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If you ask the average person to name an American sporty car of the late sixties, you probably won’t hear “Plymouth Barracuda” unless the person is a dedicated Mopar fan.
In a way, that’s curious, because the Barracuda was the first of the so-called pony cars to hit the market (even before the Ford Mustang) and in some areas it was arguably superior to its Ford rival.
After some internal argument, the new model was dubbed Plymouth Valiant Barracuda, the latter designation suggested by designer John Samsen.
The mechanical specifications were little changed, which meant unit construction, torsion bar front suspension, and a choice of 170 cu. Compact car buyers were already gravitating toward sportier models like the Chevrolet Corvair Monza or the dressed-up Ford Falcon Futura; by comparison, even the top-of-the-line Valiant Signet hardtop looked a little frumpy.
The early sixties were not an auspicious time for Chrysler’s Plymouth brand.
Only a few years earlier, Virgil Exner’s handsome “Forward Look” Plymouths had stolen styling leadership from General Motors, while their buttoned-down “Torsion-Aire” suspension had set new standards for big-car handling.
Unlike some other ‘glassback’ designs, the glass is fixed; the Barracuda is not a hatchback.
Back in 1959, designer Tom Ferris had come up with a sporty fastback body style for the full-style Plymouths, featuring an enormous curved rear window.
(Buyers may have thought so too, since 1963 Signet sales amounted to only about 40,000 units, less than one-fifth the sales of the 1963 Corvair Monza.) The convertible, available in either Signet or V-200 trim, was a step in the right direction, but its addition just served to bring Plymouth even with Chevrolet and Ford, which already had convertible compacts.