“I call it my Two Time car,” Luke Golden said about his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda. “Everything I do on this car – I do it one time, sit back, think ‘this isn’t how it goes’, and then I do it again the right way.” 

Maybe it did take two times, but there’s no doubt this Barracuda is done the right way. 

Luke, who runs Golden Upholstery in Athens, Georgia, got the car in 2005. It was supposed to be a joint project with his brother, but his brother decided to focus on other things and Luke took on the Mopar as his own project.  

The Barracuda grabs your attention immediately and doesn’t let go. The bright yellow paint, and 20 and 22 inch wheels are the first things you notice. The interior is completely off-the-charts, and serves as a real-life marketing tool for the custom work Luke does at this shop. As you look closer, you see the amazing details throughout the car. 

But it didn’t start out that way.  

“When I first bought it, it looked like a Grandma car,” Luke said. Consistent with the pale yellow exterior the car had then, the A-body had a Slant Six engine under the hood. Luke knew that wasn’t going to cut it. 

His wife’s grandfather had a 1985 Dodge Ram pickup with a 318 small block that had been sitting out in the woods. Luke offered to buy the pickup but his grandfather-in-law said he could have it free. Luke cleaned out the bird and wasp nests, swapped the Slant Six into the pickup, and sold it to help finance the Barracuda. 

The Ram’s V8 now resides in the Barracuda. Luke did some research on the best ways to hop up a 318 and worked with Kent Holcomb of Holcomb Automotive in Bishop, Georgia to implement the rebuild. The short block is stock, but now has Mopar 340 heads, a Comp cam and Magnum roller rocker arms, a 650 cfm Holley Demon carb, and Edelbrock manifold. The end result: a very tidy 400 horsepower. 

The engine compartment is one example of the great detail work Luke completed. Check out the fittings and the transmission dipstick and the ignition wires and radiator overflow tank and steel and vinyl trim pieces. Nothing escaped Luke’s attention. 

The 318 is mated to a TorqueFlite A904 three-speed automatic transmission. The A904 has plenty of strength for Luke’s Barracuda, and weighs about 400 pounds lighter than the more commonly seen A727 TorqueFlites. 

A Positraction rear end distributes the power to the rear tires through fairly mild 2.76:1 gears. Luke reduced his previous 3.55:1 gear ratio in a recent rebuild. “It used to pull great from zero to 40, then by 60 mph there wasn’t much left,” he said about the old ratio. Now he’s got plenty of pulling power at higher speeds. 

Luke installed front disks from a 1969 Dodge Dart. For a long time, he kept the rear drum brakes because he couldn’t find a cost-effective way to install rear disks. But then a friend found a kit for $225 and Luke had his four wheel disks. An added bonus was that he no longer had to listen to his Chevy friends give him a hard time about still having drum brakes.  

Those disk brakes have Lexani LSS-10 wheels on them, 20 x 8.5 inches up front and 22 x 10 in the rear, mounted with 235/30/20 and 245/30/22 Nitto Invo tires. 

And Luke got those wheels and tires because his Barracuda is kind of a celebrity. 

It’s been on MTV’s ‘My Super Sweet 16’ show and Nelly’s ‘Stepped On My J’z’ music video. It’s been at movie and TV promotional events, and featured in Rides magazine. It was Rides that provided the wheel/tire combination. Rides features big wheel cars and they were able to hook Luke up with the Lexani wheels six months before they even were released on the market.

But the real star of the show is the incredible interior that Luke built for his Mopar. He handcrafted the entire interior out of Allante vinyl, which looks and feels very much like leather. In fact, at the 2008 World of Wheels, where Luke won Best Mopar, one of the judges complimented Luke on his great leather work. The judge got a little miffed when Luke told him the interior wasn’t leather. 

Luke cut the material by hand to create the inlay patterns on the front and back seats, the door panels, and the center console. The pictures describe Luke’s work better than I can. It features seats from an Acura, a new dashboard, custom upholstery throughout, and four (4!) TVs, including one on the floor in front of the passenger seat, specifically for Luke’s wife. Exquisite detailing is everywhere in the interior as well, including the bass filters mounted on the door panels to protect the tweeters.   

Here’s a tip from Luke’s for your hot rod build: choose your interior color and materials before you choose your paint color. You can make any color paint, so it’s a lot easier to match paint to your interior than the other way around.

Luke is a self professed workaholic and never shies away from hard work. “I do the stuff nobody asks for because they don’t know to ask for it.” So he shows his clients what’s possible. Routine interior repairs go a long way to paying the bills at his shop, but his love is doing the custom work, even though he said “it’s lots of work for half the money”.

His hard work has been complimented by some good fortune. He got those four TVs for free – because he helped a friend do the work of removing them from a Chevy Tahoe he was working on. There’s a Mopar guru at Summit Racing that’s provided a lot of parts help. There was a specific water neck Luke wanted and another Summit employee tracked down the last available one in the country. 

But Luke has earned his good karma. Things weren’t always great growing up, but he won’t let that affect him now. He doesn’t hesitate to help out friends when called upon, and he views all the challenges of his work and hot rodding as opportunities.

“If you mess something up, you’re gonna get mad,” he said. “But it’s how you handle it after you get mad. I’m always trying to make it better. If someone says something is too hard, I’ll do it in an even harder way to make it even better.” 

It’s that approach that helped him build his upholstery business, and his outstanding hot rod Barracuda.  

Click here to see photos of Luke’s Barracuda.

GHR

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