My "Baccaruda" Experience…

If you’re a maxchevy.com reader who was into cars during the late 80s, you’ll likely recall Chrysler’s marketing ploy where they deliberately skewed the name of their popular Barracuda model Plymouth into the infamous “Baccaruda.”  It was a clever twist that appeared to get some traction when this model was enjoying its hey-day.
Concurrent to this time frame, I was enjoying the muscle car benefits of sitting in the Editor’s chair at Hot Rod Magazine.  As many of us so often experience, we fail to recognize how much fun certain periods of our lives really are until they’re gone.  Such was the case during the mid-to-late 60s era when big-block Chevelles, hemi MoPars and honest-to-displacement pavement burners were populating the cars offered by Detroit.

Then one day I get a call from Buddy Martin, ostensibly the “team manager” and strategic brains behind the highly-successful Sox & Martin drag efforts.  It was about two months shy of the ’68 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA.  Buddy came right to the point of his call.  “Would you be interested in driving an E/SA Barracuda we’re building for Pomona?”  Now, let’s be honest.  Would I be interested?  Craft any worn out cliché you’d like for a response because virtually all of them would have worked.  Even the one about a bear in the woods…

Within two weeks, Buddy shows up at the Petersen Publishing Company building, driving the car.  Over lunch with him, Ronnie Sox and stellar team engine builder Jake King (a story entirely unto itself), the plan became clear.  Chrysler was interested in getting some “high performance” exposure for the Barracuda, both as a brand and flavored for the younger buyer.  The factory and their advertising agency felt an appearance at Pomona would provide some inflation for the marketing balloon they planned to create for the Barracuda model.

However, in my enthusiasm to be a part of their project, I failed to recognize and anticipate some little details that would emerge a bit later.  Among them was the fact S&M wanted me to drive the car on the street, as daily transportation leading up to the race at Pomona.  Remember, it was painted and lettered to replicate the pure race cars then being campaigned by the team in Super Stock.  At that time, Pro Stock wasn’t even a gleam in Wally Parks’ eyes, so the SS cars of the day were (for all practical purposes), the junior versions of Pro Stockers yet to come.  So I’m going to drive on the street what looks like a bona fide race car, given that Los Angles had its own version of “Woodward Avenue” in the form of Van Nuys Boulevard in the L.A. suburb city of the same name.  Picture what ran through the minds, and translated into actions, of MoPar hemi and big-block Vette owners when I occasioned to be on Van Nuys Boulevard after dark.  Actually, after dark didn’t matter because stop-light “stuff” occurred during daylight hours as well.  It was like riding through a town of full of Wyatt Earps when you’re dressed like Billy the Kid.

Then there was the issue of the car’s “stock” class engine.  While I’d been told the engine remained stock for legality purposes, that notion was difficult to swallow because I was keenly aware of Jake King’s reputed engine building skills and could not imagine he’d failed to “bless” the little 340-incher with his magical touch.  Add the fact that I was driving the car every day and seriously doubted any of those I’d be racing against had been commissioned for similar daily treatment.  Of that much I was convinced.