The cars we loved.
For Chrysler, the Muscle car era produced many storied machines that captured the public’s imagination. In the course of praising top performance versions of the Charger, Challenger and Cuda some interesting variants that were aimed more towards the growing personal luxury segment were almost overlooked by contemporary car lovers.
Take the Plymouth Barracuda Gran Coupe hardtop and convertibles of the early Seventies for instance. As a Plymouth, it was a copy of Dodge Challenger, a car it shared the E-body platform with. Normally Plymouths were low buck versions of other Chrysler products, but the Gran Coupe was a luxury car, abet in varying degrees. The Barracuda line consisted of basically three models, a base coupe, the luxury Gran Coupe and the performance oriented Cuda. Like many American cars of the period, a Gran Coupe could be equipped with a long list of options that could blur the lines between Cuda and Gran Coupe. If options were chosen carefully (sans stripes and excessive bulges/scopes) the clean lines of the Gran Coupe were revealed, showing off quite possibly the most attractive variation of the Barracuda.
Engine choices spanned the model range more completely, ranging from a underpowered slant six up to 383 four barrel V8 with 330 hp. They were often equipped with a four speed automatic transmission with a rally cluster dash. The luxury came in the form of interior accents like woodgrain steering wheel and power steering. Many were loaded with power windows and air conditioning also. A convertible was offered representing the apex of Barracuda luxury.
Because of all the choices customers had, a Gran Coupe could be configured to resemble anything from a base car to a quazi Cuda, (complete with stripes, hood scoupes and a rear spoiler) making it easier to insure. Gran Coupe models were introduced in 1970 with the rest of the new E-body Barracuda’s and continued until 1975 when the Barracuda was scrapped. Shifting consumer trends resulted in low sales as buyers increasingly wanted more
efficient cars. Most of the Barracuda’s sales went to the base model, then the Cuda with the Gran Coupe being a seldom seen and distant third. It’s been said that Chrysler was preparing a 75’ Barracuda with a Superbird like aero nose, but scrapped the project.
The fuel crisis had pretty much sealed the fate of cars like the Barracuda, so Chrysler would have to sell smaller more efficient cars and in a hurry. A new Duster/Volare pair, while not always awe inspiring (especially in Volare form) would be the Barracuda replacement. Some excitement was generated as speculation that Chrysler would release a new Barracuda alongside the Challenger in 2009. Instead the Plymouth division is gone and with it possibly all hopes for a modern twin for the Challenger. It’s still not too late for Chrysler to introduce a new Barracuda when the next Challenger rolls out, hopefully it would not be a Fiat or Alfa under the skin.