Automotive trends in the early-mid 1960s had all the U.S. manufacturers looking at making sporty compact cars. Chrysler’s A-body Plymouth Valiant was chosen for the company’s efforts in this direction.
The Barracuda used the Valiant’s 106 in wheelbase and the Valiant hood, headlamp bezels, windshield, vent windows, quarter panels and bumpers; all other sheet metal and glass was new. This hybrid design approach significantly reduced the development and tooling cost and time for the new model. The fastback body shape was achieved primarily with a giant backlight, which wrapped down to the fender line. Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) collaborated with Chrysler designers to produce this 14.4 ft² rear window, the largest ever installed on a standard production car up to that time.
In 1965, the 225 slant-6 became the base engine in the US market, new options were introduced for the Barracuda as the competition among pony cars intensified. The 273 engine was made available as an upgraded Commando version with a 4-barrel carburetor, 10.5:1 compression, and a more aggressive camshaft with solid tappets. These and other upgrades increased the engine’s output to 235 bhp.