If the shape of Charlie Allen’s 1965 Plymouth Barracuda caused you to do a double-take, you’re certainly not alone. While the front of the Plymouth shares much the same styling as its Australian AP6 cousin, the unusual fastback-style back end, complete with wraparound rear window, means the coupe cuts a striking figure rarely seen on Aussie roads.
First published in the February 2023 issue of Street Machine
“I was getting ready to retire and wanted a project; originally I was looking for a coupe version of the AP6 from the States, as I had an Aussie AP6 sedan when I was younger and thought the coupe would be a nice project,” Charlie says. “In my search, I ended up finding this ’65 Plymouth with the sloped back instead, and after getting it checked out and given the all-clear, I had it imported.”
That was around 2012, when the car was bright red, automatic and home to the 318 small-block it still has now. Charlie cruised it around like that on club plates until late 2018, when he decided to finally make his dream a reality. “I’d always planned on pulling it right down and rebuilding it with a pro touring theme, so in 2019 I started the build,” he says.
Charlie is a childhood friend of fellow Bendigo local Gary O’Brien, owner of the Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars restoration workshop. Charlie had fully retired by the time he pulled the ’Cuda off the road for the rebuild, so Gary allocated him a spot in the workshop, and he spent the next two years building his dream machine with the help of the Bendigo Retro crew. “It was basically the equivalent of my full-time job working on that car,” he laughs. “I was in there just about every day working on it, and I’m glad I did it there, because Gary and his boys definitely helped me out a heap during the build.”
Charlie completely tore down the car, put it on a rotisserie and stripped it back to bare metal. While the ’Cuda didn’t need too much rust repair, Charlie did weld in a bunch of US-sourced chassis bracing while the car was a bare skeleton, and also took the opportunity to convert it to right-hand drive. “I drove it around before the resto as left-hand drive, and while it was okay, I really wanted to enjoy driving this when it was done, so I wanted it to be right-hand,” he explains.
Charlie worked out that a right-hook firewall from an Aussie-made AP6 would fit the Plymouth, so he carefully unpicked one from a donor car and grafted it into the ’Cuda. “It was a challenge for sure, but something I’m definitely glad I did,” he says.
The rest of that conversion was made easy with a Magnum Force front end, which not only converted the suspension to coil-overs and Wilwood brakes, but also binned the Valiant steering box in favour of right-hand rack-and-pinion steering. “I wanted to upgrade all that stuff anyway, because I wanted it to drive nicely and more like a new car, not one from the 60s,” Charlie says.
Other body mods included reshaping the rear wheelarches. True Mopar nerds will know these ’Cudas had squarer arches, so Mick Reed from Bendigo Retro gave them a nip and tuck to the more circular style you see now. “He was a massive help with the harder stuff like that, showing me how to manipulate the metal to get the shapes I wanted,” Charlie says. The trans tunnel was also modified for the manual conversion to suit the TKO600 five-speed. “The manual to me is just more fun. My old AP6 was manual, and it just makes it nicer to drive,” says Charlie.
When it came time to choose a powerplant, Charlie admits he was initially tempted by a late-model deal. “I thought about it, but quickly realised they wouldn’t fit,” he says. So instead, he took the 318 small-block the Plymouth came with and got Neville Crow from Mota-Craft Bendigo to give it a tickle.
The cubes were bumped out to 349 with a Scat 3.58 stroker crank and I-beam rods. The pistons are Ross Racing items, while the cam is a Crow 110º LSA stick. The aftermarket alloy heads are topped with an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap manifold and MSD Atomic EFI. “I wanted the EFI for things like easy starting, and so far, it’s been really good,” says Charlie. On PULP 98, the package made a healthy 386hp and 306lb-ft.
The original 8¾-inch rear end completes the driveline, converted by Race Products Queensland to a full-floater deal with an LSD and 3.55:1 gearing.
Now that the build is complete, Bendigo locals can verify that Charlie loves to get the ’Cuda out for a drive. “I almost use it as a second daily; I love getting it out and using it all the time,” he says. “To me, you really have to use these cars to get the most out of them, and the whole reason I built it was so I could drive it.”
While it’s a driver first and foremost, Charlie reckons the ’Cuda might just hit the strip at some point. “I used to race my old AP6 at Heathcote when I was younger and got a best of a 12.9 back in the day with its 318, so I am tempted to try this one out – it should at least run a 13,” he says. “But my plan now it just to enjoy it with my wife, and so far it’s been great.”
1965 Plymouth Barracuda
|Paint:||BMW Mineral Metallic Grey|
|Induction:||Edelbrock RPM Air Gap|
|ECU:||MSD Atomic EFI|
|Camshaft:||Crow Cams 110º LSA|
|Crank:||Scat 3.58in stroker|
|Oil pump:||Melling high-volume|
|Fuel system:||In-tank pump, 98 PULP|
|Gearbox:||TKO600 five-speed manual|
|Clutch:||Hemi Performance HD 10in|
|Diff:||8¾in, 3.55:1 gears|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||Magnum Force front end, Viking coil-overs|
|Rear:||XV Racing three-link, Viking coil-overs|
|Brakes:||Wilwood discs and four-piston calipers (f & r)|
|Master cylinder:||Classic Industries|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||US Mags Rambler; 17×7 (f), 17×8 (r)|
|Rubber:||Falken; 225/45R17 (f), 245/45R17 (r)|