The '73 Barracudas are considered by many as "The Comeback Kids" of Plymouth's E-Body lineup, and this Rallye Red one made a comeback of its own.

For the '73 base-level Barracuda and performance-oriented 'Cuda, the comeback meant an increase in sales from the year before. 1973 'Cuda sales totalled 10,626, up from 7,828 in 1972, while 11,587 Barracudas rolled out of Hamtramck Assembly (over 10,622 entry-level '72s). Improvements, yes-but far from the 53,000-plus total for all '70 E-Body Barracudas, and less than the nearly-19,000 total for all '71s.

Reasons for that sales boost in 1973 included ills among the competitors. Ford's Mustang and Mercury Cougar still suffered from a bloated restyle in 1971 which made the one-time "pony" a fat, ill-handling plowhorse. Meanwhile, a 172-day strike at GM's Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant dried up supplies of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird from the spring of 1972 to well after the start of the '73 model year.

That meant that new-car buyers looking for that special combination of performance, style, and . . . performance headed to Ma Mopar's dealers for the relatively-unchanged E-Body cars. (By the way, Dodge Challenger sales saw an uptick in 1973 similar to the Barracuda.)

Styling-wise, the '73 E-Bodies carried over the grille and taillight freshening they received the year before, with the addition of huge rubber blocks on both bumpers (and big reinforcing bars behind them) to comply with the first-ever 5-mph-impact damage-resistance standards eancted (?) for 1973 by the Feds. Other E-Body changes included front disc brakes as standard equipment, along with larger (41/2-inch) bolt-pattern wheels for all models-the same ones used by the B-Body Plymouths and Dodges.

You could also say (after the big sales drop in 1971 and the loss of the big engines after) that the 'Cuda was a survivor, much like Carlos Gastelum's Rallye Red 'Cuda. "I bought it in 2004, and it was running when I bought it," he says from his Queen Creek, Arizona, home. "But the freeze plugs were leaking-they had rusted through. So I said, 'You know what? I'm going to go through this car with a fine-tooth comb.'"

Fortunately for Carlos, that combing didn't include the major rust repair that owners of E-Bodies in the North, Northeast, and around the Great Lakes have had to do. Still, there was plenty that needed to be done on what was, at the outset, a father-and-son project for Carlos and his son. "As my son got older-you know how kids get, they kind of steer away from their dad," he says. "But that's how it started out."

In all, it took about three years for Carlos to bring this 'Cuda to the eye-grabbing shape you see it in here. All the date-coded parts that came with the car were either rebuilt, or replaced with refurbished-yet-identical parts whose date codes lined up with the build date on the broadcast sheet that Carlos had with his 'Cuda.

When he was done, he had a 'Cuda that was up to the task of recalling a time in his past, when he'd owned his first 340-pwered E-Body. "I owned a '73 340 Challenger back in 1983," he recalls. "I wanted to relive some of my youth."

Not only did Carlos end up with a Mopar that turned back the clock, it was also a "youngster" itself. "It's got just over 40,000 original miles on it," he says. "The mileage is original and documented right on the title."

What's it like to drive? "It's actually kind of fun to drive it," he says about his 340-powered E-Body , which some Mopar guys say is the best handling of all the '70-'74 Barracudas and Challengers.

When we spoke to Carlos, it was the middle of winter-prime cruising time in and around Phoenix. "Right now, here in Arizona, it's actually the perfect time to drive 'em" he says. "You get a lot of looks-people come by with their cell phones or digital cameras and take pictures while you're going down the road, and give you a thumbs-up."