based on early '60's Mopar Logo

Petty’s 1964 / 1965 Barracuda

January 2007 Mopar of the Month

Journey Through Hemiland — Petty’s Barracuda:
The Reason, The Real, The Reconstruction

by Pete Haldiman P.E.
(© version: December, 2006)

Part I — The Reason

“It was announced at Daytona a few days before the 500 that
Ford had listed a new overhead camshaft 427 engine. NASCAR
requires that new engines or cars be listed 45 days before they
may be run in competition. NASCAR reportedly turned down
Ford’s overhead camshaft engine with the explanation that it was
not a production engine and would cost too much for the average
person to buy.

What Ford’s retaliation to this will be, we don’t know, but we do know they’ve been busy.”
From “Daytona Surprise Party” by Ray Brock, Hot Rod, May 1964

On February 23, 1964 Chrysler’s 426 Hemi made its racing debut at NASCAR’s Daytona 500. They did real good coming in 1, 2, 3. Richard Petty won the race in his ’64 Plymouth. In ’64 it was pretty much Ford versus Chrysler as Chevy opted out of any official racing activities in 1963. After Chrysler’s convincing domination at Daytona it was Ford’s turn to up the ante. As pointed out in the above article by Ray Brock, Ford had applied to NASCAR to have their SOHC 427 legalized even before the Daytona race. NASCAR turned them down immediately. It is difficult to comprehend Bill France’s real motives. Some say he wanted to lure Chevy back into racing so he didn’t want Ford and Chrysler to get too much ahead of them technologically. Then there is the obvious fact that the “SC” in “NASCAR” stood for “Stock Car” and Ford never had offered, built or sold any SOHC cars to the public. Perhaps ol’ Bill was worried about the escalating speeds being too much of a hazard to the drivers. Whatever the true reason France held his ground. No Ford SOHC engines would be allowed.

By July of 1964 Chrysler had built and sold nearly 175 426 Hemi equipped Dodge and Plymouth B bodies. Yet somehow Ford’s Moan and Groan Department had managed to drag the Hemi into the fray. Ray Brock was truly prophetic when he mentioned “Ford’s retaliation.” Sure enough France began thinking out loud that both the SOHC and Hemi engines should be outlawed. NASCAR was a privately owned monopoly so France was God. Chrysler had to start weighing its options. Should they continue racing the wedge engines in 1965 or should they withdraw altogether as Chevy had done. Chrysler chose the latter publicly but was probably lobbying continuously behind the scenes. Both Plymouth and Dodge had many contracts with race teams, suppliers, ad agencies, etc. NASCAR racing was a big deal and the effort had a lot of momentum. The Titanic could not stop on a dime.

Petty Enterprises of Randleman, North Carolina had been in the Plymouth camp for several years. Father Lee had won three NASCAR championships and son Richard was just about to win his first in 1964. Should Plymouth fire the Pettys, offer them positions on the assembly line or continue to use their services at other racing venues? USAC offered racing similar to what the Pettys were used to. Apparently Plymouth even considered the road racing series as evidenced by the Hemi powered Mc Kee car (recently restored by the way). With the hot cars Detroit was starting to build, drag racing was exploding in popularity. Plymouth decided to stick with the Pettys and make a very public move into drag racing. Yes, “drag racing.”

Me, I’m not a waxer or a racer. I am much amused at the Mopar National’s attempt to create the perfect judging system. The “Over Restored”  /  “Under Restored” debate is pathetic. If this is all that cars are good for you might as well have a Camaro. I’m into the Chrysler Corporation for its Engineering, history and moxie (and for those of you who have read my Altered-Wheelbase booklet, their Intentness). Chrysler had a cadre of talented, enthusiastic people in-house who could design and produce some really interesting stuff. And what is most amazing is that nearly every project was done with rule books in hand. Yes, there were some forays into pure engineering experimentation but for the most part all activities were focused on the goal at hand whether it was NASCAR, NHRA or other. Almost all the big ideas even made it to production. This is a long topic which will end here. Suffice it to say that I believe that Chrysler was clever like a fox. The story of Richard Petty’s Barracuda 43/JR is not simply the story of another race car. It is not the story of a bunch of shade-tree mechanics who got a good deal on a used car and just happened to have a Hemi for it. No, this was a big time power struggle. Chrysler chose to stand toe to toe with Bill France and thumb their nose at him. “Look,” they said “the Pettys are going drag racing. They don’t need NASCAR.” The ball was then in France’s court. Should he believe that Chrysler was serious or what. The game was afoot, Watson.

