Home Cars Plymouth Power: The Best Performance Cars of Mopar’s Forgotten Brand

Plymouth Power: The Best Performance Cars of Mopar’s Forgotten Brand

Vukasin Herbez February 1, 2024

Plymouth Barracuda 440 1969 Front
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Plymouth Barracuda 440 (1969)

In 1969, the pony cars wars were getting serious as Mustang defended its position as the best-selling model in its class and the Camaro/Firebird duo attacked with everything GM had. Chrysler was also a formidable competitor since the restyled Barracuda had more muscle with the introduction of the optional 383 engine. It also had two more body styles – the convertible and notchback coupe. However, the biggest news for 1969 was the introduction of the Barracuda 440 V8, a monster pony car with the biggest engine ever installed under the hood of a car in that segment. Plymouth wanted to be a dominant force in a stock class of drag racing championships and needed a weapon equipped with a big block and tons of torque (via Motor Trend).

Plymouth Barracuda 440 1969 Rear
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Barracuda 440 was exactly what they needed even if it was small to drive. It required a complicated production process since the big 440 would only fit in a small Barracuda’s engine bay with extensive modifications. The Barracuda 440 had 375 horsepower and a massive 480 pounds of torque, which made it pretty fast but also hard to launch due to loads of wheel spin. Due to the tight fit of the engine, there wasn’t space for a power steering pump, so you had to use your muscles to turn this compact but overly powerful car. Plymouth only made a handful of these models, which makes them sought-after today.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Plymouth Superbird (1970)

As one of the craziest muscle cars ever produced, Plymouth has one of the most recognizable graphics packages ever presented to the general public. The Superbird attempted to win the famous Aero Wars in the late ’60s to early ’70s NASCAR championship. To homologate the car for racing, Plymouth built just under 2000 road-going Superbirds and sold them across America (via Trust Auto).

Photo Credit: Super Cars

The car was based on the Roadrunner, and it came with a 440 V8 standard and 426 Hemi as the only engine option. However, to make it as aerodynamically efficient as possible, Plymouth installed a nose cone, hideaway headlights, and an enormous spoiler on the back. Also, it transformed the rear glass from the standard concave-shaped one to regular, which proved more slippery in wind tunnel testing. The Superbird came with a wild graphics package along with a choice of bright colors. All cars had vinyl roofs to hide the rear glass conversion scars, big “Plymouth” lettering on the rear fender, and a roadrunner bird logo holding a racing helmet. This was muscle car art in its prime.

Photo Credit: Mopar

Plymouth AAR Cuda (1970)

The 1970 model year was undeniably the pinnacle year for classic muscle cars. Never before or since have there been so many muscle cars and memorable and sought-after machines on offer. The Pony car wars were in full swing with the brand new Firebird and Camaro, as well as the Dodge Challenger and the latest, much improved Plymouth Barracuda. One of the most interesting 1970 Barracudas was the rare AAR ‘Cuda (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The AAR Cuda was a limited production model to commemorate Dan Gurney’s All-American Racing team, which used ‘Cudas in the Trans Am championship. It came with a 340 V8 small block, a unique plastic hood in matte black paint with a hood scoop, a rear spoiler, and exciting side graphics, which included a big AAR logo. This version was somewhat more expensive than the regular 340 ‘Cuda, so only 2724 were made.

Hemi Cuda Convertible 2
Photo Credit: Mopar

Plymouth Barracuda Hemi (1970/71)

Two of the biggest Chrysler legends from the classic days of muscle car culture are the Barracuda and the 426 Hemi engine. All through the ’60s, those industry icons didn’t mix, at least not in street-legal cars. In 1970, Plymouth offered this legendary engine in Barracuda body style, immediately creating one of the fastest and most desirable muscle cars ever made (via Auto Express).

Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible Takes 35 Million At Auction Video Photo Gallery 3
Photo Credit: Edmunds

The mighty Hemi engine was an expensive top-of-the-line option for 1970 and 1971, available in coupe or convertible form. It cost around $900 over the price of the standard Barracuda, and it was installed in just about 600 coupes and only 17 convertibles during a two-year production period. The power was rated at 425 hp, but everybody knew the orange monster delivered more than 500 hp straight from the box.

1971 Plymouth Duster 340 Main
Photo Credit: Sports Car Market

Plymouth Duster 340 (1970)

As an economy brand, Plymouth was very active and successful at the lower end of the market since the early ’60s and the Valiant model. By the late ’60s and early ’70s, the compact market had grown, and Plymouth introduced the Duster 340. This model was a junior muscle car since it looked like bigger competitors but it had a more petite 340 hp engine rated at 275 hp (via Hemmings).

