(first posted 1/20/2014) American Motors Corporation, like Studebaker, like Packard, like so many other long-gone automobile companies, breaks your heart. Sometimes I drive myself crazy with what-ifs: What if Roy Abernethy never became president of AMC? What if Packard never got tangled up with Studebaker? What if Studebaker hadn’t rolled over for the union EVERY SINGLE TIME? But for this, but for that, could any of these marques have survived? By the same token, if different decisions had been made, would they have disappeared even earlier? If AMC hadn’t purchased Kaiser Jeep in 1970, would they have gone out of business in 1971-72? If Studebaker hadn’t suckered Packard into bailing them out, would they have been toast by 1955? Who knows? But one thing is clear in AMC history: The 1974 Matador coupe was a costly mistake.
Before the 1974 Matador coupe, there was the 1971 Matador coupe, a hippy restyle of the 1967-69 AMC Rebel, which itself replaced the former Rambler/AMC Classic midsizer. Though the Coke-bottle flanks made the sedan look rather lard-assed, the coupe was attractive, if perhaps a bit derivative. In fact, during this time AMC rhetorically asked “What’s a Matador?” in their advertising. At a glance it could have been a Mopar or some other Detroit product. But that all changed for model year ’74.
With this! Now, keep in mind in 1973 the GM intermediates lost their swoopy, semi-fastback looks and traded them for formal-roofed Broughmanticism. And the 1973-up Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Cutlass Supreme and Regal found remarkable favor with consumers not named Zackman. So why did the new Matador coupe look like a product of the late ’60s?
I mean, look at it. Does this say ’70s personal luxury coupe? Here’s another what-if for you: What if AMC had introduced this car in 1967 as a Rebel? With slim, not-yet-Federalized bumpers, it would have suggested the coming 1968 Javelin and AMX while bearing a family resemblance to the 1963-69 Rambler American. And it might have even sold.
Oh, the press made all the right noises upon its introduction, but despite the newness and, ahem, unique styling, only 31,169 base coupes, 21,026 Brougham coupes, and 10,074 X coupes were built in 1974. Not even 100K, at a time when even just the 1974 Malibu wagon saw over 44K units.
But for the few and the bold, a Matador coupe was certainly an interesting set of wheels, if you could get past the styling. I find these cars interesting, but my mother considers this the ugliest car ever built. I can see where she’s coming from! But it certainly isn’t bland, is it?
I actually rather like the nose, and this Cassini I found looks even better without the big, ungainly bumpers. The rusty chrome Pep Boys wheels would have to go, though.
Yes, this is a genuine 1974 Oleg Cassini edition, one of 6,165 Cassinis built in 1974. Cassini Matadors beat the Designer Series Mark IVs by two model years and featured multiple copper accents on the wheel covers, grille, rear cove, and headlight buckets.
Inside, black cloth 50/50 divided seats were standard, with copper buttons and copper carpeting. Cassini crests adorned the headrests. These special editions were only available in A1 Snow White, P1 Classic Black or F9 Copper Metallic. As I recall, the standard “Bravado” grain vinyl roof was likewise only available in white, black and copper, but you could mix and match any of the colors–all white, all black, or, in today’s CC’s case, black with a copper roof. I like this car’s combination.
Unlike the GM Colonnade coupes, the rear windows did roll down, though I have no idea how far. The back seat reminds me of a fastback Barracuda; it looks like Matador’s rear seat should fold down–like the Plymouth–but it doesn’t. And since it doesn’t, where is the middle rear seat passenger supposed to put his or her head? If one was on the short side, their head might just bonk against that courtesy light on a regular basis. Not fun.
Here you can see the heavily faded copper trim on the steering wheel boss and the instrument panel. The gauges themselves even have copper faces–on other Matadors the gauge faces were woodgrained, I kid you not.
A lot of the details are attractive, especially the way the vinyl roof and window trim create a knife-edge contrast on the C-pillar.
The rear quarter was attractive too, and just like up front, looks better without the giant 5-mph bumper. I repeat: this car should have been a ’67. Other than the Aunt Mildred’s parlour seating, this car SCREAMS 1967! Could it have been the ’67 Marlin?
