For many purists, the idea of an unoriginal engine swap is enough to conjure up emotion and disdain. We live in a world where the attrition of classic Mopars is rather high, because of these dwindling numbers, it’s difficult for many to see cars on the road that aren’t stock restored. A quick response to this position on modified cars is that Mopars are meant for hot-rodding, and modifying them only does them justice. With a rich past in racing where owners would squeeze out as much power they could from their small- and big-blocks, it only seems fitting that some of these cars continue on with the lineage of Mopar racing.

Joseph O’Cone III has managed to create a beautiful monster from a hodgepodge of parts that make it very unique. His ’68 Barracuda started its life as a 318-powered column-shifted automatic with a bench seat. When Joseph found the car in 1994, it was sitting in a dirt floor garage and in need of some serious care. With $300 in his hand, the car was his. It took four years to repair the rust and finish the car, Joseph says.

The finished car was no longer powered by a 318; however, as Joseph revamped the A-Body with a new personality in the form of a built, Six-Pack fed 360. Joseph would later toss the 360 in favor of a stroked 318 pushing 348-cubic inches breathing through Magnum heads. Both engines served him well since they produced stellar power and made all the right noises, but he felt something was missing with the car.

When it came time for another heart transplant on the Barracuda, Joseph was fixated on a 6.1L Hemi. A cast-iron 6.1L block was the starting point of the build. Joseph, with the help of his friend, Jim Seiler, proceeded to clean it up with a .020-inch hone that he filled with forged Ross pistons. These are tied down with Eagle H-beam rods and a factory forged 6.1L Mopar crankshaft. He sent his aluminum 6.1L heads out to M2 Race Systems in Farmingdale, New Jersey, to have them massaged via their CNC program. This bumped maximum flow up to 360cfm on the intake side and 230cfm on the exhaust. To take advantage of the improved flow, a Comp Cams .554/.530-inch lift cam with 243/257degrees of duration and a 107 Lobe separation controls the movement of the 2.02 intake and 1.57 exhaust valves with Comp Cams beehive springs and Cryo-treated stock rockers.

From this point on, the late-model Hemi departed from its high-tech fuel injected ways and went carbureted. An Edelbrock Dual Plane, Dual Quad intake manifold was bolted on with a pair of 500cfm AVS-series carburetors from Edelbrock. An MSD Hemi 6 controller and MSD coil harness delivers the brain work and spark to keep the late-model mill chugging along smoothly. The controller allows Joseph to tune the Hemi through a laptop so he can make adjustments to timing, the MAP table, rev limiter, and more. With tti headers and a DynoMax exhaust, the Barracuda was ready for the road.

His friend, Jim, also modified the Indy valve covers to mimic ones from an 2nd Gen Hemi. He made all of the looms and tubes by hand and then we made the remote coil mounts, Joseph says. These are good for a few people passing by to ask a few questions and Joseph put one of those answers right on the hood with the letters HEMI prominently decorating the side of the fiberglass scoop.

Joseph’s Barracuda embodies the past of Mopar while still looking toward the future with its late-model power. There are certainly individuals out there who won’t enjoy the engine swap, but we have a strong feeling that once they hear it roar to life and idle they’ll be smiling. For now, Joseph will continue to drive it like he stole it and bring the ’Cuda to as many Mopar shows that he can each year.