Al James’ 1971 Plymouth Barracuda packs a big-block sized punch
Main: The ‘70s were a great period for automotive design, with engineering and styling reaching a climax, and muscle cars becoming about as outrageous as they were going to get. Al James’ 1971 Plymouth Barracuda has been plucked right from the leading edge of the muscle car movement, and is just as relevant and outrageous today as it was in its heyday.
A Mopar man through and through, Al has been toying with this particular car for the last 6 years. “I scored the car from Geoff Ryan over in Queensland. I was working on the mines here in WA and first spotted it for sale in a Just Cars mag while I was sitting around the camp one night. I lusted over it for a while but dropped the idea as it was a bit out of my price range at the time. 6 months later it popped up again, and after about 30 phone calls the deal was done! My wife still reminds me that I never asked her if I could buy it”, laughs Al. With work commitments he was unable to fly over to see the ‘Cuda for himself, so there was a lot of trust put in to the purchase.
When the car turned up it was indeed in great condition, and it had a 547ci Sonny Bryant crank engine in it. The big block was promptly taken out for a freshen up and replaced with another engine that Al pinched out of his ’63 Plymouth Max Wedge drag car – the ‘RamCharger’. The borrowed 528ci Chrysler runs a SCAT crank, Eagle rods and Keith Black pistons with a 725-thou lift Bullet cam, Hughes roller rockers and Indy 368cfm heads. An Indy tunnel ram intake manifold is fitted with a pair of 950cfm TRE carbs, which are fed a diet of 98 via a MagnaFuel QuickStar 300 fuel pump. An MSD ignition system provides the spark, while a set of Extreme Custom Engineering headers, a twin 4” system and a pair of Hooker Super Comp mufflers get rid of the hot stuff. A manualised, Bob Grant 727 auto with a 4500rpm converter sends the power south through a chrome moly tailshaft with billet yokes, and a Dana 60 rear end completes the package with a Strange full spool and 35-spline billet axles. Superstock springs and a pair of Caltracs do what they can to help the muscular ‘Cuda get the power down.
The paint on the car is now 16 years old, and a real testament to the job carried out by Brent Petrie when he painted it back over in Queensland. “I’ve tried to find a reason to repaint the car, but the body is in awesome condition and the paint is just too bloody good!” explains Al. You have to agree with him on this one – the factory Vitamin C duco with the ‘70s style ‘billboard’ graphic down the side really looks the part.
Al found a set of 15-inch Dodge Phoenix rims, which he modified by cutting off the outer diameter and then welding them back together, to achieve the correct offset. The modified rims are shod with Hoosier rubber – complete with white lettering, and with the slammed ride height and tunnel rammed big-block poking through the bonnet it cuts a menacing figure – kind of like a modern day interpretation of the classic ‘70s muscle car look.
There is not a lot you need to do to make the interior of a legitimate muscle car look good, and as such the only deviation from factory is the monster Tacho and a few necessary Autometer gauges. The rest of the interior is plain black – just the way Al likes it.
Al gave the ‘Cuda a good old fashioned flogging at Gazzanats in Collie earlier in the year, with the Hoosier race rubber turning it in to a cruise missile during the cruise sessions. With just enough rubber left on the slicks a trip to the Motorplex was also on the cards, so after filling up at the local servo and driving it there, Al rattled off a 10.1 at 134mph. “That was with a 1.65 60-foot, and the car weighs 3750lbs, so I was pretty happy. I’d love that 9-second time slip though. The car certainly has it in it, and I want to do it driving to the track and back too”. In the meantime he has plenty to keep himself busy before the racing season starts up again – Al and his son Aaron are currently preparing for a trip to the Red Centre Nats in September. They will be taking Aaron’s VG Valiant, and have fitted the freshened up 547ci donk just for the occasion. Yep, these guys are Mopar mad!
Exterior: In its current guise, the muscular Mopar is outfitted with a tunnel rammed big block, twin carbies and that sinister looking wheel and tyre combo. Al likes to change things up from time to time though, and as such has another Indy intake manifold with a single 1050 Dominator carby that he can fit, as well as 4 different bonnets and 5 different sets of wheels.
Interior: There’s not a lot that needs to be done to improve the interior of a 70’s muscle car. The only deviation from factory is the tacho and the Autometer gauges.
Engine Bay: The 528ci donk is a tough bit of gear, and has marched the Cuda down the quarter with a pb of 10.1 at 134mph. Given that it weighs in at a hefty 3750lbs, the Moroso calculator shows approximately 650rwhp. Tough!