1973 PLYMOUTH Barracuda 440

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1973 PLYMOUTH Barracuda 440

Background

Cars named after fish are few and far between for good reason – most fish just don’t have names that suit the automotive vibe. Kia Sardine, anyone? Thought not. But Barracuda – that’s a large, fast predatory fish known for its aggressive appearance and behaviour. That’s a bit more like it, huh? Would you be this excited if the muscle car before you was called the Plymouth Panda? It nearly was, but someone with a better marketing head got their way and Barracuda it was. Phew.

In the beginning, there were family cars, but American buyers wanted more. They wanted something they could afford, something that looked fresh, and something that would go fast.

The early sixties were a time of economic plenty and optimism in the USA, with the Big Three American car manufacturers Chrysler, Ford and Chevrolet competing to dominate the youth market with affordable, mid-size performance cars.

The word around Detroit was that Ford was planning to introduce a sporty new compact car based on the Falcon chassis and running gear. Rumour had it that it would be called the Mustang. In response, Chrysler stylist Irv Ritchie sketched a fastback version of the Valiant, which at the time was Chrysler’s most sporty model.

Budgets were tight, but the company’s executives wanted an entry in this rapidly growing market, and stealing some of the sales from Chevrolet’s Corvair Monza models wouldn’t hurt either.

Ford was inventing a new market sector with the Mustang – compact sized cars that were affordable (base models had six cylinder engines and basic interiors) but could be kitted out with a powerful V8s and custom accessories. They became known as pony cars after Ford’s innovation.

Introduced on 1st April 1964, the Plymouth Barracuda was actually the first pony car, launched two weeks before Ford’s long bonnet, short-rear Mustang. Due to Chrysler’s limited budget, the Barracuda was a hardtop two-door fastback version of their compact car, the Plymouth Valiant, with the largest rear window glass ever fitted to a production car.

Initially the Barracuda was viewed as very obviously just a fastback version of the Valiant, which had a frugal family image. Plymouth had to figure out a way to combat that, so they pitched the Barracuda as a car ‘for people of all ages and interests’. Meanwhile, the sporty Mustang was marketed with abundant advertising to young professionals and with a youthful image, this proved to be a huge strength for Ford and a weakness for Plymouth.

Characteristic of the burgeoning muscle car era was Chrysler’s range of performance tick-box options, giving an almost custom-made appearance. First-generation (1964-66) Barracudas had a 106 inch wheelbase, small-block V8 engines, and powertrains identical to the Valiant’s. The highest performance option in 1964 was the popular 273 cubic inch (4.5-litre) LA V8, making it faster than Ford’s Mustang.

Mopar muscle power culminated in the late 1960s and early ’70s with special performance packages and a 440ci (7.2-litre) big block V8, known as the Chrysler B Engine. This transformed the Barracuda into a legendary muscle car. 1970-74 Cudas had a Chrysler E-body, sharing a similar design to the Dodge Challenger R/T and the same 383ci engines.

Barracudas and Cudas were not interchangeable. Barracudas didn’t have the hemispherical-shaped combustion chambers V8, or hemi. The Cuda was the so called high-performance derivation with 426 hemi big-blocks (as though a 7.2-litre big block V8 is an eco-powerplant). The 426 Super Stock hemi was the notorious power behind 26 drag racing records in one season and 11.39 second quarter mile time, alongside Richard Petty’s 1967 NASCAR Championship win.

Muscle car marketing was full of entertaining bravado, the like of which you never saw in UK car ads, with Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and Plymouth flexing their muscles. Chrysler’s advertisements for the 1970s hemi ’Cuda included the strapline, Our Angriest Body Wrapped Around’ Ol’ King Kong Himself. Take that, Morris Marina.

1970-1974 Cudas and limited production convertibles are the most valuable. A numbers-matching (original engine with body), four-speed blue 1971 hemi Cuda convertible reached a record $3.5 million at Mecum Auctions in June 2014, becoming the most expensive hemi Cuda ever sold. In 2019, a rare 1970 yellow hemi Cuda convertible sold for $1.98 million.

A 1973 Barracuda is hard to find now – only 11,000 were made in that year – and even in 1973, a Plymouth Barracuda was an unusual choice for a new car. In the face of rapidly diminishing sales, you could argue that Plymouth had chosen the path of least resistance as a means to its end.

The muscle car fad was on its way out: sales of high-performance cars plummeted precipitously, and opera windows and ludicrously soft suspensions were becoming increasingly attractive to the American car-buying public. Safety standards, the spector of unleaded fuel and the dreaded catalytic converter, and the slowing of performance car sales all spelled doom for Plymouth's pony car.

