SEC­OND TIME AROUND

In 1967, Frank Chi­rat owned a spe­cial-or­der Ply­mouth Barracuda 273 For­mula S fast­back. Af­ter search­ing for years, he owns an­other.

Mopar Muscle - - Contents - BY RICHARD TRUESDELL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY THE AU­THOR

Back in 1967 Frank Chi­rat owned a spe­cial-or­der Ply­mouth Barracuda 273 For­mula S fast­back. Years later, he owns an­other.

They call them pony­cars, not fish cars. Un­less one is a dyed-in-the-wool Mopara­holic, most car en­thu­si­asts and the gen­eral pub­lic be­lieve that the pony­car era started on April 16, 1964, when Ford’s Mus­tang was in­tro­duced to the pub­lic. It ac­tu­ally started about two weeks ear­lier when the Ply­mouth Valiant Barracuda (of­fi­cially, for 1964, it was con­sid­ered a Valiant) was in­tro­duced on April Fools’ Day.

In 1963, Ply­mouth’s prod­uct plan­ners al­ready were aware Ford’s Fal­con based Mus­tang was com­ing in the spring of 1964, and they wanted to have a re­sponse. The re­sponse was the midyear in­tro­duc­tion of the Barracuda. But un­like Ford’s Mus­tang, which shared no ex­te­rior pan­els with the Fal­con on which it was based. From the belt line down, the Barracuda was pure Signet, the top model in the Valiant lineup. This would turn out to be a fa­tal flaw. While Ply­mouth deal­ers shifted a

re­spectable number of Bar­racu­das, 23,443 to be ex­act, Ford sold more than five times the number of hard­top and con­vert­ible Mus­tangs be­fore the fast­back was added to the Mus­tang’s lineup for the full 1965 model year.

By the time the 1965 full-year Mus­tangs were in­tro­duced in Septem­ber (which had sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant up­dates like an al­ter­na­tor and in­tro­duced a fast­back model), Ford had a run­away hit. Con­cur­rently, the ’67 Mus­tang and Barracuda mod­els were al­ready in de­vel­op­ment in the fall of 1964, as well as the Chevro­let Ca­maro and Pon­tiac Fire­birds over at crosstown ri­val GM. Ply­mouth’s de­sign team and prod­uct plan­ners weren’t about to make the same mis­take. The 1967 Bar­racu­das would have three mod­els — the orig­i­nal fast­back and new hard­top and con­vert­ible — to di­rectly com­pete with the Mus­tang and would share no ex­te­rior sheet­metal with the Valiant with which it would share its A-body plat­form.

While 1967 was a wa­ter­shed year in Pony Car his­tory, with the Chevro­let Ca­maro, Mercury Cougar, and Pon­tiac Fire­bird join­ing its ranks (the AMC Javelin would fill out the class in 1968), it was im­por­tant for a sec­ond rea­son: big-blocks. Ford widened and en­larged the Mus­tang’s en­gine bay to ac­com­mo­date the 390 V-8, and Ply­mouth coun­tered with the tried-and-true 383 V-8, pump­ing out a re­spectable 280 hp. But due to a more re­stric­tive ex­haust man­i­fold this was less than the 315hp out­put pro­duced by the four-bar­rel 383 in the larger mid and full­sized mod­els. With 280 hp, the Barracuda was a strong per­former but in a straight line, it would only see the tail­lights of Mus­tangs equipped with the 390 V-8.

On a curvy road, it was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent story. Back in the 1965 model year, Ply­mouth in­tro­duced the For­mula S pack­age. Be­tween the Barracuda’s lighter weight and its tor­sion bar sus­pen­sion, a For­mula S-equipped would out-han­dle any Mus­tang, save for the Shelby GT-350 mod­els. The For­mula S han­dling pack­age (HD front tor­sion bars, HD rear leaf springs, sway elim­i­na­tor bar) was car­ried over to the all-new ’67 Bar­racu­das. When com­bined with the styling of the fast­back model, the ’67 Ply­mouth Barracuda For­mula S was the most Euro­pean­in­flu­enced of any the ’67 pony­cars.

None of this mat­ters to Frank Chi­rat of Orange County, Cal­i­for­nia, owner of the Tur­bine Bronze ’67 Ply­mouth Barracuda For­mula S pic­tured here. Chi­rat, who grew up in Chicago, fell in love with cars at about age 9. He started tinker­ing with his dad’s ’56 Ford, which he later gave to Frank. He sold it to get a ’60 VW bug, which he in­stalled a Jud­son su­per­charger and EMPI ex­haust on.

As an auto shop guy in high school, he en­rolled in Tri­ton Col­lege’s Auto Shop AA De­gree pro­gram and was hired to per­form new car prep at Park Chrysler Ply­mouth in Chicago. This was 1967, and he pre­de­liv­ered and road-tested all the new Bar­racu­das, and GTXS. At that time he also com­pleted the Chrysler training school — ev­ery class they of­fered — achiev­ing master tech­ni­cian cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Chi­rat’s life was in­flu­enced for­ever when one day a sil­ver with red racing stripes and red in­te­rior Barracuda For­mula S came into the new car depart­ment. It had a lit­tle over 600 miles on it, and he was told it was used for ad­ver­tise­ments in the car mag­a­zines. It was a 273 four-bar­rel car with solid-lifters, a four-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion, and equipped with ev­ery op­tion.