002 1971 Plymouth Duster Right Rear 1
Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth never anticipated the success that the Duster 340 achieved and production doubled in just a few months. Despite being a compact model, the 340 was a very good muscle car. Its 275 hp moved the light body to respectable 0 to 60 mph times of just over six seconds. The vehicle may be half the size of some of the heavy hitters of the era but was almost as fast. Also, it cost just under $3000, which was highly affordable. Interestingly, after the original muscle car era ended in 1974, Plymouth continued to offer the Duster 340 but with the 360 engine option and less power due to rising emissions standards.

Plymouth Fury Gt Ccced
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Plymouth Fury GT (1970)

Despite being an economy brand in Chrysler Corporation, Plymouth had a surprisingly large number of muscle cars during the ’60s and ’70s, as well as numerous unique versions. Their luxury muscle car was the GTX. But in 1970, the Fury GT debuted as the most significant model. The Fury GT was a two-door coupe version of the Fury sedan, and in GT guise, it was a full-size muscle car with the perfect combination of looks and power (via Hagerty).

Plymouth Sport Fury Gt Hardtop Coupe
Photo Credit: Mopar

Under the hood was a well-known 440 V8 with a three-carburetor setup and 375 hp on tap. Buyers could choose between the 727 Torqueflite automatic and a four-speed manual. They preferred the manual if they wanted any actual performance. However, despite the power and looks, the Fury GT was a small performer since it was still heavy. In combination with a relatively high price tag, it proved to be a slow seller. After only one year in production, Plymouth discontinued the GT model.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth Volare Roadrunner (1976 to 1980)

Back in 1976, Plymouth introduced the Volare, a successful mid-size model produced in many variants and exported worldwide. It was the twin to the Dodge Aspen. The Volare featured rear-wheel drive, a wide range of engines, and a sleek design. Both Dodge and Plymouth had successful muscle models in the past and the heritage was still solid when the Volare was introduced. This was a perfect platform for a muscle car if it weren’t for grueling emissions and safety regulations that killed the performance. But Plymouth tried and presented the Volare Road Runner, which featured a 316 V8 engine and a measly 160 horsepower (via Motor Trend).

Plymouth Volare
Photo Credit: Car and Driver

What it lacked in the performance department, Volare Road Runner compensated in looks. It had a complete body kit with rear window louvers, a spoiler, a graphics package, and sport wheels. Some versions even featured a T-top roof, which was an excellent choice back in the day. Later, Plymouth introduced the 360 V8 with 175 to 196 hp, which improved the performance but was still slow. Production ended in 1980 after four years on the market. Today, it’s a collector’s car since it has an interesting history, despite the fact it was regarded as a disgrace by classic muscle car fans. They thought that the Road Runner name should go on a better-performing machine. Also, all Volares had rust issues, so the number of surviving cars in good condition is low.

1975 Plymouth Road Runner Rear (9564783414)
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Plymouth Fury Roadrunner (1975)

We all know the Plymouth Roadrunner as one of the quintessential classic muscle cars and a model that always had performance and power. However, in 1975, Plymouth moved the Roadrunner as an option on the Fury line (via Hemmings).

Plymouth Road Runner 83
Photo Credit: Mopar

The Fury Roadrunner had a 440 V8 option with 260 hp on paper. Despite this being a respectable number for the day’s standards, 0 to 60 mph times were over eight seconds, which is something that today’s cheapest economy cars can match. As a result, sales could have been better.

Plymouth Prowler
Photo Credit: Auto WP

Plymouth Prowler (1997)

The Hot Rod culture is one of the critical ingredients of the American automotive landscape. However, no company dared to present a factory-built Hot Rod until 1997 when Plymouth presented the Prowler – a retro-futuristic roadster with a V6 engine and fantastic looks (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Imagined as the follow-up of the Viper, the Prowler was the hit on the show circuit, and Chrysler wanted to capitalize on that. Despite having initial success, the car proved to be a failure.

34qdfsx Scaled
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Plymouth Neon ACR (1996)

Most auto fans know about the excellent, turbocharged Neon SRT4 from the early 2000s. But that car wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the fantastic and forgotten Neon ACR produced for just two years in 1996 and 1997. Back in the ’90s, the Neon was one of the best compact cars America grew, and Dodge’s engineers realized that the chassis had the potential to be something more than just a grocery-getter (via The Autopian).

Photo Credit: Road and Track

The Neon ACR was a race-prepared Neon with a cam engine, four-wheel disc brakes, a different speedometer, stiffer suspension, and radio delete. The name ACR was derived from American Club Racer, and soon, the Neon ACR was the favorite car of amateur racers on track weekends.

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