AMC Matador

AMC Matador
AMC Matador
1976 AMC Matador coupe1976 AMC Matador coupe
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation
Also called Rambler Matador (foreign markets)
Production 1971–1978
Assembly Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Port Melbourne, Australia (AMI)
Mexico City, Mexico (VAM)
Thames, New Zealand (CMI)
Predecessor AMC Rebel
Class Mid-size
Body style 2-door hardtop (1971–1973)
2-door coupe (1974–1978)
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Engine 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
304 cu in (5.0 L) V8
360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
401 cu in (6.6 L) V8
Transmission 3-speed manual
4-speed manual
3-speed Shift-Command or Torque-Command automatic
Wheelbase 114 in (2,896 mm) coupe
118 in (2,997 mm) sedan/wagon
Length 209.3 in (5,316 mm) coupe
206.1 in (5,235 mm) sedan
205 in (5,207 mm) wagon
Height 51.8 in (1,316 mm) coupe
53.8 in (1,367 mm) sedan
56.4 in (1,433 mm) wagon
Related AMC Ambassador
Designer Richard A. Teague

The AMC Matador is a mid-size car that was built and sold by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1971 to 1978. The Matador came in two generations: 1971 to 1973 and a major redesign from 1974 to 1978. The second-generation four-door and station wagon models did not share the design of the coupe that was introduced in 1974.



The Matador replaced the AMC Rebel, which had been marketed since 1967. With a facelift and a new name, the AMC Matadors were available as a two-door hardtop as well as a four-door sedan and station wagon. The sedan and wagon models "offered excellent value and were fairly popular",[1] including as a prowl car.[2] The Matador received a redesign in 1974, in part to meet new safety and crash requirements as well as a completely different model "to contend with the bull market for plush mid-size coupes that sprang up after the end of the muscle car era."[1] The Matador was based on AMC's "senior" automobile platform shared with the full-size Ambassador line.

First generation (1971–1973)

1972 AMC Matador station wagon
1972 AMC Matador two-door hardtop

American Motors advertising assured that the Matador was not just a name change and facelift, but in reality, it was the 1970 Rebel restyled with a longer front clip and a new interior. The 1971 Matadors acquired a "beefier" front end look for all three body designs.[3] From the firewall back, the Matador shared its body with the Ambassador, which had a longer wheelbase and front end sheetmetal, a formal grille and luxurious trim, as well as more standard equipment that included air conditioning.

While "Matador" may have been a move away from connotations of the Confederacy inspired by the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, it did not help solve the obscurity problem, as AMC adopted a "What's a Matador" advertising campaign.[4] This self-disparaging marketing campaign "turned the styling of anonymity into an asset."[5]

The Matador came with straight-6 or a number of V8 engines. Transmissions for the Matador included the Borg-Warner sourced "Shift-Command" 3-speed automatic, and a column shifted 3-speed manual or a floor shifted 4-speed manual (for 1971 only).

The Matador's basic body design was essentially unchanged from the Rebel. The station wagons had an available rear-facing third row bench seat. In addition, all wagons included a roof rack and a two-way tailgate that opened when the rear window was down either from the top to be flat with the load floor or like a regular door to the left side.

Changes to Matadors were minor until the 1972 model year when the innovative "AMC Buyer Protection Plan was introduced. This was the automobile industry's first 12 month or 12,000 miles (19,000 km) bumper-to-bumper warranty. American Motors started with an emphasis quality and durability by improving production and mechanical upgrades, followed up by a promise to its customers to repair anything wrong with the car (except for tires). Owners were provided with a toll-free number to the company, as well as a free loaner car if a warranty repair took overnight. The previous Borg-Warner sourced "Shift-Command" 3-speed automatic transmission was replaced by the Chrysler Corporation-built TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic that AMC marketed as "Torque-Command." The column-shift 3-speed manual continued as the standard transmission but the optional 4-speed manual was discontinued.