Its last update of any significance was in 1972, when a minor facelift eliminated the wing gills and the front end reverted to a two-headlamp design, and the available engines had their compression ratio lowered in advance of no-lead at the pumps.

The Plymouth stylists didn't even design proper five mph safety bumpers for it; thick rubber over-riders on chromed stanchions were all that the engineers (who were working overtime on emissions compliance) could muster, or that the budget would allow them to tool up for. The following year spelled the end of the line for Plymouth’s feisty fish.

The Vehicle

This car is located in Germany and has a German registration certificate, with the numberplate 69346 MI 2. This Barracuda is a 1973 model, which comes with the very desirable 440ci (7200cc) V8 engine and a three-speed automatic gearbox with the pistol grip shifter.

The vendor says ‘The condition of the vehicle is excellent, it does not require any work. It drives, brakes and shifts perfectly. The interior lamps work, the headlights have been brought up to European standards, the indicators and warning lights [hazards] are operational. Pollution standards are respected.’

On the Outside

American cars can be the size of a small Pacific island but pony cars such as the Barracuda are a much more manageable size, and perfectly useable on European roads. This one is in stunning condition – the ground up restoration may have been five years ago but the car has clearly been molly coddled since then, and it could have been restored a few months ago.

The deep red paintwork catches the light and sparkles from all angles, the original spec wheels are immaculate and period correct tyres are fitted. Thankfully, the rubber over-riders fitted in 1973 to comply with new legislation that stated all cars must survive a 5mph impact unscathed, are long gone.

Under the bonnet the standard is just as high. Many American restorers favour painting engine bays satin black, but this one has prepared it to the same standard as the exterior panels and applied the correct red paintwork. The vast Mopar big block V8 has some nice period correct tuning accessories, including lovely finned alloy rocker covers. Naturally, it sounds absolutely fabulous.

On the Inside

Inside the quality of the restoration work continues unabated, and the car retains a completely standard spec, all done beautifully. The only deviation is modern inertia reel seatbelts – a very sensible upgrade.

Seats, dash, carpets and door cards – all are like new, and all correct to the tiniest detail, down to the factory spec radio. The centre console on the transmission tunnel is dominated by the pistol grip shifter for the three-speed autobox (believe us, with this much torque available you really don’t need any more ratios) and the stylish twin-spoked steering wheel sets off the recessed instruments superbly.

Underneath

Underneath the good news continues, as it’s as good as everywhere else. The twin exhausts system looks like it could be a few months old and all the running gear is either still wearing its paint, or covered in rustproofing. This is as close to a new 1973 Barracuda 440 as you’re likely to come across.

History Highlights

Delivered in 1973 in the USA, this car remained there until 2018 when it was imported to Europe.

The Barracuda was the subject of a complete restoration, which took two years and was completed in 2016. During the work the body was stripped bare, repaired, treated and repainted. CUDA stripes have been fitted. The black vinyl roof has been redone.

The interior upholstery has also been completely renewed, including the carpets, headlining and door trims. Once the body had been restored

a Mopar 440ci engine, overhauled as new, was fitted. It features an Edelbrock four barrel carburettor and various MOPAR Performance accessories, including the generator, radiator and distributer – all new parts.

The autobox, fuel tank, exhaust and tyres were all renewed. The rear body height is adjustable as it rides on air suspension.

The cost of this restoration reached 60,000 USD.

Since being imported into Europe in 2018, the car has passed the German TUV test and is registered in Germany. Its current TUV certificate is valid until April 2023 and it’s been classified as an Historic Vehicle.

In July 2021 an expert valuation was carried out which concluded that the car has an estimated value of over €50,000.

What We Think

1973 Barracudas are rare in the States, and like hens’ teeth in Europe. This one has been restored to the highest standard and is period perfect. If you’re after a compact ’70s muscle car we don’t think you’ll find a better example. 

We estimate for this Barracuda to reach anywhere between €35,000 - €55,000.

Inspection is always encouraged, with this particular car located in Kehl, Germany. To arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.

All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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Seller

ericbrunner

  • Location: Kehl, Germany
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 69437
  • Chassis Number: BG23G3B539637
  • Engine: 7200
  • Gearbox: auto
  • Steering position: LHD
  • Colour: RED
  • Interior: BLACK
  • Estimated Price: €35,000 - €55,000

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