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.
Inside, it's mostly factory original, save for Flofit seats upholsteredto match by Seat So
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.
The original 340 block now makes 396 inches and 520 hp, but it'spump-gas friendly and tota
Like many car projects, Bob claims his Barracuda isn't actually done, ashe's still tweaking the suspension setup. Currently, the front rollcenter is around 3 inches while the rear is hovering in the 13-inchrange, which is damn good for a production sedan of this vintage, butBob thinks there's a little more refinement to be had. In the meantime,the Plymouth's street manners seem fully dialed, as evidenced by thetrip through L.A. traffic to our shoot location followed by a two-hourcruise back to Bakersfield. Once Bob can bring himself to subject RedHarden's paint job to a road course, the Camaros and Mustangs may be infor a surprise.
What: '68 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S 340
Owner: Bob Reed, a dentist by trade and road racer by choice
Hometown: Bakersfield, California, home of famous Famosa Racewayand Buck Owens
Engine: The original 340 block had already been built once, so ithad to be taken 0.040-over, though Bob's longtime friend and trustedrace-engine builder Hugh Reynolds of Reynolds Automotive Machine inBakersfield sonic-checked the cylinder walls first just to make surethere was plenty of meat. A cast 360 crank was turned down to fit the340 main saddles and then offset ground to create a 3.700-inch stroke.It works with custom JE pistons and Manley small-block Chevy-spec(gasp!) 6.3-inch rods to make 396 ci with 9.5:1 compression. A trickcustom oil pan fabbed by Tim Herren of Old Time Racing provides plentyof capacity and ground clearance, while adding baffling and trap doorsfor oil control.
Camshaft: A custom grind was ordered from Comp Cams on asolid-roller blank with 0.605/0.605-inch lift and 288/292 degrees ofadvertised duration. A 112-degree lobe separation angle was also spec'dto smooth the idle a touch since street driving was a big part of theplan.
Heads: A set of stock Chrysler "X" heads with 2.02/1.60 valveswas ported and matched to the intake manifold by Dick Landy.
Induction: That Mopar Performance M1 intake ported by Landy istopped with a Holley HP-series 830-cfm carb.
Exhaust: Off-the-shelf Doug Thorley A-body 15/8 headers fit thelowered Barracuda like a glove and connect to a Doug's 21/2-inch X-pipe,which feeds a pair of Dynomax Super Turbo mufflers. A pair of 21/2-inchTTI mandrel-bent tailpipes terminate with stock-looking chrome box tipsby Stainless Steel Exhaust Systems (Tennessee) that fit perfectly in thestock valence-panel cutouts.
Power: Reynolds Machine dyno'd the small-block Mopar and found521 hp at 6,500 rpm and 469 lb-ft at 5,200 on 91-octane pump gas. HughReynolds says that when run on race fuel with 41 degrees total timing,the horsepower rose to 547, though at the expense of lower-rpm output.
Transmission: The original iron four-speed was put on the shelfin favor of a Tremec TKO five-speed manual with overdrive (0.68:1)modified by Keisler Engineering to work with the Chrysler engine.Keisler also provided the offset shifter, driveshaft, and transmissioncrossmember to make the swap more feasible.
Rearend: The original 83/4-inch Chrysler axlehousing remains,along with its Sure-Grip differential, now spinning 3.91:1 gears.
Front suspension: Dr. Bob started by bracing the factory K-memberand then designed a way to modify the factory spindles to provide drop.He then had a chrome-moly tubular 11/4-inch front sway bar bent up,which "cost less than the available aftermarket bars and weighs about atenth as much." It's also adjustable thanks to Bob's fabricated mountinghardware. A Firm Feel Stage II steering box tightens up the inputs, andSpax adjustable shocks damper the Mopar Performance 0.920-inch torsionbars.
Rear suspension: Not wanting to cut the car, Bob stuck with astock leaf-spring rear suspension, which is currently using the originalFormula S springs enhanced with adjustable spring perches and an Addcorear sway bar hung from Bob's own adjustable hardware. More Spax shockshere as well.
Brakes: Bob replaced the front stock discs with 113/4-inchCordoba rotors clamped with aluminum four-piston calipers from The BrakeMan, mounted with Tim Herren-fabricated brackets. Out back, a readilyavailable disc conversion kit from Street Rod Manufacturing Company inCastle Rock, Colorado, bolted right up using late-'70s Cadillac-stylecalipers with an integral parking brake on custom-drilled rotors.
Body: The stock '68 Barracuda flanks were left unmodified, juststraightened and sprayed the factory shade of red by Red Harden ofCarriage Works in Bakersfield, California.
Interior: The interior was in great shape, but the stock frontseats don't offer much support, lateral or otherwise, so Bob contactedthe Seat Source in Long Beach, California, because this company offersthe unusual option of matching factory upholstery to aftermarket seats,like the Flofits used here.
Wheels/Tires: American Racing Torq-Thrust II wheels in 17x7 and17x8 are wrapped with Kumho Ecsta radials in 225/40-17 and 255/40-17 inthe rear.