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 '66 is just the way Ma Mopar installed it, still going strong
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.
Inside, Daniel's Formula S has a restored pair of front buckets flanking the OEM Inland fo
Also fortunate for Daniel: The condition this glass-backed Fish was in. Thanks to its garaging (to escape the ravages of the Empire State's winter weather and accompanying road salt, which is brutal from the Battery to Buffalo), and thanks to an exterior resto done by the second owner and his son, Daniel had a solid car to start with-and one that still contained a lot of original parts inside its all-original sheetmetal. "When I bought the car, everything on it was date-coded or stamped '65," Daniel says. "My friend John Quinn, who works at Bronx Ignition, an automotive-electric shop, says that it has the original bearing in the back of the alternator."
What else is original? As Daniel describes, "It has the original C-clips on the U-joints from the assembly line that have the little extra tab with a piece of wire going through it, so they wouldn't lose the caps on the assembly line." And? "The original Blue Streak spare is still in the car."
Still, there was plenty to do. "When I got it, I pulled the engine and tranny, and I did the engine compartment, drivetrain, tires and wheels, and interior," Daniel says. "I fixed all that stuff up-I basically finished the restoration."
Front buckets were standard items on all Barracudas in '66, but lap-belt availability vari
One big thing that didn't need a total re-do was the Commando 273. "It's never been rebuilt," Daniel says of the original engine that now has 115,000 miles on it. "It ran so well when I took it out that I just put a new oil pump and timing chain in it. Even the water pump is the original date-coded one, so I had it rebuilt."
Now that it's all done, what does Daniel think of his Formula S? "The car is incredible! It drives perfectly." He adds, "When I got it, I was very hesitant to take it apart and do the drivetrain. That's because me and my friend restored a bunch of cars over the years. We'd done them 'soup-to-nuts'-new axles, tires and wheels-and we'd always get some kind of shake or vibration. This car just drives smooth as anything. When I'm doing 70 miles an hour, I'm at 2,600 rpm."
Speaking of friends, Daniel credits them with the help they gave him while finishing the Fish. "My friend John Quinn is a living Mopar encyclopedia,"he says. "He knows date codes, what's right and what's wrong-he lives Mopar. He's like a godfather if you need advice on what color. Daniel adds, "We have an engine guy, a chrome guy, a powdercoating guy, that we're all friends with. We all help each other." Daniel also gives thanks to his fellow Bronx Mopars club members, too, for their inspiration and help.
That help has come in handy over the years to Daniel. "I've been doing this with along with my uncle's friends since I was about 12 years old," he says. They'll likely be a big help should he decide to restore another Mopar rarity in his garage. "I also have a '79 Road Runner that I've had since I was 16, that's one of 217 made."
"It was a 'legend'-you'd only see it maybe once every year, or every five years."-Daniel Lyon
'66 Plymouth Barracuda Forumla 'S'
Owned by: Daniel Lyon, Mount Vernon, New York
- Engine: The first of Ma Mopar's high-performance LA-series smallblocks: the Commando 273, which (in Formula S trim) got a solid lifter cam, 10.5:1 compression and a Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor as OEM equipment, along with dual exhausts that flowed into a big resonator with a single chrome tip out back. This one has all that-and has never been rebuilt!
- Transmission: Ma Mopar's own A-833 4-speed, with an OEM Inland Steel toilet flusher shifter with reverse-lockout T-bar.
- Rearend: 83/4-inch with Sure Grip and 2.73 rear gears.
Heavy-duty, with the emphasis on handling (Front) HD torsion bars and shocks with a front anti-sway bar (Rear) HD leaf springs and shocks
Brakes: OEM-style drum-and-shoe brtakes with 10-inch drums. (At least they've got "Total Contact" linings on them.)
Wheels and Tires: Factory 14x5-inch stamped steel wheels wear "mag-style" wheel covers and later-generation Cooper Trendsetter SE P205/75R14 whitewall radials. (Goodyear "Blue Streaks" were available with the Formula S package back in the day, and the OEM Blue Streak spare is still in the trunk.)
- Body:Original '66 Plymouth A-Body two-door unibody, which Barracuda shared with three other body styles (Valiant V-100 sedan, and the V-200/Signet hardtops and convertibles) And we mean original-sheetmetal, trim, and all!
- Paint: One repaint in the original Bright Red acrylic enamel.
- Interior: Full-tilt Formula S, which means a set of gauges (0-150 mph speedometer, 0-6000 rpm tach plus ammeter and fuel level, oil pressure and coolant temperature gauges) instead of idiot lights, front buckets and a folding rear bench done in red vinyl. That's along with an optional pushbutton AM radio, loop-pile carpeting, front/rear lap belts and factory Airtemp air conditioning.