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1968 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S 340 - Homebuilt Road Racer

Regret Is Quelled While Corners Are Carved

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Though you might not know it to read car magazines today, there actuallywas a sect of the automotive performance world flourishing back in the'60s that had almost nothing to do with big-blocks. Sports car racinghad gained popularity in the '50s, at least in part due to Americansoldiers who'd witnessed or even participated in such activity inEurope. By the '60s, many Americans had become involved in amateur roadracing, and the SCCA was fast becoming as widely known as establishedracing organizations like the NHRA.

Bob Reed had grown up during this period, and was one of many Americanswho had developed a fondness for turning corners, so it may seem oddthat he had his sights set on a Mopar when he graduated dental school in1968. Bob knew precisely the car he wanted--a new Barracuda fastbackwith the Formula S package, the hot new 340-inch small-block, and afour-speed trans. Though the Formula S had a sporting image (for amusclecar), Bob's example actually spent more time at the drags than onroad courses. He was living in L.A. at the time and recalls racing thecar at Lions, Irwindale, and San Fernando with regularity. "That wasabsolutely the best car I've ever owned," he says, recalling that thePlymouth provided dead-reliable transportation on a daily basis in spiteof the steady beatings. But sadly, after returning from a stint in theArmy, Bob found that the car had not been well cared for by his family,and he decided to sell the seemingly used-up Plymouth.

During the years that followed, Bob's involvement with road racingbecame increasingly serious, eventually leading to a factory-backed SCCAGTII championship in 1979. But by the mid-'90s, Bob had backed off racedriving to concentrate more on car development, as he realized that heactually enjoyed that aspect of racing more. Shortly after, the naggingpangs of regret he'd been feeling since the '70s over selling the 'Cudastarted to escalate--he had to find another.

As it turns out, Chrysler didn't build all that many fastback Formula SBarracudas with the 340/four-speed for '68, so locating a decent one 30years later was no small task, particularly given the stipulation laidout by Bob's long-time friend and restoration expert, Red Harden: "Youwill not buy a car from east of the Mississippi!"

After searching the nation for three years, the perfect car showed upmere blocks from Bob's Bakersfield, California, office--driven by a highschool girl no less. When Bob caught up with her, she informed him thatthe car was her father's, and that it was "his baby." Great. Turns outit was a 40,000-mile original-condition car, but dad was willing tosell, and the price wasn't all that painful.

As Bob put it, "The car looked great at 100 mph from 100 feet,"explaining that although some of the paint was original and the body wasall there, the car had been in a couple of accidents and fixed intypical '70s collision-shop fashion--quickly. Fortunately, one of Bob'sold racing buddies is Red Harden, owner of Carriage Masters, arestoration facility specializing in exotics, so correcting the previousslipshod collision work the right way was not a problem, as reflected inthe car's current finish, which Red also handled.

But a straight resto was never the plan for this project. Bob's years ofroad racing and track-car development dictated that the car would beupgraded to provide improved handling and braking in addition to thetypical motorhead desires for more power, though he also required thatcar remain genuinely streetable. To complicate the matter slightly, Bobwas unwilling to alter the 'Cuda in a way that couldn't be reversedlater on.

Making more power was easy with a stroked small-block, and the Keislerfive-speed Tremec conversion aided in the car's streetability whencombined with the 3.91:1 gears in the rear. The real trick was thesuspension. Bob's experience with race cars had taught him theimportance of having the proper roll center when setting up asuspension, and he used the Z06 Corvette's favorable 1-2-inch front rollcenter and 8-10-inch rear roll center as benchmarks for the Barracuda,which were nearly identical to the ideal specs he'd found earlier withfront-engine/rear-drive race cars. Getting there involved designingmodifications for the stock spindles, altering the spring eye positionfor the rear leafs, and fabricating adjustable mounting hardware for thefront and rear sway bars. Four-wheel discs and adjustable shocks arealso present, and the whole deal rides on high-performance 17-inchrubber.

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