A comparison of 1973 Matador owners conducted by Popular Mechanics indicated increased satisfaction and fewer problems than was the case with the owners of the essentially similar 1970 AMC Rebel three years earlier.[6]

Matador Machine

The Matador still participated in the muscle car trend. The Machine performance package was carried forward from the Rebel to the Matador as an option on 1971 model two-door hardtops, but without the bold red-white-blue striping or any special identification and badging. Far lesser known than its 1970 predecessor, around 50 Matador Machines were produced and only one is still known to exist.[7] The package featured 15 x 7 inch slot-styled steel wheels with white-lettered "polyglass" belted tires, dual exhaust pipes, a heavy-duty handling package, power disk brakes, and a choice of either a 360 cu in (5.9 L) or 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engine with a manual four-speed or an automatic transmission.[8]

Second generation (1974–1978)

1975 Matador base model sedan
1978 AMC Matador sedan

A major design change was introduced with the 1974 models for both the sedan and wagon, while the two-door became a separate and radically styled coupe. These could be considered the "second generation" Matadors. New passenger car requirements called for five-mile an hour (8 km) impact protection that was accomplished with massive bumpers. The four-door and wagons received a new front fascia with a hood and grille featuring a prominent central protrusion that followed the front bumper design. Matadors with this front fascia are sometimes nicknamed "coffin noses".[9]

Powertrains were basically unchanged for all the 1974 to 1978 Matadors. Either an inline six or V8 engines were available with a three-speed automatic transmission. A three-speed manual column-shift transmission was also available with the six-cylinder engine from 1974 to 1976. For 1977-78, all Matadors came standard with the automatic transmission.

Second generation sedans and station wagons continued over the model years with only minor trim and equipment changes.

Matador Coupe

1974 AMC Matador X Coupe
1976 AMC Matador Brougham Coupe

American Motors' executives saw an opportunity to replace the "uninspired" Matador two-door hardtop with a new design to capture people looking for exciting, sporty styling in a market segment that was outpacing the rest of the automobile market; and were looking to answer the demand for plush mid-size coupes after the end of the muscle car era.[10]

The 1974 model year introduced an aerodynamically styled fastback coupe with pronounced "tunneled" headlight surrounds. The Matador coupe was the only all-new model in the popular mid-size car segment. The coupe was designed under the direction of AMC's Vice President of Styling, Richard A. Teague, with input from Mark Donohue, the famous race car driver. AMC's Styling Department had greater freedom because of a decision to design the new Matador strictly as a coupe, without the constraints of attempting to have the sedan and station wagon versions fit the same body lines.[10] Reportedly Teague designed the coupe's front as an homage to one of the first AMCs he designed, the 1964 Rambler American.[9] Many were amazed that AMC came up with the fast, stylish Matador, considering the automaker's size and limited resources.[11]

The coupe's wind-shaped look was enhanced by a very long hood and a short rear deck. The Matador coupe stands out as one of the more distinctive and controversial designs of the 1970s after the AMC Pacer. The Matador coupe was named "Best Styled Car of 1974" by the editors of Car and Driver magazine.[12] In contrast to all the other mid-sized and personal luxury two-door competition during the mid- to late-1970s, the Matador coupe did not share the requisite styling hallmarks of the era that included an upright grille, a notchback roof, and imitation "landau bars" or opera lights. A Popular Mechanics survey indicated "luscious looks of Matador coupe swept most owners off their feet" with a "specific like" listed by 63.7% of them for "styling".[13]

Sales of the coupe were brisk with 62,629 Matador Coupes delivered for its introductory year, up sharply from the 7,067 Matador hardtops sold in 1973.[14] This is a respectable record that went against the drop in the overall market during 1974 and the decline in popularity of intermediate-sized coupes after the 1973 oil crisis. After it outsold the four-door Matadors by nearly 25,000 units in 1974, sales dropped to less than 10,000 in 1977, and then down just 2,006 in the coupe's final year.[9] Nearly 100,000 Matador Coupes in total were produced from 1974 through 1978.

