Raschel Adams never had much of a chance to turn out to be anything but a gearhead. Her dad, Richard Culp of Benton, made sure of it.
“He’s taken me to car shows since he could get me in a stroller,” she said.
Just how profoundly was she influenced by her dad’s love of cars?
“I did plan my wedding around the Mopar Nationals,” she admitted, referring to the annual drag race and exhibition catering to aficionados of Chrysler-brand vehicles. The event is held in Columbus, Ohio.
Not only his love of cars in general but of one make and model in particular has rubbed off on her. Father and daughter each have a classic Plymouth Barracuda.
The cars are fraternal, not identical, twins. Both are a shade of blue, but one is a second-generation and the other a third-generation model of the car that was built by Plymouth from 1964 to ‘74.
The Barracuda was Plymouth’s representative in the “pony car” category that emerged in 1964. It was the Ford Mustang that is considered progenitor of the genre, but the ‘Cuda actually went on sale a few weeks before the iconic Mustang and three years before Chevrolet’s Camaro.
While the Mustang went on to become one of the world’s greatest automobile icons, the Barracuda found its own niche. It appealed to those who liked the idea of a compact sports coupe, but wanted something other than the mainstream-favorite Ford and Chevy models, and to those loyal to the Chrysler brands.
The Barracuda’s cousin, the Dodge Challenger, has been resurrected in a modern version. However, the Plymouth marque is now obsolete, with Chrysler discontinuing the brand in 2001. The Barracudas from the 1960s and ‘70s are the only ones that will ever exist.
Culp is doing his part to keep the orphan model alive and well.
“The only cars he’s ever had in his name are ‘Cudas,” Raschel insists.
Culp, 61, confirms that he has owned Barracudas of 1973, ’72, ’74 and ’67 vintage. The ’74 is his present ride, and the ’67 is Raschel’s.
Both cars have been meticulously groomed. They are not authentic restorations or pristine originals; they are quintessential street machines of Culp’s generation, modified and repainted to suit the individual owner’s preferences, without concern for pedigree or potential value to a buyer.
They are both useful and ornamental – as transportation for daily utility and carefree cruising, and as shiny exhibits in car shows, from local get-togethers to national events such as the Mopar Nationals. It’s a family activity that sometimes includes the wife and mom, Wanda, as a not-so-addicted participant.
Culp’s ’74 has a front license plate that proclaims “HEMI” in reference to the iconic Chrysler hemispherical-head engine. Some of those massive 426-cubic-inch powerplants were indeed installed in Barracudas, but Culp’s has a present-generation 6.1-liter model, approximately 372 cubic inches.
Likewise, Raschel’s ’67 also has a replacement engine, a 360-cubic-inch V8 transplanted from a 2002 Dodge Ram pickup.
Culp credited Ricky Castleberry, Jim and Jef DeFew, Steve Darnall and the staff at DeFew’s Custom Painting and Body Shop in Draffenville for their help working on the ‘Cudas.
Culp operates Home Dish Systems, a satellite television installation service, out of his home, near the Briensburg community on U.S. Highway 68. Raschel operates Adams Photography.
Culp’s Barracuda was one of the last to roll off the assembly line. The car was manufactured in the final month of production for the ‘Cuda.
In addition to putting the car on display at shows, he competes in autocross events, a timed competition on a scaled-down road course.
Raschel got her car as a 16th birthday present in July 2003. Last year, there was a frantic thrash to complete a renovation project in time for the Mopar Nationals.
“In less than five weeks, we installed the engine, the upholstery, everything,” Culp said. Some of the components, he said, were painted “the week before we left for the nationals.”
She also took the car to the 2012 Speedway Nationals show at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and got the opportunity to drive the Barracuda around the famous century-old racetrack.
The father-daughter Barracuda team may be expanding. Raschel’s husband, Jeremiah, was in on the renovation of her car.
He has a T-shirt that reads, “My Wife Drives One Mean ‘Cuda – and I Hang On.”
But he’s ready to move beyond that status.
“I told her now that we’re done with her car,” he said, “it’s my turn.”