Sick of Matadors, you say? Too bad, because it’s AMC Week and I am going to milk my appreciation of Matadors as much as I can! I saw this one online a few months ago and really liked it. Earlier this morning we took a look at the 1963 Classic 770 Cross Country. Well, believe it or not, this Matador is the 1977 version of that Classic.
I have always had a thing for the 1974-78 Matador wagon. Indeed, it is my favorite version, as it didn’t have the Suddenly It’s 1967 styling of the 1974-78 coupe and avoided the “butt-lift” of the 1970-78 Rebel/Matador sedan, which I really didn’t care for. And how can you not love the woodgrained gauges? Carmine would approve, I think.
And how about those seats? Could they have come from anything other than a 1975-79 U.S. automobile? I think not.
The back seat matches. I think this wagon was probably not ordered by a young couple with kids, as that cloth would not be so pristine thirty-seven years after manufacture. Maybe an older couple, who had lots of hobbies–gardening, boating and such? I also have to mention that if Herb Tarlek were to sit in this car, he’d disappear.
The cargo area is very well finished too, with plush carpet and chrome strips to ease loading items in the back.
This Matador is quite well equipped, with the plush seating, sport steering wheel, Magnum 500s and whitewalls. The metallic copper paint is quite nice too, and I like the fact that it doesn’t have the woodgrain siding, even though I am a fan of Di-Noc.
This one has a V8 too, though you could still get the 258 six-cylinder in the Matador. Both the 304 or 360 were available in Matadors; perhaps some AMC fan can pin this car’s mill down?
All in all, quite the time capsule. Wouldn’t you really rather have a Matador?
The auction for this car and its pictures are long gone, but more AMC auctions can be found here on eBay.
So when did you first notice this powerful attraction to these Matador wagons, Mr Klockau? 🙂 Seriously, that is quite a car, but perhaps because I lived through the 70s I have an excuse for not being quite so viscerally attracted to them.
I think it came from watching Police Academy at a very early age!
Awesome car. Much improved insturment panel over the earlier Matadors. Really hate the front end treatment, but you don’t see it when you’re driving it, right?
Probably no way to tell a 304 from a 360 at a glance as they used the same block. Supposedly the displacement is cast into the block below the engine mount.
Make mine a woody,I can overlook that curious snout.I prefer the wagon to the sedan
This is one of the few AMC products of that era that I am really attracted to, but then I like almost all wagons.
I have only one question: Why in the name of all that is holy did AMC not find some other way to deal with the front end of this otherwise attractive car. The 74-only Ambassador was quite attractive. Couldn’t they have done a 76 Imperial/New Yorker-ish badge swap and started calling the old Amby the new Matador? Or spend that little bit of money to properly shorten the nose of the shorter wheelbase Matador. I am convinced that this schnoz cost them lots and lots of sales.
This could have been a perfect niche starting in 1975 – a smaller, more sensible wagon that would have been so much more attractive than either the bloated Fords and Chevys or than the unsatisfying Mopar/Torino/Colonade versions. This could have been the Dart/Valiant of station wagons.
Of all of the AMC “What-Ifs” from the 70s, this is the one that drives me the most insane.
Let’s just say that when I first saw this nose, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that AMC was doomed.
Chrysler Australia copied it for their overpowered Centura it was the only way to fit a hemi 6 into a 1800cc engine bay
That was based on the Chrysler 180,a car that had to slug it out in the sales room with the many Hillman Hunter clones and the Chrysler 2 litre.Chrysler UK really knew how to make life harder for themselves
I think dropping the Ambassador nameplate was another big mistake for AMC. I agree with you about the Matador sedan and wagon, they should had been renamed Ambassador. Note then Chrysler tried that for 1975 when the Satellite became the “Small Fury”.
The 74-only Ambassador was quite attractive. Couldn’t they have done a 76 Imperial/New Yorker-ish badge swap and started calling the old Amby the new Matador? Or spend that little bit of money to properly shorten the nose of the shorter wheelbase Matador.
If I think of it, I could ask the AMC styling guys at the meet next year, just what they were thinking with that front. I think at least one of them was around in the mid 70s, because he has a pic of himself with Tommy Lee Jones and Edward Hermann when the AMC engineering offices were used for filming “The Betsy” in 78, and he was no young’un then.
What nose?…..you can hardly tell it’s there…..
In modern times that would be the crumple zone.
Wow where did you find a ‘new’ one, that thing is mint and yeah I like it strangely enough though as I mentioned on another thread when I had the opportunity to purchase I declined
I prefer that long beak of the face-lift Matador. Much like the Mercury Cyclone of the early 70’s, it’s what gives the car it’s character. The original front end looks too much like a Chevy Impala of the 70’s to me. I suppose being more generic might have helped them at the time, but looking at it now I like it better.
I think it worked better on the Cyclone.