The Matador Coupe was used in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun as the car of choice of Francisco Scaramanga. His 1974 Matador coupe became an airplane.[15]

American Motors executives, including Vice President of Design Richard A. Teague described design plans for a four-door sedan and station wagon based on the coupe's styling themes did not reach production.[16]

Oleg Cassini

Cassini showing some of the interior trim he designed

A special Oleg Cassini edition of the Matador coupe was available for the 1974 and 1975 model years. American Motors had the famous American fashion designer develop a more elegant luxury oriented model for the new coupe. Cassini was renowned in Hollywood and high-society for making elegant ready-to-wear dresses, including those worn by Jacqueline Kennedy.

The Cassini Coupe was unlike all the other personal luxury cars. The new Matador did not have the typical vintage styling cues of formal upright grille and squared-off roof with opera windows. The Cassini version was only available on the Brougham two-door models that included standard features such as individually adjustable reclining seats. Cassini Coupes could be had in only black, copper, or white, and all came with a vinyl covered roof. It also featured copper-colored trim in the grille, headlamp bezels, in turbine-type full wheel covers, and within the rear license plate recess.

The interior was a Cassini hallmark featuring a comfortable and plush environment. A special black fabric with copper metal buttons on the seats and door panels was set off by extra thick copper carpeting. Additional copper accents were on the steering wheel, door pulls, and on the instrument panel. Embroidered Cassini medallions were featured on the headrests. The glove compartment door, trunk lid, front fender, and hood featured Cassini's signature.


1977 Barcelona Coupe
1978 Barcelona sedan

In 1976, a "Barcelona" option offered an alternative to the personal luxury cars offered by other automakers such as the Chrysler Cordoba and Chevrolet Monte Carlo. For 1977 and 1978, the "Barcelona II" coupe featured a padded Landau roof and opera windows, styling cues that were required at that time by buyers in the highly popular two-door "personal luxury" market segment. At first it was available in only one distinctive two-tone paint pattern consisting of Golden Ginger Metallic with Sand Tan. In 1978, the Barcelona came in a second color scheme: an Autumn Red Metallic on Claret Metallic combination.

The Barcelona included numerous comfort and appearance upgrades in addition to the extensive standard equipment that came on all Matadors. The special items were: individual reclining seats in velveteen crush fabric with woven accent stripes, custom door trim panels, unique headliner, headlight bezels painted accent color, black trunk carpet, rear sway bar, GR78x15 radial whitewall tires, color-keyed slot styled wheels, body color front and rear bumpers, two-tone paint, landau padded vinyl roof, opera quarter windows with accents, dual remote control mirrors painted body color, Barcelona medallion on glove box door and fenders, 24 oz (680 g) carpeting and bumper nerfing strips. The standard roll-down rear quarter windows were converted into fixed "opera windows" with fiberglass covers over the stock openings that were finished with padded vinyl inside and out.

For its final production in 1978, the Barcelona model was also available on the Matador four-door sedan.

Motor Trend magazine road tested a 1977 Barcelona II coupe and found it to be equal to all in the objective areas, as well as one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road that "makes a good deal of sense" ... "if you're nor put off by the Matador's unique lines."[17]

NASCAR racing

#12 NASCAR Matador during a pit stop
#16 NASCAR Matador tribute car in Sweden

Penske prepared factory-backed Matador hardtops and coupes were used in NASCAR stock car racing by Indy winner Mark Donohue and Bobby Allison, and won a number of races. The company's effort "raised eyebrows" for many NASCAR veterans because AMC was not known for cultivating a racing image.[18] Racing pundits "initially scoffed at the notion of an AMC entry" on the circuit, but "the Matador acquired a fan following of its own."[19]

The Matador was one of the first oval stock car to use disk brakes.[18] After Donohue won the Western 500 with the first generation Matador hardtop with four wheel disks, other teams soon followed with the upgrade.[20]

The new 1974 coupe replaced the previous "flying brick" two-door hardtop design.[21] Penske was quoted as saying that they did what they could with the old hardtop, and it did better on tracks with more curves and fewer straightaways. Donohue did not survive to drive the new aerodynamically designed fastback coupe, that many believe was aimed at NASCAR racing. The five wins for the AMC Matador are:

Bobby Allison also won the non-points Daytona 125 qualifying race on 13 February 1975, and finished second in the Daytona 500 three days later.