Those bumpers might have looked bad, but they were there for a reason–just look at that knock around the outboard taillight. These taillights were my least favorite feature, and have always reminded me of, well, a botched boob job. Sorry!
Honestly, I think a full width taillight panel, not unlike the 1970 Challenger, would have looked worlds better. The factory units look like something that would have been tacked onto a Les Dunham-modified Eldorado or Toronado.
Seeing any Matador coupe these days is extremely rare–before spotting this one in Bettendorf shortly before Thanksgiving, I hadn’t seen one in 25 years or more–but finding a Cassini is a stroke of CC luck! Produced only in 1974-75, it was replaced in 1976 with the Barcelona model, which took Brougham to a whole other level.
Look, even Herb Tarlek approved! I imagine part of the name change was so AMC didn’t have to pay a fee to use “Barcelona” while they almost certainly did to use Cassini’s name. Plus, since the whole Matador coupe lineup was clearly tanking even by late ’75, I imagine the AMC execs thought it silly to pay a royalty on a model that did not even sell 2,000 units for MY 1975 (1,817, to be precise). Total production of Matador coupes of all stripes was 22,368.
Instead of button-tufted brocade, the 1976 Barcelona gained velveteen crushed Barcelona (natch) velour. Quite the mini-Mark IV, but with none of the prestige.
The 1977-78 Barcelona IIs are the gaudiest things to ever come out of Kenosha, with the possible exception of the Golden Eagle Jeep CJs and J-10 Honcho pickups. Well, what else could they do? The Great Brougham Epoch was in full swing, and they had about twelve cents to dress up their midsize failure. This car most certainly should not have a stand-up hood ornament! Or opera windows. Or a padded landau top…
Seriously, who would have looked at a 1978 Cutlass Supreme or Buick Regal and decided on a Matador coupe? AMC dealers were so screwed! At least the 1978 Concord finally gave them a nice car to sell, even if it was just a Hornet with heavy makeup and thicker carpeting.
I first spotted this CC while on my way to fill up the Town Car. It was already dark, but I knew I had to go back and get pictures. These things are just not seen in 2013! So on Thanksgiving Day, I made a little detour before heading to the folks’ for turkey and stuffing and took the pics you see here.
While not perfect, it was in very nice shape, and I saw no rust on it! Quite a feat for a NW Illinois/NE Iowa car. I would have preferred the deluxe “pot pie” full wheel covers, whitewalls and the bumpers though–for originality’s sake. Still, an amazing find, and it looked pretty good, for such an ugly car.
Feeling dangerous? Because this car was for sale. I cannot be sure it is still there, but come on, how in-demand can a Matador coupe be? $5,500 was scribbled out on the for sale sign with $4,000 replacing it. That still sounds a bit steep for a car with cheap, rusty wheels and missing bumpers, because where in the world are you going to find replacements? Want to make your local NAPA guy laugh until he cries? Pay him a visit and tell him you need a pair of bumpers for a 1974 Matador Cassini!
As for the Matador coupe itself, it never really took off. Indeed, it didn’t even have a very good first year–unlike its Pacer sibling that debuted in 1975. 1978 sales–the car’s swan-song–were a pathetic 2,006 units. So, AMC shot itself in the foot not once, but twice. The one-two punch of the Matador coupe and Pacer wiped out any future investment for new AMC products, and resulted in Renault’s essential buyout of the Kenosha-based company. Other than the moderate success of the 1978 Concord and related 1980 Eagle, there would be no future successes in their car line. Too bad.
At least in the sedan you could pretend you were Malloy and Reed from Adam-12. On the other hand, in one of the later seasons, Malloy drove a yellow Matador coupe as his personal car. I have to quit watching 70s cop shows…
If I remember correctly, a yellow Matador coupe with black wall tires and hubcaps. It screamed cheap, base model. While I pictured Malloy driving a sensible car, this was not the one I had in mind.
Quite a comedown from early in the show when his personal car was a blue 68 Mustang convertible.
That was a cool car back then!