“I bought it, I drove it, I drag raced it,” Chi­rat says. “That was un­til 1969 when I grad­u­ated and left Chicago for Los An­ge­les to get my four-year bach­e­lor of sci­ence de­gree at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity at Los An­ge­les with a ma­jor in au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy. I didn’t think I could af­ford col­lege and

a Barracuda, so I sold it back to the dealer. I traded my Suzuki 150 sport cy­cle for a ’65 Hill­man Husky and headed for L.A.” (Chi­rat is cur­rently restor­ing a sim­i­lar Hill­man. It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that in 1965, Hill­man was part of the Rootes Group in the UK, which was con­trolled by Chrysler Cor­po­ra­tion who han­dled its im­ports to North Amer­ica. So Hill­man has a Mopar con­nec­tion of its own.)

“Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, I was hired by Ford Mo­tor Com­pany for the Ford Cus­tomer Ser­vice Di­vi­sion and for 13 years was the zone man­ager and owner re­la­tions man­ager for San Diego, Orange, and Los An­ge­les coun­ties along with Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1981, I bought a ’68 Shelby GT500 off Sun­set Ford’s used car lot. I still have it. It’s fully re­stored and has won 38 First Place awards, nine Best of Shows, has been fea­tured in sev­eral mag­a­zines, a cof­fee ta­ble book, and more.”

“Around 2006, I wanted to add a ’67 Barracuda For­mula S to go with my Shelby,” recalls Chi­rat. “Trou­ble is, there weren’t that many Bar­racu­das pro­duced, and most of the ones around were mod­i­fied, rusted, or not a com­bi­na­tion I was interested in. For five years, I searched and fi­nally this one showed up in Florida. The owner had an­other Barracuda, but had bought this one for his wife. They named her Jus­tine.”

Chi­rat re­lates that it was a Texas car, de­liv­ered to its first owner at Worthey For­est Park Ply­mouth in Fort Worth, Texas, on May 8, 1967. He died, and it went to auc­tion, where a lady from Ok­la­homa pur­chased it. She showed it at car shows for about 10 years, but with man­ual steer­ing and man­ual brakes and a 383, it was a hand­ful. She sold it to a man in Colorado and sold to the owner in Florida off ebay.

Af­ter sev­eral months of talk­ing, send­ing pic­tures, my wife and I flew to Florida to see the car. “It was an un­mo­lested driver,” Chi­rat says. “Not abused, but not overly cared for. It had about 140,000 miles on it. I pur­chased it in Au­gust 2011 and had it shipped to Cal­i­for­nia. Jus­tine be­came a Cal­i­for­nia girl.”

Af­ter get­ting the car to Cal­i­for­nia, Chi­rat re­al­ized that his car was about 75 per­cent orig­i­nal and be­ing a purist de­ter­mined he’d main­tain it rather than com­mis­sion­ing a full restora­tion. He spent sev­eral years ad­just­ing the doors, glove­box, trim, clean­ing dirt from ev­ery­where. “The car had been painted once in 1990, ex­te­rior only at a cost of $1,200 in enamel in­clud­ing orange peel,” says Chi­rat. “I spent many months re­mov­ing and clean­ing the over­spray off trim and un­der­car­riage. I was color sand­ing, clay­ing, compounding, pol­ish­ing, and wax­ing the paint to get it to look like Tur­bine Bronze. Any part not fac­tory orig­i­nal was cor­rected right down to the bat­tery and keys.”

Con­tin­ues Chi­rat, “The Barracuda was au­then­ti­cated by Galen Govier back in 2006. It’s 1 of 748 383 four-bar­rel Barracuda For­mula S mod­els. It is #10 of 39 in VIN se­quence ac­counted for at that time. It was built at Chrysler’s Ham­tramck plant on March 21, 1967. The doc­u­men­ta­tion file starts from the first owner — DMV records, re­pair or­ders, Broad­cast Sheet, Owner’s Man­ual, Cer­ti­card — are all orig­i­nal to this car.” Un­der the hood is the orig­i­nal en­gine. Su­pe­rior Au­to­mo­tive in Pla­cen­tia, Cal­i­for­nia, up­dated the cylin­der heads. Art Carr re­built the orig­i­nal trans­mis­sion.

Chi­rat notes that Jus­tine is driven sev­eral times a month, and it’s very pleas­ant to drive. “The man­ual steer­ing and brakes are a lit­tle chal­leng­ing, but over­all the car is very bal­anced. Back in 1967, Ply­mouth noted that the For­mula S was a bal­anced ve­hi­cle in their sales brochure.”

Speak­ing of the sales brochure, we noted when shoot­ing the car, we wished that we had looked at the 1967 booklet be­fore sched­ul­ing the photo ses­sion. Frank said no prob­lem and pro­duced the 1967 brochure from the doc­u­men­ta­tion file he keeps with the car. Thumb­ing through the pages, we noted a rear three-quar­ter view shot from above, eas­ily the car’s best view. Think of how much bet­ter the Barracuda looks com­pared to its com­peti­tor from Dear­born, and how much its de­sign in­flu­enced the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Ca­maro and Fire­bird. Not too bad of a legacy for a car that in the end was over­shad­owed by the E-body Bar­racu­das that fol­lowed.

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