By September 1964, Richard Petty had enough points to guarantee him a NASCAR championship. On October 6, 1964, the Pettys had a Plymouth Barracuda in the shop. I believe it was a used 1964, not a new ’65. The initial work on the car was covered in many magazines. All the photos are the same = Corporation photos. See, Bill, how the work is progressing. Bill would not relent. October 19, 1964 Bill France officially outlawed the Hemi. (Note that in the eight months between the February Daytona 500 and October 19, Ford sold exactly “0” SOHC cars.) The Cuda was finished and making passes by November. Richard put a bumper sticker on 43/JR which read “NASCAR, If you can’t outrun ’em, outlaw ’em.” On the doors they painted “Outlawed.” 43/JR was hauled across country to the big AHRA drag race at Bee Line in Arizona held on January 29-31 1965. The AHRA was more than happy to have the NASCAR Champion at its event and even had a special class for home-built one-off cars called “Super/Stock Experimental” or S/SX. The Cuda turned a 10.38 and beat a 427 Chevy II for the class win. (Interestingly this was also the debut of the Mopar 10"/15" cars which were outlawed by the NHRA. Ronnie Sox was low qualifier at 10.74 in his Plymouth. Ronnie 10.74, Richard 10.38!) The Daytona 500 Ford Cruise was held on February 21, 1965 for some reason. There were no factory backed Chryslers or Chevys. Bill France could play hard ball. Unfortunately although he did own some of the tracks, his organization was still mostly the sanctioning body at other people’s tracks. Those guys were pissed. This was their livelyhood. Attendance dropped off sharply at the all Ford events. Bill France was forced to knuckle under. Chrysler had won the game of chicken. Later in ’65 the Hemi was back.

While it was in force, NASCAR’s Hemi ban affected both the Plymouth and the Dodge Divisions of Chrysler. Plymouth and the Pettys put on a well orchestrated and highly publicized show but what was happening over at Dodge? From the magazine articles of the era you would gather that the major Dodge team of Cotton Owens and their driver David Pearson were also “busy elsewhere” and didn’t need France’s money. Super Stockers in Action of January 1965 had a brief article on a match race held at Islip Drag Strip in New York between Richard Petty and Pearson. You could assume this probably happened around November of ’64. Neither team had their own car. Instead Richard borrowed a ’64 Hemi SS Plymouth “The Highlander” while David used Faubel’s Dodge “The Honker.” Petty won the $1,000 prize. What’s interesting is that while the Pettys would soon get 43/JR out (if it wasn’t done already) the Owens team would not field a “JR like” Dodge until April or May, 1965. This was way too late to affect Bill France’s thinking. By that time, I am sure, his thoughts were not if he should lift the Hemi ban but when. It seems that 43/JR was selected to wage the psychological war with NASCAR single handedly.

And this my friends, my Hemi Lover Friends, has now become the greatest Hemi Story of all time. Think for a moment what would have happened if 43/JR was not built. The 426 Hemi was conceived solely for use in NASCAR racing, its use elsewhere was simply a by-product. If the Hemi could not be used in NASCAR would Chrysler have continued to develop and built it, probably not. Part of the deal with Bill France to let the Hemis back in was that Chrysler should build and sell more of them. The “Street” Hemi of 1966 was the result. 43/JR was in a way a Trojan Horse. At the least it was the symbol for Chrysler’s Intentness. Without a presence in NASCAR the Hemi would have died and there would have been no Hemi cars built after 1965. It’s possible that Tom Hoover and the boys could have engineered some replacement but it is more likely that Chryslers beef with France would have become permanent. In my Hemi mind, to paraphrase Churchill, This was Chryslers finest hour.

