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History and Understanding the Term:

Cuda (Plymouth Barracuda) as it relates to the diecast toy model car industry


Some History on the term Cuda

The Barracuda was a two-door compact/midsize car manufactured by the Plymouth division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1964 through 1974.

First generation

Production 1964–1966
Platform FR A-body
Related Dodge Dart
Plymouth Valiant

1965 Plymouth Barracuda Formula SThe original Plymouth Barracuda was built upon the A-body chassis, which was also common to several other vehicles manufactured by Chrysler, including the popular Dodge Dart. It was directly spun off of the existing Valiant series to appeal to a sportier market, and it is also considered the first pony car, because it preceded the Ford Mustang to market by two weeks.

The first generation Barracuda's main claim to fame was its enormous fastback wrap-around rear window, considered the largest piece of automotive glass ever installed at that time. Powertrains were identical to the Valiant's, including two versions of Chrysler's legendary inline "slant 6" — a 170 in³ (2.8 L), 101 hp (75 kW) version and an optional 225 in³ (3.7 L), 145 hp (108 kW) version offered. A two-barrel carbureted 180 hp (134 kW) 273 in³ (4.5 L) V8 was the top engine option for 1964, so performance at first was modest. The 170 in³ six was later eliminated as an option, leaving the 225 in³ 145 hp version as the smallest engine option. The Barracuda sold for a base price of US$2,500, and unlike any other year, all automatic 1964 Barracudas had a push button shifter on the dashboard.

The 1965 model year saw the introduction of two important options; the 273 in³ (4.5 L) Commando, a 235 hp (175 kW) four-barrel carbureted V8, and the Formula 'S' package, a performance package that included the Commando V8, upgraded suspension, wheels, and tires, and a standard tachometer.

In 1966 the Barracuda would receive a new taillight design and a facelift, making it easily distinguishable from the 1964 and 1965 versions. As a move to further the car's image from that of the Valiant, the blue and red "V" shaped Valiant emblem below the rear glass on the center of the vehicle was replaced mid-year by a Barracuda fish emblem. The 1966 model had updated sheetmetal, which gave a more chiseled contour to the fenders, and also featured fender-top turn signal indicators in the shape of shark fins. Also new were full-sized bumpers and a unique "cheese-grater" grill, which slanted forward aggressively and featured a distinct grid pattern. Other changes for 1966 included a redesigned gauge cluster and optional center console.

Since 1967 saw a complete redesign of the Barracuda, some collectors consider the 1966 model a unique, one-year-only rarity. Other early A-Body enthusiasts shun the 1966 version as an unfortunate departure from the original design.

Influential design

1966 Plymouth Barracuda Formula SThe Barracuda would influence other designs, particularly others in Chrysler's stable. Across the pond, Chrysler's United Kingdom offshoot developed the Hillman Hunter estate based Sunbeam Rapier Fastback coupe for 1967, which clearly emulated the 1964-66 Barracuda's profile.

Second generation

Production 1967–1969
Platform FR A-body
Related Dodge Dart
Plymouth Valiant

In 1967 the Barracuda remained an A-body car, but was fully redesigned. To complement the fastback model, the vehicle now offered notchback and convertible options, replacing the 1966 versions. This second generation Barracuda would last for three years, from 1967 through 1969. An interesting way to visually tell the difference in all 3 years were the side marker lights: the 1967 Barracuda had no side marker lights at all, the 1968 model had small circular ones and the 1969 model had much larger rectangular ones.

As the pony car class became established and competition heated up, 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. While the base 225 in³ was still the base engine, the engine options ranged from the two-barrel carbureted 180 hp (134 kW) 273 in³ (4.5 L) Commando, to a 235 hp (175 kW) four-barrel carbureted V8 and though rare, the optionally available 383 in³ (6.3 L) B engine in 1967. In 1968 the 318 in³ 2bbl was the smallest V8 available (replacing the 273 in³ 2bbl engine) and the 340 in³ 4bbl engine and finally the massive 440 in³ (7.2 L) RB single 4-barrel carbureted in 1969, available straight off of the showroom floor. There was even a limited production of 50 Super-Stock, non-street legal, Hemi-powered Barracudas (and another 50 Darts) built in 1968 for use in drag racing.

