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Thursday, July 23, 2015

History of the Plymouth Barracuda: The Twilight Years


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
Barracuda Fourth Gen

From 1970 to 1971, the Plymouth Barracuda really cemented itself as an American icon. Ditching its economy car persona in place of something more muscular, the ‘Cuda really came into its own. But after the success of the 1970 and 1971 model years, the Barracuda began a downward spiral.

Barrcuda Fourth Gen 3

The Fourth Generation (1972-1974)
In 1972, Plymouth gave the Barracuda a new grill, reduced the number of headlights to two, and settled on a four taillight design. But the biggest changes to the car during this era were caused by Uncle Sam. Ever-increasing federal safety rules led the automaker to drop big-block engine options like the 380, 480, and 426 Hemi.

In ‘72, the Barracuda came with three engine options: a 225 cubic inch six-cylinder, a 318 cubic inch V8, and a tamed-down 340 that met admission standards. Each was revamped to run on unleaded gas. Transmission options included three- and four-speed manuals and a TorqueFlite automatic. The four-speed featured a Hurst shifter.

In ‘73, Plymouth added front and rear safety bumpers, again, to meet government regulations, and dropped the 225 engine altogether. From 70 to 74, the car’s weight steadily increased, thanks to the addition of mandated side-impact protection bars and more substantial bumpers. The government was bringing the era of old-school muscle cars to an end, and demand for the Barracuda fell accordingly.

Barracuda Fourth Gen 2

Another factor that hurt sales was the fuel crisis in the early 70s. In 1970, a gallon of gas cost about $.40. By 1973 the cost had skyrocketed to $.65, or about $4 in current money. American interest in muscle cars took a backseat to economic reality. Production of the Barracuda ended on April 1, 1974, exactly 10 years after it began. In 2001, Chrysler closed its Plymouth division altogether.

In 2007, rumors began to circulate that Chrysler intended to reintroduce the Barracuda, starting in 2009. As with so many tips that circulate through the auto world, this one didn’t pan out. In 2014, Motor Trend revived the story by saying that the Barracuda was not only coming back, but would actually replace the Challenger. Once more, however, the rumors failed to become reality.

Today, the Barracuda is a highly desirable collectible, especially the 70-74 E-body versions. The ‘71 HemiCuda convertible is especially rare. One was sold at a 2014 Mecum auction for $3.5 million. Rip-off replicas of the car were used in the 1990 show Nash Bridges, but none of them featured an actual Hemi V8.

Barracuda Fourth Gen 5

One bit of Barracuda trivia worth mentioning is its appearance in the Phantasm horror film franchise. This YouTube video includes some great clips of the car. It’s worth watching, even if horror isn’t your thing.

As the producer mentions, the original Barracuda disappeared after the first film was completed; no one is sure where it went. The person who ultimately tracks it down will own an irreplaceable piece of muscle car history..

Photo Credit: Mecum Auctions