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.)
This last-year 340 was built...
This last-year 340 was built to run on today's gasolines while looking like it just came out of the Mound Road Engine Plant.
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.
Only the headliner and carpets...
Only the headliner and carpets have been replaced from inside Carlos' '73. The odometer shows just over 40,000 original miles.
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."
Four-round taillight styling...
Four-round taillight styling stayed on all Barracudas from 1972 through the E-Body's final year in 1974. Rear valance with exhaust cutouts was standard with the 340.
Attention is something Carlos also got when he took it to Mopars at the Strip last year in Las Vegas-and not just a second-place trophy in the competitive E-Body Stock-Plymouth class. "It was a Cannery Choice award winner then," says Carlos, who adds that his 'Cuda grabbed the eye of a noted designer and builder at the show.
"Chip Foose looked at my car there, and he said 'That's cool!' I said, 'That's quite a compliment coming from you! Why don't you take it with you and make it one of your creations?' And he said, 'It's too nice.'"
'73 Plymouth 'Cuda
Owned by: Carlos Gastelum
Queen Creek, Arizona
- Engine: Carlos rebuilt the original LA-series 340 (taking out the stock 8.5:1 pistons and putting in '71 style 10.5:1 to boost the power of the 340, and it's still wearing the stock twin-snorkel air cleaner and valve covers that went on at the Mound Road Engine Plant. Machining services were provided by Mopar genius Dave Orcutt, owner of Automotive Machine of Scottsdale in Scottsdale, AZ.
- Transmission: Carlos had his friends, transmission guys Wayne Martella, Jimmy Hoey, and Tony McDermott at AAMCO Direct in Mesa, go through the original 727 TorqueFlite. While in there, a mild shift kit was added to give it a firmer grab between shifts. The shifter is the original "Slap Stick" shifter in the OEM console.
- Rearend: What else? Ma Mopar's 8 3/4, with a Sure-Grip and 3.55:1 rear gears
- Suspension: Restored original '73 'Cuda . . . that means heavy-duty front torsion bars and rear leaf springs, front and rear sway bars, and heavy-duty shocks all around, plus all new chassis and suspension bushings.
- Brakes: Restored originals here-front disc/rear drum, power assisted
- Wheels and Tires: P225/70R14 BFGoodrich Radial TAs on five-spoke wheels (with the large bolt pattern that became standard across the board in 1973).
- Body: Original '73 E-Body unibody wears its OEM scooped 'Cuda hood plus its 5-mph bumper in back (Carlos took it off the front) and all its original brightwork-all refinished, thanks to Carlos, Ken Pierson of Vintage Motorcars, and Metro Plating in Mesa. The white vinyl top is a Legendary repro of the original "boar-grain" one.
- Paint: PPG basecoat/clearcoat Rallye Red, by Bruce and Jesse Painter of Painter's Auto Body, Queen Creek, AZ.
- Interior: Believe it or not, the carpets and the headliner are the only non-original items inside Carlos' 'Cuda-they're from Legendary Interiors. The seats are the standard '73 'Cuda front buckets/ rear "bench," wearing their original white vinyl covers.