Plymouth Barracuda History (1964-1966)

Article by Mark Trotta

Based on the existing Valiant model, the first-generation Barracuda was available only as a hardtop fastback with wraparound back glass, and promoted as a sporty compact.

plymouth barracuda history

1964 Plymouth Barracuda

Aside from the chassis and drivetrain, the Barracuda also shared the Valiant hood, windshield, doors, quarter panels, bumpers, and headlamp bezels. The trunk and some of the glass was it's own.

The suspension was independent torsion bars with unequal-length control arms up front, and leaf springs in back.

The Barracuda's interior was sported up with the addition of front bucket seats from the Valiant Signet model. A flip-down rear seat opened up the entire back area. Advertisements of the day showed Barracudas hauling surfboards, a popular sales hook for younger buyers.

The Plymouth Barracuda debuted on April 1, 1964. Two weeks later, Ford debuted their new compact model, the Mustang.

Aside from competing with the Ford Mustang, Plymouth had hoped to tap into Chevrolet's Corvair Monza customer base.

Unique Rear Window

The distinctive wraparound back glass was a feature on 1964-1966 models only. At 14.4 square feet, it was the largest ever installed on a standard production car at the time.

plymouth barracuda history

Slant Six Engine

When the Barracuda arrived, the Chrysler "Slant Six" had already been in production for five years. The slanted cylinder block provided more room under the hood for intake and exhaust manifolds with longer runners, which helped both performance and economy.

Two versions of the Slant-Six engine were available for the Barracuda. Standard-equipment was the smaller, 170 cubic-inch version, with an output of 101 horsepower. The larger, optional 225 cubic-inch motor produced 145 horsepower.

For those who cared in 1964, Slant-Six gas mileage was excellent.

Transmission Choices

Standard equipment on first-gen models was a three-speed manual shift. Chrysler's push-button transmission control saw it's final year in 1964. It also marked the first use of the smaller TorqueFlite Six (A904). A four-speed manual transmission was available as an option.

plymouth barracuda history

Barracuda sales totaled 23,433 units for the 1964 model year. Compared to 126,538 Mustangs sold during the same time, several changes were made for the 1965 model.

Read: Pony Car History

1965 Plymouth Barracuda

The most important update to the 1965 Barracuda was the addition of V8 power. A 273ci V-8 with 8.8:1 compression and two-barrel carburetor was a popular option. Engine output was 180 horsepower.

A 273 "Commando" engine was also available, with 10.5:1 compression, four-barrel carburetor, and solid-lifter camshaft. The factory rated the engine output at 235 horsepower, which many automotive historians claim was conservative.

After the start of the 1965 model year, disc brakes and air conditioning became optional. The 170ci Slant-Six was dropped, and the 225ci version became the base motor.

Formula S Package

Introduced in 1965, the Formula S package included the Commando 273 V8 engine, stiffer "Rallye" suspension, and a front anti-roll bar. Also included were larger wheels and "wide-tread" tires, special emblems, and a tachometer. With the optional four-speed manual transmission, a Barracuda with the S package was a formidable driver's car.

plymouth barracuda history

1965 Barracuda sales jumped to 64,596.

1966 Barracuda

A mild restyle for 1966 included a new front end and new tail-lamps. With the exception of the grille, the front sheet metal was shared with the 1966 Valiant.

Inside, the Barracuda sported a new instrument panel. Engine choices remained the same as the 1965 model year.

Unfortunately, due to competition from the Mustang and others, Barracuda sales dropped to 38,029. A restyle would be seen for 1967, as well as a complete makeover for 1970.

Hemi Under Glass

With a 426 Hemi engine tucked under the large rear window, the "Hemi Under Glass" Barracuda performed at U.S. drag strips from 1965 through 1975. The rearward weight transfer of the engine allowed easy wheelies, much to the delight of the crowds.

plymouth barracuda history

For the 1966 racing season, the original '65 model was updated with new sheet metal and trim pieces. In all, nine "Hemi Under Glass" Barracudas were built through the model years 1967 through 1975.