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Richard Petty's 1965 Plymouth Barracuda A/FX Surfaces in a Junkyard, It's a Total Wreck

Richard Petty is mainly known for his career as a NASCAR driver. And that's not surprising given the countless achievements he added to his name in 34 years on the oval track. With 200 career wins, seven Cup Series championships, and a record seven wins at Daytona, Richard Petty is one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time. But the North Carolina-born ace tackled other series as well.
Richard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI Barracuda 8 photos
Photo: Mopar Connection Magazine/YouTube/Chrysler
Richard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI BarracudaRichard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI BarracudaRichard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI BarracudaRichard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI BarracudaRichard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI BarracudaRichard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI BarracudaRichard Petty's 1965 Plymouth HEMI Barracuda
From 1973 to 1978, Petty competed in the International Race of Champions. He wasn't very successful, but he scored a couple of podiums driving for Chevrolet. He returned in 1989 for his final season with the American brand. But did you know that Richard also had a brief career in drag racing? It happened in the mid-1960s and resulted from a controversial decision by NASCAR owner Bill France.

Specifically, following a 1964 season dominated by Petty and Chrysler's then-new 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI V8, France decided to outlaw the engine for 1965. Rather than switching manufacturers, Richard skipped the 1965 NASCAR season and went drag racing. And his car of choice was a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda powered by a race-spec 426 HEMI.

Wrapped in the already famous "Petty Blue" livery, the altered-wheelbase Cuda sported "43 JR." lettering on the doors. Later the car was named "Outlawed" in reference to NASCAR's decision to ban the engine. Petty hit the drag strip in late 1964, but his drag racing career came to an abrupt end in February 1965. During a race against Arnie Beswick, a broken front suspension sent the Barracuda into the crowd, injuring seven spectators and killing an eight-year-old boy.

Devastated, Richard ordered the mangled Barracuda buried on the family property behind the Petty Enterprises shop. Word has it "The King" considered quitting after the crash, but he eventually returned to NASCAR in late 1965. The HEMI 426 also returned, and Petty won his second championship in 1967.

As for the Barracuda, the dragster was almost forgotten, and some believed that the Petty family actually had it scrapped. But it turns out the drag-spec Mopar was unearthed a few decades later when Petty Enterprises began expanding the facility. The mangled carcass was then given by Billy West Peedin, a friend of the Petty family, who kept it in his junkyard in Selma, North Carolina.

The wreck returned to the spotlight in July 2023, when YouTube's "Mopar Connection Magazine" documented Peedin's junkyard. Now just a pile of mangled and rusty steel, the "43 JR." is barely recognizable. However, some of the "Petty Blue" color is still visible, as is the aluminum panel that separates the cabin from the trunk.

While far from spectacular, it's an essential piece of Richard Petty history, albeit one with a sad finale that could have also put an end to "The King's" career. And even though it's sitting in a junkyard, the wreck is not for sale. Because Richard gave the Barracuda to Billy under the condition that it would never be restored.

But Petty's drag racing legacy lives on thanks to a second Barracuda he had built in 1965. That car is still around parading its eight-stack HEMI and no 43 "Petty Blue" livery. You can see it in the second video below.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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