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One fine fish: the '69 Plymouth Barracuda

Though not a muscle monster, this refined ’69 Barracuda proves to be a keeper catch.
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Scott and Shelby Martin enjoy taking their restored 1969
Barracuda out for a spin, to the tune of about 1,000 miles a year.

When it came to the muscle car era, there really was no replacement for displacement. For street racers and drive-in cruisers alike, the name of the game was cubic inches — and lots of them. Just like today, those maxed-out muscle machines were the cars that often brought the customers into the dealership for a look at what was new. Quite often, those same customers left with a less-exotic new purchase. That was likely the story on this 1969 Plymouth Barracuda.

Chrysler’s LA-series small-block engines (273, 318, 340 and 360 cubic inches) were the company’s pedestrian V-8 mills, with all but the 318-cid V-8 being offered between 1964-’77 with some sort of performance trim. The 318 was the most prolific of those, and could become more aggressive with a small investment in speed parts. The 318 was offered only in two-barrel trim in the early years, and most of the best-known classic Chrysler body designs — Charger, Belvedere, Dart, etc. — used this engine as the most common power train option.

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When Scott and Shelby Martin of Roanoke, Va., began the process of restoring their little Barracuda convertible, they decided to forego any muscle car-style changes. This particular design, produced during the 1967-’69 model years, featured the second major reworking from the car’s 1964 introduction. The Martins bought the car in pieces from a friend who had begun the process of restoring the Barracuda, then had to move due to a job change.

The car ended up sitting in that condition as the Martins collected parts to complete the restoration right. Among these was a parts car that would supply a needed hood and front fenders. Only 973 Barracuda convertibles were built that year, and Scott admits that the project entailed more time and money than the couple had expected when work began.

With the spare car’s parts installed at home by Scott, the body went to Mac Owen for a set of replacement rear quarter panels and tweaking. Richie Brown repainted it (the Martins decided on a more modern color — Viper Red by Martin-Senor), and Butch Helms did the final prep and installed the sports stripe. Custom Seat Cover in Salem, Va., did the work on the top and interior, while the brightwork trim was refinished by Paul’s Chrome Plating.

Though this Barracuda was not built as a performance model, one interesting gauge in the rally instrument panel is a “performance monitor” that measures manifold vacuum. The car was also equipped with a console and floor-mounted automatic shifter from day one. The engine is a replacement, but it is from a low-mileage 1969 donor, and has not even been completely apart. A fresh timing chain and tune-up pieces were the extent of its reworking.

Late-’60s 318s were built with a 230-hp/340-lbs.-ft. performance rating, with about a 9.0:1 compression, .373/.400 hydraulic cam for cylinder scavenging and a cast crank. The carburetor was a BBD two-barrel with 1-1/4-inch throttle openings, and there was no displacement call-out on the crackle-black air cleaner.

Scott left the rest of the driveline intact as well: a 904 automatic transmission and a 7-1/4-inch rear with 3.23 open-end gearing. One compromise was a set of 14-inch rally wheels shod with road-ready 205R70-14 BFGoodrich T/A tires, which allow the 63,000-mile car to cruise pleasurably down the road.

Perhaps the 318-cid V-8 may not have been a tire-churning workhorse back in the day, but packaged so nicely in this A-body Plymouth, it has received a fair share of 21st century attention. At the 21st Annual All-Mopar Show in Farmington, N.C., the car was the only two-barrel machine in a large contingent of well-done A-bodies, and still took home first place in the A-body stock category — for the third straight year. Scott drove all the way from Roanoke for that show, and says the car goes about 1,000 trouble-free miles a year these days. Two-barrel or not, cruising in this ride seems like fun to us.

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