Home Car Stories 20 Years + 1970 PLYMOUTH Barracuda 383- Susan
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Written by Double Dragon
Monday, 04 April 2011 11:37

1970 PLYMOUTH Barracuda 383- Susan

oneownercollectorcar.com

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Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown, except period photo courtesy and copyright Susan.

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 As a youngster I loved facts, figures and raw speed. These interests resulted in full blown Speedometer Watching Mania which led to my first ride in a Barracuda.

Speedo Watching was usually an exercise in futility in my Mom's cars, as the needle rarely deviated from the posted speed limit. But even she succumbed to the lure of the open road and the needle once made it up to 90 mph. My dad on the other hand had the needles in his cars pegged so often; it was just standard operating procedure. A family friend and his various sons would push their family Lincolns right to the max anytime they were on a highway. Kids would trade stories about how fast the rides they were in went. One kid's story was legendary. His Aunt started berating her husband, "Why are you slowing down?" He had just slowed down to NINETY.

My friends started getting speedometers to put on their bicycles, launching top speed missions. I saved up and bought a speedometer. Pegging that speedometer at its 40 mph limit was daunting on a coaster bicycle without gears. I managed to peg it with the help of a giant hill.

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These obsessions naturally overlapped into curiosity about the top speed listed on car speedometers. When I was a kid, most of the cars around used 120 mph speedometers regardless of the car’s actual top speed. Every now and then there was the eureka moment when we found one that varied. One of our weird hobbies was riding bicycles through parking lots peering in at speedometers. The biggest thrill for everyone was seeing a 160 MPH speedometer in a Corvette.

In a supermarket parking lot I spotted an aging beat up purple 1968 Barracuda fastback with rally wheels. I had a feeling it was going to have some big numbers on the speedometer. When I looked into the car there was a combination of elation and let down at the same time. The Speedometer ran right up to 150 mph but the actual numerals were set tachometer style. The speedometer numerals needed to be multiplied by a factor of ten to get the actual speed. The round dial read 0 to 15. I wanted to see the actual number 150 mph, not 15!

At that moment the owner showed up and rather curtly demanded to know if I was casing out cars. A clean-cut 6 year old kid is a pretty unlikely car thief, at least back in those more innocent days. I missed the joke. His wife cut into my great big explanation and told me that he was just kidding around. That was how I ended up getting a spin in that purple Barracuda.

This was a long narrow fastback car with a small block but it felt like a rocket. We buzzed past the fields with the needle up round seven, which translated to 70 mph. I retained impressions of that Barracuda forever: the hallmarks of a used Chrysler from that era were all there. It had a jarring ride and rattling glove box. The carpet didn't fit right, and all the interior plastic was scarred and brittle. The no nonsense performance feel from the hard pulling engine and crashing shifts of the automatic created an overall sensory impression of a raw, unrefined competition muscle car.

That first Barracuda I rode in looked and felt like a cool car to me at the time. However, to many pony car buyers, its Valiant body heritage was too evident despite attempts to disguise its origins. This problem had hindered sales right from the beginning of April, 1964 when the Barracuda beat the Mustang to market. Two weeks later, April 17, 1964 the Mustang eclipsed the Barracuda with its large ad campaign and frenzied public response. The Mustang was wildly successful mainly because its Falcon heritage was completely hidden with a sexy new body. The Valiant lineage of the Barracuda was too apparent to potential buyers. This problem dogged the Barracuda throughout its Valiant based run.

The really nice redesign done on the 1967 Barracuda helped bolster it's beauty but did nothing for engine availability. In the full on muscle car wars of the 1960s big blocks were where it was at. Chrysler managed to ram a 440 into this body style but it was ridiculously out of balance and the narrow engine bay made any routine service of the 440 impractical. Even a 383 was too big for this car. The muscle car wars killed the ponycars. Mustang was enlarged in order to accept bigger engines and everyone else followed this path.

The all new E body 1970 Barracuda addressed not just beauty but the beast. It went on sale Sep 23, 1969. The redesign broke loose from the Valiant body structure to better compete with the sportier styling of the Mustang and Camaro. The big news was in the power department. The wider Barracuda could now house engines all the way up to the Hemi as well as using heavier suspension pieces. The official Plymouth news release dated 9 AM on Aug 28th introduced the three models; Barracuda, Gran Coupe and ‘Cuda. 

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These newly designed bodies incorporated a lot of safety features.

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The news release lists the flush mounted door handles which resist rollover damage, high back seats with integral head restraints, interior door locks levers recessed into armrests, side impact beams in doors and so on. Above you can see how the interior door latch is dropped down inside the armrest to prevent it's accidentally being released. Also note the typical brittle plastic used in these cars. Any Challenger or Barracuda from 1970 to 1974 exhibits the scarring and gouging seen here due to the plastic's dry, hard surface. Below is a shot of the recessed door handle showing a bit of chrome flaking inside the handle pull. Looking below the door handle you can see the factory striping and vinyl protective strip meant to reduce parking lot door dings.

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A 318 was the standard engine in the Barracuda and Gran Coupe. Optional was a 6 cylinder and two 383s in 2 and 4 barrel form. 

The standard engine in the Cuda was a 383 4 barrel. This engine in the ‘Cuda is distinguished from the optional 4 barrel 383 available in the other lines as a “special high performance 383”. The actual difference in horsepower was 330 HP for the Barracudas as compared to 335 HP in the ‘Cuda. 

