My 1970 Plymouth Barracuda - Journal

I've set this page up more or less in a "journal" format, with an entry date followed by some words, pics, etc. This is partly because that will allow me to just keep adding stuff to it as I go along which will make maintaining it easy, and partly to show all the trials and tribulations I run into along the way.

Here is a sound clip in MP3 format taken from a camcorder about 15 feet to the rear/side of the car. Its about 40 seconds long, 64kbps, with a short rev thrown in near the end. Its not the greatest quality (actually it makes the car sound like a lawnmower!), but it will have to do for now.

This is my 1970 Plymouth Barracuda Gran Coupe, purchased at the All Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, PA (Chryslers at Carlisle) July, 2001. It doesn't exactly have the sophistication of a late model vehicle, but that's not really the point, now is it? Following are some specs on the car (as purchased; If you are interested in the car's current state of tune, please click here.)

I have wanted a musclecar era Mopar for some time, and have always liked the E bodies in particular. At the 2001 ACN @ Carlisle, I had the opportunity to plunge myself deeper into debt, so I did exactly that. I've driven many different types of cars and trucks, but this is my first vehicle with a carb, and certainly the biggest motor I've ever used. (Unless of course you count an Itasca motor home with a Chebby 454; that vehicle was scary too, but for completely different reasons.) I like to think I am fairly adept behind a wheel, but this is a whole 'nother beast altogether! The very first time I pulled out onto the street in this thing, I gave it a bit too much gas. The first thought that popped into my head was something along the lines of "so this is what 'scary fast' feels like!" Right now, I'm just driving it around like somebody's grandmother on their way to the grocery store. I want to get a feel for the car and its traits before I even think about gettin' on it. I plan to take it to the strip eventually to see what it will do, but if this car is as quick as it feels, I'm going to want to be absolutely comfortable in it first. I was driving around a bit today, and while waiting for a light to change, thought I'd let it wind out a bit in 1st. I didn't let it get anywhere near the redline, but when I slapped the shifter forward into 2nd, I got a real solid chirp out of the rears... This car is just begging for a no holds barred launch. All in good time...

I plan to continue the restoration of the car where the previous owner left off (Hi, Courtney!) and turn it into a really nice driver. A re-paint will happen down the road, but probably not for quite a while; I also want to add a rear wing and the hockey stick "440" decals. As far as the color goes, I'm still not sure but I'm leaning towards Sublime. I may go a bit wider on the rear tires at some point, or even to a set of 15" rims. I want to try and swap out the steering wheel for one with a thicker grip, perhaps a Grant aftermarket. Of course, I also want to install an interior, headliner, re-upholster the seats, the dash could use replacing, etc. I'd like to install a CD/MP3 player but I'm going to wait to see until after the rest of the interior is done. At the moment, you'd never be able to hear it anyway, so it won't get installed unless the interior quiets things down a bit. (I may lay down some dynomat or something under the carpet.)

Did my second fill up today so I had an opportunity to check the gas mileage. Correcting for the odometer error, I got about 8.25mpg. This is mostly "city" driving, but fairly tame driving for the most part. Yoiks! (Some of you are probably trying to figure out why I'd even bother to calculate the gas mileage for a muscle car at all. Hey, I like to know!)

Well, I got a taste of what its like to own one of these "old tech" cars today. A couple of times, when it first started, it would quit right away. I figured I'm probably doing something wrong with the startup and didn't think too much about it, until after getting some dinner at Wendys around 9:30, it wouldn't stay started, and finally didn't want to start, and by that time the battery wasn't exactly giving its all either. So, I walked a half a mile to Wal-Mart where I bought the biggest Everstart MAXX battery I could find and a pair of 4 gauge jumper cables. Time for another half mile walk, this time with a 40lb battery. (Note to anyone ever in this situation: I discovered the easiest way to carry it is to lift it up onto your shoulders, and just hang on to the handle with both hands, one on either side of your head, and carry it sort've like a backpack. You'll look like a fool, but you'll barely feel the weight.) Anyway, I get back to the car, hook up the cables, and just as I'm about to try turning it over, a Ram 250 diesel pulls alongside and out jumps a fellow Mopar nut by the name of John, to see if I needed any help. Fortunately, the car started right up. John suggested I look into a high torque/speed starter; I think I may do that. We stood around talking Mopars for a while, so I guess something good came out of the whole situation. I'll tell ya, as I was walking to Wal-mart, that Holley Pro-Jection EFI setup was starting to sound really good! I may have to put some thought into that. Oh yeah, I forgot, I don't have any money left.

Went to get the car inspected today... The tech gave me some helpful advice regarding starting carbeurated vehicles; (i.e. don't touch the gas if its warm!) Turns out I have been flooding the engine... I've had some better luck starting the engine now. I've noticed that if I get on the gas somewhat agressively, the car will stumble and want to die. I'm not sure what to make of that. I went to Wendys again today with a buddy of mine and without touching the gas, the car started right up. I let it idle for a few minutes as we stood around talking, then headed for home. I made it maybe a mile and it died on me! It didn't want to start, started once then quit, then finally with the last trickle of juice left in the battery, it caught and stayed running. Made it home OK this time. I've noticed I've got a small gas leak under the carb, maybe I've got a bad gasket or something; if I'm lucky maybe that will solve all my problems. EFI is sounding better and better!

