The first three years of the Plymouth Barracuda Fastback are 1964 through 1966, however, in 1964 the model was actually a Valiant with the Barracuda option. In 1965 the Barracuda became its own model, and was visually identical to the 1964 model.
If a car is left completely stock, there are a couple of clues to give it away on the outside, none of which have to do with the shape of the car as they are exactly the same. On the right rear body panel of the 1964 model, there should be a Valiant emblem. Some owners may have removed that emblem, so while its presence is a sign of a 1964 model, its absence isn’t necessarily an indication that it’s a 1965 model.
Another clue that it’s possibly a 1964 is the Barracuda script on the fender, but that fender script also extended into early 1965 models. The tail on the end of the ‘a’ is a bit longer for 1964, and later 1965 the tail is a bit shorter.
So now you can identify a late 1965 from the shorter emblem and the lack of a ‘Valiant’ script on the back, and a 1964 from the longer emblem plus the ‘Valiant’ script. But how can you really be sure which is 1964 and which is 1965 if those two aren’t a tell all? The absolute best way is inside the car, when you check out the instrument cluster.
The 1964 will have a trio of gauges on the right for fuel, charging, and temperature, while the 1965 will have all three in one, larger round gauge. Also, you will find the pushbutton shifter for the automatic cars on the left side of the dash for 1964 (the final year for this option). 1965 will have a cable shift transmission with the shifter on the console.
The 1966 model Barracuda, however, is different enough to tell at a glance that it’s not a 1964 or a 1965. The quickest way to tell a 1966 is the lack of the round, ‘floating’ running lamps in the center of the grille. The front signal lamps for 1966 are rectangular, and mounted in the (much thicker) bumper.
You can also tell the 1966 apart from the 1964-’65 from the rear. The early cars have round tail lamps whereas the 1966 has rectangular tail lamp centers. The rest of the car is very similar with slight sheetmetal changes.
The Formula S model showed up in 1965, and carried through to 1966. These had the easiest distinguishing marks: special Formula S badges on the fenders. Many Formula S cars had stripes the full length of the car, over the trunk, roof, and hood – but only if the stripes were ordered at the time of delivery, as the stripes weren’t standard fare, they were optional. We’ve found that many people did order the stripes, but since some didn’t, the emblem is the sure-fire way to tell.
We’ll continue our At A Glance Series with other popular musclecars from the 1950s through the 1970s, and we’ll take a look at the early Buicks next. If you want to see one of your favorites, list it below and we’ll get cracking on it.