I love Adam-12. I wish they would make shows like that nowadays.
Are you sure about that? I caught an episode for the first time in 40 years the other day on TV Land. OMG how unrealistic.
Let me give a foundation to my comments – it was watching Adam-12 as a tween that pushed me into criminal justice as a college major and then post-college brief career.
Regarding the Matador, I’m not sure this thing even belonged in the late ’60s – it was hideous, period. And as mentioned, to be followed by the Pacer cooked AMC’s goose. A shame really because the Hornet was a promising start for the decade.
Malloy had a brand new one as his personal car in the 74-75 episodes. It was the sport version.
Wasn’t Jim Reed’s car a Corvette?
Yes it was.
Was it Tod/Malloy’s Corvette from RT66
It was good enough for Lee Majors in the Six Million Dollar Man
Compliments on an excellent article and photos Tom. A very rare AMC icon. I thought the designer packages they offered at the time, were very creative. I especially liked the look of the Sportabout Gucci package myself. They added some fun to their otherwise, generally plain products. Plus, they were tastefully handled.
This Matador coupe was very fresh when new. But few cars aged so quickly. It looked like a modern 70s interpretation of a 1960s fastback. The long hood dated them, besides the roofline.
Losing the bumpers takes about 800 pounds of visual weight from this one. But by mid 70s styling tastes, it’s nowhere in the league of the formal Colonnade coupes.
I always thought these looked like an overweight, bloated version of the Javelin…sort of like the “fat Elvis” version of what was once a lean, attractive performer.
On the other hand, kudos for opening this piece with “what ifs.” One can’t help but wonder how things would’ve panned out had the coupe’s styling been applied to the sedan. But given how the coupe sold, it may have made matters worse, at a time when AMC couldn’t afford more mistakes than it was already making.
It occurs to me that without the bumpers, the basic shape looks sort of like a ’68 Olds Cutlass hardtop, albeit with zany detailing. The headlights, meanwhile, look like they were inspired by the Triumph TR4. A very odd combination.
I’ve mentioned this before on Matador CC’s, but to me the Matador coupe looks like the TR4’s overweight drunken uncle.
It’s a bit of a French Bulldog,I agree it looks more 60s than 70s but the 70s was a bad time for American cars styling and performance wise.I haven’t seen many at shows what were they like for rust resistance?
I haven’t seen many at shows what were they like for rust resistance?
For the 70s, not too bad really. My Aunt had a 70 Ambassador wagon. It was starting to rust through, if I recall, in the front fenders, by the time she sold it in 79. Nine years is not bad for western Michigan winter road salt.
Sometime in the mid 70s, AMC started advertising that all their cars received Ziebart rustproofing at the factory.
Early in the 60s, AMC started dipping it’s car bodies in primer, rather than spraying primer on, to get better coverage. Can’t prove by me that that helped. My Mom’s 64 Classic had surface rust popping throught the paint everywhere by 72, as well as holes starting in the top of the front fenders. The fender top was a favorite place for Classics to rust as there was a brace of some sort inside that caught debris.
Thanks Steve it just seems to be one of those forgotten cars that are hardly ever seen at shows or in magazines.There were a few RHD examples sold in the UK in the 70s,I recall seeing a maroon one when I lived in Blackpool in 1980 – 83.
Now Ive never seen this car in real life and it is probably very unreliable, but I seem to like its styling. The big round headlights and breaklights, the morris marina doorhandles, the whole low and wide look. It is so different to all the other cars of the period.
“…and it is probably very unreliable” And what do you base that on? They were just as reliable as any other car on the road. There were plenty of them around when new, but they were quickly out of style. Out of style cars don’t sell for much and aren’t accepted as trades, and if they were, were resold cheap. As second and third hand cars, they were quickly trashed by those who couldn’t afford anything else. Aside from the hood ornament, the landau was actually fairly attractive. I remember them new. The two-tone paint and that roof gave the car a much needed styling update. Had they redesigned the front, people would have been fooled. I can’t see square headlights on it, but I could have seen quads. That would have meant a hood, fender and grill retooling. Plastic grill would have been cheap. As for the original version, I always thought the rear quarter windows should have been turned over and swooped down, leaving the roof line, rather than the bottom swooping up. That boat-transom rear, not a lot you can do to fix that.
