If there is one thing that is fairly consistent about first cars, it's that they tend to sit rather low on the food chain, and they usually don't hang around very long. There are, however, a few exceptions. One sterling example can be found prowling the streets of New York City and vicinity.
David Velez of Smithtown, New York, was on the hunt for his first car in 1991. That September, David, then a junior in high school, and his father began their search in earnest.
"We were driving around one day and happened to come across this '68 Barracuda in a mechanic's yard. It was in pretty bad shape, but we saw the potential-it had a 340, power steering, air conditioning, and an 831/44-inch Sure Grip," David recalls.
The Barracuda sat for more than a year, until the spring of 1992, when the long journey toward restoration started.
"The project began in my driveway, where my father and I stripped the car down to a bare shell. My mother really didn't like the mess in the driveway, but she eventually got over it. All that was left of my poor fish were the rotted-out quarter-panels. We put the doors, trunk lid, fenders, and all the other trim pieces inside the car and towed it to my buddy John's shop, Creative Auto Works," David explains.
For the next couple of years, the bodywork progressed at a fairly steady pace. In the interim, David completed high school, then went on to join the New York City Police Department.
"We media-blasted all the loose parts from the car, then new quarters were welded in place, and both front and rear valances were cleaned up and straightened," he says.
"John then used PPG epoxy primer and blocked the car. Next, it was time to spray the fish down with four coats of Violet Pearl and Violet Purple mixed together. I can't divulge the full recipe-it's a trade secret of John's. Finally, the car was cleared five times."
Next, David turned his attention to the 340 Wedge engine, handing it off to Lab Tech for the rebuild. Since a high-spirited V8 was right in tune with the buildup's overall objectives, David indulged in some minor deviations from stock. After boring the block 0.030 over, TRW forged pistons were added to the stock rods, followed by the addition of a Mopar Purple camshaft.
The X heads were then fitted with 2.02-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust stainless valves, actuated by 1.5:1 mechanical rockers and Mopar Performance hydraulic lifters. Topping the heads is a Weiand X-CELerator intake manifold sporting a Holley 750 double-pumper carb. Exhaust duties are handled by Flowmaster mufflers, preceded by Mopar Performance headers.
"Next," says David, "it was time to install the drivetrain, which we freshened up with 3.55 gears (we being my buddies, Pete and Dave, from Exotic Speed). When I brought the car over to their shop, it needed some wiring cleaning. I had already changed every wiring harness in the car except for the dash harness. I was unable to find a new Rallye dash harness, so we needed to clean up all the terminals and trace some lose wires before it all came together."
It was now time for judgment day. Pete and David lit up the engine, and it fired right up-literally. The carburetor went up in flames. They put it out, gave it another shot, and it turned right over.
In all, five years had passed from the time David and his father began disassembling the car until the Barracuda was swimming strong once again. That's quite a wait to drive one's first car! Still, the time spent on the project was well worth it.
"I bring the car to local shows and drive it every chance I get," David says. "I don't drive it every day, however, because New York City traffic can be scary-even for one of 'New York City's finest.'"
No doubt about that. But we have a sneaking suspicion that when a Barracuda of this caliber slices through the Big Apple, most of the guppies head for cover.