Part 2 — The Real

As of this writing [December 2006], 43/JR still exists and is still in the hands of the Pettys. From the pictures I’ve seen it looks restorable although to me there would be absolutely no point in doing so. The car has tremendous historical significance as it sits. A platinum restoration would not add to its significance. Lincoln’s chair from the Ford Theater is in a museum; do you think it should be reupholstered?

Below is a list of magazines which featured Richard’s Cuda:
Hot Rod, February, 1965
Cars, March, 1965
Super Stock and Drag Illustrated, March, 1965
Super Stockers in Action, April, 1965
Hotrod Parts Illustrated, April, 1965
Drag Racing, July, 1965
Car Life, February, 1966

I don’t have access to any more photos than those presented in the magazines. I’d like to make some observations on what I see. As mentioned above it looks like most of the photos are from a press-packet prepared by Chrysler. In the photo of the NASCAR bumper sticker you can see three pop-rivets above the bumper. The 1964 Barracudas were Valiants and had that logo over the rear bumper. The logo was attached with three pins in exactly the arrangement of those pop-rivets. Also the “Barracuda” logos shown in the photos on the front fenders of JR were of the 1964 type. The final “a” had a long “tail” in ’64 while the ’65’s had a short tail. I think JR was a 1964 Barracuda. Maybe the VIN tag is still intact although I don’t see it in any of the photos.

As built by the Pettys JR had a slight engine setback, a fabricated firewall and a large fabricated trans tunnel. On the face of it you’d think it was just standard race car construction but I discovered an interesting factoid while doing a reconstruction (Later in Part 3). Let’s assume that JR started life with a Slant Six or 273 c.i. V-8 (the only engines available) and an automatic trans (the story would be the same if it was a manual trans). The compact cars used the small automatic, the 904. The B body and larger cars used the larger 727 trans. (These were all cable operated in 1964 and 1965.) In ’64  /  ’65 the 904 trans measured 22.66 inches (Chryslers number) from the front of the trans case to the centerline of the trans mount bolt holes. On the 727 trans this dimension was about 20.7 inches. Therefore, if the Pettys removed the 904 trans and tried to install the 727 they would find the rear of their Hemi about 2 inches closer to the firewall than the stock engine was. With the rear of the cross-ram almost in line with the rear of the motor there was a serious interference problem. It was either move the rear trans support or the firewall. An engine set back was a plus for drag racing so they moved the firewall. The 727 was larger and then closer to the back of the car so a new tunnel was required. While the dash was out to rework the firewall, they apparently decided to leave it out and incorporate the gauges into the firewall. It’s possible the Pettys ended up removing the rear trans support anyway to give them more engine setback, I can’t tell from the photos. Regardless I think the root of their original problem was that 2 inch difference in the transmissions.

43/JR used an 8 3/4 inch rear end. Stock Barracudas used a 7 1/4 inch rear end with the 8 3/4 inch becoming an option in the 1965’s. JR had huge NASCAR type brake drums so it’s hard to tell if the rear end was a narrowed B body unit or the ’65 A body piece. 1964 A bodies used push buttons to activate the transmission cables while the ’65 Barracudas utilized a floor mounted lever. JR got the ’65 lever set up with the black shift ball and its distinctive cone shaped dimples. The box supporting the shifter is home-made, again an indication that the car was a 1964 model.

To lighten up the Barracuda, the Pettys installed fiberglass fenders, hood and trunk lid. They cut away all of the front inner fenders. To restore some structural integrity they added steel tubing several inches above the stock frame. This tubing ran continuously from near the front wheels into the frame over the rear wheels. One fiberglass NASCAR style seat was installed for The King. It was set back somewhat because of the firewall set back and probably a little more because Richard was pretty tall. For added safety a loop type roll bar was installed with a single brace running from the middle of the top bar down to the floor. The car probably had some type of NASCAR gas tank as there appear to be two gas caps, the stock one and another at the rear.

