“The door dings, lower quarter rust, and trunk holes need attention,” admits owner Mark Ray about his Barracuda convertible’s condition. “This is a humble driver with a 20-footer Earl Schieb paintjob over the factory Lime Light paint. And the patina green that shows through the front bumper is priceless.”
From a family of ‘fanatic’ Chrysler owners, Mark grew up in San Francisco, and the Barracuda you see here is still kept there in a rented garage. An advertising art director by trade, the car was the seventh such machine (E-Body ’vert) he has owned since buying a ’70 Challenger convertible back in 1979 as his first car. According to the fender tag, this Barracuda was built in 1970 as an FJ5 Limelight green 318 car, with a white top, white interior, FJ5-colored A21 elastomeric front bumper, factory AC, and console-housed Slap Stik-shifted automatic—a pretty gorgeous combo for the day. When it turned up on eBay in 2006, it was ‘back on black’ as you see here; Mark contacted the owner, closed the deal, and then the fun began.
Yeah, it’s dirty, but it’s also a big-block that features air conditioning in a convertibl
The car looked (and looks) cosmetically challenged; after flying to Louisville, Kentucky, to claim his prize, Mark had planned on having the owner store it, and then locate a shop to do the driveline changes he wanted. Three months later, nothing had happened, so Mark bought another plane ticket in May, one way this time, and decided to throw caution to the wind.
“Yeah, that was a 2,000-mile odyssey road trip,” he recalls with a grin. “In fact, my AAA Auto Club card was actually revoked when it was over because I had been towed over 10 times—mostly related to the non-working gas gauge and various electrical maladies. I couldn’t even leave Louisville, until I repaired the loud/no muffler exhaust; the guy working at the shop liked the car, and agreed to fix it for a 12-pack of Budweiser!”
It might look better the farther away you get, but a ’Cuda driver in any condition is cool
The trip would not be a simple one, as Mark’s frustrated AAA rep found out. Still, one highlight was seeing the old house in Illinois, where Walter P. Chrysler had grown up, and taking a leisurely jaunt across the plains, finally deciding to store the car in Denver for a month in a public storage facility. Mark flew home and then finished up the trip in June, cruising Colorado’s Front Range with the top down. Despite all the drama, he had his only run-in with Johnny Law while coming over the High Sierras outside of Lake Tahoe.
“The car had no tags the entire trip,” he laughs, “and this cop pulls me over and proceeds to spend a half-hour talking to me…about ’70 ’Cuda convertibles! Then he gives me his personal business card for N.O.S. parts and tells me that my ’vert is one of only three in the whole state of Nevada, and he owns the other two! It’s a real ‘urban myth’ sort of story.”
The surreal adventure ended as he rolled over the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset to put a Barracuda convertible in his hometown of San Francisco. Mark then began to lay the plans for the car’s changes, which he had already decided would not include bodywork or paint for now. This one would be a driver in every sense of that word.
It’s a little rough. OK, maybe it’s a lot rough—but admit it, you want this car.
For subtlety, Mark swapped out the 'Cuda Rally-type hood for a stock flat version, and did a heads-up trade with a buddy for the Rally wheels that were on the car for a set of more non-descript 14-inch factory Magnum 500 wheels. After the trans swap, the console was left off the car, but a new carpet went in as did a new sound system. Mark has left rest of the black replacement interior in place. The only other body change was adding the dual exhaust-opening rear valance for the 'cool' factor; the paint match was easy enough.
When we ran into Mark, he had already driven the car from its San Francisco, lair for major events in the western U.S. since completing the changes. For this weekend, he had clocked nearly a thousand miles when we hooked up with him at Moparty at the Strip) in the Las Vegas desert last spring; he had first driven south to Los Angeles to hang with the crew leaving en masse from Glendora Dodge, cruised out to Vegas, and was planning on going back to SoCal for the Spring Fling show the following weekend before heading back to San Francisco.
Shades of the past have disappeared over the years since this Barracuda 'vert was new; seeing one on the street in unrestored shape is something that makes all of us think, What if... Instead, Mark gets to chuckle and say quietly, "Yeah, I did..."
1970 Plymouth Barracuda convertible
Car Owner: Mark Ray, Avalon, California
- Engine: This is an old-school swap - the OEM 318 was taken out and replaced by a 440 out of '70 Imperial; the engine was rebuilt for durability by Common's Auto Parts in South San Francisco. The prepped block and reconditioned bottom end was stuffed full of solid OEM-equivalents from Sealed Pro (pistons), Hastings (rings), and Melling (valvetrain and cam), while the top of the engine (intake, heads, exhaust) were left basically stock for the sake of appearance and ease of maintenance.
- Transmission: For durability, an overdrive five-speed TKO 600 PerfectFit kit by Keisler Engineering was added, complete with OEM-location short-throw shifter mount and extras. The hydraulic clutch option, for ease of shifting and steep parking on Bay area hills, was the big plus for the swap.
- Differential: 8-3/4 with 3.55 gearing
- Suspension: Stock with no major changes
- Brakes: Front disc conversion by The Right Stuff
- Wheels and Rubber: Factory 14-inch Magnum 500 wheels
- Body: Rough in some ways; most people would decide to rebuild it. Mark is keeping it as-is for now since he enjoys the response it gets as an apparent 'barn find' on the street.
- Paint: like the plate says TX9 (which is the factory black code; the 20-footer pigment is probably pretty close). Original was FJ5 Limelight, still visible in door jams and on the original elastomeric bumper, covered during prior owner's repaint.
- Interior: Semi-patina black vinyl for that lived-in look; factory A/C unit means its stays comfortable from the Mohave Desert to Donner Pass. Console was left out and new carpet was installed when the new five-speed was installed. Oh, and the original color was white top, white interior.