1969 found Plymouth in an enviable position: the 1968 Barracuda was powerful and popular, but how to improve on success? In typical '60s Plymouth fashion, they just made it faster. A few cosmetic changes were made here and there, including a new grille and larger side marker lights, but Plymouth made it clear that their "go to dinner" car, as they called it, was a "go to the dragstrip" car as well. The 225ci slant six and the 318ci V8 were still the baseline engine options. The successful 340ci four-barrel V8 was carried over from 1968 while the 383ci four-barrel V8 got an upgraded crankshaft that delivered upwards of 330hp for the Formula S package. But the big news was the premiere of the 'Cuda high-performance package for the 340 and 383 engines, and in the spring of 1969 Plymouth installed their monstrous 440ci V8 for the first time in a street-legal 375hp package. The tried-and-true 440 was capable of rocketing the lightweight 'Cuda from zero to sixty in 5.5 seconds and running a 14.10-second quarter mile. Plymouth now had bragging rights to the largest engine in the escalating pony car wars....but with those came headaches.
Plymouth had finally wrangled a power steering unit under the hood for the 383 Barracuda by 1969, but the 440 left no room for power steering or power brakes. With more than half of the 'Cuda's weight now over the front tires, braking and low-speed handling suffered accordingly. Mopar engineers feared a four-speed manual would eventually shred the rear end, so the 440 'Cudas were fitted with a TorqueFlite automatic. The off-the-line performance disappointed many enthusiasts as the TorqueFlite couldn't upshift as crisply as a manual, and more often than not left the rear tires spinning. But on an open road or straightwaway, the 440 'Cuda's power more than enough made up for its poor handling characteristics. Whlie the 1969 'Cuda couldn't be labeled a complete success, Mopar engineers marked the lessons learned, and would put them to use soon enough.