When the Plymouth Valiant first appeared in 1960 it represented Chrysler’s initial venture into the new “compact” car market. It was designed to be smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient than their previous cars. Special small engines, the Slant Six and the 273 c.i. V-8, were designed for it . Even the 904 automatic trans was downsized from the 727 unit. The front suspension utilized the same principles as the big cars but was scaled down. For example “Intermediate” sized B body cars used 41 inch long torsion bars set 26 1/2 inches apart while the new A body used 35.8 inch bars spaced 23 inches center to center. The B body engine compartment was approximately 30 inches wide compared to the Valiant’s 27 inches (at the narrowest point between the frame rails). When the Pettys sailed into the Cuda project they entered a sea where only a few had gone before. Chrysler participated in several big block/A body ventures before JR but no one had yet built a Hemi A body keeping the stock suspension. The Pettys would be no exception. In a nutshell the problem was that not only was the engine compartment very narrow but the Hemi heads had the exhaust ports facing down and out at about a 45 degree angle. Dragmaster, in Southern California, put a 413 max-wedge engine into a 1962 Lancer (the Dodge A body) in 1962 while retaining the original torsion bar set-up. However the wedge heads have exhaust ports which exit nearly horizontally from the engine. Dragmaster built headers that went outward and then up and into the tops of the wheelwells. When contemplating a Hemi transplant you soon realize that the headers must travel down into the narrow space between the block and the torsion bars. The Pettys only had one option, remove the stock torsion bars. With their NASCAR experience this was probably a cake walk. In the normal course of events they beefed the heck out of their race cars. Consequently JR wound up with a hand made torsion bar / wishbone suspension arm / finned brake drum front end. The torsion bars were installed outside of the cars frame. No more header clearance problems. Their biggest headache was overcome.

As of October, 1964, when work on 43/JR was begun, Chrysler only had one version of its cross-ram 426 Hemi, the A-864. These utilized cast iron blocks, cast iron “K” heads and an aluminum intake manifold with dual Holley carbs. The Pettys added the left valve cover with the long filler neck like they used on their NASCAR engines. In lieu of an air cleaner or velocity stacks they fabricated two sheet metal air scoops. (Eat your heart out Chip!) The battery in JR was in the engine compartment near the right firewall along with the normal alternator and a “black box” transistor ignition. Cosmetically, JR had a black interior with black carpet. The roll bar and the exterior paint were Petty Blue (I concur with Richard Ehrenberg, Petty Blue is “Corporate Blue” Ditzler 12785). The front bumper was deleted. The headlights and the opening in the valance were covered with aluminum. The grill was a one piece unit borrowed from a 1965 Valiant 100. The center section of the grill was blue. At the AHRA meet in January, 1965 JR was adorned with a white stripe on the roof, the trunk lid and the plastic rear window.

43/JR was out on the drag strips by November of 1964. Although it could probably have been raced in some existing class, “exhibition” was where the money and the most exposure was. The car was booked at various tracks well into the 1965 season. On February 28, 1965, 43/JR was scheduled for a best of three match race with Arnie Beswick at Southeastern Dragway in Dallas, Georgia. Dallas is northwest of Atlanta about 300 miles from Randleman. During one of the runs against Beswick a front suspension part broke sending the uncontrollable Barracuda off the strip and into the crowd of spectators. Several people were injured and one 8 year old boy named Wayne Dye was killed. Richard was okay but he and the family were devastated. JR was hauled home to the Petty junk yard in the woods behind the shops never to run again.
Petty 1964 Barracuda engine Petty 1964 Barracuda interior
Petty 1964 Barracuda in AZ Petty 1964 Barracuda rear

Part 3 — The Recreation

Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, driver side

I love those TV shows where they try to figure out how they moved the rocks to Stonehenge or if you could actually build from one of Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings. My favorite was the show on the trebuchet. Recreations. You learn a lot building them and if you share what you learned then everyone comes out ahead. I can’t afford a TV show but I’ll do what I can do.

In early 2005 I was looking for a new project. One of my favorite cars in the era was the red 1965 Hemi Cuda driven by Tom McEwen and sponsored by the Southern California “Plymouth Dealers Association.” I never saw it run but I loved it. After pondering that Hemi in the rear, and the blower, I came to my senses and realized that that project was way over my head. I liked 43/JR because of it’ historical significance, the fact that it was a do-able cross-ram engine and, being a front motored car, it could be streetable. I don’t weld, paint or build engines but I still thought I would give it a shot. I started looking for a cheap body.

