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Slick fish

Two Formula S Barracudas yield one hot predator

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Mark Eskow's 1967 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S.

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The Chrysler Corporation introduced the Plymouth Barracuda in 1964 as a sporty new "glassback" coupe, aimed squarely at competing with Ford's new Mustang.

While the Mustang was based on the low-cost Falcon, the Barracuda shared most of its suspension and powertrain components with the entry-level Plymouth Valiant, including a new 273-cubic-inch V8 engine.

It sported a uniquely styled roof, rear window and deck lid, but still carried much of the Valiant's sheet metal.

While sales were abysmal compared to the Mustang, the Barracuda developed a following and Plymouth stayed the course. For 1967, the Barracuda cast off its Valiant heritage and became a separate car line. Totally restyled, it was offered in coupe, fastback or convertible models with a long list of optional extras.

The Formula S option added special badging and chrome insignias along with an upgraded instrument package that featured a 150-mph speedometer and a vacuum gauge. Underneath, heavy-duty front and rear sway bars gave the Barracuda a flatter stance in the corners, and four-piston calliper front disc brakes offered greater stopping power.

But what really attracted the performance crowd was a new 383-cubic-inch, big-block engine option. Coupled to either a four-speed manual or the 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission and Sure-Grip positive traction rear axle, the added power put Plymouth's slick fish solidly into true muscle-car territory.

In the late 1990s, Mark Eskow was looking for a project car to rebuild and drive in the summer. "My friends were into building and restoring Novas and Mustangs, but I wanted something different and more of a challenge," he says.

Eskow found a 1967 Barracuda Formula S fastback equipped with the 273 V8 and four-speed that looked promising, so he bought the car and started restoring it. It needed a fair bit of bodywork, so Eskow began to cut out rusted areas and replace them with new body panels.

About two years into the project, a friend told him that a similar car was for sale in St. Andrews, "It was just a shell sitting in the ditch," Eskow recalls. "There was no glass, engine or transmission and it had a roll cage installed for racing."

Eskow bought the car and found the body was solid and straight, with little corrosion -- far better than the car he'd started to restore. After checking the car's serial number, he discovered that it was also a Formula S car, but had originally come with the optional 383-cubic-inch Super Commando V8 and a four-speed manual.

Of the 62,534 Barracudas produced in 1967, just 1,841 carried the 383 V8 engine option and 1,036 came with the four-speed manual transmission. It's believed there were just 280 of the fastback coupes so equipped.

So Eskow shifted his attention to restoring the newly acquired big-block car. Using the trim, chrome, bumpers and glass from his first purchase, he was able to come up with all of the missing parts needed to put the second one back together.

Eskow turned to his friend Dave Penner for the bodywork and application of the Dark Green paint colour. The black vinyl bucket seats and interior were lifted from the parts car and reupholstered by Len Weboski. The Barracuda rolls on a set of steel wheels with simple dog-dish hubcaps shod with 14-inch radial tires up front and 15-inch Mickey Thompson drag radials in back.

For an engine, Eskow installed a fully rebuilt 440 V8 equipped with 10.5:1 compression pistons, ported cylinder heads, MSD ignition system, Comp Cams solid lifter performance camshaft and Crane roller rocker arms. It's topped by a Mopar M1 aluminium intake manifold and 750 cfm King Demon carburetor. Exhaust gases exit via a set of Hooker Competition fenderwell headers connected to a three-inch custom dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers. Built by Eskow and his friend Barry Korba, it's a strong-running powertrain producing more than 500 horsepower on the engine dynometer, all on pump-grade fuel.

The engine is backed by a rebuilt 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission, modified with a manual-shift valve body B&M ratchet-style floor shifter and 4,000 rpm hi-stall torque converter. In back, there's an 8 3/4-inch rear axle fitted with a 3.55:1 gear ratio in a Detroit Locker.

Performance is now the Barracuda's strongpoint, posting a quarter-mile elapsed time of 12.5 seconds at 105 mph in street trim.

Finished in 2007, the Formula S Barracuda has been Eskow's summer driver for the past five years.

"I try to take it everywhere," Eskow says. It's a fun car to drive and enjoy, It's been a great experience and, thanks to my friends who helped out finding parts and doing the assembly work, the car is back on the road instead of sitting in a ditch."

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