The history of Plymouth's Barracuda, built between 1964 and 1974, has a lot of highlights, but many would agree the '65 version was one of the special years. After all, 1965 was the year when the first-gen fish hit the dragstrip. Bill Shrewsberry, Bob Sullivan, Tom McEwen, and Richard Petty, all had examples on the racetrack, and some were also being raced in SCCA competition as well. Meanwhile, the factory would tool up some 60,000-plus pedestrian examples, powered by sixes and small V-8s. This after the cars had debuted as a variant on the Valiant platform for the '64 model year, 16 days before the mid-year release of Ford's new Mustang.
The powerplant leader for the '65 model was the new Commando 273 V-8, an LA (late A) design, which was part of the car's Performance Group; the Commando was the only optional engine over the standard 225 Slant Six and the no-extra-charge two-barrel 273 V-8. Those Barracudas equipped with the Performance Group got the Rallye suspension and this four-barrel 235-horse Commando mill with its domed 10.0:1 compression pistons, but serious buyers could opt for the even hairier Formula S option. This got the Rallye suspension, the Commando powerplant (with a 6,000-rpm tach standard), bigger 5½-inch wide steel wheels, and Goodyear 6.95x14 Blue Streak tires-plus Formula S badges and an optional "over the top" racing body stripe.
Times changed, though. The Barracuda got bigger, then developed into a Hemi-optional beast, and finally died quietly in the throes of the OPEC crisis and changing tastes of the mid-'70s. Technology had frankly passed by for the little first-gen version, and the performance LA series mill reoriented upward in displacement toward 340, and then 360 inches, and finally the Magnum. Of course, those narrow wheel and tire designs dramatically improved as well. Luckily, the 21st century is full of "have your cake and eat it too" scenarios, which brings us to Jerry Hand's '65 mini-monster.
Jerry admits he didn't do much more on his car than pay for it. He had a worked '72 Dart (383 tunnel ram and the works) and a '46 Dodge truck. Actually, the '46 body was mounted on a '75 318 Dodge chassis. He had to sell one or the other, so he put them both up for sale at the same time to see which sold first, and ended up selling both! So, flush with some long green, he found this car, which Kevin McLamb in nearby Lumberton, North Carolina, was selling on racingjunk.com.
Previous owner McLamb had spent a lot of time getting this car together as a fairly stout street machine. For instance, for power under the hood, he let all the '65 technology go and started with a sweetened 360 engine, topped it with a polished Edelbrock intake, 650 CFM Edelbrock carb, and a few engine dress-up pieces. Inside, a .484/284 hydraulic Comp cam is in the middle, while mild pump-gas friendly 9.0:1 compression pistons are sparked via Accel and Mopar electronic pieces. A set of custom headers and dual exhaust pipes finish it off. It resulted in more than enough power for the small A-Body design, and a healthy rumble to boot.
For power, the 273 was yanked...
For power, the 273 was yanked in favor of more cubes-360 to be exact. Opening the hood is like looking into a jewelry box.
Keeping that package in the proper rpm range is a rebuilt 904 transmission with a reverse manual-shifted valvebody. While 1965 was the first year automatic-equipped Barracudas got a floor shifter as opposed to the dash-mounted buttons, this one now features an aftermarket unit from B&M, and a 2,600-stall speed converter. Since the car was built for cruising rather than quarter-mile thunder, a 3.23 gear is in rear, which is inside an 8¼ outfit from a '70s-era Dart.
The interior is black vinyl, and of course, the signature monster rear-glass remains in place, as does the fold-down rear seat arrangement. On the outside, a bright shade of red paint with a white stripe gets attention. The final touch was a set of later model 14-inch Rallye wheels painted to match the body with new radial tires, giving the car an almost road race appeal.
Jerry was right that you don't see many '64-'66 Barracudas around any longer. It was the only one at this year's Mopars at the Rock show at Rockingham Dragway, and Jerry ended up winning not only the early A-Body class but a special honor from Dean Sox, who presented him with the first-ever Ronnie Sox Memorial Cup. Sponsored as part of the festivities by Port City Mopar club, Dean felt that Jerry's car was a great representation of the performance area. It also reminded him of the nitro-breathing Barracuda his father and partner Buddy Martin had run in 1966.
While there are a lot of pristine restorations out there today, most guys still like to own cars with personal touches. Jerry enjoys owning a car that captures the flavor of 1965, when the Barracuda was young and the muscle car era was just dawning.
Car Owner: Jerry Hand, Greensboro, NC
- Engine: The motor is a '70s-era 360, worked with a Comp Cams hydraulic bumpstick, Edelbrock intake/carburetor outfit, electronic ignition, headers, and dress-up parts
- Transmission: Rebuilt 904 TorqueFlite with reverse valvebody
- Differential: 8¼ with 3.23 gear and Sure Grip.
- Horsepower and Performance: Conservative estimate is about 350 off the crank.
- Suspension: Stock with air shocks
- Brakes: Rebuilt stock drums
- Wheels: Factory 14-inch Rallye wheels
- Body: The bodywork was already done when Jerry bought it.
- Paint: Paint is a red hue accented by a racing stripe over the top.
- Interior: The front buckets are now spaced by an aftermarket shifter by B&M. The original dash panel has been replaced, and is now full of Equis gauges to monitor the vital signs.
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Note: The 61,523 Barracudas built in 1965 would be the highest number produced in a single year during the 11-year model run.