Feature Flick: 1971 Plymouth Barracuda Takes Checkered Flag at Pike's Peak

It's one of the most legendary competitive venues in North America. Although open to the public most of the year, for a week in August, Pike's Peak becomes home of the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb, a competition open to just about any vehicle with wheels and a motor. From motorcycles, custom-built racers, electric cars, and vintage iron, if you think you and your vehicle has what it takes to take on the mountain, you can make a run. Hoping to take the checkered flag in the Vintage class, driver Jess Neal enters his 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.

Recently, the entire length of the hill climb has been fully paved. Although the purists may lament the tail-out turns, rooster tails and rally-style antics possible on the old, unpaved sections, most drivers appreciate the change, including Neal. Although a competitor from Sweden had the fastest qualifying time in the class, a crash during one of his qualifying runs eliminated the car from final competition. Neal saw this as an opportunity for the Barracuda to take the checkered flag for the class.

Some have criticized Neal for entering and racing the Barracuda in motorsports competition, but in his own words, "The cars were built to drive, not built to sit in museums."

Neal faced a few minor mechanical mishaps in advance of his run, including a brake line leak, but was able to round up the necessary parts and make the repairs just in the nick of time. As he had hoped, Neal and Combes took the checkered flag in the vintage class with a quick 12 minute, 3 second run.

You can watch the pre-race prep, as well as bonus footage of Neal's full run in the Barracuda on this week's episode of Hot Rod Unlimited. Be sure to subscribe to the Motor Trend channel for a wide variety of exclusive automotive videos covering everything from motorsports, new cars, road trips, and vintage cars, with new episodes every week.

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Jeff Kent
Great article, save one point that needs to be corrected. For anyone who actually knows Jess Neal, the references to "Hoping to take the checkered flag" throughout this article are completely wrong. It was always about having fun and getting to the top to celebrate with your fellow competitors. I am very happy that he did (take the checkered flag), but the motivations are off by a mile. I was one of those fortunate competitors celebrating at the top with Jess & his navigator Morgan Combes; great times!

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