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The OOCC Barracuda engine provides similar performance to the 383 ‘Cudas. The 'Cuda was the muscle car version of the E body and came with better brakes and suspension, but our feature car closely approximates the ‘Cuda driving experience. The OOCC feature car also has a high impact color: Vitamin C. The high impact colors were usually seen only on the outright muscle car versions of Mopars. The console mounted automatic completes the sporty image. This shifter was called the “Slick Shift” and used the same concept that was popularized with the Hurst "His and Hers" shifters in the GTOs. It allowed manual up shifts from first to second and second to third without danger of accidently jamming the lever into neutral or reverse.

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The factory “B” in the VIN indicates that the OOCC 1970 Barracuda 383 was built in Hamtramck, Michigan. The VIN sequential number places the build somewhere near the start of the run. The car is thought to have been built in September, 1969. The door sticker is so worn that the build date is illegible. The dealership information is unknown, but stories suggest it came from the Vancouver side of dealer row down on Boundary Road which borders Vancouver and Burnaby, BC.

For the first 20 years of its life, the Barracuda's fate was in the hands of two women who experienced radically different emotions about this car.

The dealership details of this particular 1970 Barracuda are vague. Despite a misty backdrop, this car has an explosive history that came into sharp focus during the first hour of ownership. That first hour is literally stamped into the sheet metal, marking the car all these years.

The first owner may as well have been a bystander insofar as the car’s fate is concerned. Owner one bought the car new off a lot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. While we can only imagine how pleased he must have been with his impulse purchase, we do know how his wife reacted. As he pulled into the driveway, his pregnant wife was furious. She hadn't been consulted in any way about this car. She was so angry she got in the car and drove it into the edge of the garage door, denting the front end.

"Either the car goes, or I go!"

The dent inflicted on the car's first day of ownership is still there today.

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The wife's violent hatred of the car forced the first owner to place an ad in the paper for a private sale. Enter the next woman in this car's life. Susan was a 17-year-old high school student when she talked her dad into accompanying her to look at the car. Her reaction to the car was just as strong as the first owner's wife, but in the opposite direction. Susan loved the car at first sight. Susan's father dismissed the car as impractical. Just as the first owner of the car caved in to his wife's fit and placed it up for sale, the father crumbled in the face of Susan's temper tantrum. In true 17-year-old style, she cried, screamed and yelled and broke down his resistance. Her father lent her the extra money she needed on condition she worked part time to pay off the loan. Below is a shot she took of the Barracuda back in the 1970s.

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The two constants in Susan’s life were school and the Barracuda. She used it daily for high school and later when she became a perennial student at Simon Fraser University out in Burnaby, BC. Susan replaced the original steel wheels with aftermarket rims, putting the steelies in storage. One night, the aftermarket wheels and the headlight bezels were stolen off the car. Susan put a new set of aftermarket rims on the car and pumped up security, installing alarms on the hood and trunk.

British Columbia briefly had a vehicle inspection program and this car passed in June of 1982. The remnants of the sticker are visible in the bottom corner of the windshield on the passenger side. A 1982 BC sticker also survives on the windshield of the 1972 Dart Swinger, which is also profiled in the TWENTY YEARS PLUS section of this website.

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The Barracuda escaped any serious accidents. A neighbor backed into the Barracuda and dented the rear panel. Unfortunately, Susan was nice and understanding ny agreeing to bypass filing an insurance claim. She allowed the dent to be fixed by a friend of the neighbor at a local body shop. Susan's good intentions were rewarded with a rip- off hack job. The dent was repaired using inferior products. The paint in that area started to go bad a few years later.

Susan lived in the Dunbar area of Vancouver and always brought the car to a service station on 39th and Dunbar. Here, in 1990, a 22-year-old apprentice mechanic laid eyes on the car for the first time. Coincidentally, the mechanic owned a 1970 orange 383 Barracuda. His car was a 2-barrel convertible. The similarities prompted him to chat with Susan about their cars.

The mechanic pumped Susan’s gas when she came into the station and they became friends. When she took the car off the road in 1992 it was still in decent shape. There was some minor rust stemming from the car having been parked outdoors all of its life. The poorly repaired neighbor accident was also an issue. Of course, the historic first hour of ownership dent has never been altered. The mechanic remained in touch with Susan as the years went by. In May, 2005 the car had been sitting in a garage long enough for her to concede that she was never going to deal with it. Susan owned the car for 35 years at this point and had driven it for 22 of those years. She sold it to the mechanic, confident that he would revitalize the car.

The mechanic cleaned off a half inch of dust and proceeded to invest 400 hours into getting it back on the road. The car only had 83,000 miles but had been idle for 13 years. The mechanic worked hard, pulling the engine, replacing brakes, exhaust, and tires. The original gas tank was perforated on top and had to be replaced. The window regulators were jammed and doors had to be disassembled. The original carburetor and intake was replaced with an Edelbrock and Holley for driving, while retaining the original parts for future return to stock condition. The car has an open 3.23:1 rear end, 15-inch rims with 60 series 275 radials in rear. This combination was good for a top speed of 140 mph and about 7 or 8 MPG steady running at highway speeds going to a distant car show in the interior of British Columbia.

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The OOCC Barracuda is basically an unrestored original with original paint, except for the badly fixed rear dent. The interior is all original, with some drivers seat rips. In contrast, notice the perfect condition of the lightly used passenger seat. The carpet was in bad shape and was taken out. The door panels show the scratches and wear that are typical on these cars. The plastic becomes brittle and I’ve yet to see a 1970s E body without door panel grooving and gouging.

The OOCC Barracuda just recently crossed 90,000 miles and aside from necessary mechanicals it is essentially unchanged since the days Susan went to and from school in the car. The mechanic is still investing time into the car while also juggling this project with his other 70 Vitamin C Barracuda.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:19 )