History of high-performance Muscle Cars and drag racing began back in 1965.
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Plymouth cut their teeth in Muscle car building with a series of models
that excited the MOPAR fans all during the 60's and 70's. The Plymouth 'Cuda - Plymouth
Duster - Plymouth GTX - Plymouth Road Runner and the Plymouth Superbird all became street
racing legions. The Plymouth Barracuda was the first pony car, debuting two weeks before
the Ford Mustang. It was quickly eclipsed by the Mustang and the Camaro/Firebird due, but
would make a name for itself in 1970 when it was available with an engine its competition
could only dream of, the Hemi. 1965 saw the introduction of the "Formula S"
performance option, although the Plymouth Barracuda still was far from a performance car.
The 225 Slant Six officially replaced the 170 Slant Six as the standard engine.
The Barracuda finally became a true pony car in 1967. The Barracuda was
redesigned on a new, longer wheelbase and offered a choice of V8s, two 273 cid V8s and a
new 383 cid V8. The Slant Six engine was officially dropped. Unfortunately, the 383 engine
was so large that the power steering pump couldn't fit under the hood, so it was
unavailable -- which resulted in poor handling. The original fastback model was now joined
by a notchback and a convertible model. The Formula S option package was still available
and added a heavy duty suspension, tachometer, Wide-Oval tires, and special emblems and
1969 was the year that Plymouth finally got serious about performance.
They boosted the output of the 383 cid engine to 330 bhp and found room to fit power
steering. Plymouth also introduced a cosmetic package built around the Formula S option,
which they called the 'Cuda. The 'Cuda could be had with either the 275 bhp 340 V8 or the
383, but it still wasn't fast enough. Plymouth responded in 1970 by stuffing in the triple
carb 440 V8 under the hood, the largest engine available in a pony car. The performance
models were called 'Cudas and featured five different V8s, the 340, 383, 440, 440+6, and
the almighty 426 Hemi. The 440s and the Hemi cars received a special high performance
suspension to put all that power to the road. Standard Barracudas came with a flat hood,
while 'Cudas came with standard dual non-functional hood scoops. Optional on all 'Cudas
(and standard on Hemi's) was a very functional shaker scoop, so named because it attached
directly to the engine, and poked up through a hole in the hood and thus
"shaked" whenever the engine did. Hemi - 426/425: 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, 1/4
mile in 13.41 sec. @ 104.6 mph.
Plymouth also built a special model for 1970: the Plymouth AAR 'Cuda. AAR
was taken from Dan Gurney's All-American Racers, which raced 'Cudas in the Sports Car Club
of America Trans-Am racing series. But whereas Ford and Chevrolet built special models
(Boss 302 Mustang and Camaro Z28) meant to mimic the race cars, Plymouth built a street
rod. Along with the similar Dodge Challenger T/A, the AAR 'Cuda sported a unique 340 cid
V8 with 3x2 carbs that pumped out 290 bhp. The exterior was definitely unique with a
matte-black lift-off fiberglass hood, through body-side strobe stripes, tri-colored AAR
shield, and standard black ducktail spoiler. The AAR 'Cuda also had special shocks and
recambered rear springs which raised the rear end 1 3/4 inches over the regular 'Cuda
which allowed clearance for exhaust pipes that exited in front of the rear wheelwell
(after routing through the standard muffler beneath the trunk). It also permitted the use
of larger tires in the rear, one of the first uses of wider rear tires on a production
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The Plymouth Super Bird was created for the same reason as the Dodge
Daytona -- a full on high speed race machine designed for the NASCAR races, but available
to the public....Superbird performance...426/415: 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, 1/4 mile in 13.50
seconds @ 105.0 mph.
Trying to capture some of the success that their Dodge brothers had in
1969 with their Daytona, Plymouth tried the same thing in 1970 with their creation, the
Plymouth Superbird. Although similar in appearance, the Superbird was actually quite
different from the Daytona. The Superbird was based on the Plymouth Road Runner and the
nose, airfoil, and basic sheet metal was different between the Daytona and Superbird. The
special nose added 19 inches to the overall length (the Daytona's was 18 inches), and the
trunk spoiler was more angled and higher than the Daytonas. On both models, the spoiler
was two feet high so that the owner could open the trunk. Although it created quite an
impression on the street, the wing did almost no aerodynamic good under 90 mph
NASCAR only required 500 copies to be built in 1969, but in 1970, NASCAR
required a manufacturer to build one unit per dealer. In the end, Plymouth built a total
of 1,920 SuperBirds. SuperBirds were available with three different engines. The most
popular was the basic Super Commando 440 V8 with a single four barrel carb rated at 375
bhp. Next up was the 440 Six Pack rated at 390 bhp. At the top, and ordered by just 93
buyers, was the mighty 426 Hemi, rated at 425 bhp. Despite the success of the SuperBird on
the tracks, 1970 would be the only year it was made.
The Plymouth Road Runner gained a convertible and two door hardtop for
1969 and replaced the GTX series in popularity. The GTX received minor front and rear
cosmetic changes in 1969, which included new rectangular side markers, and a new (but very
similar) grille and taillight treatment. On the performance side, the GTX was now
available with a wider choice of rear axles, and a Hurst shifter. Also new was the Air
Grabber option, which consisted of dual air intakes in the hood with a dash-controlled
shut off. The Hemi, a $700.90 option, was ordered on just 198 hardtops and only 11 GTX
convertibles. A third engine option for the GTX appeared in mid-1969. Plymouth took the
440 V8 and replaced the single four barrel carb with three two barrel carbs and put out a
solid 390 bhp. Called the 440+6, it was just a $119 upgrade over the standard 440, still
rated at 375 bhp.
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