1965 and 1966 Plymouth Barracuda 273

Chrysler didn’t reach very far when it created its sporty small car in the spring of 1964. The Barracuda was pretty much a Plymouth Valiant from the roofline down, and pure Valiant in power and suspension. It had its own grille, fastback roof, and the rear-end sheetmetal.

But these changes weren’t enough to emulate the wholesale personality change that Ford accomplished when it rebodied the Falcon as the wildly successful Mustang. The Ford overwhelmed the Barracuda in sales, a snub made worse because the Plymouth actually beat it to the showrooms by a couple of weeks. The scenario was repeated when Chevrolet reskinned the Chevy II as the sleek and successful Camaro in 1967. Barracuda may have been more functional than these pony cars, but it lacked their sexiness and sales appeal.

1965 Plymouth Barracuda 273
The 1965 Plymouth Barracuda 273 used the four-barrel
Commando 273-cid engine, which had a 10.5:1 compression and 235 bhp.

The first Barracuda actually carried Valiant emblems and was in fact called the Plymouth Valiant Barracuda. It was a five-passenger two door equipped as the top-line Valiant Signet, though it had a fold-down rear seat and a larger cargo area. Built on a 106-inch wheelbase, it came standard with a 225-cubic inch six, but about 90 percent were ordered with the optional 180-horsepower 273-cubic-inch V-8. It cost $2496 and weighed 2905 pounds in base V-8 form. But it was no match for the Mustang, which offered a trio of V-8s, including the 271-horse High Performance 289.

Chrysler fought back in ’65 with the four-barrel Commando 273. A hotter camshaft and Carter carburetion bumped horsepower up to 235. A three-speed manual transmission was standard with the 273; a four-speed or TorqueFlite automatic was optional. Axle ratios varied, but most customers opted for 3.23:1 gears behind their 273s. These Barracudas started at a modest $2571, but the best they could manage were quarter-mile times in the mid- to high-17s.

To Plymouth’s credit, it recognized that not all performance is measured in straight-line acceleration. Thus, Barracuda’s optional Formula “S” sports package. It included the Commando 273; a tachometer; heavy-duty shocks, springs and sway bar; and Goodyear Blue Streak tires on wide-rim 14-inch wheels (replacing the usual 13-inchers). Front disc brakes could be installed by dealers. Circular “Formula S” medallions on the fender identified the package, and many were ordered with the racing stripe that was a regular Barracuda option.

Barracuda production nearly tripled in ’65, with 64,596 ready to find customers.

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1966 Plymouth Barracuda 273

Like Valiant, the Barracuda received a mild facelift for its third year, 1966. The sporty bucket seats, a fold-down rear seat, and floor shift continued as standard equipment. The two 273s continued in two- and four-barrel form, with horsepower unchanged. Front disc brakes became a factory Barracuda option for 1966, at $82.

Available again was the Formula “S” option that included a 150-mph speedometer, handling package, and other sporty amenities. Production fell to 38,029 for ’66. The Barracuda needed more power and a wider choice of body styles if it was to compete with the Mustang and the new GM pony cars due in ’67.

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1965 and 1966 Plymouth Barracuda 273 Specs

The hottest versions of the Plymouth Barracuda 273 used the four-barrel Commando 273-cid engine, which had a 10.5:1 compression and 235 bhp. Get detailed specs on the 1965 and 1966 Plymouth Barracuda 273:

1965 Plymouth Barracuda
The 1965 Plymouth Barracuda was the best-selling Plymouth of the year.

Engine Type
V-8/LA-Block/Wedge
V-8/LA-Block/Wedge
Displacement (cid)
273 (2v)
273 (4v)
Horsepower @ rpm:
180 @ 4200
235 @ 5200
Torque (pounds/feet) @ rpm
260 @ 1600
280 @ 4000
Compression Ratio
8.8:1
10.5:1
Bore (inches)
3.62
3.62
Stroke (inches)
3.31
3.31
Valve Lifters
Mechanical
Hydraulic
Availability
1965-66
1965-66

Times*:

0-60 mph (sec)
9.1
0-100 mph (sec)
26.2
1/4-mile (sec)
17.5 @ 88.5 mph
Top speed (mph)
121
Axle ratio
3.23:1
Engine type
273/235

*Source: Car and Driver (1964)

Times*:

0-60 mph (sec)
9.1
0-100 mph (sec)
29.6
1/4-mile (sec)
17.6 @ 81 mph
Top speed (mph)
117
Axle ratio
3.23:1
Engine type
273/235

*Source: Car and Driver (1966)

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