“What is it?”
“It’s a Matador”
AMC actual ad campaign for the Matador
The better question would have been, “Why is it?”
I remember another strange advert AMC did saying their car couldn’t win a NASCAR race or beat a hemi away from the lights but could outrun a Beetle and a Cadillac.
That ad was for a 1970 Rebel model called “The Machine”. If you Google it you’ll come across various pictures and articles about The Machine. For some reason it makes me think of “The Homer”, created especially for Homer Simpson by his long-lost brother Herb that ended up bankrupting his company. Anyway, here’s the link to the Wikipedia article:
A Matador by any other name is still a Matador.
When I see these, I’m reminded of a study James Nance had done after Studebaker and Packard had merged. It faulted the Loewy styling, stating that it flew in the face of the Industry leader, and he order the ’56’s to be more gm-like (high hoods, lots of chrome)
That being said, you also have the issue of differentiating yourself. Like you said, AMC could afford one car with quirky styling, but there selling three (if you include the Gremlin). But then, you have to admire a company that gave Dick Teague the free rein they did.
It faulted the Loewy styling, stating that it flew in the face of the Industry leader, and he order the ’56′s to be more gm-like (high hoods, lots of chrome)
The 53 Studies had a lot of issues. One being the weak frame. One road test of the time said the 53 cornered “like a mechanic’s creeper” because it drifted so much in corners. Could be a result of the weak frame flexing and changing the wheel alignment.
Another issue was the 53 body resulted in a very shallow trunk, too shallow to stand the spare tire upright, as was the norm at the time. Laying the spare on the floor of the trunk made it even shallower. When the coupe was turned into the Hawk in 56, it was giving a new, higher, trunk lid to partly resolve this issue.
Studie V8s were very heavy, possibly the heaviest V8 for it’s displacement, in the industry. Studies were built light, which combined with the heavy engine for a 58/42 weight distribution, so they didn’t handle very well. My parents had a 56 Commander sedan. Even though it had a more conventional shape, and the 259 V8 was punchy, my Dad still griped that it “handled like a truck”, with very heavy steering and he could feel the frame flexing, even though it had been strengthened compared to the 53s.
By comparison, the 55/56 Packards that Nance was building, featured 52/48 weight distribution, inspite of their slightly heavier, but much larger, 352/374 V8
I could see this coupe attracting impulsive buyers in ’74, lured by it’s swoopy looks.
Standing in an AMC showroom, and taking time to rationalize the decision, a Hornet hatchback would make so much more sense. At least to most buyers.
I imagine the depreciation was bad on these Matadors. Same with trade-in values.
Interesting comparison. I always liked the looks of the Hornet, and never thought much about how it used similar design cues as the homely Matador. It’s like two sisters, one a knockout and the other disturbingly homely… you can clearly see the resemblance but something somewhere went so desperately wrong.
I think the Hornet hatchback was the best-looking AMC of the ’70s. The one you posted above looks perfect in emerald green.
+1. I had a ’73 in college – loved that car. Perfectly sized; had the lame 232 but got the job done. In a sea of horizontal strip speedometers and faux woodgrain chromey dashboards, the Hornet’s round instruments and minimalist trim was what led me to appreciate understated German and Japanese interior design.
Of course you can say that AMC should never had attempted to come out with this car (like the Pacer) but even though this one sold way less well than the Pacer, I understand it a bit better…personal Coupes were all the rage in the mid-70’s (the Cordoba, and of course the Cutlass Coupe) but even then AMC might have abstained and instead updated their “core” car for that generation, the Hornet. Maybe AMC could have done like Chrysler did in the 80’s with the K car but instead to the Hornet? I think the “way out” styling though an attempt to stand out, hurt sales of these cars for owners who probably wanted something more conservative and luxurious (plus I’m sure owners were leary of buying an AMC by this point wondering how much longer the company would stay in business). Plus AMC was known for economy cars (except for Ambassador) so I guess their move to go luxurious might have been considered suspicious (maybe they could have made options like AC stanadard on the Matador as well as Ambassador and went with high level of standard equipment until they could come out with something else (maybe minivan would have been a great idea for AMC, but based on Hornet so you could get something roomier than a Sportabout?)
