Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Barracuda was a compact car manufactured by the Plymouth division of Chrysler Corporation from 1965 to 1974. The Plymouth Barracuda was released in 1964, based upon the A-body chassis common to several other vehicles manufactured by Chrysler, including the popular Dodge Dart. Directly spun off the existing Valiant series to appeal to a sportier market, it is often considered the first pony car, because it preceded the Ford Mustang to market by a few weeks. Despite this, the Mustang, not the Barracuda, set the market's direction.
The first Barracuda's main claim to fame was its enormous fastback rear window, considered the largest piece of automotive glass ever installed at that time. Powertrains were identical to the Valiant's, including a small six-cylinder, Chrysler's legendary Slant Six, so performance at first was modest.
As the pony car class became established and competition heated up, however, Plymouth began to revise the Barracuda's engine options, which came to resemble those of the larger Plymouth Road Runner more than the Valiant's. From a modest 273 V-8, the car began to offer 383 B engines and then the massive 440 RB with Six Pak (triple two-barrel) carburetion, and finally after a redesign in 1970, Chrysler's street-legal race engine, the famous 426 Hemi. These later big-block versions, some marketed under the 'Cuda name, were genuine muscle cars and are quite collectible today
The 1970 redesign of the Barracuda was based upon a new, slightly shorter and sportier version of Chrysler's existing B-body muscle car platform, the new E-body. This second version had a Dodge twin known as the Challenger.
Around 1970 was the heyday of the muscle car; shortly thereafter, emissions and safety regulations began to take a toll on performance and rising insurance rates caused the market to shrink. The Barracuda hung on with decreasing power options until 1974, when it was discontinued in the midst of the first gas crisis of the 70s.
The 1971 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda convertible is considered one of the rarest and most desirable collectable automobiles in the world, with a recent example selling for over $2M (USD). Exactly 7 of these were made with this body style and engine combination. All are currently accounted for.
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