440-CUBE BIG-BLOCK 1970 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA

plymouth barracuda 1

Jason Burke's '70 Barracuda packs killer looks and a monster bite

This article on Jason's Cuda was originally published in the October 2005 issue of Street Machine

BUILDING a kick-arse street machine is more involved than just buying a car and throwing parts at it. Those wishing to study the art of building a street machine could do worse than study under Kiwi grandmaster Jason Burke, as this Barracuda proves.

Jason has his own body shop, Burke’s Metalworks, and it’s testament to his skill that this ’70 Barracuda is as good as any we’ve seen.

1970 Plymouth BarracudaThe stance is the first drawcard, then the massive 19- and 20-inch wheels, and then the ultra-sleek body that's been subtly modified for more visual impact

Check out the tough stance; does it get any better than this? We don’t think so. Yet achieving that posture was far from easy, because Jason’s simply not the type just to drop in some lowered springs or wind down the front torsion bars, as is the case with many Mopars.

Up front, the K-frame has been notched so the front suspension sits 35mm higher compared to the chassis rail. This substantial reworking of the torsion bar mounts back at the transmission cross-member as well.

What followed was a chain reaction of modifications that saw the trans tunnel raised 60mm throughout its length. Rearward, the front spring hangers have been flipped and reworked leaves fitted along with shortened rear hangers. As a result the E-body sits a hell of a lot closer to terra firma but without overly compromising suspension travel.

Sounds like a lot of work just to lower a car doesn’t it? Well the cutting and welding didn’t finish there.

Plymouth Barracuda onroadJason purchased the Barracuda back in 1992 when he was on a working holiday in the US.

“It was advertised as a trade-in special for $800. My friend and I beat the dealer down to $525 and drove it out of the yard,” Jason recalls.

Non-Mopar fans probably don’t realise how much of a bargain that was but even back then a 1970 Barracuda could command decent money. Nowadays – if you can find one for sale – a 1970 E-body will cost you a damn sight more than that because it’s one of the most desirable muscle cars around.

If that isn’t enough, Jason even got the power-bulge bonnet and a 440-inch powerplant to make the deal sweeter.

OK, so it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops with the sleek Plymouth having all the usual cancer in the rear quarters and boot floor but that wasn’t really a concern for a man with Jason’s skills. He drove the car around for a while in the States and then brought it back with him (along with a Dodge Challenger for his brother) when he returned to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda bonnetBack in NZ, the project didn’t start straight away. Jason reckons the Barracuda has taken him three and a half years to build which means he spent 10 years planning the operation; that’s a lot of planning.

“A lot of that was spent looking and thinking things through to the end before I could start cutting or fabricating. In my head I had a clear picture of what I wanted to see,” Jason says. “I had to make sure that what I wanted could be driven as well as look good without airbag suspension.”

The amount of panel work is simply amazing, even more so when you know that some of it is so subtle that you have to know what you’re looking for to pick the changes. Rust repair sections were made once, then again after the rear wheel arches and sills were remade to eliminate the sill moulds that Jason disliked. He also made up new door skins which incorporated new custom door handles and cleaned up some of the bracing around the front guards and headlights for a smoother look.

Up the back the boot floor was cut out and a completely new floor was made up for an unruffled look.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda engine bayThe 450hp - and then some - big-block is all about physical presence

The inner guards under the bonnet have copped the same treatment and we can guarantee you that a stock Barracuda doesn’t have inner guards anywhere near as smooth as these. As a matter of course Jason also knocked up the custom aluminium 100-litre drop tank that sits nicely into the boot floor.

Jason actually modelled the look of the boot to mirror the under-bonnet view, which is why you see a large flat aluminium air-cleaner lid sitting above that muscular 440 big-block. And what a big-block this one is! According to Jason it now displaces a total of 452 cubes and runs a full Indy top-end. Not only are there the high-flowing alloy heads and complementary intake manifold but there is also an Indy EFI throttlebody under that air-cleaner.

That’s right folks, this old muscle-car legend is sporting some high-tech improvements and a Haltech F9 ECU works its magic to produce what Jason conservatively estimates at 450hp. Given that a stock-as-a-rock 440 pumps out 375hp from the factory we reckon Jason is low-balling his horsepower figure just a tad.

With so many ponies, Jason didn’t skimp on the brakes and a set of 13½-inch Baer brakes with four-spot Alcon calipers are squeezed in behind the Budnik alloys. Jason says: “Baer brakes are just awesome – the more heat you get into them, the harder they pull you up”.

Plymouth Barracuda onroadYou could almost be forgiven for not noticing the brakes behind those Budnik Fontana Fatlip wheels though. It’s another area where Jason hasn’t skimped, with the fronts measuring up at 19x8 while the rear wheels are massive 20x10½s to fill those rear quarters.

Supporting the rear rollers is a nine-inch diff Jason slotted in to replace the original 8¾ Mopar diff. The conversion was carried out because he likes the looks and it’s much easier to find centres for a nine-inch.

Further forward, a Tremec TKO five-speed runs an 11-inch McLeod clutch while a factory-style pistol-grip shifter pokes through the floor.

Check out the interior; it’s just as tidy as the exterior. A pair of reworked 1988 GTA Trans Am front seats were stripped and recovered with Bone leather, which also covers everything from the dash to the door trims. The rear seat uses a factory-style back while the seat base was custom-made by Jason due to the floor pan and tunnel modifications.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda interiorIt’s tidy all right – not masses of gauges and stereo equipment; just a billet Budnik wheel, a pistol-grip shifter and some comfy seats. What else could you possibly need in a masterpiece such as this?

It’s bold yet subtle, and it looks fantastic from any angle. The judges love it – Jason has the tinware to prove that – and as some of the trophies are People’s Choice, the NZ public clearly digs it too. And when someone wins the Chip Foose Choice gong like Jason did at the 2 Hot 2 Handle show earlier in '05, you know he’s doing something right.

Even though he could relax and enjoy the ride, Jason’s not sitting idle because there’s already another project on the go. This time it’s at the other end of the spectrum, a ’35 rat-rod pick-up that’s gonna see an early 331 Hemi sitting between the fenders. How good do you reckon that’s gonna be? 

1970 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA
JASON BURKE
Featured: October 2005

Paint: Glasurit Custom Blue
Engine: Chrysler RB 452 stroker
Gearbox: Tremec TKO five-speed
Diff: Ford 9in, 3.55:1 gears
Wheels: Budnik Fontana Fatlip
Interior: Trans Am front seats in Bone leather, matching Budnik wheel

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