They referred to them as ‘A-bombs,’ and with good reason. The 1968 Hurst-built Hemi Barracudas and Darts took the drag world by storm, winning consistently from their debut. However, of the 70 Plymouth models created, major event wins were the forte of only the best drivers. This is a truly exceptional chance to own the actual 1968 Hurst Hemi that won the 1969 NHRA Winternationals, the factory-associated Super Stock Barracuda campaigned by Don Grotheer during the final two major seasons before Pro Stock was introduced. Based in Oklahoma, Grotheer was among a handful of racers actually supported by Plymouth with both parts and financial assistance, and he did dealer-based performance clinics much like Sox & Martin did nationally.
If further proof were needed of the growing value of America’s iconic muscle cars, the sale price of a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible sold at a recent Mecum auction in Seattle should do the trick. The ’71 Barracuda—lot S95—hammered at $3.5 million, the highest price ever achieved for one of Detroit’s “Golden Age” muscle cars, and a rare price for any car in general to reach.
In 1968 Plymouth took just 70 Barracudas off the factory line and ripped out their 383 engines, then sent them to Hurst Performance for full warrior conversion. “There,” writes Hot Rod Magazine, “a fiberglass hood and fenders were installed, the bumpers and doors were thrown in the acid vat to lighten them, and 1/8-inch-thick Chemcor side glass was installed. Window lift mechanisms were replaced with a hunk of seatbelt, lightweight buckets from the A100 vans was bolted to hole-sawed aluminum seat risers, and the back seat was replaced with a cardboard panel.” The battery went from the front to the back, and drum brakes were mounted to all four corners. The race-spec 426 received a Cross Ram intake, dual Holley carburetors, Hooker headers, and an A833 4-speed transmission with reverse lockout paired to a Dana 60 rear end with 4.89 gears.
The Barracuda received only minor styling changes for 1968 – the big news was under the hood. The 225-cube slant six continued as the entry-level power plant, but even the base V8 was significantly upgraded, with a huge bore increase resulting in 318 cubic inches, still with a 2-Bbl carburetor.
The 383 big-block option was significantly upgraded, picking up 30 HP vs. its ’67 version. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For small block aficionados, a new big-bore (4.04”) LA (small block) engine came in at 340 cubes, and a 275 HP rating. Only very slightly heavier than its 318” sibling, it was rated at 275 HP. Performance soon gave lie to those numbers, with 300 HP for the milder-cammed automatic version, and 310-320 for the manual-trans version, being more realistic.
For sanctioned S/S drag racing, a 426” 8-Bbl Hemi was available, it was specially sold as “not legal for highway use”, and in fact, very few, if any, were street driven. These cars were supplied without paint, the concept being that racers each would apply their own color scheme, so why bother? The HemiCudas, along with their corporate-mate, the Hemi Dart, quickly ruled the drag strip, with 10-second elapsed times commonplace. With improved tire technology, and years of tuning work, these cars today hover in the low-8-second range, with some topping 160 MPH in the quarter mile, making them today, as in 1968, the quickest-accelerating production cars ever built.
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