But CAFE probably still would have won out in the end, even with a 4 cylinder in the Gremlin and Hornet these didn’t get very good fuel mileage (but their purchase cost was low enough to pay for a lot of fuel). I’m not trying to bash the Pacer, but going with a wide body short car wasn’t a good idea for lower fuel milage (to be fair, the Pacer probably started years before 1975, before the first fuel crisis, but AMC should have cut its losses at that point, or else made the Pacer the new Gremlin instead of coming out with the Sprit, which was admittedly very Gremlin like…instead both the Gremlin and the Spirit went away in the early 80’s leaving the Concord (or Eagle) and not much money to come out with anything else, so they probably had to team up with Renault at that point to get a more fuel efficient (and modern) car. Instead we ended up with 2 highly stylized but mechanically conventional cars sold by AMC at the same time.
I’m sure I read the Pacer was going to be a FWD rotary with GM supplied rotary engines.The GM rotary never got past the prototype stage being a poor performer with lousy mileage,it would take Mazda to sort out the rotary engine.
Let me know when Mazda has actually sorted out the Rotary, it’s 2014, I’m still waiting….. I saw a RX-8 puff out a clould of blue smoke the other day…
The poor mpg of the rotary is what shelved it at GM, the GM Rotary was actually a good performer from what early tests indicated, but why spend a ton to tool up for an engine that got bad mpg back when that’s exactly the opposite of what everyone wanted.
GM experimented with several multiple rotor engines, all the way up to a 4 rotor that was installed in the AeroVettte show car.
I’m sure I read the Pacer was going to be a FWD rotary with GM supplied rotary engines.
Apparently, they looked at front drive for the Pacer, but decided on a convential layout.
The concept was maximum interior space, at least in the front seat, with minimum exterior bulk. The car is so wide because Teague wanted the interor space of a full sized sedan.
The car was intended to take the GM rotary, but when GM cancelled the rotary, AMC pressed on, shoehorning their straight 6 in. I have looked under the hood of a Pacer, and it is a nightmare, there is so much crammed into that space.
And, of course, because the car was so wide, it was heavy, which made for poor gas mileage.
The final insult was when it was introduced, in cannablized sales from the Gremlin and Hornet. If I recall, AMC sold more Gremlins and Hornets in 74, then they sold Hornets, Gremlins and Pacers combined, in 75.
The Pacer cost more to build because it was on a uniqe platform, so it was dropped while the Gremlin/Hornet platform was restlyed, renamed Spirit/Concord and soldiered on into the early 80s.
The Spirit was nothing more than a Gremlin hatchback. The hood, doors, front fenders, 100% Gremlin, and those parts, 100% Hornet.
There was even the rarely seen Spirit Sedan, which was a Gremlin with full quarter panel back seat windows rather than the upswooped small ones on the Gremlin. I think AMC really thought they were going to lead the way in modern styling and take off, and in a way they were, the public just wasn’t ready for it.
Two more things.
This car should have never carried the Matador name. It should have been something unique. It didn’t share anything visually with the Matador, previous or the current sedan. It really is what the Marlin could have morphed into had it not skipped a generation.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee that’s still essentially being built – completely designed in house at AMC. They ran out of money and couldn’t produce it. Of course, Chrysler took credit for it, but it had AMC been able to come up with maybe 10 or 20 million dollars, they might have been able to get it into production and saved the company.
The what-if game is fun to play in the other direction, too – what if the Japanese government had ordered Honda to stick to bikes?
What if the Quandts weren’t willing to spend money from their other holdings on BMW, leaving them to the sort of flailing for market niches and making facelifts do when new product was needed that marked the domestic independents?
What if Communism had fell in 1969 rather than 1989, while most of the East Bloc manufacturers had somewhat fresh product?
