Should Mopar Have Made A 4-Door Barracuda?
The Chrysler Corporation never offered a four-door Barracuda, but this brand-new 1970 model would have the average onlooker convinced they did. Dave Walden, owner of ECS Automotive Concepts near St. Louis, Missouri, has completed a number of OE-style restorations from 2005 through 2010, and was pondering another build that would be equally challenging, but different––way different. He decided to build a car the factory never made in the first place, and make it look like it just rolled off the assembly line.
Years back, Walden viewed a rendering of a 1970 four-door Barracuda that was swimming around the Internet. It struck a chord with him. At first, he and his associate, Steve Been, thought to build the very car in the drawing. Then they decided a Lemon Twist Yellow version with a Rally hood and a 383 would be the way to go.
Right about that time, they read another account of a four-door, hardtop Barracuda sighted by a former Chrysler employee in the Fall of 1969. The car was seen in the center of Chrysler’s Highland Park, Michigan, headquarters. It was reported to be a red 1970 model and evidently a styling exercise. So, Dave and Steve regrouped and decided this would be the car they’d replicate, and bring to life.
“After discussing the engineering requirements and possibilities, we concluded it would have to be built from an existing 1971–1974 four-door Coronet or Satellite roof structure. I called a friend and Mopar-parts source who told me he had a candidate sitting in his salvage yard that very moment. So, the first piece we collected for this project was a cut-up and stripped four-door roof and pillars from a 1972 four-door Dodge. Now it was time to invent something we could attach it to,” Walden said. “This approach allowed us to incorporate our accumulated OE experience into a one-of-a-kind custom car. We became the factory in the engineering and building of this unique automobile.”
Since there was no donor vehicle or even frame to start with, the four-door roof and post components became the single element that set the stage for the project. The entire unibody structure had to be crafted using available restoration parts, in addition to custom pieces Walden and his team produced as they went along.
“The B-pillars were cut apart and hand-formed to fit the configuration of the custom doors. The roof was cut, then sectioned and welded back together. The A-pillars were cut and modified to create the opening for the new windshield. The Barracuda’s rear doors were also developed from scratch and shaped by Steve Been, who did much of the car’s fabrication,” explained Walden.
B-body inner-door structures were used after being cut apart, reshaped, then re-welded to fit custom doorskins. The rear doors are made from stock E-body front doorskins and stock Barracuda rear quarter-panels. The front part of the door is made from the rear section of an E-body door, and the rear part of the door was made from the front section of an E-body quarter-panel.
A project that required this much fabrication forced Walden to look at spare hoods and fenders as raw materials that could be repurposed for the next unforeseeable obstacle.
Many of the body panels were available through restoration parts companies, as well as new/old stock sources. Of course, none of those parts were designed for this car. Consequently, each was hand-formed to fit its portion of the puzzle. The car is an inch wider than a stock two-door. In order to make the OEM-style hood fit, it too had to be widened.
The original Dodge Coronet roof was lowered about an inch. The attached B-body sections were removed, and appropriate E-body pieces were welded back in place. The sail panels are the product of much English-wheel work, and the top portion of the roof was also split in order to change its angle. About 10 inches had to be removed from the stock replacement rear quarter-panels and they needed to be redesigned at their leading edge to match the back portion of the rear doors.
The Barracuda’s windshield and rear glass are originals designed for a 1970 model. Naturally, they didn’t fit either. The windshield had to be trimmed with a belt sander about an inch on the topside to adapt it to its new framework. Walden’s company is licensed to do dot etchings on the glass, so they custom-etched the Chrysler logos and correct dates on each piece.
The side glass began life in a 1971 B-body. The original etchings were removed and replaced with new logos etched into the glass an inch below the stock location. This was necessary since the beltline of this Barracuda was also lowered an inch during the early part of the build. All of window-crank mechanisms had to be re-engineered to operate in their new environment.
The Barracuda’s engine bay is another sight to behold. The fresh 340 looks exactly like factory. All the wire routing mimics the production-line setup. It’s proper to say this is the four-door’s “original” engine, since it has never been in any other car. This OEM powerplant was disassembled, and all reciprocating internals were balanced by a professional machine shop in the area. The engine was hand-assembled by Been.
