Have you done any upgrades or improvements to your car yet this winter? I have not been able to yet. I have been working on my Mustang more than my Barracuda, don't ask me why? After I get the Stang running again, I have a travel trailer to work on for a while, and then it's full steam ahead on the Barracuda. I'm still looking for a rolling body that's already been tubbed for racing. Man, watching some of the Barret Jackson auto auctions blows me away. Some awesome vehicles go for next to nothing.
This is my first update to this review of my '71 Barracuda. I provided some better description of driving the car in the "Hot Wheels" review in the comment from 26 February, 2006. Those comments were based on driving in my youth, and now I enjoy the car for different reasons than just going fast. Yes, it was, and probably still is, an extremely fast car with tons of power and acceleration, and it still feels like sitting on a case of dynamite, or a blood-crazed animal on a weak leash. But, I now find it to be even more fun to purr along the back roads, enraptured by the idea of an (almost) 40 year old car that runs and drives so nicely. It's old enough to not be subjected to the indignity of having to shred the tires at every stop sign.
Long periods of inactivity had taken a toll on this car. This past July, the car had a nasty backfire that resulted in melting the wiring harness and ruining the carburetor. I suspected that the floats had become saturated, but it seems as though someone may have messed with the timing as well.
So, I bought a new Holley 600 cfm 4-barrel with electric choke, and a new Mopar Electronic Ignition conversion kit, and new engine wiring harness from Year One. The wiring harness reproduction is great, exactly like the original, and plugged in to all the right places with the correct wire colors. The new Holley 600 is a lot nicer than the old ones, in my opinion, because you don't fool with setting the float levels or mixture screws. It really did come ready to run out of the box, and the electric choke makes it start like an actual car, instead of some Mad Max road warrior hulk, in which you had to pump and pump and then keep it revved up until it would idle. The new style actually has a fast idle, and automatically goes to curb idle as the choke pulls off, and starts the first time, much better than the old style Holley 4-barrel. I'm almost glad it burned up...
The engine fire made me do a lot of catch-up maintenance, since it was obvious that a lot of deterioration had occurred over the years. I installed a new starter, replacing the original. New battery clamps as well. The plug wires were burned up, so had to be replaced as well.
The main piece of work, besides the carburetor and new distributor, was the timing, since it seemed to have inexplicably gotten off since the last time I put it away, so I had to go through the process of manually finding TDC, chalking up the timing marks, rotating the distributor (it was 90° off -- I mean, how in the world does that happen??), and then re-wiring the plug wires into the right holes. All I had available for timing was an old-style 2-lead timing light, although it worked effectively. I put it at slightly before 10° BTDC, and it seems quite happy there, in that it starts the first time, hot or cold, and does not ping on acceleration or hills.
Next, I bled the old brake fluid out of the lines and master cylinder, and greased the tie rod ends and ball joints. The car still has no rust on it, or at least only surface rust on the frame. Well, it almost goes without saying that the trunk deck is rusted through underneath the vinyl top below the rear window. The new carburetor is slightly different than my former Holley 600, so a transmission kickdown rod adjustment was necessary. The 727 Auto transmission is still tight and crisp, with 106,000 miles on it.
With the new carburetor, and correct timing, along with a partial tune-up (everything except new plugs), the car seems to run better than it ever has, or at least better than it has in the last 15 years. It starts easily, no need to keep it revved up to idle, and it just runs beautifully. It's always a pleasure to drive, even doing 50 mph on the back roads.
The bucket seats are comfortable, and put your body squarely behind the wheel in a way that most cars don't do, making you feel as though you're really part of the car, and you move with it. You barely have to touch the throttle to get up to highway speed, and although there is always a low, throaty growl from the 340, it seems to diminish into a low drone at state highway speed (55 mph). There also seems to have been an improvement in gas mileage. When I used to drive it regularly in the '90s, I seem to recall getting close to 20 mpg on the highway because of the tall rear end gearing. Last year, I was only getting 11-12.5 mpg on backroad driving, consisting of short trips at around 50 mph with a stop sign every few miles. After all the recent work, I got 15.6 mpg in the same driving conditions, though I didn't get a chance to record any highway mileage.
