In 1964, Plymouth made a bold move to the compact Valiant: they created a fastback version that they labeled as a Barracuda. Although it was merely a trim option for 1964, 1965 saw the first non-Valiant Barracuda, and both years the car was virtually identical, save for the emblem on the rear of the car. only inside the car could you distinguish the 1965 from the 1964.
By 1966, the Barracuda was a new car with similar styling, but it was unique when compared to the earlier models. A new front end treatment, new front and rear sheetmetal, and new tail lamps made the 1966 easier to distinguish from the prior model years. The interior was all new, as well, and there was no mistaking the 1966 model. But that didn’t exactly make things easier for Chris Parmelee when he found his 1966 Barracuda Formula S, but he eventually found all the parts he wanted.
The Formula S was introduced in 1965 with the Commando V8, and was adorned with special fender badges that identified it as a Formula S model. While a majority of owners opted for them, the full-length stripes were not standard on the Formula S, however, nearly every restoration we’ve ever seen has them applied – or painted. We feel that’s a wise choice when it comes to this specific model.
When Chris found his Barracuda nearly 12 years ago, he had spent three years searching before he found the one he wanted. It was wrecked, and he knew he would eventually get to it, but first he had to find parts for it. Chris had one in high school, and this build was destined to emulate his high school cruiser, so it did have some significant meaning behind it.
The goal for the car was to keep it close to original, with only a few modifications; this fish out of water was a keeper, and it was going to get a full restoration. Chris was going to do all the work himself, and the photos prove that he did an exceptional job with it.
The build itself took about four years, and he finished it about three years ago to the state you see here in this feature. He wanted the car to have the factory Ruby Red finish, and the entire car was painted before the assembly was started.
He’s managed to keep the factory hi-po 273 stock, despite our need as gearheads to build for power. This car was destined to be a cruiser and, as mentioned, to bring Chris back to his high school days. Backing up the Commando V8 is a Chrysler 833 4-speed transmission, also original to this generation Barracuda.
Chris has kept the drivetrain factory stock, including the disc/drum brake setup. At each end are the factory sway bars with KYB shocks dampening the stock suspension. The rearend is the factory Suregrip, and BF Goodrich tires are wrapped around the 15-inch Cragar SS mag wheels to keep the look period correct.
Inside the car, the black interior sets off the ruby red finish outside, and the one feature to the Barracuda that many owners like is that you can fold down the rear seat, open up the partition, and you have enough room to throw down a sleeping bag and crash for the night. Many early Barracuda owners have boasted about how much room is back there.
The instrumentation is all original and all functioning, with some added gauges to help tell the tale of what’s going on under the hood. With the exception of an aftermarket steering wheel, which is clearly more comfortable than the standard, thin wheel, the interior is immaculate and the chrome is shiny.
Even an OE-style radio is fit into place on the dash to keep things looking period correct. The console is in great condition too, and houses the shifter that handles the gear-changing duties. Without getting too close and meticulous, the interior looks about the same as the day the car rolled off the showroom floor.
There’s nothing really fancy about the interior, other than it’s cleaner than many new cars you see, and it just has character. You look at this interior and it immediately brings you back to the 1960s, because it doesn’t give off the feeling that you’re looking at a 51-year-old car – yet that’s exactly what it is.
How Did We Manage?
These days, cars are filled with plastic that cracks and creaks, and so many accouterments that you almost feel like you’re expected to live in the car. But Chris’ Barracuda is simple. It doesn’t have a pair of cup holders for every passenger, there aren’t any USB ports all over the console, and if you want to charge your smart phone, you’d better have a cigarette lighter plug to do so.
What this car exudes is styling without being over the top. The fastback look was unique on this car, and like it’s bigger cousin, the Dodge Charger, it has plenty of room inside, especially for a compact car. There’s no guaranty that the family will shut down the smart phones and actually communicate with actual words, but having a compact, yet roomy interior almost makes you feel like it’s a requirement.
It makes you wonder how we managed back in the day, given that you can’t find a car today that doesn’t encourage electronic handheld stimulation. We went out for a bite to eat and the car was smooth, and felt like a finely tuned machine. It had just the right rumble from the single exhaust, and it was great to hang out with Chris and talk about the car.
Chris didn’t want to build a beast with enough power to snap a speedo, he wanted a Barracuda just like the one he had in school, and he nailed it. He drives the car a couple times each month, and shows it a few times a year.
Today, he’s won a few admirable awards, including Best of Show at the John Force Charity Show and a 1st Place at the Grand National Roadster Show for Modified Hard Top. If you ask Chris what he would change, the answer is easy: nothing. Ask him what he likes, and it’s the total opposite: everything. And to top it all off, it’s a great little cruiser.
But most of all, Chris tells us that the car is done, and that’s a rare thing when you’re dealing with classic cars. We can’t tell you how many times we thought we were done and then the next catalog comes out and we’re back to charging up the plastic. For Chris, that part is over with, and he’s cruising in style again, just like he was back in school.