Charlie Allen’s 1965 Plymouth Barracuda Coupe: bespoke Mopar magic
Charlie Allen’s first MOPAR machine was an AP6 Valiant Regal which he converted to V8 specification. He was then in his late twenties and he has fond memories of his time with that car. Charlie owned his Regal for 12 to 18 months before family life took precedence and he didn’t spend much time dreaming about cars. Then as he found himself approaching retirement age, Charlie reckoned he wouldn’t mind having another project and it would definitely be a Valiant-related machine.
Griff’s Auto Parts in Ballarat told Charlie it would cost him between $2000 and $3000 to import a car from the US. Charlie found a neat looking and pretty original seeming1965 Barracuda online. The owner lived in Orange County, California. He paid a $500 deposit and got someone – a fellow Australian, as it happened – to check it out for him. The ’Cuda turned out to be in generally good shape. There was some rust on the right-hand-side (passenger’s) from a leaking heater and the usual perforations in the bottom of the doors. So he bought the car and about three months later it arrived in Australia. He also imported quite a lot of parts in the same shipment.
A mate from high school with whom he later did his apprenticeship, Gary O’Brien, started a business called Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars and Charlie spent some time working with him. From about 2012 to 2018 the Barracuda wore club plates and remained left-hook in configuration. But Charlie reckons he was ‘busy doing other things in life’ and his plan to restore and reimagine the car went on hold until 2019 when he took 12 months long-service leave. Gary gave him a spot in the workshop and he laboured on the Barracuda himself, taking it back to bare metal. A body-strengthening kit (in-fill rails, torque boxes and lower radiator support brace) was fitted. A right-hand-drive firewall from an Aussie AP6 Valiant wagon was grafted onto the Barracuda body. The tunnel was modified so that a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed manual gearbox could take its place.
During this resto, he and a couple of workers changed the design of the rear quarter panels from the VC Valiant style of the 1965 Barracuda to more of an AP6 shape. Charlie credits Mick Reed for his genius metal fabricating.
Decades ago, the car had been retro-fitted with a 318 cubic-inch V8 to replace the original 273 and Charlie reckoned a smart rebuild of this unit would do the trick. The engine was upgraded with a stroker crankshaft and has been bored about 30 thou for a capacity of 349 cubic inches. So, how is the performance? ‘It goes pretty well,’ says Charlie in what is almost certainly a masterful understatement. Modified Pacemaker headers top a 65mm stainless steel system.
Coil-over suspension at both ends and Wilwood discs front and rear ensure the Barracuda handles and stops accordingly. The front-end kit was supplied by Magnum Force along with a rack and pinion steering kit. Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars manufactured a new baffled fuel tank in 3mm alloy.
Charlie reckons choosing the paint colour was quite the challenge. Originally this car had been white and at some stage in its US decades there was a low quality respray to red. He was thinking about one of the various blue liveries offered by Chrysler on early Barracudas or even white. Then one day when he and his wife, Sue, were taking their morning walk they spotted a BMW M3 in what they soon discovered was Mineral Grey metallic and they instantly knew that this was the colour they wanted.
On a work trip to the US in 2018, Charlie collected a pair of US Pro Car front bucket seats that he had bought online in Australia. He dropped them off at the same export place that had delivered the car those years earlier. The rear seat has been retrimmed to match in vinyl with velour inserts.
While early model Mustangs and even Camaros are reasonably common in Australia, Barracudas are much less so, reflecting their comparative rarity when new. Plymouth brought their Valiant-based sporty model to market just weeks before Ford revealed the Mustang. The Barracuda was launched in mid-1964 as a 1965 model, which Ford cutely dubbed its Mustang a 1964 ½ model. More than 10 Mustangs were sold for every 1965 Barracuda – about 65,000 versus something beyond 680,000. For many collectors this statistic alone makes the Chrysler hotrod the more interesting.
But there was plenty to like about this entry from Chrysler into the burgeoning compact coupe market in the US. The Barracuda was a cleverly conceived fastback hardtop coupe with a strikingly huge compound-curve rear window and a fold-down back seat which was highly novel for a Detroit vehicle. With the seat folded down, a load length of seven feet was liberated, long enough for the super-sized surfboards of those glorious Beach Boys days.
Standard was the now celebrated 225 cubic-inch ‘Slant Six’. Optional were a 180 brake horsepower 273 and a high-po 235-bhp edition, complete with high-lift high-overlap camshaft, domed pistons, solid lifters, free-flow air cleaner and low-restriction exhaust system with a notably sweet note. A fullhouse Barracuda specified with Rallye Suspension (heavy-duty front torsion bars, front and rear sway bars and stiff leaf springs at the rear), Firm-Ride dampers and four-on-the-floor could hit 60 miles per hour from rest in eight seconds and handle life’s bends with aplomb.
I think a lot of Baby Boomer enthusiasts retain fond memories of Valiants they owned in their younger days. For myself, I owned assorted Holdens and Valiants in my twenties and thirties, of which the standouts were a VC Valiant V8 (a beautifully preserved specimen which I treated to Bilsteins), a VE Regal V8 and a couple of 265 VH Charger 770s (amazingly, both in that unappealing beige Blonde Olive colour!). There was just a special and distinctive quality shared by all Valiants.
This phenomenal Plymouth Barracuda is Charlie Allen’s only classic car and he won’t be selling it any time soon. Like so many of the featured vehicles in Shannons’ Member Spotlight series, it is absolutely one of a kind and unique in the entire automotive world.