Though the AMC Ambassador was also offered as a police car, the Matador would prove to be very popular. The largest user of Matador patrol cars was the Los Angeles Police Department, primarily from 1972 to 1974, with some staying in service until the mid-1980s. It was also used by other agencies, including the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department and many other law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and Canada, as well as by military police units.

While V8 power was down for many domestic sedans, AMC used a 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engine that outpowered most other police vehicles. Zero to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) times were within 7 seconds, comparable to a 2006 Hemi Charger police car.[22] Top speed was about 125 miles per hour (201 km/h), which took only 43 seconds, much faster than the previously used Plymouth Satellites.[23]

The high-performance 401 V8 was last available in 1975 only for fleet and police ordered sedans.[24]

The 1974 models would be the last year for the LAPD's purchase of the Matador. The longer-nosed restyle added weight which affected handling and performance. Matadors faded from police fleets as downsized Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge Diplomat-based models became adopted in the late 1970s.

Matador police cars would appear in many television shows and movies during the 1970s, most famously, Adam-12 from 1972 until the show's end in 1975, Police Academy 1, and also in The Rockford Files beginning in 1974.

International markets

AMC Matador models were built in Mexico by Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM), where it was named the "VAM Classic", and in Australia by Australian Motor Industries (AMI) with modifications for their markets including continuing the use of the Rambler marque. AMI production of the Rambler Matador commenced in 1971 [25] and the model was discontinued in 1978.[26]

Rambler Matadors with RHD were also assembled until 1975 under license from AMC by Campbell Motor Industries in Thames, New Zealand from complete knock down (CKD) kits.[27]

The Rambler name was also used on RHD export models sold in the UK up to the 1976 model year Matadors.[28]

End of the line

During the late 1970s, the domestic automobile market was moving to smaller cars. The large-sized Matador was no longer attractive to customers demanding more economical cars as fuel and money became increasingly worrisome problems after the 1973 oil crisis and the continuing double digit domestic inflation.

Lacking the financial resources for a full redesign (partly because of the expensive tooling costs of the coupe), AMC dropped the large Ambassador after 1974, while the Matador was discontinued after 1978, around the same time as Ford moved their full-size nameplates to a smaller platform. The downsized 1977 Chevrolet Impala also spelled doom for large intermediates from AMC and Chrysler. American Motors responded to the declining demand for large cars by introducing new nameplate in 1978, the AMC Concord. It combined an "easy-to-handle size with a roomy sumptuous interior" and in contrast to the Matador coupe, with "overall styling was pleasant ... would not offend anyone"[29] This was the first full-line of economical, compact-sized cars with luxurious trim, features, and comfort levels previously available in larger automobiles.

American Motors did not have another large car until the Eagle Premier that was developed with Renault's partnership and introduced right after AMC was purchased by Chrysler.


1974 AMC Matador X Coupe at a classic car show in Daytona Beach, Florida

While well-restored examples of Matador sedans can still be purchased for under $3,000, ads have been published asking over $10,000 for restored coupes.[30] Hemmings Classic Car magazine listed the 1974-78 Matador Coupe as one of their 19 pieces of rolling proof that the old-car hobby need not be expensive and described the Coupé as "possibly one of the most distinctive shapes to come out of the 1970s, and arguably a style pinnacle for the personal luxury movement...", the James Bond movie role, as well as its NASCAR history.[30]