Well, I took the plunge! A Holley Commander 950 TBI system is on its way! I was going to pay off a good chunk of the car fairly soon since the interest rate is fairly high, but I figured it'd be better to string out the payments a tad longer than originally intended and have a car I can be happy with rather than getting it paid off real soon and not having any cash left to make it reliable. As long as I was paying the shipping, I also ordered up a Grant Classic 838 steering wheel. Its a little bit narrower than the stocker which will hopefully make it a bit easier to get out of the car, and most importantly it should have a much thicker grip to give me some more confidence in the steering. Its definitely not the fanciest wheel out there, but its a plain, simple wheel with a price tag of only $25 instead of $250. It won't arrive for a day or two though so I'll reserve my full judgement until I actually see the thing in person.

I'm well into the conversion now; so far the Holley system seems to be a good one; I'm remaining optomistic. :-) One detail that I did not anticipate, which was brought to light by a member of the Mopar Mailing List was the fact that since my stock fuel tank is not baffled, I should be running a surge tank to ensure the EFI system always has fuel. I did some research on my own, and unfortunately, he was correct. I considered many different possibilities (welding a sump to the stock tank, replacing the stock tank with a fuel cell, welding up my own sump tank, etc. What I decided on was mainly based on ease of installation, reliability and "reverseability" should it not work and should I need to try a different method.) I am planning to use a 1 gallon "nitrous enrichment" fuel cell for the tank and a Carter 120GPH 7-8psi "strip" mechanical fuel pump to feed the tank. I just sent a princely sum to Jegs and Summit for the parts I will need to build the fuel system. I originally was planning to use braided stainless lines all the way, but that would have been obseenly expensive. (I have 4 runs, front to back) So, I'm using braided stainless with AN fittings at the ends and aluminum hard line in the middle. Using aluminum lines instead of stainless for part of the run saved me about $100. Still, Summit must love me right now, especially since I ordered the TBI system through them too. I guess I'll finally get to try out that tubing bender... I've never bent my own hard lines before; this could be interesting.

I have set up a separate page detailing the EFI conversion here. There's nothing there now except a bunch of pics, but I'll add descriptions and text later.

The EFI conversion page wasn't incredibly useful, so I went ahead and added descriptions, and I'll continue to include descriptions as I progress.

During a delay in the EFI install, I upgraded my steering wheel.

I drove around for a couple of hours last week with my face buried in the laptop to tune some of the steady state stuff today; my friend Ed handled the driving duties, thanks, Ed! :-) When we got back, the car was definitely behaving better than when we left, it is working fairly well at cruise, but there are other things to tune such as transitional fueling, WOT, and transitional WOT fueling, etc. The driving around did make me realize that tuning on the street was a bit of a compromise. I found a local place with some experience tuning various EFI systems, so I made an appointment (for 10/15) to put it on the dyno for a full-on tune. This means I won't be able to make it out to the track this year, and it'll be hard not having the full use of the car until then, but hopefully it will be done right the first time. Plus, I'll have some dyno numbers too, and I can at least estimate the ETs from that. :-) I'm planning to try to drive the car some, just nice and easy like so I don't get out of the already tuned portions of the fuel map, just to put some miles on the EFI system and maybe shake out any bugs that may exist.

On October 15, 2001 I took the car in to Kennedy's Dynotune to get the fuel dialed in. This was a success, although I was a bit dissapointed with the actual dyno numbers. Still, the timing isn't being run by the EFI computer yet, and we were just doing a nice safe steet tune. After having it dialed in on the dyno, I drove the car around for several weeks. I am definitely going to have to do something about the fuel plumbing - the main feed line to the Holley fuel pump has a tendancy to trap air and make the pump work real hard and generally starve the car for fuel. It works OK as long as I don't let the surge tank get empty. As I was driving the car one Sunday, the alternator bolt snapped off in the head and gave me quite a scare util I figured out what the problem was! Unfortunately, I now have to figure out how to get the bolt out of the head.

Well, that is going to turn out to be one expensive bolt! ;-)

As the car sat, and I figured out what I wanted to do, I started to think about aluminum heads. Jokingly at first, ("Heh! Wouldn't THAT be quite the way to fix an alternator bolt!") but the more I thought about it the more serious it became! Once I had made the decision to go ahead, it kind've mushroomed. As long as I'm doing the heads, I really should do headers, and I should replace that single plane intake with a dual plane (the intake had several stripped threads, etc. anyway). And, since I would probably need to go back on the dyno anyway, I might as well finish up the EFI install by adding the spark control. So, as it sits right now, I am planning on installing the Edelbrock aluminum heads, with Hughes aluminum adjustable rockers, Edelbrock Performer intake, and TTI 1 7/8" ceramic coated headers. I figured now was a good time to swap out the stock starter for the MP lightweight unit too. On the ignition side, I'm going with a Holley HP Annihilator with a Laser Shot Street coil, activated by an MSD crank trigger and fed to the plugs via a remanufactured late '70s lean burn distributor. I want to replace the plug wires with Magnecors also. The tranny will get a reverse pattern manual valve body and a deeper pan. I also have some other items like a tranny temp gauge and oil temp gauge, new tranny mount and U-joints, a custom center console, etc. I'm getting tired just thinking about it!!! Assuming it all goes off well though, it should be quite an improvement! (Many thanks to Bob Tom for all his help and advice as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do, and how to do it!)

Several minor upgrades and such have happened since the last update; I installed a Go Wing, hockey stripes, custom center console, finally got some carpet in there, etc. (See the separate "Projects" section in the bar to the left for details on those projects.)