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.
With just a few modifications, the late-model Hemi fits in the engine bay of an A-Body ver
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.
Controlling the timing in a late-model engine that’s installed in a vintage car isn’t as e
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.
Joseph would like to thank: My lovely and understanding wife, Sheryl. My father, Joe Sr. Jim Seiler (The Humper) for the thousands of hours of help with fabrication and restoration. I would also like to thank Gene Millhouse and (Sparky) Mark Pullen for their time and knowledge. A special thanks to my late friend, Peter Gonalfo. Without him, I would have never been into this hobby as much as I am. I have never done anything without saying to myself, what would Pete say?
’68 Plymouth Barracuda
Owned by: Joseph O’Cone
- Engine: When this ’Cuda rolled off the assembly line it had a 318 as its source of thrust. During the restoration process that occurred over the first four years he owned the car, a 360 was enlisted to take command of the rear tires. Curiosity of a 318 engine combination got the best of him, and he eventually reverted back to a 318 swollen to over 348 cubes. Finally, Joseph settled on an engine that could do everything he was looking for, including the show-stopping punch, a late-model Hemi. Starting with a cast iron 6.1L block, Joseph and his good friend, Jim Seiler, cleaned the bore up .020-inch over, then threw in a factory forged crank slinging around Eagle H-beam rods and 11:1 forged Ross pistons. The factory aluminum heads were sent out to the experts at M2 Race Systems to unleash peak flow of 360cfm intake and 230cfm on the exhaust. The heads feature Comp beehive springs, cryo-treated stock rockers, 2.02-inch intake and 1.57-inch exhaust valves, Manley double roller timing chain, Comp pushrods, and stock lifters. While Joseph was busy installing an Edelbrock dual-plane intake with 500cfm Edelbrock AVS carbs, Jim was working on a cool little project. He modified a set of Indy valve covers to mimic a set of second-gen Hemi covers and give the engine a look-at-me-again quality. To pull this off, Joseph and Jim had to create a way to hide the coils remotely and plumb all the hoses and spark plug wires. Instead of figuring out a factory computer to work with his Barracuda, MSD took out the guess work for him with its Hemi 6 controller. Equipped with MSD coils, the Hemi 6 can adjust timing and rev limiters from a laptop program. Mark Pullen modified a Milodon pan to hold 8-quarts and uses remote dual oil filters.
- Transmission: Joseph rebuilt his automatic and mounted the shifter on the console. It features a ATI 5,000-stall torque converter and shift kit.
- Rearend: An 8 rear with Richmond 4.88 gears and Moser axles.
- Paint/Body: Joseph cleaned the car up and repaired the rust spots before sending it out to his father, Joseph O’Cone Sr., for the paintwork. Joseph Sr. drenched the car in FC7 Plum Crazy from PPG and continued the color on the new fiberglass VFN hood. As a finishing touch, HEMI was hand-painted on the side of the scoop.
- Interior: One of the first things to go was the column shifted automatic. A console shifter was installed with B-Body bucket seats. Using Legendary Auto Interiors as their main source for new materials, Joseph and his father recovered the seats, doors, headliner, and replaced the carpeting. AutoMeter gauges fill the hole in the dash to deliver the most accurate readings from the engine and other vitals. Somewhere in there you’ll also find a controller for the electronic exhaust cutouts.
- Suspension: It’s all stock, less a front sway bar and an added, adjustable pinion snubber.
- Brakes: Factory 10-inch drums front and rear.
- Wheels and Tires: The Barracuda rides on Centerline wheels at each corner. The fronts are 15x5.5 wearing 215/70R15 BFG radial T/A tires. Out back, the wheels are 15x8.5 and 275/60R15 BFG Drag Radials handle the Hemi power.