(Note: these reviews from the R&T 1975 Buyers Guide are reprints from reviews made in the previous year (1974))
Count me in the group that liked these, both then and now. Make mine an ‘X’ model with the Magnums and the stripe! (I DID NOT, however, care for the Barcelona edition…I DO have some standards!! 🙂
Me too. The last good looking Rambler. Too bad it hit the gas crisis.
Yes!! I am also a fan of the Matador coupe.
I had copied this article (by Xerox!) at the local library over twenty years ago, when I was doing my own, private research on the Matador coupe. All the words and pictures seem so familiar – it’s almost like “running lines” for rehearsals for a stage production.
Let us not forget that this was the car that Scaramanga turned into an airplane in the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. There was a Hornet used in the corkscrew jump by Bond. The jump was hard to believe, but the idea of an AMC dealership in Bangkok was even more hard to believe, along with the Thai AMC police cars.
And even in left-hand-drive form, which is prohibited in Thailand for years.
I’d be happy with the Barcelona.
Only 13 MPG? That salesman lied to Malloy when he bought his.
That was fun! I’ll bet Malloy’s coupe didn’t have the 401 his cruiser was equipped with.
I would imagine That AMC’s gain in market share in 1973 had more to do with the price of gas, if you could get gas. Small cars were hot until they were not and the Gremlin and Hornet were in demand then. Matadors and Ambassadors were not.
The Arab oil embargo didn’t hit until October 1973. The 1973 model year was over by that point. The Gremlin and Hornet actually sold well during the 1973 model year – particularly the Hornet Sportabout.
If I recall correctly, AMC again increased market share for the 1974 model year. That was led by strong Gremlin and Hornet sales in response to the embargo, as well as an uptick in Matador sales because of the new coupe.
Thank you! So many think that at the stroke midnight, 1/1/73, suddenly the Oil Crisis started.
The handsome Hornet hatchback came out for ’73 and was a good seller too.
I thought these were so cool looking, until you opened a door and looked inside. Sort of like a reverse Wizard of Oz effect.
If any car made an Ambassador or Matador sedan look staid and stodgy, it was this car.
Not sure I would want one with the 6 cylinder engine, tho, unless it was equipped with a floor shifted 4 speed. You can’t be all show with no go.
Just suck it up (pun not intended) and get the 401. If you want fuel economy, get a Toyota.
I agree with you Roger, get the 401. I bet there is almost no difference in MPG. MT tested a 401 Matador against a bunch of other intermediates in ’74. The 401 was the fastest, beating the 460 Torino and the 455 Buick.
This car was sort of a success, in AMC terms. In round numbers, the Matador sold (all styles) 45K in ’71, 54K in ’72, 48K in ’73, and a whopping jump to just shy of 100K for 1974, the year the X coupe was introduced. Unfortunately, I don’t have a break down for the coupe, but it’s reasonable to assume it was worth about 60k units of actual retail sales, instead of fleet sales to police departments, as the Matador was prone to. Still, 60K was miserable when the more formal “personal luxury car” coupes from GM, Ford and Chrysler could routinely pump out 300K + units in their best years.
I rather like it, a high school friend had one. It didn’t get much respect being an AMC, but I thought it was cool.
Two things might have helped the car a little, I never liked the Harry Potter headlights, and the Matador name was associated with a sales dud. It replaced the Rebel that sold 25% better in its final year. The early ’70s ad campaign that asked “What is a Matador?” said it all. Most people thought it was bull fighter.
A fresh name might have set it off a bit from the stodgy Matador sedan and wagon.
The problem was that sales had dropped like a rock by 1976. Within two years, everyone who wanted one had made their purchase. Roughly 100,000 coupes were sold from 1974 through 1978 – but 62,000 of those coupes were sold during the 1974 model year!
The same thing happened to the Pacer.
The competition was relentless, Cordoba new in 1975, Cutlass significantly refreshed in ’76, Thunderbird and Cougar substantially new / refreshed in ’77, all of GM’s mid-size PLCs new in 1978. All with the much more formal styling that was in vogue. The Matador X was more like an update of the ’71 Dodge Charger.
These coupes were ultimately too far out of the mainstream, and they looked awkward from certain angles. In the second photo, for example, the failure of the “point” of the quarter panel side window to meet up with the bottom of backlite makes the car look disjointed.
Perhaps the coupe would have had more staying power if had been introduced for 1968. By the mid-1970s, it was both awkward-looking and completely out of touch with contemporary trends.
