Second-Gen Barracuda Boasts Crisp Styling and More Power
Joe Greeves - May 10, 2012 10:00 AM
There was a time when automotive stylists were overcome with sports car fever.
The Big Three all had entries in the field, Chrysler responding with their new Barracuda, hoping to steal some thunder from GM’s Corvette and Ford’s T-Bird and Mustang. Their compact cruiser captured enthusiasts’ attention with its unique fastback body that used one of the largest rear windows ever installed on a production car. Created by Pittsburgh Plate Glass, the huge backlight measured more than 14 square feet and extended down to the fender line.
In order to reduce tooling costs and shorten the development time, Chrysler borrowed heavily from the Valiant, meaning the Barracuda had to wait for the Gen 2 version before it got its own significant styling upgrade. That’s when designers kept the fastback profile but wisely downplayed the panoramic backlight, blending a smaller rear window into the crisp, Coke-bottle design.
Barry Dorn of Sanford, Florida, is a lifelong Pentastar fan and this 1969 Plymouth Barracuda is one of his first cars. Growing up in New Castle, Indiana, Barry worked in the family body shop and learned the trade. He originally bought this car in the late-’70s when he was still a teenager, but sold it just a few weeks later. His younger brother Doug, also in the business and also intrigued with the car, tracked it down a year later and brought it back into the fold. Doug drove it for a few years, but family and children came along, changing priorities. The car sat idle for nearly three decades.
That would not prove to be its ultimate fate. Barry brought the car down from Indiana and began smoothing the sheetmetal and adding a series of modifications to personalize the “family favorite.” Although Barry owned his own body shop for many years, he now considers himself to be “self-unemployed”, building his own cars and creating a new one about every year.
The unibody car was rotisserie restored. Barry noted that every last nut and bolt was removed. Subframe connectors added rigidity to the body while suspension mods improved the handling. Two-inch dropped spindles from Magnum Force lowered the car and the torsion bar front end uses stock control arms on the bottom with Magnum Force tubular uppers. Slotted and drilled rotors completed the front end. Barry’s other brother Brad narrowed the 8¾-inch Chrysler New Yorker rear that replaced the original, held in place with stock leaf springs but with relocated hangers. Gabriel gas shocks all around guaranteed flat cornering.
Under the hood, the car runs a 340 V-8 from a ’71 Duster that has already seen service in several of the Dorn family cars. Barry rebuilt it back in the ’90s and went through it again recently, increasing the displacement to 416ci, thanks to a K-1 Technologies stroker crank and rods connected to Ross Racing 9.4:1 pistons. A 750cfm Holley carb and single-plane Strip Dominator intake send a concentrated air/gas mixture through a set of rare, large-port, factory J heads, further refined with porting and polishing, then fitted with stainless valves. A COMP Cams .545-inch high-lift cam activates the 1.5 ratio iron rockers, while MSD lights the fire and tti coated long tube headers deal with the gasses. The exhaust is sent through an aluminized 2½-inch system to Dynomax turbo mufflers. Barry estimates the engine sends about 435 horsepower to the Tremec TKO five-speed transmission.
Once the powertrain was complete, mods to the Barracuda sheetmetal began by repairing some rusted areas, eliminating most of the emblems and the antenna, then spraying the car with Cadillac Switchblade Silver. The interior received its share of upgrades with the bench seat swapped for a set of buckets. There are new woodgrain door panels and blue vinyl upholstery from Legendary Auto Interiors, stitched by Howard Krusey in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
The goal was to complete the car in time for the 2010 Power Tour, leaving from Indiana. Unfortunately, once the new engine, transmission and rear end were in place, the car needed a custom driveshaft. Keisler Engineering got the call, but time was short. Since the car had never been driven with the new components, some type of shakedown cruise was necessary. Barry located a Ford truck driveshaft with a similar yoke to the Tremec. He trimmed it to fit and bolted it in place. The quick fix was more than enough to show that everything worked perfectly. The new shaft arrived one day before the tour departure. It was installed and the car departed on schedule, covering the route with no difficulties at all.
Barry currently owns eight Chrysler products in various stages of restoration. Through it all, he says the ’69 Barracuda is going to be in the family for a long time. Barry also offers special thanks to brothers Doug and Brad for all they have done.