That three-speed TorqueFlite transmission is a new service item but was still inspected and brought up to spec as Steve Been saw fit. A correct 8.75-inch rear end assembly was sourced and filled with a 3.55 gear set. Custom rear leaf springs suspend the back end. Up front, a stock Barracuda torsion-bar arrangement helps complete the factory look and ride. Standard Barracuda power brakes with stock discs up front continue the OEM theme.
This Barracuda’s wheelbase is 10 inches longer than that on an original 1970 model, placing it at 118 inches. It weighs about 3,500 pounds, which puts it right on the money for an early E-body.
Underneath, the car was built to further display its proper Chrysler lineage. The floorboards are exacting, as are all connecting components. A Chrysler engineer or designer from back in that day would have a hard time distinguishing this car from a genuine production Barracuda.
“Every nut, washer, fastener, body component, bracket, and interior piece had to be collected, fabricated, and assembled from scratch,” said Walden. A time span of six years and 10,000 man-hours of labor were required from start to finish.
All factory systems operate on the four-door Barracuda, and it is perfectly drivable. Although it probably won’t be taken on too many road trips, because Dave’s having too much fun showing this brand-new Barracuda at events around the country, including the upcoming SEMA Show in November.
This truly is the car that never was, yet it stands front-and-center, here and now. It represents another dimension of sight, sound, and mind––a true hot rod builder’s creed.
The 1970 Barracuda was arguably the sleekest and newest-looking ponycar of its era. It was a brand-new interpretation of what these machines should look like, and made its competitors seem so last decade in the process. Clean, smooth, and curvy body panels put this car’s best foot forward in every direction. No wonder it caught the eyes of so many. Even in its customized four-door configuration, Walden was able to maintain the car’s nice proportions and modern, good looks.
Despite the 118-inch wheelbase of the four-door Barracuda, almost all other dimensions are similar to an original 1970 Barracuda. At 3,500 pounds, the car weighs in at about the same, or less, than modern-day V8 Mustangs and Camaros.
Many enthusiasts proclaimed that the 340 was the ideal engine for the new 1970 Barracuda. It still may be. Lightweight and a reasonably small size combine for plenty of horsepower and a willingness to rev. This car won’t be raced, but the desire for an engine that represents performance was irresistible to Walden. Everything you see here replicates an original 340-motivated Barracuda, except that the entire engine bay was crafted piece by piece. This powerplant is brand-new in every way.
ECS Automotive is a licensed source to re-create a number of Chrysler items from exhaust systems to production decals, so Walden put that capability to good use during this build. You’ll notice all the correct decals right where they should be—if the factory had built this car, that is.
The car’s front bench seat adds even more character to this build, as does the column-shifted TorqueFlite transmission. ACC supplied the perfect custom black carpet for the job, while Legendary made sure the seat covers and interior panels were right on target. Even the purists are bound to be enthralled by this car.
From the driver’s seat, it is 1970 all over again, thanks to the aroma of fresh paint and other new-car smells. The interior is as inviting as ever. It feels the same as any E-body you ever sat in. And since so much of the car’s construction took place behind the driver, the forward and sideways views remain business as usual for an E-body Barracuda.
This never-before custom trunk provides the usual volume for an E-body, which is to say lacking. Nevertheless, there is still more than enough room for a full-size spare tire and wheel, along with a properly mounted bumper jack. When asked about the limited trunk space, most Barracuda owners said if they cared about a trunk, they would have bought a pickup truck.
The car’s bottom side retains absolute correctness, especially for a car that never existed. A complete custom dual-exhaust system spanning from the high-flow factory manifolds to the classic “turn-down” exhaust tips adds an additional look of authenticity to the Barracuda’s form and function. Walden admits it took 20 attempts to create the meandering twists and bends required to thread it around the new and longer undercarriage. Once this was accomplished, the final version of the exhaust system was produced from a special stainless steel that is finished in a “bare metal” coating, which is visually identical to what the factory used on their Barracudas but of a much higher quality.
Walden decided on the optional factory five-spoke steel wheels, which are more often seen on B-bodies between 1967 and 1970. Still, they just seem to look right for this car, as do the redline tires.
This is the piece that started it all—an early-’70s Dodge four-door post. It was a good place to start cutting and welding. A legitimate unibody structure grew from this.