1968 Plymouth Barracuda Fastback Resto - Taking It To The Street - Bartered Baracuda
Are All Of The Road-Worthy Bargains History? Our Frugal Tech Maven Says, "No Way!"
From the October, 2002 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Steve Dulcich
Photography by Steve Dulcich
You have to love fresh meat. You know, the latest Mopar you dragged home? The possibilities are wide open. Some cynical admirers are convinced that all the sweet deals on vintage Mopar iron are long gone. It may take more persistence, quick action, and some looking, but there is metal to be found. If you're on the lookout for a specific model at a specific price, it may take some time and effort before hitting pay dirt, but patience pays off. We're not saying that enough looking will turn up a Hemi drop-top for pocket change. Keep a realistic expectation of what the dollar buys.
Having been on the prowl for a '68 Plymouth Barracuda fastback for a couple of years, when a deal came up, we didn't hesitate to buy. The ad offered a '68 fastback Plymouth at either $1,300 cash or trade. The seller was after an A-engine drivetrain for a Slant Six Dart. We had a sweet E-58 360 in a '70 E-Body and a street/strip 727 with a high-stall converter on our workshop floor. The deal was made. We yanked the small-block, rented a trailer, and hit the highway to see what we bought. We committed ourselves to the buy, sight unseen.
It may seem kind of big for...
It may seem kind of big for a 318, but we had a 750 AFB handy. Turns out it worked great, burning rubber from an off-idle stab. The linkage was cobbled, but functional, so it will do for now.
The '68 turned out to be what the seller described, no more and no less. It was covered in flat black primer, had a gutted interior, a 318 with a column-shifted 904, and Bondo-filled lower quarters. Most of the interior was stowed away and came with the car. Fifteen years ago we would have considered it a $400 beater. Twenty years ago there were much finer examples in the junkyards, but with the passing of time, our perspectives have changed. While we might have been concerned with paint and upholstery a decade or two ago, today we were delighted by this car's solid floors and chassis rails. The rust-free trunk floor was an unexpected bonus. That it actually ran, drove, and came with papers made it really seem like a deal.
Under Hood Attention
Although the counter read 88,437 miles, we have no way of knowing on which go-around it was travelling. The 318 appeared virgin under its greasy and grimy exterior. Unmistakable factory engine enamel and none of the obvious aftermarket gaskets peering out between the castings were the clues. We were told the factory two-barrel induction had been recently replaced with the swap meet StreetMaster intake. Since we had plenty of carbs at home, we kicked the AFB on the manifold back to the seller to aid with his Dart project, along with the engine fan. We knew it ran and actually sounded pretty sweet, despite the mild blow-by.
The messy rubber fuel line...
The messy rubber fuel line was not a good look, so out came our benders to fab-up some 5/16-inch hardline.
The rusty waterfall cascading...
The rusty waterfall cascading from the radiator tank was a clear sign of trouble. The radiator was fairly new, but sported a short split in the soldered seam. With a drain of the coolant and some quick torch work, the seam was soldered with the radiator in place.
A flex fan from who-knows-what...
A flex fan from who-knows-what had been collecting dust on our shelf for years. As luck would have it, our shelf also yielded a factory shroud, completing the cooling system.
Underneath, we found the problem-a...
Underneath, we found the problem-a strut rod sheared in half. As good fortune would have it, we had a replacement in the garage. With no strut rod, only the pivot supported the lower control arm. This allowed radical shifts in the front-end geometry, particularly when braking. The rod was replaced and installed with some spare used polyurethane strut rod bushings. We rebushed both sides.
With the broken strut rod,...
With the broken strut rod, the control arm pivot bushing took a beating. We pressed in some OEM rubber bushings left over from a suspension-rebuild kit.
While the tie rod ends seemed...
While the tie rod ends seemed acceptable, we found the idler arm wasted. Here was our major source of steering play. We bought a '70 Duster a while back, which had a new idler arm and some other parts in the trunk. Since it was a direct interchange with the Barracuda, we had it covered.
