In 1980, at the senior age of 13, Jim Czachoroski of Birmingham, Michigan, purchased his first car. That car was a '74 Barracuda sporting a 360 and a four-speed. Working alongside his dad, they spent five years restomodding the car, and it was completed when Jim reached his 18th birthday in 1985. They built it as a modified car, and as such, placed a 440 with a Six Pack in it. According to Jim, the car was nicely done. He used it mainly for shows and occasionally to pick up a date. In 1988, the car took First Place at the Mopar Nats in the E-Body Modified class.
A '74 'Cuda equipped with a four-speed can be considered a rare fish indeed. Only 398 four-speed cars were produced, and since, from a collector's perspective, small-block Barracudas were so overshadowed by big-block musclecars, most cars were lost, forgotten, crushed, or parted out-meaning out of only 398 cars, few are remaining.
A few years ago in 1996, a friend of Jim's decided he wanted a '74 'Cuda with a four-speed. During their hunt, they flew to Missouri, had pictures of various cars sent to them from New York and Pennsylvania, and searched high and low for any '74 'Cuda, regardless of its engine. "All were wild goose chases," admits Jim. One day, while Jim's buddy was driving through a subdivision in a neighborhood close to home, he saw a later-model 'Cuda's rear end poking out of a garage. He stopped and talked to the lady of the house and then called Jim to tell him of the find.
The lady stated she thought it was powered by a 360 and had a shifter in it. "Of course, I didn't believe him," Jim says, citing his friend's inability to decipher a VIN on his own. So, Jim met him, and they drove by to see if the garage door was still open. When the pair returned, the door was indeed open, and Jim walked through the garage and knocked on the door. While he was waiting for someone to answer, a quick glance at the VIN quickly confirmed the find. They had truly found what they'd been looking for-an original '74 'Cuda with a 360 and a four-speed-only a few miles from home.
The gentleman of the house, while visiting a neighbor, noticed a pair of strangers and came home to see what was going on. When Jim asked the owner if the car was for sale, he said he hadn't thought about it, but his wife said if it were up to her, she would have sold it years ago. The owner allowed Jim to check the car out further. He found the original buildsheet, owner's manual, shipping papers, and more in the glovebox.
The car was basically untouched, with the exception of a cheap paint job. It was sporting chrome valve covers and a couple of other chrome pieces in the engine compartment, and with 50,000 miles on the odometer, the body seemed solid.
Jim pulled his buddy aside and told him to offer the guy $4,500 and see what he said. "The owner said he would have to think about it, but he would let us know," says Jim. "My dumb buddy blurted out, 'How about $5,500?' " Then, Jim grabbed his friend and said out loud, "I think you better check with your wife first or you're going to put yourself in the doghouse." Jim continues, "He still didn't get my hint and said, 'I don't have to check with her-I'm the boss in my house.' " After another nudge, he finally caught on. We would guess he's not much of a poker player. Again, the owner said he would think about it and let them know.
Well, good ol' poker face couldn't wait and called the owner the next day, offering $6,500, to which the guy agreed. He was probably laughing all the way to the bank; when this happened in 1996, the 360 'Cuda was still an overlooked collectible, so the previous owner got what he thought was top dollar (and may have been) for the car at that time.