"My brother Bill--I call him the magician--he did it all." - Joe Eichenlaub
Sometimes you need more than a little help when restoring a vintage Mopar. Sometimes you need to call on a magician.
The first of the high-performance...
The first of the high-performance LA small-blocks: the Commando 273, restored by Joe and Bill Eichenlaub. Inside are pop-up pistons and a solid lifter camshaft.
That's what Joe Eichenlaub did when he restored this '65 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S, and he didn't have to look far to find him. "My brother Bill--I call him the magician--he did it all," he says from his home near Columbus, Ohio. "He was the body, mechanical, fabrication, electrics, and paint man. He did everything on it. I was just the tool guy who did some detail work, and I polished every nut, bolt, and screw that we could re-use."
Before he could do his detail work, and before Bill could work his magic, Joe found this early A-Body Fish, the year was 2005. It was part of a package deal, and a full-on restoration wasn't his original plan. Actually, a tubbed-out street machine was what Joe had in mind, until he dug into the '65's history and found it was one of Ma Mopar's first high-performance small-block cars: a Commando 273-powered Formula S, one of 4,874 '65 Barracudas built with that solid-lifter, 235 horsepower 273. "We couldn't legitimately chop it and tub it out, and make the fun street machine that I wanted to have," says Joe. "It ended up being a restoration back to the original factory configuration."
With the project's direction now changed from rumbler to resto, it was time to look for the items needed to bring the Fish back to fresh-from-Hamtramck condition. That meant more than a little searching for parts at more than a few events, because--per Joe--he could hardly find any early A-Body stuff. As he recalls, he lucked out at some off-brand events. "We went to all the swap meets at the Chevy and Ford shows and found most of those parts there," he says. Joe adds that what he did find for '65 Barracudas at Mopar-related shows and swaps was often times not the quality he was looking for--and high-priced, to boot.
Eventually, Joe found what the Fish needed, which also included parts and help from sources like Layson's, Legendary Interiors, and Year One. Once he had everything he needed, what could have been a years-long project was done in just seventeen months, thanks to Bill--his brother and friendly neighborhood magician. "He built tools, and he fabricated metal with the tools that he built to get the car back to what it should be," says Joe.
That magic included a lot of metal-fabrication work to undo years of corrosion. That included trimming a set of rust-free '65 Dart floorpans to fit in the shorter-wheelbase Plymouth, as well as repairing the rear quarters using what repro parts were available and Bill's metalworking magic.
Bill's skills also included refinishing the Fish in its original Ivory base color with painted-on gold stripes, which he and Joe discovered during disassembly. Says Joe, "We measured them and made sure [that when we redid them, they] were exactly how they were when they were painted originally." Just like Ma Mopar did (with two trips through Hamtramck Assembly's paint shop), Bill used acrylic enamels to spray on the '65's correct original paint scheme.
We mentioned that this Formula S had a history, and according to Joe, it was specially ordered for the wife of a Plymouth dealer in West Virginia, with some changes from what was in the Code 322 Formula S package. Changes like 6.95-14 whitewalls instead of Goodyear Blue Streaks, and a 727 TorqueFlite instead of a Hurst-shifted A-833. "The reason it came with the whitewall tires, open rear end, and the automatic transmission was due to her," says Joe. "It was for her to drive, which she did for about six months, until it sold to a business to become a company car, and then from there it went to a young girl, and so on and so forth. From what I can tell, from all the titles that I have, I believe that I'm the fifth owner."
Bolt-on wheel covers were...
Bolt-on wheel covers were standard with the Formula S package, but the modern Firestone radials replace the OEM bias-plies.
Here’s Joe with his brother...
Here’s Joe with his brother Bill (right), the “magician” whose skills made this restoration possible—in just 17 months!