Automotive trends in the early-mid 1960s had all the U.S. manufacturers looking at making sporty compact cars. Chrysler's A-body Plymouth Valiant was chosen for the company's efforts in this direction.
Ford's Mustang, which significantly outsold the Barracuda, gave to this type of vehicle its colloquial name "pony car", but the Barracuda fastback's release on 1 April 1964 beat the Mustang by two weeks.
Plymouth's executives had wanted to name the car Panda, an idea that was unpopular with the car's designers. In the end, John Samsen's suggestion of Barracuda was selected.
The Barracuda used the Valiant's 106 in (2,692 mm) wheelbase and the Valiant hood, headlamp bezels, windshield, vent windows, quarter panels and bumpers; all other sheet metal and glass was new. This hybrid design approach significantly reduced the development and tooling cost and time for the new model. The fastback body shape was achieved primarily with a giant backlight, which wrapped down to the fender line.
Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) collaborated with Chrysler designers to produce this 14.4 ft² (1.33 m²) rear window, the largest ever installed on a standard production car up to that time.
The Barracuda was able to return the Valiant's favor the next year, when the fenders and tail lamps that had been introduced on the 1964 Barracuda were used on the whole 1965 Valiant range except for the wagon.
Powertrains were identical to the Valiant's, including two versions of Chrysler's slant-6 six-cylinder engine. The standard-equipment engine had a piston displacement of 170 cu in (2.8 L) and an output of 101 bhp (75 kW); the 225 cu in (3.7 L) option raised the power output to 145 bhp (108 kW).
The highest power option for 1964 was Chrysler's all-new 273 cu in (4.5 L) LA V8. A compact and relatively light engine equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor, it produced 180 bhp (130 kW). The Barracuda sold for a base price of US$2,512.
1964 was not only the first year for the Barracuda, but also the last year for push-button control of the optional Torqueflite automatic transmission, so 1964 models were the only Barracudas so equipped.
In 1965, the 225 slant-6 became the base engine in the US market, though the 170 remained the base engine in Canada.
Source: Wikipedia, 2011