Herlitz and Sampson advanced the fluid look, while Matsurra's clays carried a more muscular motif. "We started somewhat conservatively, with variations on the current Barracuda theme," Antonick says. "We then deliberately pushed the design theme as far toward a fluid, muscular look as possible." The teams discovered that doing so only exaggerated the idea.
After numerous cycles of sketches and clays, the teams narrowed it down from four designs to two. Both the Plymouth and Dodge studios viewed the proposals. "I saw them," Cameron says, "and they were beautiful. Matty Matsurra did beautiful body sides. They were neat, and I liked them."
The final proposal for the '75 Barracuda was actually a blend of both designs. "Because we had two models," Antonick says, "we retained a variation of the Barracuda's fender forms on one clay, and tried to enhance it in the other." The vestiges of the '70 to '74 'Cuda fender forms were still intact, while the fluid look was evident in the rolling quarter-panels and hood.
The End Cometh-In Cincinnati, OHIOIn the fall of 1969, the final '75 designs were approved, and the clays were transferred to a fiberglass body, which was then trimmed to look like a completed car. This prototype was then taken to Cincinnati, Ohio, for viewing by a consumer survey group. The results were not good. "That wild body went to Cincinnati of all places, and it was a disaster," remembers Antonick. "I came back from Cincinnati and realized it was all over; management didn't want musclecars anymore. It was the saddest day of my career at Chrysler." As if an omen, the "Cincinnati car" unfortunately fell off a forklift during transport and was damaged.
It was obvious that management had stacked the deck against the Barracuda by using the conservative Cincinnati survey group. If the car had gone to Los Angeles, for example, it would have received a positive rating, which was not what Chrysler wanted. Although the studio was instructed to prepare some "nose jobs" for the current car to extend its life beyond 1974, it was clear to many in the Plymouth Design Studio that the Barracuda's fate was cursed.
Cancelling their ponycar program would prove to be a colossal mistake. The ponycar market enjoyed a tremendous resurgence from the mid-'70s to the early-'80s, and the fact that Dodge and Plymouth were not there to share in the bounty proves just how out of touch Chrysler was. "Unfortunately," observes Cameron, "back then we always went after the basic transportation guys, and left the specialty market and high-level, high-profit items to General Motors and Ford."
Would the radically redesigned '75 Barracuda and Challenger have shared in the revitalized ponycar market? The clays indicate an aggressive, exciting car that would have dated the Firebird and Camaro, making them obsolete. "I think our cars would have been competitive," Cameron says. "We would have kept the market share we had."
A Missed OpportunityBut would the hypothetical success of Chrysler's ponycars have prevented the corporation's bankruptcy? While the question will never be answered, enough factors exist to make a valid argument that Chrysler certainly would have been financially healthier. GM's decision to retain its ponycars proved to be profitable. At it's lowest point in 1973, Pontiac's Firebird sold just 29,951 units. By 1979, sales exploded to more than 211,000 (accounting for two out of every five Pontiacs sold). What makes this all the more amazing is that Pontiac's marketing group recommended killing the Firebird when it was on the ropes in 1972, in favor of smaller, more conservative models. The decision to keep the Firebird ultimately played a major role in Pontiac's survival.