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(Buyers may have thought so too, since 1963 Signet sales amounted to only about 40,000 units, less than one-fifth the sales of the 1963 Corvair Monza.) The convertible, available in either Signet or V-200 trim, was a step in the right direction, but its addition just served to bring Plymouth even with Chevrolet and Ford, which already had convertible compacts.Strum ventured that the Valiant line needed something a little more distinctive.The V8 was only about 55 lb (25 kg) heavier than the larger Slant Six, but provided 180 gross hp (134 k W).All three engines came standard with the Valiant’s three-speed manual transmission, but a Warner T-10 four-speed was optional, as was Chrysler’s excellent three-speed Torque Flite automatic.The first-generation Plymouth Barracuda was 188.2 inches (4,780 mm) long on a 106-inch (2,692mm) wheelbase, 7.4 inches (188 mm) longer than a Mustang.With a V8 and automatic, the Barracuda weighed around 3,280 pounds (1,490 kg).
Only a few years earlier, Virgil Exner’s handsome “Forward Look” Plymouths had stolen styling leadership from General Motors, while their buttoned-down “Torsion-Aire” suspension had set new standards for big-car handling.
Nobody was particularly satisfied with the Barracuda’s obvious resemblance to the workaday Valiant, but money was still tight and making extensive changes to the Valiant’s unitized body would have been prohibitively expensive.
Beyond that, Plymouth management wanted the Barracuda to be ready as quickly as possible so they could beat the Ford’s Mustang to market.
The latter, made for Plymouth by Pittsburgh Plate Glass, was a production challenge and undoubtedly expensive (which was presumably why the full-size fastback had been axed), but it added a distinctive if polarizing stylistic touch.
There was also a new grille treatment with inset parking lamps.
After some internal argument, the new model was dubbed Plymouth Valiant Barracuda, the latter designation suggested by designer John Samsen.