My dad had one, a ’74 Oleg Cassini model, white/white, from ’76-’80. I wrote about it here:
My family loved that car, full stop. It was roomy and comfortable, and distinctive. We weren’t into the formal look at all, so much of what we would have considered in those days was off our list anyway.
We must all publicly recognize Jim Grey. A youth spent in the back seat of a 74 Matador coupe is not an easy thing to recover from, yet he has done so well. 🙂
Agreed! But that Matador back seat doesn’t look that half bad by 70s personal coupe standards. It seems quite spacious and airy, for a young one. To have such a large roll down quarter window, on a mid 70s coupe, is near spectacular I’d say! Nice materials too. Kids love to have a view. The leg room seems generous. And that middle seating position backrest cutout, makes a perfect shelf. Looks pretty good for a kid, during their formative years… Certainly compared to that mausoleum Mercury Comet backseat. lol
It was plenty spacious, but it was very dark, and those brass buttons got HOT HOT HOT in the summer.
BTW, the rear windows roll down about 2/3 of the way.
Yet another fine product from American’t Motors Corp. I like it!!
This was a terrific find.
It almost hurts to look at this car. However, notice the picture of the red Barcelona edition…it’s greenhouse with the opera window is singing, “Volare!”
RustinPeace is right about AMC giving Teague free reign. He had some winners and he sure had some stinkers.
Agreed. Instantly thought of Volare.
You’re right, here’s a ’76 Volare. Interesting thing, though, is that both the Matador opera window option and the Volare/Aspen debuted in ’76.
Lose the half vinyl roof and it would look a whole lot better.Half vinyl roofs,Continental kits and Mopar toilet seats have spoiled too many cars in my book
Actually I was wrong; the Matador Coupe’s opera window came first, in ’75. Here’s a photo from the 1975 deluxe brochure. So either Chrysler copied AMC, or it was just “the style” at the time.
I’ve never been fond of this design. Quite often a car design will grace with age. This isn’t an example of that.
I remember when I saw one of these at the local auto show, I was mystified. I looked at the brochure over and over trying to understand where they were going with this, and just scratched my head. I apparently had a lot of company. It is amazing how much car styling changed from 1968-69 to 1974-75. What AMC really needed to do was bring back the 1967-69 version of the Rebel/Ambassador, as it would have been much more in sync with 70s formal styling trends. Like Chrysler, AMC did it backwards, for a full decade of un-stylish cars.
This car in black/copper is probably as good looking as one of these gets. Even now, this car just doesn’t do it for me. Is there any car on which a vinyl roof looks worse? There is simply no natural break anywhere, so the vinyl roof has a completely half-assed look to it.
As for the find, I bow to you, TK. I have not seen one of these in probably 20 years, and to find the black/copper Oleg Cassini version, well you have struck gold (or at least copper).
JP, did you notice the missing knob (a la Chevrolet) on the end of the shifter? Didn’t AMC use GM steering columns? I do remember them using the Delco window distriubutor for the V8 engines and it seems to me the locks (steering column, trunk and doors) used GM styled keys.
My mother’s first car was a Matador coupe. Most decidedly not a Cassini or Barcelona; 70’s orange with the white top, and a (in her and my father’s words) “checkered” interior. I haven’t really seen any examples of what she meant by that. I’m assuming it was a decent car…when her sister bought it. By the time Aunt Jolene went off to the Navy and passed it on to her big sister, it was…a car. That’s really all I can say. Probably the 258-6, maybe the 304 V8, definitely 3-speed auto. But she could get all her important worldly possessions in it when leaving college, so there’s that.
Right before and after she got married to Dad, it started going downhill fast (well, literally, yes, but I mean it figuratively here). Something went out on the …throttle body? carb? and you had to give it gas constantly or the engine would die. Even when slowing down or turning. A real two-pedal driving experience, and I don’t mean with a clutch. In other words, par for the course for a late-70’s AMC still being driven in the mid/late 80’s. And she didn’t even need it after she got married–Dad had a perfectly good (well, comparatively) ’82 Dodge Mirada that he never drove, being a farmer and all. After getting married, anything besides a pickup truck or SUV is useless, almost verboten to a farmer.