  1. ^ a b Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (26 October 2007). "1974-1978 AMC Matador". Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Flory, J. Kelly (2004). American Cars, 1960-1972: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland & Company. p. 786. ISBN 978-0-7864-1273-0. 
  3. ^ The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (2005). History of the American Auto. Publications International. p. 462. ISBN 978-0-7853-9874-5. 
  4. ^ Marquez, Edrie J. (1988). Amazing AMC Muscle: Complete Development and Racing History of the Cars from American Motors. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-87938-300-3. 
  5. ^ Hartford, Bill (October 1973). "Something olé, something new from AMC!". Popular Mechanics 140 (4): 114.'s+a+Matador&cd=2#v=onepage&q=What's%20a%20Matador. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  6. ^ Lamm, Michael (May 1973). "It's strong and agile, but thirsty Matador". Popular Mechanics 139 (5): 132–135.,+but+thirsty+Matador&cd=1#v=onepage&q. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  7. ^ Stakes, Eddie. "Matador Machine - 1971 from American Motors". Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  8. ^ Mitchell, Larry G. (2000). AMC Muscle Cars. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-7603-0761-8. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Strohl, Daniel (1 July 2008). "Bullfighters with Bucket Seats". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Foster, Patrick (December 1996). "AMC Matador Coupe. Kenosha's Question Marque". Collectible Automobile: 51–58. 
  11. ^ Jedlicka, Dan (1 January 2000). "Matador: bumper-to-bumper style". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 5 July 2010 
  12. ^ Car and Driver. November 1973. 
  13. ^ Lamm, Michael (April 1974). "Styling is a knockout, but so is the low roofline!". Popular Mechanics 141 (4): 98–101. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Bond, Craig. "Matador Coupe History 1974-1978". Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  15. ^ Green, George W. (2007). Special Use Vehicles: An Illustrated History of Unconventional Cars and Trucks Worldwide. McFarland & Company. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7864-2911-0. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "American Motors Corporation". Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Hall, Bob (August 1977). "AMC Matador Barcelona II". Motor Trend: 107–110. 
  18. ^ a b Riggs, D. Randy (1996). Flat-out racing: an insider's look at the world of stock cars. MetroBooks (NY). p. 140. ISBN 978-1-56799-165-9. 
  19. ^ Falk, Duane (2000). The Winston Cup: The Modern Age of Stock Car Racing. MetroBooks (NY). p. 42. ISBN 978-1-56799-834-4. 
  20. ^ Bongard, Tim; Coulter, Robert (200). Richard Petty: The Cars of the King. Sports Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-58261-317-8. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  21. ^ Mederle, Wolfgang A. (18 April 2010). "AMC History - the 70s". Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  22. ^ Jenkins, Austin (26 June 2006). "NW Troopers Slide Behind the Wheel of a Re-Made 1960s Muscle". KUOW-FM. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  23. ^ Redgap, Curtis. "AMC squad cars". allpar com. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  24. ^ Gunnell, John (2006). Standard Catalog of American Muscle Cars 1960-1972. Krause Publications. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-89689-433-4. 
  25. ^ Davis, Pedr (1986). The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring. Sydney. p. 14. ISBN 0-949757-35-7. 
  26. ^ The Red Book Used Car Price Guide (National Auto Market Research): 115. November 1985. 
  27. ^ Roberts, Graeme. "AMC / Rambler Australia information". allpar com. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  28. ^ Hayward, David O.. "Chrysler United Kingdom: A History of Chrysler in Britain". allpar com. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  29. ^ Vance, Bill (13 June 2009). "Motoring Memories: AMC Concord, 1978-1983". Canadian Driver. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  30. ^ a b Koch, Jeff (January 2008). "Dollar-A-Pound Collectibles". Hemmings Classic Car: 18. 

Further reading

  • Foster, Patrick R. (2004). AMC Cars: 1954-1987, An Illustrated History. Motorbooks International. ISBN 978-1-58388-112-5. 
  • Foster, Patrick R. (1993). The Last Independent. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-87341-240-0. 
  • Montgomery, Andrew (2002). The Great Book of American Automobiles. Motorbooks International. ISBN 1-84065-478-3. 
  • Marquez, Edrie J. (1988). Amazing AMC Muscle: Complete Development and Racing History of the Cars from American Motors. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-87938-300-3. 

External links

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