Back in the Day

First Drive in a 1970 440 Six Pack Barracuda

Roger Johnson - August 21, 2014 02:01 PM


A 440 Six Pack Barracuda could get instant street cred

Courtesy of Red Line Muscle Cars

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     I was working with a young guy named Chris in Chrysler’s mail room at their Highland Park complex in the fall of 1969. He showed up driving a brand new 1970 440 Six Pack, four-speed Barracuda. This shaker hood car happened to be red with black interior. You know, the kind wealthy collectors today spend huge money to possess. Chris was only 19 or 20 at the time.
     Four of us went to lunch in it one afternoon and cruised around the area. Just pulling out of the Chrysler complex onto the public streets in one of Mopar’s newest, and fastest, offerings made us instant rock stars. Even though most people would never have imagined this car would still be coveted 45 years later, we all knew – then and there - how incredibly special the Barracuda  was,  not just on paper but on actual pavement.
     Because he was a friend, and genuinely nice guy, Chris let me pilot his ‘Cuda back to our office. I had driven a number of Max Wedge cars and Street Hemis by this time, so I was no stranger to the power lurking under my right foot. Without hesitation, I punched the big 440 in first gear and brought all six barrels into play. Twelve hundred cubic feet per minute of air sucking into a 440 made for a spine tingling sound, sight and sensation. This was especially true in an enclosed complex where sane driving and slow speeds were mandatory.  I must confess we always assumed those restrictions were not designed for us.
     I missed my first power-shift attempt into second, thanks to the fresh and tight four-speed linkage. The sweet, pistol-gripped shifter made me all the more embarrassed. I slowed, put it back in first gear, and gave it another whirl. This time, I got it right and the car rewarded me with a nice pair of straight, black stripes on the pavement.  I backed off almost immediately in second gear since I was violating company protocol like Jack the Ripper in the back alleys of London – but I was doing it at noon in broad daylight.
     The word on the street was that an easy-to-tune 440 could run with the more fickle Street Hemi most of the time. When a 440 was packing the Six Pack option, that possibility became even more absolute.  The price of admission to this kind of performance was significantly less than the approximate thousand dollar fee for the Street Hemi package. Besides, both engines flaunted 490 lbs-ft of torque.
     I left Detroit for Atlanta in early 1970 and have no idea how long Chris kept this car. I hope he still has it and continues to enjoy the fruits of his foresight. Either way, I still have the vivid memory of that first ride and drive in Chrysler’s second most outrageous muscle car. And I always will.