"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!
"It's a fun car to drive," says Joe, "but it's a little washy on turns, and it has a tendency to lean." He adds, "As far as mechanically, everything works and is back to how it came from the factory." It's an attention-getter whenever he shows or drives it. "A lot of people ask, 'What the heck is it?'" says Joe.
That factory color scheme on Joe's Barracuda could have foreshadowed a famous one to come. "The color of my car, ivory and gold, only came out in '65, as far as I can tell," he says. "That was the reason why I contacted Bob Riggle, driver of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass funny car, because Larry Rosenbaum at the W.P.C. Museum and all the rest of the guys I contacted did not have any documentation to see if my color combination happened to be a precursor to the C-Body Hurst Chrysler 300H venture they had in 1970, with the big Hurst Shifter and Linda Vaughn on the back." Joe adds that he was trying to document something he'd heard about those colors from Bob, who, by the way, has re-done the '68 Hurst Hemi Under Glass funny car. (Maybe George Hurst had an ivory-and-gold '65 Formula S of his own? Maybe...)
Speaking of history, this '65 may end up wintering with other notable--and famous--Mopars. "Larry Rosenbaum, the curator of the museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and I have been working on taking it up there and storing it in the basement next winter." Right now, they're still working on the logistics and other details, about how to move it into Boss Chrysler's Garage at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum. "It's going to show there one day or another," Joe adds, "and that would be a nice little tick on the car's resume."
Joe has some folks he'd like to thank for their help on this resto project. Along with his brother Bill, Joe thanks Bill's sons Billy and Alex, plus Alex's friend, Jamie. And extra special thanks go to Bill's wife Mindy and Joe's fiancé, Bev, for all of their support.
Inside, a Legendary seat kit...
Inside, a Legendary seat kit is one of the highlights of the restored ’65 Formula S’s cabin
1965 Plymouth Barracuda
Owned by: Joe Eichenlaub, Pataskala, Ohio
- Engine: Restored "Commando 273," complete with Carter AFB four-barrel, chrome "unsilenced" air cleaner, solid-lifter camshaft and larger-diameter single exhaust with resonator and chrome tip.
- Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite with a console-mounted shifter, as ordered back in '65.
- Rearend: Restored original 8 3/4-inch rear end, without Sure Grip but with 3.55:1 rear gears.
- Suspension: Restored original Formula S: (Front) Heavy-duty longitudinal torsion bars and tubular shocks with an anti-sway bar. (Rear) Heavy-duty leaf springs with tubular shocks.
- Brakes: Restored original power-assisted drum-and shoe brakes all around.
- Wheels and Tires: "Wide rim" 14 x 5.5-inch steel wheels wear a set of Firestone FR380 205/70R14 radial whitewalls and a set of original bolt-on wheel covers.
- Body: Original '65 Plymouth A-Body 2-door unibody restored with replacement wheel well pieces and '65 Dart floors. Sheet metal not found at swap meets (or on parts cars) fabricated by Bill Eichenlaub
- Paint: Just like in '65: Ivory with gold stripes, done in acrylic enamel by Bill Eichenlaub
- Interior: Stock interior restored with Legendary's seat kits, plus other items from Year One and Layson's Auto Restorations.
6000-rpm factory tachometer...
6000-rpm factory tachometer was a Formula S package feature.
No, that’s not a tape stripe....
No, that’s not a tape stripe. Formula S racing stripes were painted on in the Hamtramck Assembly paint shop, and this one was sprayed by Joe’s brother, Bill. Joe Eichenlaub’s ’65 Barracuda Formula S wears a one-year-only Ivory/Gold stripes color scheme.
Joe Eichenlaub wanted to tub...
Joe Eichenlaub wanted to tub this ’65, but he made it a restoration project when he found out how rare it was.