I love the car, and am considering making it my "nice day" daily driver. I hate to risk it on the street, because I could never afford to buy another one if somebody hit it, but then what good is it when it sits in a shed and the mice eat it up, the rubber rots away, and everything corrodes and deteriorates? Still, the hydraulic drum brakes tend to make me think that this is not a good "driving to work in suburban traffic" car, and that it's best suited for cruising on deserted state and county highways. It's definitely a car that makes you feel alive, and makes you smile every time you drive it.
It's been a while hey 340. Sounds like you've been busy at work on your car. Very nice!
I am the original reviewer/owner of this car, and am providing a one-year update (minus a couple of weeks). I was able to drive the car for a week this summer, and put about 225 extremely enjoyable miles on it. Driving conditions were county roads with a stop sign every few miles, and state highways with speeds of about 55 mph, and gas mileage was 17.5 mpg. The car drives just beautifully under those conditions, cruising along at about 1,800 rpm's with the low, throaty drone of the 340.
I changed the oil after realizing that it had been several years since I changed it. Only about 2,500 miles, but several years, and it was indeed getting sludgy. I had been using Mobil 1 15W-50, but replaced it with Mobil 1 10W-30 out of fear that I would clog the hydraulic lifters with the heavier stuff, especially sitting for extended periods. I might have used the 15W-50 before because of the higher temperatures and more severe usage that I expected for the 340, but for the way I drive it now, it doesn't seem necessary.
Initially the car wouldn't start, and I finally realized that the rubber fuel line upstream from the filter had been scorched by the fire, and had degraded over the winter, so the fuel pump was sucking air. A new length of rubber fuel line remedied that problem.
Bleeding the brakes definitely helped, as the car used to sway or lurch a bit upon braking, but now all the cylinders behave evenly and the car stops in a straight line. Of course, with drum brakes, that takes a bit longer, and it was hard for me to adjust to leaving the right amount of extra stopping distance when coming up to stop signs in the country. I was consistently overshooting the stop line by a few feet, though not when any other traffic was around.
The new Holly 600 with automatic choke continues to do a great job. I attribute the good gas mileage mostly to it, and I love the automatic choke. It really is a great feeling to have the car start with the first turn of the key, something we take for granted with fuel injection, but was something of a rarity in the days of carburetion. Back in those days, if you had a car that started with the first turn of the key, it was something to brag about to your friends, and they would listen in awe, as it was generally a sign of a meticulously maintained car, or just one that was "put together right."
My goal was to drive it until the smell of burned rubber and plastic had been dissipated by the wind, and I achieved that. The last thing I had to repair from the engine fire was to epoxy the windshield washer tank nipple back into the body of the tank. The old plastic had broken when I attempted to remove the rubber hose while removing the old, burned wiring harness. That repair was completed, so now I have the foot-operated washer pump working again. This is one of the simple things that I love about this car, although its lack of sophistication would also keep it from being driven in modern traffic, especially because of the hydraulic drum brakes.
I enjoyed driving the car so much, and it performed so well, that I nearly decided to cancel my return flight and drive it the thousand miles back home to use as my weekend and daily driver. It was awfully sad to park it for another year, but the practical considerations finally prevailed over the emotional appeal of this car, which really is very strong. When I bought it at age 18 in 1987, it was just another 16-year-old car and not worth anything (I paid $950 for it). I bought it because I liked it at first sight, and knew it was the car for me, and the fact that they have skyrocketed in value, even a base model like mine, is mildly interesting, but I would love it the same whether it was "valued" at $1,000 or $30,000.
I am the owner and original reviewer of this car, providing a one-year update. There is not much to add, since the car has been in storage for the past year. I had the opportunity to put another very enjoyable 200-plus miles on the car while on vacation. The car runs and drives great, no problems, and the engine fire from 2 1/2 years ago is all but forgotten and replaced by experiences of trouble-free operation and pleasant cruising this year and last year.
My 200 miles of driving were done over the space of about three days on state and county highways, with beautiful autumn scenery; great conditions to enjoy this car. I can't add anything to my previous thoughts on driving enjoyment, just that the car seems more dependable and less "moody" than before the engine fire. The electric choke and new Holley 4-barrel continue to do a great job. Although it's not practical for everyday city driving where I usually live, it's perfect for country driving, and I like the thought that the car is dependable enough that I could fly in and drive it anywhere I wanted to if needed.
I'll likely not provide further updates unless something significant happens.