Early Valiant Barracuda Club


Clif Winters' 1965 Barracuda

Clif Winters (Da-Veep!) bought his Formula S Barracuda almost 30 years ago, when it was "just a car." He and the 'Cuda' have vigorously enjoyed well over 1/4 million miles of daily abuse, on road and off. "Back in the mid 70's I could regularly be seen leaving Burger King on Central Ave. on cruise night, fish tailing sideways. I've run off the road a number of times spinning out in the desert." And sometimes it's intentional, as well. He somewhat sheepishly admitted that he punctured a gas tank while enjoying a recent off-roading adventure.


Barracuda trunk strut273 Commando 4BblBut consider that all these photos are current. How does he keep it looking so good? "I've broken all sorts of parts with my antics. But I tenderly care for and repair the ol' cuda after the street battles. Because I enjoy doing just that!" While he has taken pains to keep it nearly immaculate, he nevertheless seems a little surprised to discover that it has become a collector's item during his tenure of ownership.

Clif can't quite figure out why people are overrating his car. "I don't want a museum piece! There are people who have told me I should be careful and not drive fast as to preserve this old classic... 273 undersidebut it is meant to be driven pedal to the metal." Why else would someone own this car, he wonders, than to have fun with it? "I don't do this for investment, or to make money." Fun, he added, is a primary way to keep us feeling young. "When I get in my 65 Barracuda and the key turns, and the throaty sound of the Commando vibrates though my body, and my hand grasps the big ball atop the HURST shifter... I'm 16 again!"

Carpeting seems to play a big role in Clif's life. When asked if there really is carpeting on his garage floor, he said well, that's not actually the garage, that's the 'Cuda Room' behind the house. "But yes, the 'Cuda' is always parked on carpet when it sleeps. There has been many a time while working under the 'Cuda', I too have fallen asleep on the carpet!" A piece of carpeting is useful to keep the car from being scratched when lifted with a floor jack, too. And then he added with a grin, "I'm sure you can figure out what direction the soft side faces!"

Toyz 4 Totz preparationsBetween the obvious care that Clif takes of his cars, and his active stance in providing helpful suggestions on our Early Cuda mailing list, it's clear that he enjoys pampering. Every year for the past 15 years or so, he enlists the help of friends and business acquaintances to fill his 'Cuda Sled' all the way up to the back window with toys, and one huge stuffed animal to ride shotgun, then makes a 100-mile round trip to a dropoff point in Wickenburg, AZ. Seeing the kids yell out in delight is a wonderful bonus. "It sure makes me feel good Christmas morning to know there are many smiling kids that otherwise may not have gotten a thing." He then added, "NO kid should do without at least one NEW toy this Christmas season."

What's next for Clif? He said he really wants to get back into racing again. Partly it's for the fun, and partly it's to try to let go of living with a broken heart. He didn't really want to talk about it much, except that he really misses his ex, and especially the opportunity to pamper her as he does everything else in life. But time is an ally, and by keeping himself focused on something he likes and which takes great attention to detail, he's hoping to absorb himself in memories of a different nature.

63 Valiant and 66 BarracudaAnd how different they are. Clif really came alive even more than usual, as he dug through old photographs. One of his favorites was a 63 Valiant with a 65 Cuda front clip, powered by a potent 340. Aren't those cars sometimes too potent to drive on the street? "Gosh, I drove mine on the street, and being able to run 11.07 at the strip let me have all kinds of fun on the street. I use to like to run into the TideWater Corvette Club... With my 63 Valiant!" It wasn't quite as potent as his brother's 66 Cuda though... "My brother's cuda has a 340 Six Pac.... he was no push over."

Suffolk raceway

340 engine340 in a 63 Valiant with 65 Cuda front clipRacing is likely to be a more honest sport for Clif now than it used to be. "I cheated back then," he laughed, as he recalled a 69 Dart Swinger 340 4 speed car with 273 commando valve covers, and 273 badges on the front fenders. Even with the removed rear stripe and front hood badges, when it came time for a showdown, a competitor probably didn't take long to realize there was more than just a 273 under the hood.

Much to the chagrin of many Club members, Clif is considering racing his 'Cuda', which is what he originally intended to do with it all those years ago. But since he kept putting it off, and it has somehow become a classic while he wasn't paying attention, at this point he admitted he will likely limit his modifications to bolt-in parts, no wheel tubbing. Building another 340 seems like a sure bet, and Clif wants us to rest assured that none of the original 273 Commando stuff will be thrown away. Above all, he hopes we'll remember that, "It's only a car! Besides, I bought it for fun, not to make a 'shrine' out of it."

Becca and Clif, with twin Cudas

(Club members Becca and Clif)
Clif mentioned that meeting members of the Early Valiant Barracuda Club has been a wonderful way to rekindle his own interest in the old 'Cuda' again. "Got to say I am impressed with the fine machinery so many of you have owned. Great to be part of this group."


Clif's Cuda, as seen from Becca's
65 Cuda license plate
Ah, Clif… whether you think it's a shrine or not, you and your 'Cuda' do us proud. Thanks for letting us drool on it!
(Clif's Cuda, as seen from Becca's)

Early Valiant Barracuda Club
Story by Erik Ievins. Photos courtesy of Clif Winters.
More photos available at Clif's Personal Car Page