Good things come in small packages." That rings true about a lot of things-especially Plymouth's 1966 lineup.
Sure, the B-Body (Belvedere/Satellite) was newly styled and Hemi-optioned for '66, and the C-Body added the plush "VIP" series at its top end that year. But the compact A-Body platform had its own "star": The Barracuda Formula S, Plymouth's "sporty compact."
Go back several years from '66, and you'll see the beginnings of the "sporty compact" segment of the new-car market, when the Big 3 saw that they needed to offer more than a basic car if they wanted their compacts to keep selling. At Plymouth, that meant a bucket-seat-equipped Valiant Signet two-door hardtop for '62, joined by a convertible for the mid-level V-200 series and Signet for '63, the LA-series 273 small-block in mid-'64, and the first Barracuda joining the lineup on April 1st of that year.
The Commando 273 in Daniel's...
The Commando 273 in Daniel's '66 is just the way Ma Mopar installed it, still going strong after 115,000 miles. Note the Airtemp A/C compressor at the front of the engine, and the "unsilenced" air cleaner atop it.
The "Formula S" package joined the Barracuda option list for '65, and it had a full serving of higher-performance gear under its glass-fastbacked Valiant sheetmetal. The 273 gained a solid-lifter camshaft, 10.5:1 compression, a Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor under an "unsilenced" chrome air cleaner, and a dual exhaust-into-a-single-resonator exhaust system. Buyers had the choice of a Hurst-shifted A-833 four-speed, or a console-shifted TorqueFlite automatic. For the chassis, Ma Mopar spec'd heavy-duty torsion bars and an anti-sway bar in front, heavy-duty rear leaf springs, plus heavy-duty shocks and wide-tread (for '65, at least) Goodyear "Blue Streak" tires on 14-inch wheels on all four corners. In the big sales year of 1965, with Plymouth's numbers buoyed by its all-new C-Body Furys, some 9,389 Formula S Barracudas were built and sold.
For 1966, Barracuda got a front-end facelift like its Valiant siblings, but with egg-crate pattern outer grilles. The only noticeable change in the Formula S package that year was the substitution of an Inland Steel-built shifter for the A-833 instead of Hurst. Unfortunately, Barracuda's sales numbers took a tumble that year, with just 5,316 Formula S Barracudas built and sold-part of a Barracuda-wide sales drop (of about 40 percent) attributed to competition from the Blue Oval's "pony car," and the upcoming new '67 Barracuda.
Still, in both 1965 and 1966, more Formula S buyers chose the four-speed over the automatic. That included a buyer that optioned a '66 Formula S with a four-speed, Airtemp air conditioning, and Bright Red colors inside and out, with a white longitudinal "racing stripe." That original owner only kept it for a few months before selling it to another owner, who lived in the Bronx. He kept it in his garage, except for occasional good-weather cruises, for the next few decades-plus.
That's where Daniel Lyon comes in. "That car was in my neighborhood my whole life," he says. "It was a 'legend'-you'd only see it maybe once every year, or every five years." One day about five years ago, Daniel happened to see it near a neighborhood mom-and-pop breakfast place. "I pull around the block, and out of the corner of my eye, I see this Barracuda pushed out of a garage with a big 'For Sale' sign in the back window." To make a long story short, Daniel called the '66's owner and left a message. "I even called in sick to work that day, because I was waiting for him to call me back. I was scared that somebody [else] was going to grab the car." Fortunately for Daniel, the owner returned his call, and in short order, the Formula S was his.