Competition is the name of the game. Big 3 learned that, too.
Matador coupe was penned in 1968-70, thinking fastbacks would be in style indefinitely.
Outside the US, they pretty much were.
At this moment my 81 Concord DL coupe I bought from USA is on board the container ship with my 72 Buick Skylark coupe on route to Beirut. I was Never an AMC fan but being classic collector I liked have piece of AMC history. Its blue exterior with light blue interior, 2.5 4cylinder, Auto, PS, PB, Factory AC, Factory AM/FM radio, rear defrost. has 50K original miles. I paid 6,500 for it
Nice choices. Wishing you many enjoyable miles in your new cars.
I want an Oleg Cassini version, personally. Black and copper, with copper accents. Was it 1970s style at its most dated version? Yes, but that, or a Pierre Cardin Javelin, and I would be thrilled. Add to that the Mark Donohue racing version, and it pretty much seals the reasons to love this model. You can argue all day over the car’s merits, but it looked totally different than any car on the market. Whether that was good or bad really is a matter of taste.
In 1972 and 73 I really thought AMC was on a roll. Hornets, Gremlins and Jeeps seemed to be everywhere. I even liked the conservative but handsome Matador and Ambassador 2 door hardtops. AMC was starting to look like a real car company.
And then this. I saw nothing attractive about these. They had nothing to do with the current style (think Cutlass Supreme or Monte Carlo). And they just did not seem to hang together as a design, with odd curves, swoops and angles that just didn’t seem to go together (and still don’t to my eye).
As noted in the article, the interiors were no better. Interiors seemed to be a real weak spot with AMC of the 70s. The 71 Satellite and Charger coupes were at least stylish for a brief moment when they came out. These were not.
I came here to say exactly this- Javelin – yes! AMC YES! Hornet Nice. Gremlin Good on ya. Rambler Scrambler -too cool. Matador? Uh…. wha…. no. Just no. However, I will say that (I see it’s been posted below) without the federal bumpers, this was a very handsome car.
I still felt that they were mechanically crude, but that they were on the verge of becoming a viable contender. Dick Teague did an amazing job with the styling.
And then Godzilla attacks! The Pacer. It looks good from a distance, but I have ridden in the back seat of one.
I’m with you, JPC. Like its ancestor the Marlin, it would have made for an arresting design on the smaller Hornet chassis, but the huge-and-looking-huger size did it no favours.
I have to agree with AMC being on a roll in the early 70’s. In our neck of the woods, there was something slightly “counter-culture” about the smaller cars, the Gremlin and Hornet. They were seen as cool, but a bit more familiar than all of the “foreign” stuff that was becoming mainstream. Hip to be square? The Javelin wasn’t really seen as an equal competitor in the Camaro/Mustang wars, but it was a sporty alternative coupe for folks who weren’t interested in max performance and generally a very competitive price.
I can remember my brother and his then-girlfriend checking out a Javelin (for her) in late 1972. It was the first one I’d ever seen with the Pierre Cardin interior which was just mind-blowing back then. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t have the money for something so extravagant, so she went with a Gremlin instead.
Even people of my parent’s cohort were interested in AMCs; some for their kids and others for themselves. One of my brother’s friends traded his 66 Tempest for a 73 Hornet hatchback in a sunny yellow. That car was a chick magnet. Or maybe he was. Either way, there was a period of time in my young life that I thought I needed to get a Hornet hatch if I was going to have any success with the ladies…
When introduced the Matador did create a buzz, but it was short-lived. Then the Pacer created a buzz, which was short-lived. Also, by 1975-76 the general public still had distinct memories of the gas lines in 1973-74 and the real buzz was around fuel economy. At least for the folks who may have considered an AMC as a economical car, there were plenty of good alternatives coming from Germany and Japan.
AMC may have had a reputation for economy, but it also had a rep for being assembled poorly and not holding up well. Six cylinder cars were only ever going to get a certain amount of fuel mileage and up until 1977 (78)? none of their cars had four cylinder engines. Correct or not, I think the general public equated four cylinder engines with great fuel economy and since AMC didn’t have any until quite late, folks just walked away.
I’ve always thought the wheels and wheel arches were too small on these. Increase those and the car gets better looking. And it is could have been made with smaller bumpers that would help too.
