Fans of the 1979 horror flick Phantasm probably remember the car that the heroes used in their battles with the monstrous funeral home owner. Probably the only reason they survived as long as they did was that they had possession of one of the most able muscle cars ever built: a midnight-black 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, a vehicle as tough and potentially lethal as the predator it’s named for.
Most people think of the word “Mopar” as referring to any vehicle built by Chrysler or one of its many subsidiaries. And they’re right. Less well-known, however, is the fact that it’s an acronym for the phrase “mash on pedal, accelerate rapidly.” That ‘s a perfect description of what ’71 Barracudas do best, especially those blessed with the awe-inspiring 426 cubic inch hemi engine.
The term “hemi” gets tossed around a lot by people like car salesmen, who have no idea what it means. It refers to a cylinder chamber with a half-moon shape at the top, as opposed to the more traditional flat design. The change accomplishes two things: it increases volume during the ignition cycle and lowers the surface area that the heat of combustion is spread across. The bottom line: it literally gets “more bang for the buck.”And bang is exactly what the 426 gave the Barracuda, driving it forward with 385 horses at 4700 RPM.
Of course the Barracuda had more going for it than a massively powerful engine. With its chrome wheel lip and sill moldings, bucket seats, air scoop on the hood, heavy-duty brakes and suspension, and two-speed electric wipers it looked as great as it ran. Muscle Car Review, in its famous article about the ’71, said it all with one sentence: “if you’re looking for the ultimate Mopar, look no further than the hemi ‘Cuda.” That’s as true now as it was 31 years ago.
Written by Bill Wilson
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson