Saturday, January 31, 2004

34 years later, he's got his 'cuda

Bruce Buckley sold his beloved 1970 Plymouth Barracuda after he married and the first of eight kids arrived. Those same kids helped surprise him with this '72 Barracuda for his 50th birthday.

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Thirty-four years ago, 20-year-old Bruce Buckley bought a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. Orange on the outside and white on the inside, it was his pride and joy.

"It was just a neat car," says the Kenwood resident, who is chief financial officer of McCormick Equipment in Loveland. "It was fun to drive. It was different."

But his joy was short-lived. He got married in 1971, and in 1973, the first of his eight children arrived. He realized the Barracuda had to go.

"Playpens didn't fit in it very well," he says.

So Buckley and his wife, Pat, traded in the Barracuda and owned an assortment of station wagons and vans over the years. When their children - six boys and two girls - grew old enough to drive, some of those vehicles succumbed to fires or wrecks.

Buckley estimates he's had 40 cars in his lifetime, but none that he ever was as fond of as the Barracuda. Realizing this, Buckley's wife, sons and a son-in-law searched the Internet for one four years ago, when Buckley was nearing his 50th birthday.

They found a tawny gold 1972 Barracuda from a west-side resident who was the car's original owner, and who had put only 53,000 miles on it. Buckley was stunned to arrive home one day and find it in the garage.

"I thought it was a cruel joke," he says.

When he got over his surprise, Buckley set to work restoring the Barracuda to like-new condition. He had the engine and transmission rebuilt and the rust removed from the body, and did other restoration work - including the interior - himself.

Today, he keeps the Barracuda in his mother's garage and drives it about once a week and to car shows, although he says it could be a daily driver if he wanted it to be.

And he's only mildly intrigued by a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting that many 1970s models are starting to fetch classic-car prices.

"I don't own it for that reason," he says. "I own it to enjoy it."

First car: A 1961 Plymouth Valiant. "It was my sister's car that I bought for $100."

Dream car: An Aston Martin DB5 (driven by James Bond in Goldfinger and Thunderball) or DB6."I always thought it would be neat to own an Aston Martin."

Lauren Bishop

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