If AMC never happened and the Matador was a Nash, I’d like to see mostly covered wheel wells front and rear, as far down as that lower body crease that goes front to back. Wish I had the Photoshop skills to show that. It would emphasize the attractive overall body shape.
A 1975 Nash Matador would have floated over the ground beautifully.
Yes, I do suffer from Nash-Studebaker syndrome.
Nope. That looks much worse IMO. If the coupe hadn’t had those ridiculous-looking round headlight nacelles, and the hood line had dropped there to be flush along the entire front end, with 4 small square headlights, that would have been a vast improvement. Also the fastback rear backlight needed to be straightened into a more formal shape a la Cordoba.
This car was a styling mess on all counts and that along with the Pacer, cost AMC dearly by using up precious developments funds that should have gone into more modern compact/subcompact models. Never liked them.
It’s clear to me the core design was intended to answer 71 Chargers, 72 Torinos, 70-72 Chevelles, and only sprouted those goofy 73 Monte Carlo aping headlight appendages when it became clear those earlier muscular designs were obsolete in the market, while the rest of the body simply had to make due. Only the hood stamping would have needed to change to incorporate them.
I made this front end chop a few years ago and just removing the round headlights alone changes the look substantially, though I envisioned it with hidden headlights(because it was easier).
Wow, that’s the best looking photoshop I have seen of the Matador. Even without the bumpers I never liked the styling. Actually, for me removing the bumpers doesn’t do much. There were worse bumpers during that era. Its the lights that really are off putting for me.
Interesting. I did the exact same chop on the exact same photo some time back, and posted it on FB.
I remember well when these were introduced. I thought the design just missed the mark. the wrost aspect were the bumpers. I understand the fresh idea of not hiding the ‘bones’ of the shock absorbing bumpers under reummer covers and infill plastic that as seen on other models would get brittle and crumble in a short time. But it would have been better if the bumpers themselves had not been so wide. They looked like big chrome panels hanging out in space in the front and rear, ahd they been trimmer in depth, the look would have carried better. The car actually looks better without them. I feel the bumper design did harm to sales numbers. And yes, I agree a different name should have been used. “Matador” was just not quite there. maybe bringing back the “Marlin” might have worked better.
Yes, the bumpers were horrible. The problem was that AMC had to have 5 MPH bumpers on the cars, and they had practically no money to design something better looking that would meet the new required standards. Almost every car after 1974 looked stupid, honestly, after the protruding bumpers were required. The Europeans had one setup for home, and then the one for the US, which is why we see so many of the mid 70s BMWs and Mercedes in the US retrofitted with EU standard bumpers. We don’t have that option with the US cars.
We don’t have that option with the US cars.
Um, we do albeit fewer choices. The fifth generation Cadillac Seville (1998-2004) came with US 5-mph bumpers and thinner European bumpers. This was to promote Cadillac as ‘European size’ with overall length under five metres (that was necessary in some countries where higher taxation is imposed on vehicles longer than five metres).
US version…look at the distance between the numberplate and grille.
If those terrible, butt-ugly 5 mph crash bumpers are removed a quite attractive car can be found.
Make mine with the AMC 401 V8 engine, Mopar sourced Torqueflite automatic transmission, AMC’s lont time, well regarded #HVAC and the sumptuous, upscale, elegant Oleg Cassini interior package.
If you were somehow able to subtract the sales for Thunderbird (is that really a Matador competitor?), Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Cutlass Supreme from the “picture” and compare the sales of the Matador coupe with the regular GM and Ford 2 doors….Matador doesn’t look like that big of a sales flop.
The “specialty” coupes were huge hits for Ford and GM, the 2 door coupes/sedans? Not so much.
The problem from AMC’s perspective was that the coupe shared virtually no exterior sheet metal with the sedan. The Malibu and Torino coupes shared most of their sheet metal with the sedan counterparts.
A Monte Carlo hardly shared any exterior sheet metal with a Malibu, but with about 300,000 sales a year for the Monte Carlo (and at higher prices), the investment in unique sheet metal paid for itself.
After one decent year, sales of the Matador coupe dropped quickly. AMC needed a much higher level of sales to amortize the investment.
This car and the Pacer likely sank the company. The Matador coupe had unique sheet metal and the Pacer a unique chassis as well, not shared with any other model. From what I’ve read neither sold enough to pay their tooling costs. In hindsight AMC should have invested the money in updating their core volume products (Hornet and Gremlin) instead.
Yup. That’s was the crux of what sank AMC, and into the arms of Renault.
