1973 Plymouth Barracuda - Cruiserfish
A Young Gun's 'Cuda Excels At Showin' And Goin'
From the May, 2008 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Scott Ross
Photography by Jerry Heasley
Young Guns Club
Some cars are built for show-so much so they never go, except off and on a trailer, or maybe a few miles between a motel and a show field.
This car isn't one of them. Matt Gaisbacher's '73 'Cuda has plenty of eye appeal to cover the "show" angle, and its in-person and on-road appearance in the nation's best-known touring car show covers the "go" credentials.
E-Body enthusiasts have known all along about the '73's appeal, as that year marked an upturn in 'Cuda sales from 1972. Nearly 20,000 '73 'Cudas rolled off the line at Hamtramck Assembly, with 9,305 of them 340-powered 'Cudas, and 2,007 of those had manual transmissions. Matt's car is a late-production, original 340/four-speed, though when Matt acquired it, it was far from complete. "The car was halfway apart, and the guy I bought it from kept everything," Matt recalls from his Charleroi, Pennsylvania, home. Everything was there-except a straight and intact body. "It was a typical Pennsylvania car," he says of its "before" condition. "The floors were rusted, but none of the major structural stuff was damaged. The framerails were good, and the roof was good. The only reason I bought it was because the framerails were good, and the car came with the interior and all the trim."
Fortunately, a few decades of Pennsylvania weather hadn't devoured the 'Cuda's key structural members. Matt media-blasted the body after removing the rusted-out pieces, before he started welding on the new sheetmetal he sourced from YearOne.
"My father and I did all the bodywork ourselves. He helped me out a lot. We did everything for this car in-house, except for the engine and transmission."
Instead of using what was...
Instead of using what was left of the stock grille, Matt fabricated new grille bars from a piece of barbed-wire fence.
Matt converted a stock flat...
Matt converted a stock flat hood to a Shaker one in our November '07 issue. Here's the finished product, complete with repro Shaker scoop from Harm's and painted-on trim that matches the grille.
Unlike many Mopar builders, Matt had a choice of engines when he bought his 'Cuda, though neither were in the car at the time. "I got two 340s with it-one had a '68 block, and the other had a '70 block," he says. Which engine did he choose? Neither one. "I read in one of your books about the low-deck 500-inch Wedge strokers, and I wanted to do something like that," says the Young Gun, who now had two extra bullets. As his father had a 451-inch stroker engine in his '64 Plymouth, Matt decided he wanted one of those. "Actually, a friend of ours, Romeo Furio, had an engine, and we traded off a little bit of paintwork for a 451 stroker that has Eagle rods and Ross pistons." Downstream is an 833 with a difference. "It's a Passon Performance A-833, with the Overdrive kit that they sell," Matt says of his pistol-grip-shifted gearbox that sports an Overdrive Fourth gear. "It's very nice to drive. I have 3.91s in the rear, and I figure that it gets about 18 miles a gallon, which is good for a big-block, at a steady 65 to 70 mph."
What sits above that 400-with-a-440-crank is something you've seen here not long ago ("E-Body Improv: Adding a Shaker Scoop to a Flat Hood," Mopar Muscle, Nov. '07). The Shaker scoop was supplied by Harm's Auto, and-as you saw in the tech article-Matt did the work himself. That also goes for his cure for the 'Cuda's dreaded cracked-and-broken grille. His solution? "Part of the barbed-wire fence by our house was broken, so I cut a piece out of it, then I cut it into shorter pieces to fit the grille openings."
Just like on the outside, the cabin of Matt's 'Cuda benefited from many YearOne and Legendary Auto Interiors parts, especially when it came to the seats and carpets. The Billet Specialties steering wheel, Redline Gauge Works gauges, Alpine sound system, and Crow Enterprizes seatbelts aren't period-correct, but would've been welcome additions if they had existed back then. Since all of the glass was either missing or needed to be replaced, JRD Glass, near Riverside, California, was contacted and was able to supply a complete set.
New quarters from YearOne...
New quarters from YearOne joined a custom-fabbed rear valence on Matt's 'Cuda. Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires are wide enough for great handling without tubbing.
