Although it took the Aries initiative to market first, the Plymouth Barracuda didn’t exact run away with the fame or fortune of its most direct rival, the Ford Mustang. Innovative in its own ways, the Barracuda struck a bit of cult following above and beyond rampant Mustang mania.
It’s brave Valiant roots were far closer to the surface compared to the farce that the Mustang wasn’t a Falcon in drag, for one. Given the great bones that the most minature of Mopars available in the US contributed to its Ponycar offering meant that substance went hand in hand with new style for this most aquatic of horses.
For one, the sturdy, trusty and efficient Slant Six in 170 and 225 cubic inch form gave a sprightly spur to the backside compared to the wheezing 170 and 200 cube Falcon sourced inline sixes available in the Mustang. The Barracuda did suffer, however, when it came to comparable optional V8s.
Although the top offering was a 2 barrel 273 cube V8 capable of 180 horsepower (equal to a turbo Corvair Corsa for 1965), the full onset of the 1965 model year brought 4 barrels as an option, and 235 horsepower. In the relatively light Barracuda, it made for a slick fish, eager to outwit most competitors, but not able to outrun the full gallop of a 271 horse 289 equipped Mustang. Where the Valiant succeeded was traditional Mopar Magic; it’s torsion-aire based suspension. The Formula S package new for the ’65 model year upp’d the ante against the admittedly soggy at times Mustang.
What people remember most of the first generation Barracuda was the epic size of the glass fastback rear window. The 14.4 sq ft piece of Glass produced by Pittsburgh Plate Glass was the largest installed in a production car at that time. Although not a hatchback, the Barracuda added fold down rear seats to help with cargo flexibility, something that would carry over to the larger, if similar in concept, 1966 Dodge Charger.
Although it was first up during Spring training of ’64, the Barracuda proved never to be as popular as the Mustang. However, by the end of 1965, with over 65,000 units sold, it proved to be the most popular single Plymouth in showrooms nationwide. Although it perhaps didn’t stimulate interest outside of Plymouth purists, it decidedly gave the old faithful buyer a new fun way to enjoy their practicality. Fun and Functional, the Plymouth Barracuda set high expectations for multi-tasking cars for years to come.