AMC’s deadly sin with the Pacer was designing it around the GM rotary program with no Plan B other than shoehorning in their straight-six, requiring a huge transmission tunnel that killed the spacious front seat meant to be the car’s USP.
When they sold the Buick V6 tooling back to GM they should’ve made the deal contingent on supplying those at a steep discount if the rotary became unavailable.
I think that you are right that AMC made a huge mistake banking on the successful development of an engine and designing around it.
However, to be honest, I think that the Pacer would have been even more of a disaster with the Wankel. Wankels have always gotten lousy gas mileage and the Pacer wasn’t really a light car, at 3,000 pounds. Add the lack of low end torque from a Wankel, toss in the mandatory-for-America automatic transmission, and I think you have a disappointment.
Then there’s the problem of having an engine that nobody can work on except your friendly AMC dealership….who don’t have a clue either.
Finally, there’s the issue that GM never really got their version of the Wankel engine satisfactorily sorted out from a fuel economy, pollution, OR reliability standpoint. Not to cast aspersions on GM’s engine design capabilities, but the Wankel was being developed by the same crew who had such a disaster with the Vega engine.
Cutlass and Century fast backs sold well. And Malibu did fine, just not MC level. LeMans never kept up with GP, though. Torino coupes were all notchbacks after ’73.
“Shoulda, woulda, coulda”, but this car was AMC’s deadliest sin. Book called “AMC, the Last Independent” backs this up.
The problem was that AMC had a “regular” 2 door in 1970-73 and it didn’t sell that well. If building a completely new coupe that shared zero sheetmetal with the sedans did not make it an attempt to play in the “specialty coupe” market, I don’t know what it would have taken. And AMC had no other “specialty coupe” to steal sales away from this one like the rest of the less popular 2 door cars had. Sorry but this car was a big fail.
And in AMC’s defense, maybe specialty coupe buyers were just never going to buy from AMC no matter what. Studebaker’s GT Hawk was a much more conventionally attractive car than these, and was sold at a very reasonable price. They still sold extremely poorly. The Avanti may be a better comparison with polarizing styling. They sold even worse than the Hawks. AMC was a company for thrifty midwesterners who had been buying Ramblers for twenty years. It was going to take a really beautiful car to entice people into AMC showrooms. Chrysler showed that it could be done the next year with the Cordoba, so anything was possible. But this car was not what buyers wanted.
People looking for style and prestige in an intermediate coupe had never gone to their AMC dealer. Even during the heyday of the Rambler, the corporation’s big sellers were practical sedans and wagons, not coupes.
(The Chrysler brand, meanwhile, still carried a fair amount of prestige in 1975. A smaller Chrysler with a very luxurious interior was enough to pull people into the showroom.)
In retrospect, for 1974-75, AMC would have better spent its money giving the Hornet the Concord treatment – while also giving it a longer wheelbase and a distinctive roof line – and pitching it as a downsized Ambassador. And spend money upgrading the dashboards of the Hornet and Gremlin!
The Ambassador was always a marginal seller.
Frankly, AMC tainted themselves by using “Rambler” across all of its lines, and becoming the only brand for AMC. Big mistake.
The Rambler image way too tied up with thrifty sedans and wagons. Yes, they finally shed it, but by this time, it was way too late to shed the Rambler image. And of course the styling was all wrong, in terms of where the market was going. Same with the Pacer.
This was “Deadly Sin #1” for AMC to lose its independence. #2, Pacer.
Reading the first page is kind of funny in hindsight. “styling atypical than Detroit look alikes” Really? Where did that lead? Also, shows that the memory of “People could tell cars apart back in good old days” was not quite that common opinion then..
“The Matador coupe hits the market head on”, with a thud. Was a trendy 1 year sale wonder, than cratered, not long term as the Cutlass. 5 years later, it was long gone and used car lot poison.
AMC’s Deadly Sin #1 was abandoning the Rambler’s thrifty compact niche and going after a full line of cars against the Big 3. Starting in 1965 with this Ambassador. CEO ego strikes again.
AMC should have stuck with compacts and compact-based ponycars and emphasized quality and value. An American Volvo. They’d have made it big in the seventies when gas got tight. Though I like this Matador’s looks, it should never have happened.
Never cared for these Matadors. Had AMC introduced this car in 1969-1970, it might have been something, but performance intermediates were pretty much a dead issue by 1974.
