Some of us were lucky enough to have found, inherited, or purchased a big-inch Mopar as our first car; a handful may have even gotten a real Hemi in those misspent youthful days. The rest of us, though, got our earliest introduction to Pentastar engineering with Slant Six and LA-powered cars. The Slant was indestructible, but the LA engines-273, 318, 340, and 360-were the company's pedestrian V-8 mills, with all but the 318 being offered in the '64-'77 years in some sort of performance trim.
The 318 did get a little respect, however. With a small investment, it would respond well to speed parts, especially a set of better 340/360 heads and good aftermarket intake/exhaust systems. Though it was a two-barrel motor from the factory all those early years, even as built it had some pep and often gave birth to bigger and better Mopar dreams for its owner.
When Scott and Shelby Martin began to restore their '69 Plymouth Barracuda convertible, there were several ways they could go. A gnarly big-inch stroker swap would have worked, or a dress-up-into-pseudo 340 Formula S trim was a possibility. Whatever direction they planned to travel, it all began when local friend Don Reed accepted a distant new job in 1998 and needed to sell his car (which was already completely apart for a restoration). the decision was to make this project a bone-stock cruiser-318 two-barrel and all.
"I brought it home in many pieces," Scott recalls, "and it sat in the garage a couple of years." Residents of Roanoke, Virginia, the Martins stored the many boxes and hardware and spent a good deal of time gathering the parts to do the little Plymouth-one of just 973 convertible examples built that year-right. This included a spare parts car to acquire a set of 1969-correct front fenders and hood. it would not be until 2001 that Scott got serious about getting the car completed.
After the spare car had been taken apart, Scott installed the bolt-on sheetmetal, while bodyman Matt Owens affixed the replacement rear quarters and performed the rest of the metal work. Following that, Richie Brown layed down Martin-Senour Viper Red basecoat/clearcoat on the fresh tin. Then Butch Helms did the final wet-sand and buff job before installing the black sport stripe.
Meanwhile, the interior and top got the show-quality treatment from Mike Whitlock at the Custom Seat Cover Shop in Salem, Virginia, with fresh vinyl skins created directly from rolled stock installed on the seat frames. One interesting gauge in the rally dash is a "performance monitor" that measures manifold vacuum. the car was also equipped with a console and a floor-mounted automatic shifter from day one. The other little details needed were purchased from Layson's Restoration Parts, while Paul's Chrome Plating was responsible for making the original hard parts shiny again.
The engine is a replacement from a low-mileage '69 donor. Nope, nothing major was done to it, in keeping with the factory stock ideal. in fact, other than a timing chain and a few little pieces, it has not been apart. At the time of the car's creation, 318s were built with a 230hp/340lb-ft torque rating, with about 9.0:1 compression, a .373/.400 hydraulic cam for cylinder scavenging, and a cast crank. The carb was a BBD two-barrel with 1-1/4-inch throttle openings. there was no displacement call-out on the crinkle-black air cleaner.
Scott left the rest of the driveline intact as well: a 904 auto transmission and the 7-1/4 rear with 3.23 open-end gearing. One compromise was a set of 14-inch Rallye wheels, shod with road-ready 205R70-14 BFGoodrich TA tires, which allow the 63,000-mile car to cruise down the road pleasurably.
The 318 may not have been a tire-churning workhouse back in the day, and some of us certainly would have chosen a more performance-oriented route with a hot red A-Body convertible. For the Martins, however, the fun comes from the appreciation this car now gets at shows and cruises as a pretty close time capsule to what left the dealership back in 1969. At the 21st annual All-Mopar Show in Farmington, North Carolina, the car was the only two-barrel machine in a large contingent of well-done A-Bodies and took home First place in the stock category . . . for the third straight year. Scott drove all the way from Roanoke for that show, and says the car gets about 1,000 trouble-free miles a year on it these days. Two-barrel or not, cruising in this ride seems like it would be fun to us.
This is the performance indicator, centered between the 120-mph speedometer and the second
The LA-series 318 was the workhorse V-8 of the Chrysler engine lineup for several decades.