Third generation

1972 Plymouth Barracuda 340 (Restomod, with added 1970 AAR 'cuda stripes).
Production 1970–1974
Platform FR E-body
Related Dodge Challenger

Swede Savage (left) and Dan Gurney, 1970

1971 440 'Cuda
As 1970 rolled around, another redesign was in order for the Barracuda. The performance version was badged and advertised as the 'Cuda. This year's new design looked quite a bit different from the previous models. One of the reasons was that it was now built on a new, slightly shorter, wider, and sportier version of Chrysler's existing B platform, the E-body. This new generation eliminated the fastback, but kept the two-door coupe and convertible versions. It also had a Dodge near-twin known as the Challenger; however, not one body panel interchanged between the two cars and the Challenger had a slightly longer wheelbase. Both were aggressively and cleanly styled, although they were clearly influenced by the first-generation Chevrolet Camaro. After the switch to the E platform, which featured a larger engine bay than the previous A-body, Chrysler's famous 426 in³ (7.0 L) Hemi would now be available from the factory in the Barracuda. The HemiCuda had about a factory rating of 6 MPG, and was sold without warranty.

Race car drivers Swede Savage and Dan Gurney drove identical factory-sponsored AAR (All American Racers) Cudas in the 1970 Trans-Am Series, although with no success. The AAR Cudas were equipped with the 340 ci "six pack" (3, two barrel carburetors).

With the 440-6 and 426 Hemi, the performance from these production Barracudas ended up being legendary. The 1/4 mile times for these were 13.7 s @ 103 mph and 13.4 s @ 108 mph - both among the fastest times of the day. These engines were very easy to slightly modify and drop into the 12s, but either way - stock or modified - one could virtually have a 5-passenger race car. Barracudas also came with decal sets, hood modifications, and some unusual colors ("Vitamin C", "In-Violet", and "Moulin Rouge").

The Barracuda was changed slightly for 1971, with a new grille and taillights. This would be the only year that the Barracuda would have four headlights, and also the only year of the optional fender "gills". The 1971 Barracuda engine options would remain the same as that of the 1970 model, except for the fact that a 4-barrel carbureted 440 engine was not available; all 440-powered Barracudas had a six-barrel carburetor setup instead. The 426 Hemi option would remain, and the Hemi-powered 1971 Barracuda convertible is now considered one of the rarest and most desirable collectible automobiles.

In 1970 and 1971, two options were available that are now highly sought-after by collectors. They are the shaker hood and the Spicer Dana 60 rearend. The shaker hood was available on 340ci, 383ci, 440ci and Six-Pack, and 426ci Hemi-equipped 'Cudas. The heavy Dana 60, with a 9 3/4 inch ring gear and considered nearly indestructible, was standard on manual transmission 440 Six-Pack and 426 Hemi equipped 'Cudas, and was optional on those with the automatic transmission.

After another grille and taillight redesign in 1972, the Barracuda would keep its overall look the same through 1974, with dual headlights and four circular taillights. But like other pony cars of the time, these years showed a major decrease in the Barracuda's power due to stricter emission laws. The largest available engine in 1972 was the 340 4bbl; a 360 was available in 1974. New safety regulations would also force the vehicle to have large front and rear bumper guards in 1973 and 1974. The Barracuda hung on through 1974, after which it was discontinued in the midst of the 1973 oil crisis. Production ended ten years (to the day) after it had begun. Although today they are sought-after collector cars, the third generation was a marketplace failure and never successfully competed with rival offerings from Ford and General Motors. The rarity of specific models and combinations today is primarily the result of low original-buyer interest and production.

A rare (only 14 produced) 1970 Hemicuda convertible sold for US$2.16 million at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Scottsdale Auction in 2006. Needless to say, demand for life size Cuda has driven demand for the diecast model car version of all types and years of Plymouth Barracudas. Ertl in the early 80's was one of the first diecast manufacturers to introduce 1/18 scale model of the Cuda. Then in the 90's and even today ther diecast manufacturers Johnny Lightning, Jada Toys, Highway 61, Muscle Machine, and Yatming make scale model die cast collector versions of the Plymouth Cuda.

Additional Resources:

Understanding Scale
Diecast Directory
See all diecast collector model Plymouth Barracudas (in stock and out of stock)
See only IN STOCK Plymouth Barracudas
See ALL 1:18 scale diecast model cars (in stock and out of stock)
See only IN STOCK 1:18 scale diecast model cars


This page was last modified 4 January 2007.
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