I found a ’64 and a ’65 Barracuda for sale at my new friend Charley’s place thinking I would use the ’65 for JR since that is probably what the Pettys used. The ’65 was way too nice to cut up so I started work on the $250 ’64 Barracuda. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the Pettys probably used a 1964 also, so I lucked out. (For my recreation it didn’t really make any difference as the ’64 / ’65 cars were virtually identical). I then started to really scrutinize all those photos in the old magazines and tried to figure how many years the project would take. At the SEMA show in 2005 I saw those plastic engines and transmissions made by P - Ayr. I could save my wife a lot of time if I could put the Hemi in and out by myself so we made the purchase. The plastic components arrived shortly. I jacked the ’64 up, put in the trans support (it still had the rubber mount) and plunked in the 426 Hemi / 727. You could have knocked me over with a feather; it was a perfect fit! I lined up the plastic 727 mounts up with rear support and bingo, no interference. The Cuda K member had a long flat plate welded to it on each side of the motor. I got the ’64 / ’65 style Hemi engine mounts out and they were just a few shims away from being a bolt in. “What gives here,” I said to myself; “The Pettys practically removed the whole front of the car to put their engine in.” I bought that plastic engine thinking I would need it for at least six months. I got the engine in on the first try. I was perplexed.

Back in Part 2 I pointed out that I believe the Pettys had to remove the firewall on JR because of interference with the engine. The root of the problem was that 2 inch difference ( 904 and 22.66 inches / 727 and 20.7 inches) in the as-mounted trans length. Well in 1966, when they came out with the Street Hemi, Chrysler moved the engine back about 1 1/2 inches. When they did that they revamped the 727 significantly. They got rid of the cables, moved the speedometer pinion and moved the mounting point for the rubber mount. They made the new dimension 22.66 inches; the 904 dimension remained the same at 22.66 inches. In my recreation I decided not to use a cable shifted trans since they are getting too rare. I planned to use a 1973 727. (The ’66 and up 727’s are pretty much the same. The P - Ayr plastic one is a ’66 and up.) Inadvertently I removed a ’64 904 and replaced it with a ’73 727 which was the same in that critical as-installed length. No engine-firewall interference. Mystery solved. [ H 1 ]

Here on out I’m going to try to save some
words by using the following abbreviation system:
[ H 1 ] =Helpful hint no. 1
[ BO 1 ] = ’68 Hemi Cuda hint no. 1

[ H 2 ] Engine Location With the plastic engine / trans bolted to the trans crossmember the front / back location of the engine was determined. For up / down I put on the oil pan and found that the bottom of the block was about 2 inches above the stock K member. For left  /  right I put the engine 1 inch offset to the right. All Mopars of that era had the engine offset. I always figured the B body offset was 1 1/2 inches but I don’t own enough A bodies to make a good survey. In ’65 you could get an 8 3/4 inch in both bodies so I imagine the offset was the same all around. I used 1 inch to give me more clearance on the right side.

Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, engine compartment     Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, Hemi engine

[ BO 1 ] K Member Spacers
On all BO cars they put 1/2 inch plates of aluminum between the K member and the frame because the cross-ram engine was so tall it was very close to the hood. From the photos it appeared that on JR the carbs were nearly level with the hood. I used 3/8 inch plates initially thinking I could add or remove them later.

[ H 3] Right Shock Tower
The Hemi is about 29 inches wide at the valve covers. The B body is about 31 3/4 inches between the frame rails while this dimension is 28 5/8 inches on the ’64 - ’66 A bodies. On the ’64 - ’65 Hemi B bodies they installed a special right shock tower which provided more clearance with the engine. Since the Cuda engine compartment was 3 inches narrower you could figure that there was going to be trouble on the right. Luckily the A body shock tower is very different from the B body’s. On the B body the tower is stamped from a large piece of steel such that the tower and the inner fender are one piece of metal. On the A body the support for the shock is a U shaped channel of stamped and welded steel and the inner fender is a separate large sheet. It is far easier to modify the A body tower. I cut the inner fender from around the tower and then cut the whole tower off about an inch above the A arm bolts. With the engine in place I welded the tower back in. I think it ended up being moved to the right at least 1 1/4 inches.

