The Plymouth Barracuda was first released in 1965 in response to the Ford Motor Company’s successful launch of the Mustang. This Ford completely rewrote the sales records of that time following its April 1964 launch. When the Mustang was released it became known as a ‘pony car’, a term which was used to describe new style sporty compact vehicles.
Chrysler’s response was very quick but it was fortunate in having a suitable car, the Valiant, on which to base the new Barracuda. With some quick modifications to Valiant tooling Chrysler was able to develop a two-door coupe with a short-wheelbase chassis.
While this early Barracuda never matched the Mustang or GM’s Camero in sales terms, it was a reasonable seller and built up a strong following of loyal supporters.
In 1970 the Plymouth Barracuda received a complete redesign and shared the same bodyshell as the Dodge Challenger, another Chrysler ‘pony car’. Its two-door unibody was available as a fastback coupe, convertible or hardtop.
This model Barracuda was offered with a choice of several engines ranging from a 3.6-litre in-line six cylinder to various V8s from 5.0-litre right up to 7.2-litre. The power output of these went from 82kW to 108kW at 4000rpm depending on tuning for the sixes and from 112kW to 290kW for the V8 versions.
The air cleaner for the triple carburettors protruded through the bonnet on the hot versions giving the car a really aggressive appearance. Either Torqueflite automatic or four-speed manual transmissions could be ordered.
These power options, together with the car’s good handling, ensured that the Barracuda was a great performer and the top model was capable of a top speed of 220 km/h.
As the number of ‘pony cars’ on the street increased, American insurance companies became increasingly concerned with the potential for high claims and as a consequence increased their charges. This, together with the fuel crisis of 1973-74, had a severe dampening effect on the sales of this type of car. Over its model life from 1970 to 1974 Chrysler sold 102,786 of the redesigned Plymouth Barracudas.