Chassis Check Out
Our initial test drive was from the driveway to the trailer. Once back at our digs and running, we were out on the road for a quick shakedown run. We were told, "It pulls to the right when braking," but we weren't prepared for the violent chassis shift with the slightest binder action. Steering felt like the wheel was detached from the linkage for the first quarter turn, and the drivetrain vibration would intimidate the uninitiated.
A rusted-out body can make for a dangerous ride, but fortunately our Barracuda was structurally solid. We did detect some Bondo covering rust in the lower quarters, but that wasn't a structural issue. Our Unitbody was about as solid and dry as you'll find on a 35-year-old car. As is common on A-Bodies, our doorjambs were blown out where the door-latch striker mounted.
Other than the brutal chassis...
Other than the brutal chassis reaction, the Barracuda's 10-inch drum brakes seemed to work great. Still, a brake inspection should be at the top of the list with an old car. We checked the hoses, lines, and wheel cylinders for signs of deterioration or leakage, and the components looked good. The linings were fresh, but we found the drums bent and distorted at the wheel lug face. We also had a broken left-hand thread stud on one of the hubs. Stashed in boxes when we converted our Duster to discs was a spare set of hubs and drums, which were a direct replacement.
The underhood wiring suffered...
The underhood wiring suffered more than anything else. A check of the harnesses revealed some rough repairs. Bare wire strands wrapped around contacts in lieu of terminals, and there were grafted wire bypasses poorly routed throughout. These are problems waiting to happen. We opened our wiring kit and rerouted, terminated, or replaced the damaged areas.
A-Bodies are notorious for...
A-Bodies are notorious for broken latch strikers at the doorjambs. This car came with a dog leash fastened to the racing bucket seat, which hooked over the door lock button in place of the normal latch mechanism. While this retained the door, it wasn't up to Mopar Muscle's safety standards, and would never pass tech at the drag strip. A-Body strikers mount through a hole in the jamb sheetmetal and screw into a thick floating plate retained by a spot-welded cage. Eventually, the backing plate will work through the non-reinforced jamb, and the whole apparatus will collapse. Luckily, we found the original threaded backing plate behind the door panel.
Tape lines were laid out and...
Tape lines were laid out and the damaged area of the jamb cut out. We cut within the flat portion of the jamb, leaving a margin all around. The original retaining cage was salvaged.
The flat black steel wheels...
The flat black steel wheels complemented the flat black color of the Plymouth, but they were only 4 1/2 inches wide with skinny mismatched tires. We found a set of small pattern A-Body Rallye wheels complete with caps from a Duster Twister at the wrecking yard, and put them away thinking they would come in handy for something. The wheels were blasted and repainted, and a new set of BFGoodrich T/A tires-measuring 235/60-14 and 245/60R-14-were mounted. This setup ran briefly on our Duster until it was converted to the big bolt pattern. While a purist would frown at putting later model wheels on a '68 Barracuda, we figured they would look better on our Plymouth than on our tire rack.
We found a loose U-Joint as...
We found a loose U-Joint as the culprit of the drivetrain vibration. The driveshaft was pulled and a replacement joint from Pep Boys fixed the problem.
A sheetmetal patch was cut...
A sheetmetal patch was cut to fit neatly in the hole. A larger second piece was trimmed out to the margin of the flat area, and the two pieces plug-welded together. This reinforced the patch and formed a stepped flange behind the patch. The striker hole was located and drilled, then the captive plate lined up and the retaining cage welded in place. With the repair section installed from the back, the patch was flush with the original jamb, and the second backing piece provided a flange for temporary screws.
The flush-fitting outer layer...
The flush-fitting outer layer was butt-welded all around to the jamb, and the extra inner layer was plug-welded to the jamb once the screws were removed. After grinding, the final repair was flush and undetectable, and since it was double layered, it was much stronger than original.