When Eric Bardekoff, proprietor of EB Custom Works and NMRA Edelbrock Renegade competitor, got his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda back in his freshman year of high school, he had lofty dreams of building a cool street cruiser and taking it on epic road trips. Now, a decade later, he’s finally moving forward with his vision.
Growing up, Bardekoff’s life mostly involved Mopars. He developed an affinity for the cool classics, but grew to love the new technology found in late-model Mustangs as well. Originally, his plan was to put a twin-turbo Gen 3 HEMI into the ‘Cuda, but things have taken a turn over time and now he’s going forward with a bait-and-switch plan to confuse fans instead.
From the factory, the ’68 Cuda Super Stock came with a 426ci HEMI, 4-speed transmission, Dana 60 rear, a coat of primer and a black front end. Bardekoff is going to keep the aesthetics the same to honor the car’s heritage, but has quite a jaw-dropping surprise ready to go under the hood…
“I’m putting in a Shelby GT350 engine that I’ve got with big ol’ race cams and a 2.9L Whipple supercharger,” laughed Bardekoff, who not only knows he’s going to piss off a lot of purists, but actually embraces that attitude as well. “It’s one of the most iconic Mopars ever, and they’re gonna lift the hood and see a Coyote! It’s the ultimate F-U vehicle to Mopar.”
Bardekoff knows himself well enough to put strict, self-imposed limitations on the build so it doesn’t accidentally on purpose slip into full-on racecar mode, as he’s already got “plenty” of those. [Editor’s note: There’s no such thing as “enough race cars,” folks.] His moderate goal of 800 horsepower on E85 fuel seems easily attainable, while still keeping it a low-budget project.
“It’s going to be a street car, but I still built a pretty radical roll bar for it that’s stronger than most 8.50 cages,” noted the builder, who added a dash bar that’s tied into the transmission crossmember which is also tied into the subframe, and so on and so on. “I’m trying to limit myself to a 10.0 car, but I’m sure it’ll be able to go well into the 8s.”
Helping keep his plan in perspective, Bardekoff is committed to using as many spare components and pieces from the parts bin as he possibly can. He’s gathered a plethora of things from his racecars and street cars over the years, and is finally putting it all to good use through the good ol’ “weld, grind, and make it work” method.
The engine itself will remain mostly stock and will keep the factory variable cam timing (VCT) system, and a T56 manual transmission with dual-disc Spec clutch will back it up. Custom-made engine plates and solid transmission mounts mean the driver will feel every vibration, while a set of custom headers audibly display the horsepower. Finally, a fabricated Ford 9-inch rearend and four-link suspension setup with coilovers ensure the car will hook well, yet still ride smoothly on the streets.
Bardekoff has the car on a rotisserie at the moment, as he’ll be clearcoating its underside and he has taken great care to ensure the street car will still be show car-quality.
The metalwork has all been finished, including a removable transmission tunnel that he fabricated as he had to raise the original to accommodate the transmission. “The firewall has been shaved, and everything has been hidden,” added the fabricator, who will be grafting in a ‘50s-era Dodge dash as well. “It’ll still have turn signals, a full interior with sound deadening, stereo system, horn, windshield wipers, and the rest.”
Inside, a set of Sparco racing seats that Bardekoff grabbed from his wife Steph’s Fox Body Mustang actually were originally given to her by Jack Roush Jr, and Bardekoff is pumped to have a piece of history ride along in his Plymouth.
With disc brakes all around and 15-inch steelie-style wheels in the back to keep the ‘Cuda low-key (and so that Bardekoff can reuse his discarded race tires for burnouts), the Mopar will also have a full exhaust complete with X-pipe and mufflers to ensure the car is completely legal when he inevitably gets pulled over.
“I just want to jump in and be able to go to California and back if I want,” said Bardekoff excitedly. “I’ll be road-tripping this car everywhere. I wanted to run Pike’s Peak with it, and I’ll probably do the Hot Rod Power Tour, too, to experience the whole country with it.”
Sticking with his racing roots, though, Bardekoff definitely plans on bringing the stick-shifted, Whipple-supercharged, and Coyote-swapped Pro Touring-style Barracuda to some NMCA events to run TorqStorm Superchargers True Street and can’t wait to see the look on peoples’ faces when he pops the hood in public.