[ H 4 ] Steering Column
The steering column jacket is too close to the engine. I cut off the lower 2 inches of the jacket. The bolt in the coupler hit my headers. Replaced it with a set screw.

[ BO 2 ] Master Cylinder
On the BO cars they used a thick aluminum spacer plate to move the master cylinder to the left to clear the engine. This will not work on the ’64 - ’65 cars as the master cylinder needs to be moved more, about 3 inches. In ’67 they widened the engine compartment of all the A body cars and moved the master cylinder and the brake pedal to the left. This moved the pedal from the right side of the steering column to the left. The aluminum spacer worked on the ’68 BO’s because you only needed to move the push rod from the right side of the pedal arm to the left side, about an 1 inch.

[ H 5 ] Master Cylinder
I chose to keep the single reservoir master cylinder as it was period correct. I moved it exactly 3 1/4 inches to the left for clearance. Inside the car the master cylinder is backed by a U shaped sheet metal brace which also provides the pivot point for the brake pedal. Four bolts attached to the brace go through four holes in the firewall and retain the master cylinder. I drilled two new holes in the firewall 3 1/4 inches to the left of the existing set of holes and then moved the brace and master cylinder. Two of the bolts utilized existing holes and two were in the new holes. This moved the brake pedal arm into the steering column. Straighten the arm and you’re done.

[ H 6 ] Oil Pan
I used the relatively new Mopar center sump pan P5007807 AB and 1/2 inch pickup P4529567. This cleared the stock K member and the steering arm with no problems.

[ H 7 ] Engine Mounts
I laid some ’64  /  ’65 Hemi mounts in the engine compartment early on and they looked like they might work. However, I would have had to buy another set for my recreation since the ones I had belonged to another car. For about the same money you can buy Schumacher’s mounts. They don’t make mounts for a Hemi  /  ’64 - ’65 A body conversion (yet) so I bought a set they make for a Hemi  /  ’64 - ’65 B body transplant. They are generally built like a large hinge so I figured they would give me more flexibility in locating my engine. I had to cut, weld and tweak the side of the mounts nearest the K member but this was fairly easy as the “hinge pin” and urethane can be removed to separate all the pieces. The stock Hemi mounts have the two faces at a 45 degree angle. When I got done the Schumacher ones were a much more flexible 45 degrees +  /  - 15 degrees.

[ H 8 ] Headers
Step one, make a large deposit to your checking account. No one makes headers for this engine  /  body combination so you are on your own. I borrowed an iron Hemi block and some heads and bolted them into place. I then took the car to the muffler shop before I did anything else. I thought there would be a lot of banging around with the pipes and it would be best to handle the exhaust problem before the car was painted. The pipes have to go down between the block and the torsion bars. Eventually we concluded that there was no room for four tubes on each side so we ended up with tri - Y headers using 2 inch pipe at the flanges. These headers are better than the street Hemi cast iron manifolds but not as good as the equal - length set the Pettys built for JR. They are a good compromise considering that my torsion bars remain untouched. (Much thanks to Scott Stark at Collins Muffler.)

Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, exhaust headers

[ BO 3 ] Rear Springs
002  /  003 Mopar ’68 Super Stock springs are a bolt in.

[ H 9 ] Rear End
JR utilized an 8 3/4 inch rear end with large finned drums and presumably a 5 on 4 1/2 inch bolt pattern. The 8 3/4 inch from any A body will work but they use the small 5 on 4 inch bolt pattern. I got some axles from Mosher in the 4 1/2 inche size and used ’65 B body backing plates with 10 inch x 2 1/2 inch drums.

[ H 10 ] Shifter
Imperial Services makes a special cable to connect a ’65 floor mounted shifter to a ’66 and up 727. The ’65 shifter does not have much throw; i.e. the cable does not have a lot of travel. To compensate Imperial provides an extremely short arm for the trans operating lever. Because the short arm doesn’t have as much leverage, Imperial also gives you a light spring to replace the big one behind the detent ball in the trans. A nice package but it took over three months to get from Imperial.--I didn’t use this but I have noticed that a 1968 A-100 van has a shifter obviously derived from the ’65 version. It is dash-mounted and operates a single cable. (Chrysler put an additional plate on the shifter to give it the needed longer throw.)

Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, interior

[ BO 4 ] Battery Tray
On 43/JR the battery was located in the engine compartment near the right firewall. Since I didn’t do all the cutting the Pettys did, I couldn’t put mine there so I put it in the trunk like the BO cars. In ’64, ’65, ’67 and on the ’68 BO’s Mopar used the same battery tray so the Pettys could have done it the way I did. Interestingly the trunk is much lower in ’64  /  ’65 Cudas so the battery can not be located way to the right and way to the back like in the BO cars.

[ H 11 ] Front Suspension / Brakes
My ’64 Barracuda came with the standard 9 inch drums with the small bolt pattern. I wanted it to look more like the Pettys car and especially the 5 on 4 1/2 inch studs. I dug through my stash of old magazine articles and became very depressed. There were all kinds of suggestions for aftermarket or even Viper discs. Volare spindles pro and con. I did learn that in ’73 Mopar started using the larger B body type ball joint in the upper A arm. But it seemed like the only way to get the large bolt pattern was to re-drill or use ’73 - ’76 A body discs. I was stuck for months and this became the biggest headache I had on my recreation. I put the ’73 A arms on my car. Then I noticed that the part numbers for the lower ball joint on the early B bodies and the ’73  /  ’76 A bodies were the same (Moog K781-3). That meant that the hole in the lower arm for the ball joint stud was probably the same in all A and B bodies. I had a complete front wheel from a ’65 B body lying around so I stuck it in my recreation. Both lower and upper ball joints fit. I then had a larger, stronger spindle, 10 inch x 2 1/2 inch drums and the desired large bolt pattern. I think this set-up moves the wheels outward a 1/2 inch or more but it’s of no consequence to me. This was too simple.

[ BO 5 ] Seats
I wanted two seats in my car with a little foam padding. The Pettys could have used A100 van seats so that’s what I did.

[ H 12 ] Scoops
In building a recreation part of the fun is in discovering why the original was built in the way it was. Thus far I have got no satisfaction from the Petty’s carb scoops, however. I have no idea why they look like two big boxes. My best guess is that they were originally built for some other purpose such as feed bins on a chicken coop. Somebody ask Maurice, please.

When all was said and done this recreation turned out to be much easier than I expected. This was due in large part through the use of later Chrysler stuff which was not available in 1964. The A arms with large ball joints, SS springs, larger diameter torsion bars, revised dimensions on the 727, and a perfect oil pan saved days of work. Except for the headers, the Hemi/A body was nearly a bolt in, not the massive project I had expected. Please note though that my car was primarily a learning experience and is licensed for the street. Much more work would be needed to make the car NHRA legal and with the 106 inch wheelbase many more dollars would have to be spent to get it to hook up.


Body and paint: Alan Stewart at Stewart’s Nice Ride
Lettering: Dave Ripley
Engine: Steve Hagberg at SS Automotive
Parts: Bob Mazzolini Racing
Headers and exhaust: Collins Muffler

Part 4 — Epilogue

With the wreck of 43/JR “Outlawed,” a second Barracuda was built. The new car had a very noticeable altered wheelbase. Initially it used the cross-ram intake with two more rounded cast aluminum scoops. By the time the car appeared at the NHRA’s Spring Nationals, held on June 6, 1965, it was using Hilborn injectors. The most obvious change however in the Petty’s second Barracuda was that it was no longer lettered “Outlawed.” Bill France had a change of heart and decided that some Hemis could run after all in 1965. Since “Outlawed” was no longer apropos the new Barracuda just had “43 JR” on its doors. In June of ’65, NASCAR teamed with USAC to formalize new racing rules. The Pettys, Plymouth and the Chrysler Corporation scored a major victory which would keep the Hemi in production for six more years and in NASCAR for several more years after that.

