The late 1960s truly were a turbulent and bizarre period in history. The Cold War's greatest proxy war dragged on in Vietnam. Paul McCartney was dead. San Francisco didn't believe in hygiene. A racist sociopath from Ohio had formed one of the most creepy and terrifying cults ever out in the California desert.
However, if you were an automotive enthusiast who could ride out the insanity, then you couldn't have asked for a better time to love everything with four moving wheels. The late '60s belonged to pony cars, muscle cars, stylish coupes and versatile wagons that packed plenty of blasting powder underneath their domed and sculpted hoods. Crossovers hadn't yet been invented, America wasn't addicted to pickups, front-wheel drive was a big foam novelty and fuel was still cheaper than the dirt that Standard Oil drilled it out of.
With plenty of cheap gasoline, horsepower and great iron to go around, it's easy to get the impression that choosing something to drive was about as easy as choosing between Jennifer Lawrence and Sophia Bush. And Jessica Biel. And Emma Stone. But I decided to take the time out a few nights ago to set down and figure out what I would buy if this were 1968 give or take a year, I had a few thousand dollars and a certain US Senator hadn't yet driven his Oldsmobile (and his passenger) into a really big creek.
Since I don't qualify for old people benefits and because I haven't been bothered to figure out what a wedding is and why I should have kids, that means sedans would be out. Wagons would be too, mainly because I have no idea what I could use all of the space for except for sleeping with Jennifer Lawrence... who, uh, wouldn't be born for another twenty years or so. Corvettes and Cadillacs would've been out of my budget, buying a "ferrin job" meant the CIA would've investigated me for being communist, and while I love muscle cars, I can't say my own intimate understanding of an early '70s Cutlass has exactly translated to an appreciation of stock muscle car handling and suspension. That means I would be buying a pony car.
So which pony car would I pick? Well, my options are as follows: the Ford Mustang, the Mercury Cougar, the Chevrolet Camaro, the Pontiac Firebird, the AMC Javelin and – finally! – the Plymouth Barracuda.
Right off the bat, I know that the Mustang would be off of my list because at this point in time Ford had already sold somewhere close to two million of the damn things, and that meant it wasn't exactly the expression of individuality it was intended to be any more. The Mustang-based Mercury Cougar is the next to go because, despite its family ties, it was really more of a personal luxury coupe (read: soft and cushy) than a sporty pony car, and the AMC Javelin, while handsomely styled, really didn't stand out from the pack. The Camaro and the Firebird are the next to go because I can't wear a mullet. That leaves only one car: The Plymouth Barracuda.
Say what you want and pledge allegiance to whichever automaker you want, the second-generation Plymouth Barracuda really was the best pony car out of the litter back in the late '60s. For starters, with sales totaling somewhere less than 140,000 cars near the end of its lifespan, it was uncommon enough that you wouldn't see one every time you sneezed. On top of that, it was no more expensive to buy than a comparable Mustang — a fastback car with a 318 cubic-inch V8 would've set you back under $2,900 dollars.
Then there was the styling that made the Mustang and Camaro look like they were drawn by a booger-picking preschooler with a box of crayons. Every shape and line on the late '60s Barracuda flowed perfectly into one another, no one element or detail looked out of place, nothing looked exaggerated or overdone. Even better, choosing between the notchback coupe, fastback coupe and convertible did nothing to ruin the design. It was one word: beautiful.
So the Barracuda was beautiful. But did its beauty only run skin deep? Absolutely not. If you had the extra cash burning a hole in your pocket Plymouth would've ripped the 230 horse 318 V8 out and thrown in a monster 300 horsepower (upgraded to 330 horses in 1969) 383 cubic-inch V8 if you bought the Formula S package. In 1969, Plymouth trumped its 383 V8 option for the Barracuda by adding the 440 cube V8 with three two-barrel carburetors. Available with the 'Cuda package, the 440 Super Commando could propel the Barracuda down the quarter mile in only 14 seconds.
But the Barracuda wasn't just a fast, good looking car. On top of that, it was also practical. Fastback models had rear seats that folded down to make a trunk so massive you could've slept with... well, not Ms. Lawrence I suppose, but whoever was alive and attractive back then. Mia Farrow would do nicely.
Video credit: mymopartv