had a big family and I got into the front seat which was great, but I could not fit into the cramped back seat. One of my friends told me to go to a Chrysler dealer and look at the brand new Barracuda. It was a true five-passenger seat car for adults as well as children.
So, I bought the Formula S with Torqueflite automatic transmission, bright red with a black interior. It had Goodyear Blue Streak tires, a 273 V8 performance 4-barrel engine, Am-Fm Radio, air conditioning, and also power steering.
The Barracuda was a great camping car also. I took three of my nephews ages seven, nine and 10-years-old camping to Big Bend National Park in Texas and many Eastern cities like Valley Forge, in Pennsylvania. We also went to Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C. and many other states along the way. While in Washington, D.C., we stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, President John F. Kennedy’s tomb and the Smithsonian Museums. In Boston, we went to the Betsy Ross House American Flag maker and Paul Revere site “1 if by land 2 if by sea.” We camped at State Camp Grounds in my Barracuda as with the back seat folded down, there was seven more feet of space inside. That great big rear window also allowed great views.
I also used my Barracuda on the job as an antenna car. I would use a 20-foot extension ladder in two,10-foot pieces that fit inside and between the bucket seats so I could close the trunk. I also had two trucks and put up over 10,000 TV and Short Wave antenna’s in the Chicago Area under my company name Antennas Unlimited. I quit that business back in 1983 and I now live in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania and am 81-years-old.
In ending, I was also a member of the Barracuda Club of America in 1966, and enjoyed the forums to discuss the journeys of fellow “bubble top” Barracudas. I read your great column every week in our local paper.
— Bruce Moorhead, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania
A: Bruce, what a great letter to receive from a Plymouth Barracuda owner who used his car for more than just going to work and back. I’ve always felt those early 1964 to 1966 fastback Barracudas did not receive the respect they deserved as everything you saw or read back then had to do with the 1964 ½ Mustangs. And, not many people know the Plymouth Barracuda beat Mustang to market by a bit over two weeks.
Another thing Barracuda did better than Mustang was turn into an ultimate, smaller wheelbase muscle car with no peers. When Chrysler decided to put the 383 big block V8 into the second generation 1967 Barracuda, it kicked off a frenzy of MOPAR performance that ended up with the ultra rare 426 Hemi 1968 Barracudas, produced in very limited numbers (they say only 50 were built) and today worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Regardless of whether you had a performance Mustang, Camaro, Firebird or AMC Javelin/AMX, those 1968 Hemi Barracudas were king of the drag strip.
Now I’ll tell you my story of the famous 1965 Barracuda Formula S from 1968. I am still a good friend of Pete Shadinger, known as “Little Daddy” on the NHRA drag racing circuit and a two-time U.S. Nationals champion in his dragsters. As we both lived in Vineland, New Jersey, and did a lot of work on the muscle cars from the 1960s and early 1970s, it was never a surprise when a car enthusiast would pull into Pete’s garage looking to make his car go faster.
One day, a fellow showed up with a ’65 Barracuda Formula S with the same 273 solid-lifter cam Commando V8 with 235 horses and a 4-barrel carb like yours. He gave Pete the needed monies and we installed a set of exhaust headers that exited from the wheel wells, an Isky Cam and kit, Mallory ignition and new rear end gears I think that were a 4:56 ratio. Now back then, this was a lot of work to do on a smaller 273 V8 MOPAR, but with the cash up front we dug in with the usual muscle car passion we all shared at Pete’s garage.
Just as we were getting the car finished, who shows up but the local police department with our “customer” sitting in the back seat of the patrol car. To make a long story short, it didn’t take but a few seconds to figure out what the police were going to tell us. “Sir, the car you are working on has been stolen and is that the man who ordered you to do the work sitting in the back of patrol car?”
That’s my Barracuda Formula S remembrance from my lifetime of car memories and so very different than yours. By the way, Pete Shadinger and his wife, Rose, now live in Phoenix and are in good health.
Thanks much for your letter and kind comments. You had a fine car and got great use from your Barracuda.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.