The Barracuda was a brand new car line for Plymouth in 1964. It was introduced around April 1 to beat the Mustang out of the gate. Chrysler built the first 426 Hemi cars in May and June, 1964. These were all B body cars. When the Pettys dropped a Hemi into JR they built the very first Hemi Cuda and the first Plymouth Hemi A body. JR was not the first Hemi A body however as that distinction probably goes to one or both of the Dodge Darts named “Rampage” and “Kid Goat.” By the spring of ’64 both of these cars were running Max Wedge engines. The wheelbase of the stock Darts was 111 inches compared to the 106 inches of the Valiants and Barracudas. (For comparison the Plymouth B body wheelbase was 116 inches.) Just about the time that JR was under construction the two Darts were given A100 straight front axle set-ups so that Hemis could be installed. The Darts might have proceeded 43/JR by up to a month.

Dodge had the Ramchargers and those guys didn’t do anything half-heartedly in the area of drag racing. Yet somehow Dodge’s participation in the NASCAR deal seems to have been missing something. Yes, Cotton Owens finally had a drag car in the Dart wagon named “Cotton Picker.” But Dick Branstner built the car not Owens. And it was finished too late in the game (about April or May) to be of any consequence. In fact I don’t think the “Cotton Picker” was intended to go to Owens in the first place. I think Branstner and Chrysler had a falling out and Chrysler divvied up Branstner’s projects. They made him sell the “Color Me Gone” to Mr. Norm, gave the “Rainbow Dart” to Garlits and sent the unyet named “Cotton Picker” to Owens. So possibly Dodge’s apparently weak support of the NASCAR war was due to a misplaced trust in others. Whatever it was it was certainly out of character. More investigation is needed on this subject.

Because of the Mustang and Camaro competition, Chrysler decided to make the 383 “B” engine an option in the 1967 Darts and Barracudas. This was a major undertaking. To get the engine in, they moved the torsion bars 1 1/2 inches farther apart and widened the engine compartment about 2 inches. This widened the whole car about 2 inchces. To keep everything in proportion the wheelbase of the Barracudas was lengthened from 106 inches to 108 inches (The Dart stayed the same at 111 inches.). In the first generation Barracudas, 1964 - 1966, only small block and six cylinder engines were available. In the second generation 1967 - 1969 Barracudas, all engines were used including the 383, 440 and 426 Hemi. The second generation Cudas were bigger than their predecessors and without that change there would probably be no BO/LO cars today.

While I was able to put a Hemi in my Barracuda recreation much easier that I expected, I noticed that no one, to my knowledge, did this engine swap in the era without substantial changes to the cars. In the Dart “Rampage” and the Barracuda “Pandemonium” they changed to straight-front-axles to get the needed engine compartment space. In the Dart “Cotton Picker” and in the “Hemi Under Glass” they moved the engine out of it’s compartment altogether. Even 43/JR, the second car, went the straight front axle route. The little A bodies presented a challenge that would not be tackled until 1968 when they had grown a little.

I don’t know the Pettys but I am sure they are a very competitive bunch; they would have to be to have won as many races as they did. I am sure that a game of “chicken” was not new to them in 1965 but their stunning victory over Bill France must have made a lasting impression. In the late ’60’s when Richard and a group of other drivers were shredding tires on one of NASCAR’s tracks, they decided to boycott the race until improvements could be made. Did Richard’s experience with 43/JR give him the courage to face-off with NASCAR again? In 1969, when Dodge came out with the winged Daytonas, the Pettys showed how well the game of chicken could be played. When Chrysler would not let Richard drive a winged Dodge, because he was under contract to Plymouth, he signed up to race Fords! Richard won this game also. Plymouth built a whole new car for him, the Superbird. The Birds were fantastic cars. Richard’s “Petty Blue” “43” Superbird is the highlight of the Petty Museum in North Carolina. Yet would the Superbirds even have been built were it not for the lessons learned with that little blue Barracuda? Yes, David could take on Goliath. Ironically, JR has spent most of its life not in a place of honor in the Petty’s collection but rather in a ditch, a stone’s throw out back.

Update July 2007  The Barracuda is complete.

Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, completed car, front       Petty 1964 Barracuda reproduction, completed car, front intakes

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Thanks Pete!

Excellent work!   smile!

Gary H.

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