Hey, I’m Duane and a lifelong car guy.
As a kid, I played with toy cars. Rather than crash them, I built roads and propelled them along the floor pretending to drive. I accumulated different toy cars from Hot Wheels, Corgi, and Jo-Han. As both I and my car collection grew, I rotated through them, playing with one series then another.
Later I transitioned to building car models. I was a perfectionist and sometimes built a second identical model to correct my first-build mistakes. I also identified cars while standing on the school bus stop and usually beat any challenger.
Turning 16, I combined savings of $1200 with $300 from my father to purchase my first car, a four-year-old 1971 Plymouth Barracuda. A basic version with power steering as its only power feature, it had drum brakes at all four wheels without power assist, column-shift automatic transmission, and a high-back sporty bench seat with center armrest.
1971 Plymouth Barracuda, “The Pickle” (scan of photo from 1975)
The Barracuda was green. Medium green metallic outside, medium green vinyl inside. That all-green Barracuda quickly earned the nickname “The Pickle”. I’m not sure whether my sister or her friend came up with the name, but it stuck. I despised the name because it demasculinized the car, but now “The Pickle” makes me smile.
Powered by a 318CI V8 engine with 2-bbl carburetor, it briefly squealed one tire accelerating from a standstill. I inverted the air cleaner lid for a more aggressive sound. My driving style did not match well with that stripped-down Barracuda. Nor did it brake gracefully. Those manual drum brakes were harder to modulate and quick to prematurely lock up in the rear. No one wants to hear tire screeching, especially from a 16-year-old kid behind the wheel. I got my share of dirty looks on those occasions and longed for a more capable car.
I also learned to be cautious after driving the Barracuda through standing water. Don’t expect to stop afterwards as four-wheel drum brakes are slower to dry out. I considered spending money to make the Barracuda more exciting but instead chose to patiently save the money for a better car.
Next week meet that better car, one far cooler than “The Pickle”. Thanks, and always drive with allure!