It was much more distinctive than any of the offerings of the Big 3. I was also impressed with how they used the 5 mph bumpers to enhance the design of the front end, rather than the others who just hung a giant hunk of chrome under the grille with no real attempt at integration.
It is interesting that they still have the filler panels on a design that must have been done with full knowledge of the ‘new’ requirements. I suppose there was no option if the bumper was not allowed to contact/damage the body in a 5mph hit, but it does bring into question the criticism of such filler panel arrangements in other cars.
Keep the Matadors coming Tom. They certainly are one of AMCs better products.
At the time, if I was in the market for a wagon, I would not have considered one of these. After the Ambassador was cancelled, it seemed like it was a matter of time before they cancelled the Matador too. They appeared to be on death watch the last several years of their existence. Plus they came across as long in the tooth, when I started to become interested in cars around.1974-1975. But most importantly, AMC had a very weak dealer network in my part of Canada. Other than Gremlins, and occasional Hornets, AMCs were few and far between. Though surprisingly, you still saw some Ramblers. Matador sedans and wagons especially, were extremely rare. You’d see the occasional coupe. Really, there was little incentive to buy a Matador.
Alternately, where I lived, it was the Hornet Sportabout wagon that seemed the cool AMC product to own. It was attractive and practical, and reasonably common. With none of the styling quirkiness of the Gremlin or Pacer. Come to think of it, I never saw first or second generation Javelins either. So, at the time, the AMC product that piqued my interest would have been the Sportabout with a 258 or 304. With the rally wheels as above. My first choice though, in the compact wagon market, would have been the ’76 Volare wagon. As it was the only other domestic compact wagon offered at the time. Not knowing it’s eventual poor first year reputation, of course.
That’s nice Daniel,I like this a lot.
They were handsome wagons Gem. Unfortunately, they weren’t that plentiful. So, it was always a treat to see one live. I haven’t seen one in years.
Very handsome wagon the Sportabout. There was one for sale here 2-3 years ago; likely the only one in NZ. It had had one owner since new, and possessed the most spectacular rust I’d seen on a newer car. I’d like to think it was repaired, but logic says with minimal parts available here it was probably scrapped 🙁
There is something about having lived through the 70’s that tends to inoculate you against any and all 70’s nostalgia.
But I have to say that this car looks good to me. Maybe because overall it’s an inherently more sensible and sensibly-sized car, without the obviously bloated look that full-size cars of the time had. It looks relatively lean and fast instead – like what you might want a car to be.
Even the snout I can live with – it has some aggression and personality to it and it’s actually quite cleanly detailed, with no 70’s baroque silliness in sight. Likewise the ‘Matador’ font on the tailgate is clean and scroll-free.
As with those of us who were teens in the 80s. I shudder when I think of the 80s. Most embarrassing time for Mankind.
This Matador wagon is a good looking vehicle except for that terrible snout….what was AMC thinking?
Here’s what Motor Trend and writer Tony Swan had to say about the Matador wagon’s nose in an August 1975 road test. Motor Trend is often accused of pulling punches. Not so here, I’d say. LOL
“As for looks, there are certain allowances to be made. As the cottage industry of the American automobile manufacturers, AMC is frequently forced into styling extremes shunned by others, and the wagon’s Jimmy Durante front end treatment is a good example of this. It’s distinctive all right, but then so are warts. The snout protrudes 8 in., and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for its existence other than cosmetic (to abuse that word slightly). The radiator is set a few inches forward of the engine compartment, but looks like it could be accommodated in a more comely, less nosey front end.”
Id rock this wagon. The snout is weird but its not a deal breaker for me. Those Magnums on the other hand are a definite deal MAKER. I like this color too…my first jeep was this bronzey copper…
I’m not a big AMC fan, but this wagon would look real good in my garage!
Lipstick on a pig…
Dig the plaid seats tho, reminds me of the 74-76 Calais.
Interesting to see that the extended nose is actually functional – insofar as the radiator is right there with it. With the radiator that far forward one would be able to insert a V12 engine – maybe even a V16! On a more serious note, this is a fantastic find Tom – gorgeous colour, and looks like it has a/c too, so it’s literally and figuratively cool. I preferred the AMC wagons through the 70s, as they seemed less heavy-handed in their styling than the GM or Ford competitors. This copper delight is no exception.
Maybe even a straight-8…from a small ore ship.
I gotta tell you I have no problem with the nose…it looks like a slightly larger ’76 Valiant nose. But then again someone asked me the other day if I was related to Joe Namath, so….
Even though I’m not an AMC guy I find this a really neat and rare find and very interesting. How often does one find a non woody coffin nose wagon with rally wheels in an AMC? I’m not sure about the engines but remember some changes were made in the 77-78 model years so will look that up.
I’ve always found the Matador sedan and station wagon to be better looking than the Matador coupe.