Which Was Chrysler’s Best Classic Muscle Car?

To answer the question of which muscle car is best, the Challenger or the Barracuda, the word ‘best’ needs to be clearly defined. Is it speed, raw muscle power, longevity, or is it appearance that is the determining factor?

The classic Challengers and Barracudas were so similar in both looks and build, we need to determine which years are the ‘classic’ years. It makes sense to compare the Challengers which were built between 1970 and 1974 (first generation) and the Barracudas that were built between 1968 and 1974. Looking at years before or after would make comparison difficult. A deeper dive into the differences is necessary to get a firm grasp on which Chrysler muscle car was the best. There are specifics that guide some down the Challenger path while others take the slightly less traveled Barracuda road. Regardless, both vehicles have their strong suit that does sway classic muscle car enthusiasts one way or another.


The factors: speed, muscle power, longevity, and appearance all contribute to the perceived values ​​of these classic beauties and ultimately to which is considered the best car. The fact that Dodge did not die out like the Plymouth brand potentially plays a role in determining the best. Not only has the Dodge brand persevered, but it has also prospered, as has the Challenger. The Challenger evolved through three generations for a total of 23 production years. This is quite a feat. The Barracuda also had a long run on the market, as it was manufactured from 1964 to 1974.

Let’s compare them!


Comparisons Under The Hood

The 1973 base hardtop models for both the Barracuda and the Challenger included a 318 V-8 with a manual 3 speed transmission. The Barracuda would theoretically top out at 114 mph, while the Challenger’s top speed was 113 mph. The Barracuda was an entire second faster for achieving 100 mph. But for all intents and purposes, when it comes to the engine and speed-related performances, the two vehicles are in a dead heat. To further this point, both base models in 1974 had the same 318 V-8 engine. Please keep in mind that we are comparing the base models, so it is entirely possible that either car could have an advantage in a race should a larger V-8 be installed.


Exterior Reviews

With regards to the body of the Plymouth Barracuda, the first generation was a fastback version of the Plymouth Valiant. In many respects the versions of the Barracuda were marketed as more of a family car. Something that is kind of sporty but can be used to haul kids around in. It was not a bad car but did not appear at first glance to be an actual muscle car. This changed with the 1967 model. The car morphed in to shape that many car enthusiasts are more familiar with, as it has a more masculine yet somewhat sleek look. Gone was the rounded back window as was replaced with a more standard looking rear window.


In 1970 the Dodge Challenger was released. It looked very similar to the Plymouth Barracuda but was just a bit bigger frame-wise. How confusing would this be to the public? One company that owns two divisions, each division is competing with one another with a remarkably similar car. Some feel that this was marketing at its finest. For Chrysler it was a win-win situation. The beauty of it all is that the cars could share parts, resulting in less money being spent on unique parts, helping to drive profit for each unit sold.

The most noticeable visual difference between the Barracuda and the Challenger, at least from the front view, are the headlights. Except for the 71 Barracuda, the Barracuda always had 2 headlights. The first-generation Challenger had a total of four headlights. So when it comes to looks, it comes down to personal preference as to which car is the best.


Longevity Comparisons

Even though we are comparing the classic Challenger and the classic Barracuda, it would not hurt to consider the fact that the Challenger had been produced over twice as long as the Barracuda. Does this mean the Challenger was a better vehicle? It could, but not necessarily. It was not until 2008 that the 3rd generation of Challengers hit the market. Chrysler probably knew that Pontiac was going to fold so that is why they introduced the next generation of Challenger. Maybe if Dodge went under in 2008 a new generation of Plymouth Barracudas would have hit the streets.

RELATED: Here’s What the Sickest Modded Dodge Challengers Look Like

What Does Chrysler Think?

It seems obvious that the second generation of the Barracuda was meant to be Plymouth’s answer to the pony car competition. It did so well that Dodge started off with a Challenger model that paralleled in many respects the Barracuda. Why should Chrysler start from scratch when they already had a good thing going? Not only did Plymouth already have their muscle car in place, but they also had the better name. Barracuda sounds faster and meaner in comparison to Challenger. The name Challenger makes sense as it was created to challenge the Barracuda. So, which car is the best? Flip a coin and you will have your answer.


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