Repro seat kits from Legendary...
Repro seat kits from Legendary are highlighted by a Billet Specialties steering wheel, Redline Gauge Works gauges, and Alpine sound system.
Matt did some horse trading...
Matt did some horse trading to get the stroker 451-inch B-engine.
Just enough of the original...
Just enough of the original Barracuda body survived for Matt to blast clean before welding on new YearOne-sourced metal.
Matt got his 'Cuda finished the day before leaving on the '07 Power Tour. Fortunately, a day-before mishap didn't keep him from making the cross-country run. "I promised all the guys at YearOne and my other sponsors that I'd have the car done for the Power Tour. I got it done the Friday night before," Matt recalls. "My dad and I were on one of our last testdrives with it, and we were coming back through a country road. Luckily, we were only doing about 25, when the left rear wheel fell off. I almost didn't go, but my dad said, 'Nobody's going to notice it--just go!' Only one person noticed that the quarter was a little messed up."
'73 Plymouth 'Cuda
- Total '73 Plymouth Barracuda production: 19,281
- '73 'Cuda production: 9,305 (6,583 with 340, 2,722 with 318)
- '73 'Cuda production, 340/manual transmission: 2,007
- Time needed to turn rusted basketcase into the car seen here: two years
- Engine: There's no replacement for displacement, especially in 451ci (440 crank in a 400 block) form. Good stuff includes a 0.480-inch lift/280-degree duration Comp Cam, Mopar Performance dual-plane intake wearing an Edelbrock 750 carburetor, Mopar electronic ignition, and tti headers and mufflers breathing through a 2 1/2-inch exhaust system.
- Transmission: A Passon Performance-modified 833 (with an Overdrive Fourth gear), stirred with an OEM-style, Passon-built, pistol-grip shifter.
- Rearend: Call them "economy" gears if you want-3.91 cogs in an 8 3/4-inch Mopar Sure Grip rearend, good for as much as 18 mpg on the highway. (Your mileage may vary.)
- Suspension: Front: C.A.P. tubular upper control arms and adjustable strut rods; Rear: Eaton Detroit Spring custom Super Stock springs (lowered 1 1/2 inches)
- Brakes: Stainless Steel Brakes discs all around, with SSBC Force 10 calipers.
- Wheels: Foose billet five-spoke Nitrous IIs, (17x8-inch in front, 18x9-inch in back) wearing Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires (P245/45R17 in front, P255/45R18 in back).
- Body: Original '73 Plymouth Barracuda, restored by owner and father. Original components retained: Cowl, firewall, A-pillars, roof panel, framerails (and not too much more). Aftermarket parts sourced from YearOne include both quarter-panels, floorpans, trunk floor, rear valence. "Shaker" hoodscoop sourced from Harm's Auto-stock (flat) hood converted to Shaker by Matt. Barbed wire used for grille bars sourced from the fence behind Matt's house. Other custom fabrications include rear roll pan, shaved side marker lights, and shaved bumpers with flush-mounted turn signals. Bodywork, metal finishing, and paint prep by Matt and Russell Gaisbacher (Matt's father) at Russell's Body and Frame, Charleroi, Pennsylvania.
- Paint: BASF'S PX8 Black, sprayed on by Bob Smith at Russell's Body and Frame.
- Interior: Original 'Cuda bucket seats restored with seat and carpet kits by Legendary Auto Interiors, and other repro interior items from YearOne. Redline Gauge Works gauges, Billet Specialties steering wheel, Alpine sound system, and Crow Enterprizes seatbelts adorn the otherwise-stock cabin.
Matt would like to thank all who helped him complete his car.
- Eaton Detroit Spring
- TTI Exhaust
- Legendary Auto Interiors
- SSBA Brakes
- Just Suspension
- Foose Design
- Pirelli Tires
- Red Line Gauge Works
- Passon Performance
- Classic Tube
- Engine Swaps Simplified
- Harm's Auto
- JRD Auto Glass
- C.A.P. Auto Parts
- BASF Auto Industrial Finishes
- Wizard Cooling