A love it or hate it design that I happen to love! I’d like to have one even now
If I knew Photoshop, I’d do a 3/4 view of one sans front bumper.
I never realized what a difference that makes until I saw a pic of one for sale set up that way. It transforms the entire car’s looks!
Let me help you out there:
And one more:
The wider wheels in this picture help as much as removing the bumpers-
That first picture in the R & T article really emphasizes the Matador’s narrow track, and it just looks awful!
Sorry to say, but IMO this is one of the ugliest cars that came out in the 70’s. To this day I still do not understand what compelled AMC to approve this design.
The mother of someone I knew had the Barcelona edition. To me it was always the “Barfelona.”
Ha, that’s funny!
Agreed. Always detested this design.
I had a work colleague who had one of these in black, back in 1975. I remember he had an overheating problem, he had to run the heater when in traffic (this was in SoCal) and I don’t know if he ever got the dealer to fix it before he sold it. He complained quite a bit, that I do remember, lol.
I worked just down the street from an AMC dealer and saw one of these horrors coming off the truck when it was introed, thinking, “Why the hell are the wheel wells so huge and the tires and wheels so small?”. It had other issues, the front and back ends were as usual for AMC, bizarre. A couple of years later, I moved to Las Vegas, and lived just down the street from an AMC dealer, and saw a row of these ugly things sit there and gather dust, while other cars moved off the lot. This is one of those, “WTF were they drinking?” design choices. But then again, I feel the same way about the GM Colonade cars, but not as strongly negative. Cars in general had moved to the malaise era in styling as well as performance.
Dick Teague was blind in one eye. So THAAaaat explains a lot!
This car looks like the plate of some beady-eyed rotund soul as they scuttle back to their table at a smorgasbord restaurant, piled improbably high with lots of meat and even veg but also 11 hardboiled eggs, 7 cheap pink sausages, a musk stick and a bile green jelly on top. I mean, just because it’s there, you don’t have to add it.
Admittedly, the result is a thing that looks fascinatingly skew-whiff rather than purely ugly.
I’ve been a fan of these things since they were introduced. They were so far out of the mainstream that they commanded your attention, unlike the look-a-like cars from everyone else. Like others had noted, if this car would have been introduced in 1970 instead of 1974, that would have made a big difference, IMO.
When I was a kid, a neighbor up the street from me had the “typical” Mat X like the one shown in the article, but it had the standard AMC road wheels, not the Magnum 500s that are on the car in the pictures. It had the 401 callouts on the fenders, while I never rode in it, I imagine it must have been quite the beast.
This seems like a classic case of right product at the wrong time.
While it’s sometimes tough to figure out AMC’s puzzling rationale behind some of their more polarizing efforts, that’s not the case with the ’75 Matador X coupe. Normally, the smaller manufacturers (i.e., Chrysler) tried to follow what GM (or sometimes Ford) had done. But good ‘ole goofy AMC decided they’d go with a past Chrysler effort for the Matador X.
They saw how Chrysler had tried a cost-effective approach to cover both the performance and burgeoning personal luxury car market with their 1971 intermediate coupes that shared no sheetmetal with the sedans and figured they’d give that a whirl. On top of that, the larger, big-V8 performance ponycar market had all but vanished by 1975 with the only traditional player still in the game being the Trans Am. In effect, AMC hoped that someone who would have been interested in the now defunct Charger SE, Satellite Sebring Plus, or intermediate-sized ponycar would now gravitate to their Matador X. It even had big, GM colonnade-style quarter windows. And, for that first year, it looked like it might work.
But then reality set in and the same fate as the earlier Mopar coupes would befall the Matador X. With its quasi-performance and basic, six-cylinder versions, it just wasn’t ‘bougham-y’ or special enough for the latter half of the seventies. It quickly got squashed by the likes of the Cordoba, Cutlass Brougham, and the traditional GM personal luxury players. Still, it was easy to see what AMC was going for. Unfortunately, the market simply didn’t swing back like they’d hoped and, with a shoestring operation like AMC, it really cost them.
I do wonder how a mid-cycle refresh of the Matador X with rectangular headlights might have looked, though.
The only one of these I ever recall seeing was in niagara falls Ontario in 1994 painted in hippie colors.
A little late, but Bud wallows and slides this car through a test track.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
Enter your email address to subscribe to CC and receive notifications of new posts by email.
About Arras WordPress Theme
Copyright 2011 - 2016 Curbside Classics. All Rights Reserved.