A short Barracuda history

As the 1960's began, most "performance" cars were big, bulky, and heavy. Customers wanted something smaller, but with the same performance. So, Chrysler came up with a simple solution. The already popular valiant model had several levels of luxury, so they took the top model, cut the roof & rear trunk area off & added the largest rear window ever seen on an automobile. Thus the Barracuda was born.

The 1964 model was offered as an option of the Valiant line & carried Valiant insignia. The car had a small trunk lid, but the area under the rear glass was open for use. The rear seat folded down & a divider opened the trunk to the interior, making 7 ft. of space available. Magazine ads boasted "What's a high-performance fastback doing with a seven-foot-long utility space? Making sport of utility."

In 1965,the barracuda got a performance package: the Formula S. The car could already be had with the standard 225cid slant six or the 273cid V8. But the Formula S got the commando 273 version with 4 barrel carb, higher compression pistons, and high lift cam. The car got heavy duty springs & shocks, anti-roll bars, blue streak tires & a tach. Optional was the new front disc brakes & racing stripes.

In 1966, the car got its own distinctive grille, and more color options were added, but not much else changed.

The important thing about these cars is that they hit the market about two weeks before the mustang was released, and Ford was nervous. There were reports that Ford was going to rework the Falcon to a fastback to compete directly with the Barracuda. But, this never happened and Mustang sales went through the roof, sealing the early Barracuda's fate. In 1967, the Barracuda got a complete makeover, offering a coupe, fastback, and a convertible. It got a larger engine compartment to fit in big blocks as well as the small.

Chryslers first "muscle cars" weren't the great success they had been planned to be, but paved the way for the "hemi cuda" and other legendary Mopar cars. Remember... it all started here, with the glassback Barracuda.

Additional history by Bob & Darlene Jarvis:

While the automotive press was praising the Mustang at every turn, the Barracuda was receiving mixed reviews. At the heart of the matter was the lack of performance-oriented options on Plymouth's new fastback. Along with the Barracuda came the introduction of Chrysler's new small-block V8 as an option.

At 273 cubes, 180 horsepower at 4200 rpm, 260 lbs-ft. of torque at 1600 rpm and 8.8:1 compression, the 273 2Bbl engine provided spirited power for the 2900 lb Barracuda. But a musclecar it was not! The only hint of muscle was the optional 4-speed transmission in both 6 and 8 cylinder cars.

For 1965 some serious damage control was needed at Chrysler. If the Barracuda was to succeed in the same market with the Mustang, a performance identity was a must, and when the new models rolled off the assembly line, that oversight had been corrected. Among the minor changes for the '65 Barracuda was (as with all Chrysler products) the absence of push-button controls on TorqueFlite-equipped models. A consolete now mounted the automatic shifter on the floor. A new instrument cluster and heater controls and the elimination of the Valiant name on the taillight panel rounded out the changes.

The '65 Barracuda (now a separate model from the Valiant) began life with a Rallye Pack option that included heavy-duty torsion bars (front), leaf springs (rear), front sway bar and shock absorbers. The new Commando 273 (235 horsepower at 5200 rpm, 280 lbs-ft. torque at 4000 rpm and 10.5:1 compression ratio) was part of the Rallye Pack. A wide Rallye Stripe running the length of the car, and new "Commando V8" badging were the only hints that all was not as standard as one may have thought. Unless you were privy to the beautiful symphony coming from the unique no-muffler, resonator-only, square, chrome-tipped exhaust system.

In the Fall of 1964 (for the '65 models), Chrysler enhanced the Rallye Pack option with 14x5-inch wheels mounting Goodyear Blue-Streak Sports Car Special tires, an in-dash tachometer and special badging to produce what was now known as the Formula "S" Competition Package. Interestingly enough, all of the Formula S goodies (except the badging) could be ordered separately and added to a Rallye Pack car, if you were so inclined.

Barracuda total production reached 23,543 in 1964. For 1965, U.S. shipments alone hit 58,709 with 10,039 of those equipped with the Commando 273-4BBL. No breakdown exists for 1965 Rallye Pack or Formula S production, but it is known that 19.4 % of all '65 Barracudas were equipped with a four-speed transmission.

1966: Although the body shell remained virtually unchanged for the new model year, it was obvious Barracuda was overdue for some styling changes. Those upgrades came in the form of bigger, bolder bumpers that eliminated the under-bumper valance of '64-65, slab-sided front fenders and rear quarters, a more aggressive "French fry cutter" grille and restyled tail-lights with rectangular, rather than round, back-up lamps. Inside, in addition to changed seats and vinyl trim, there was a new instrument cluster (in the old dash) featuring a built-in tachometer (Formula S only), vacuum gauge and oil pressure gauge.

The optional full console was now more than just something for the shifter to poke out of. Speaking of the shifter: Gone was the Hurst unit of old. In its place was the new Chrysler/Inland unit with reverse lock-out trigger. No matter how you sliced it---this shifter change was a step in the wrong direction for Chrysler. A remedy would have to wait until mid-1968 for the return of a Hurst.

Under the hood things remained pretty much the same for 1966. Standard Slant Six or optional 273-2Bbl power was still available, just as in the past. The four-barrel Commando V8 was still the Formula S choice for "Go" power, but in the "Whoa" department were new optional front disc brakes---a sorely needed option on previous models.

Who can say why, but U.S.A. Barracuda sales for 1966 dropped to just 33,050 units. Formula S production accounted for 3,702, with 5,619 total Barracudas sold in the U.S. with 273 4Bbl power. Four-speeds accounted for 14.9 % of all '66 Barracudas.