BY VAL SCHOGER PHOTOS BY ERIC MARCUS
When Jimmy and Dianne Southall travel in their cars, they are certain to turn heads.“His” car is a 1972 Plymouth Barracuda and “her” car is a brand new 2015 SRT Dodge Challenger. They look great next to each other.
Of course, the Barracuda attracts the most attention.It is much-coveted among collectors but Jimmy Southall drives it like a regular car. “I have been driving it since 1975 and am still an active driver.I put around 175,000 miles on it and it is not a “trailer queen.” It is never trailered to car shows, always driven.But other than that it stays in town most of the time.It is geared for acceleration and is really not suitable for sustained interstate speeds.”
Jimmy Southall, an engineer with Panhandle Engineering in Lynn Haven, tells us that this model Barracuda was only made for four years from 1970 to 1974.It was the end of the muscle car era. The Plymouth brand went out of business in 2001 and the Chrysler Corporation has not used the Barracuda name since 1974.
“If Chrysler would come out with a new Barracuda, there would be outrage unless they did it right. There are rumors that they are planning on bringing it back but we only have seen artist concept drawings. I would have to have one if they came out with a new Barracuda,” says Jimmy Southall.
Just recently, they bought a new Challenger to replace a previous year’s model Challenger as Dianne’s daily drive. “With 485 HP, the SRT Challenger is scary fast.We have not even started to learn everything about it.” Dianne, an attorney with the Public Defender office, drives the Challenger to work every day. “I am always getting comments on it, which makes it even more fun to drive,” Dianne says.
Jimmy adds, “There is nothing like the sound of an American V-8 engine when it is accelerating.But you have to be careful with it.It’s like a loaded gun.”
For the Southalls, the most attractive elements are visual.“We like the new Challenger so much because it has the same roofline and a similar look as the Barracuda. Of course, the Challenger is a much bigger car.It has been built for eight years now and we are not sure how much longer they will keep building it,” Jimmy explains.
Jimmy’s Barracuda has a 300 HP engine and a 4-speed transmission, pistol grip shifter and louver rear window. It has been repainted and the original engine was replaced with a bigger engine and new transmission. The hood with the twin scoops is original but the side stripe was added after the car was repainted in 1980. “While I have done a lot of modifications to the car, I have only used stock parts that you could have bought back in the day,” says Jimmy.
Jimmy and Dianne share the enthusiasm for fast and beautiful cars. Dianne remembers, “My very first car was a 1966 Chevelle SS396 in silver and black.It was one of the hottest cars around.I loved it. Back then I wanted to drive the latest and greatest.Jimmy has always stayed true to his Barracuda.But, when we started a family, I gave up on the sports car,” and she adds with a smile, “Jimmy loves his cars and I love him.”
Both are members of the Florida Mopar club.The club has been in existence for seven years. The Southalls frequently participate in the Mopar car shows. “I started going to the Mopar Nationals Car Show back in the 90s in Ohio and had made a banner for the side of my car that said ‘Mopar Florida.’ When our club members saw the pictures from the event, they started calling me the original,” Jimmy says with a chuckle.
The Barracuda has won him a roomful of awards. The most special award was given to him by Mopar legend, Jim Wellborn.
Jimmy gives us some insight on the Plymouth Barracuda. “There were around 70,000 Barracudas built and probably half of them are gone. There were only a few that were built with the Hemi engine. When I was younger I would have never thought I would have a car with a Hemi engine until they started building these new ones. The old Hemis are like rolling real estate nowadays. They are very valuable.People try to make an offer on the Barracuda all the time but I am not interested in talking about selling it. I don’t even have an idea what the real value is. I would never part with my 1975 Barracuda.It is like family.”
Jimmy and Dianne can tell many stories of adventures that involve their cars and some are all about car parts. “I have followed Jimmy around to all the junkyards and we have seen quite a bit of the countryside while looking for parts. He would be gone all day looking for the right parts and he would come back with a handful of metal pieces that did not look like much to me but were pure gold to him,” says Dianne.
“The muscle car era ended in the early 70s, but we are in a new and more powerful muscle car era now. The Barracuda is “Old School” while the Challenger is “High Tech,” Jimmy reflects.
While the cars have changed, Dianne knows that people who love cars have not.“It’s mostly young guys in the car clubs today. We have one young Challenger owner in the Mopar Club who is right out of high school and owns a 2009 Challenger that he is very enthusiastic about. It is neat to see someone young so enthusiastic, just like we were with our first cars. Car people just have big hearts. They love people and people who love cars.Everywhere you go you will strike up a conversation. We like the stories, we like talking to people. There is always a story.Cars bring people together from all walks of life and everyone has an appreciation for cars.”
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