Yagotta admit, John Balow's got it made. While the rest of us thrash ourselves to the bone working for the man, John is the man. Owner of Muscle Car Restorations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, John gets to see, touch, and be around cars the rest of us dream about. Hemi drop-tops, wing cars, one-offs, and late model conversions, the stuff MCR turns out is well-known throughout the hobby. But when it comes to his personal stuff, John had a little secret.
Back in the day (and, John, since we just stroked you, we're going to tell the truth that it was way back in 1969), he had a Formula S 340 Barracuda. The car was nothing to write home about in terms of rarity or options, but it was his and was the car that had a huge bearing on what ended up becoming a vocation in automotive restoration.
"I purchased my original Barracuda with only 6,000 miles on it from a guy that was five years older than I was. It was like new," John recalls now. "He lived only four blocks from where I was growing up.I paid $2,300 for the car, and my dad made sure I had at least half the money in cash, plus one year's insurance paid in advance."
Now secure in his life, John wanted a replacement for the long-gone machine; this from a guy with a lightweight '64 Hemi Belvedere, an M-code Six Pack Road Runner, and a low mileage 440 Superbird.
The interior of John's B'cuda...
The interior of John's B'cuda is basically stock except for the addition of a couple aftermarket gauges.
"I bought this '68 Barracuda from a customer that knew I wanted a coupe to fill the void of my original car.The decision to restore it with an original '69 color was totally driven by the T5 Bronze on my first car. I was never able to find an original '69 Formula S coupe in the condition I wanted, but now I sure get the same feelings driving this one around all dressed up in the new-for-'69 paint color."
Now, times have changed since 1969; John's goal was to rebuild the car to virtually as-new condition, making only minor mechanical changes to the factory's healthy drivetrain, including the same 340 engine that was installed in this particular car back on the assembly line 40 years ago. A .030 overbore was done by Wheeler Racing Engines several years ago, and all stock parts were used to get it back into shape including the ignition system. The only change was a set of tti headers feeding into a stock replacement exhaust layout. How healthy was the stock 340? On the engine dyno, it took the needle to 310 ponies (and made 255 at the rear tires once it was finished).
The driveline on the column shift machine got a little bit of attention as well. The TorqueFlite was rebuilt to OE specs, but a 3,500 stall converter was added to give it a little bump off the line. While a factory 3.55 Sure Grip is in the rear, a set of Moser large 4 1/2-inch pattern axles and larger 10.5 drums were added behind the factory steel rims on the back. The car wears E70-14 Firestone Wide-Oval Redlines on all four corners, and the not-factory-installed disc brakes are '74 B-Body versions.
The interior is also pretty much the way it came from the factory; since John does drive this one for fun, a cluster of aftermarket gauges and a tach courtesy of Autometer brings monitoring tasks into the 21st century. The factory A/C is still intact, as is the original AM radio. Thanks to Paul's Chrome Plating and YearOne, everything was brought back to great condition, and the guys at MCR shot the T5 Bronze Metallic paint using PPG products. Just completed, John hopes to drive it about 1,000 miles a year, though he is not sure he will have the same amount of notoriety he did back in the summer of 1969.
"I feel like I am back in high school again.I remember beating three of my buddies in street races; Mike had a '66 4-4-2 with a four-speed, Tom had a new '70 Nova SS 350/350HP four-speed, and Bob had a '69 Mach 1 Mustang.No one could believe how quick that little Barracuda was.My mother thought the car was so cute; she had no clue...."
'68 Plymouth Barracuda
Car Owner: John Balow Chippewa Falls, WI
Other than a .030-inch overbore,...
Other than a .030-inch overbore, the potent 340 features all factory components. John says his first Barracuda used to beat up on his buddies--we wonder what his buddies are driving now.
Engine: Almost bone stock, the original factory 340 was treated to an .030-inch clean-up and rebuilt to stock specs. Thanks to tti, the only real change was a swap to headers feeding to the factory exhaust setup.Transmission: Rebuilt 727 TorqueFlite, 3500 stall speed converter.Differential: 8 with 3.55 gear and Sure Grip.Horsepower and Performance: Up on the dyno, the package kicked out 310 ponies.
Suspension: Basically stock replacement pieces, but urethane was used to give better road feel.
Brakes: Upgraded to 4.5 bolt circles on all four corners, front discs and rear drums.
Wheels: Factory 14-inch steelies painted body color.
Rubber: Replacement Firestone F70-14 red streaks.
Body: Credit for the bodywork goes to MCR's guys, though John purchased this car specifically because it was solid.
Paint: PPG base-clear in Chrysler's T-5 Bronze Metallic.
Interior: Stock other than a few aftermarket Autometer gauges.