Eventually, she sold it (gave it away?) to a friend of Dad’s who put it in the local demolition derby. It would have won, too, except that the battery, being relocated to the passenger compartment, tipped over and broke, killing the poor thing.
Since then, it’s been nothing but minivans for dear old mother. Between carting her two rugrats and all their stuff around, and all the cargo runs she did for her job at the library, a car just made no sense. The 22-year streak was finally broken in ’09 when she up and traded the Windstar for an ’08 Kia Sportage, now driven by my sister while she drives a new Honda CR-V. No more wind noise, no more sub-20 mpgs (the CR-V gave us 39.8 on a trip back from Nebraska with the wind pushing the flat rear end) and most importantly, no more getting stuck in 6 inches of snow 1/2 mile from home.
I guess I’m in the minority once again, because I’ve always liked the Matador coupes. I thought it was futuristic looking. I’m not so keen on the vinyl top because it doesn’t suit the body at all, and not enamored by the copper grille accents. I agree on the wheels. This would probably look nice with a set of turbine-style wheels.
To continue the what-if game, if Studebaker was still in business, I could see the Avanti evolving into this. The front end also reminds me of the Chrysler Turbine, especially this example, shorn of its bumpers. On that note, maybe I’d like the vinyl roof more if the car was painted in copper and the roof was black instead, like the Turbines. 🙂 Nah, probably not. The Matador roofline still wouldn’t suit it.
> The back seat reminds me of a fastback Barracuda; it looks like the rear seat should fold down, but it doesn’t. And since it doesn’t, where is the middle rear seat passenger supposed to put his or her head?
With that seat, I think it was only intended to carry two people in the back. Actually the middle seating position in this Matador looks less painful to sit in than my Chryslers would. They have a hard plastic insert in the dip that would dig into your back.
I’m with you, BOC! At the time, the fact that the rear windows rolled practically all the way down was a plus in my book. I liked the styling as well, the bumpers were a concession to the regulations of the time, and were unique in that there were no plastic filler between them & the body work. IIRC, they also came w/ Magnum 500 wheels, which in my book are always preferable to hubcaps ! 🙂
I’d be in that minority too, all through the article I was baffled at the use of “ugly” to describe what I was seeing in the pics. Admittedly it’s not a typically early 70s American look, but that’s no bad thing!
A fairly handsome looking coupe for my money – like you I’d ditch the copper accents and vinyl roof, but otherwise I kinda like how it looks.
Count me in your minority too, BOC. I’ve always liked the looks of these. I never cottoned on to that Formal Look thing – those sort of cars looked like my grandpa’s car, not mine. Make mine swoopy! I reckon the Matador coupe is a natural progression from the late ’60s fastbacks – a sort of alternative-universe next generation Torino, if they’d kept the sporty look.
Whether I’d want to drive one, now that might be another thing entirely….
I wouldn’t go so far to say I liked it but it looks better than the equivalent Fords and GM coupes of the same time
Actually I rather like the Matador coupe, when it appeared in the fall of 1973 I remember that “Car & Driver” called it the most attractive car for 1974. That endorsement certainly didn’t help sales as by then the neoclassic and formal look-personified by the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch were the rage. In retrospect, AMC would have been wiser to put that money toward a modernized Hornet and Javelin.
Looking at the Matador coupe, a 3/4 or 5/8 scale version of it would have made a great looking Javelin.
Agree about your idea of a “Matador-ized” Javelin unless it’s a “Javelin-ized” Matador. 😉 Keith Kaucher imagined a possible “what if?” about the Matador http://www.popularhotrodding.com/features/1209phr_muscle_cars_that_shouldve_been/
also the Matador was also sold as Classic AMX in Mexico for 1974 and 1975 http://www.productioncars.com/gallery.php?car=12711&make=AMC&model=AMX
And one more what if on the table
I’ve never cared for these, they look like a whale on roller skates. The rear roof and window shapes definitely don’t lend themselves to a vinyl roof (which is supposed to simulate a convertible top after all). Did Dick Teague finally get fired after the Matador-Pacer fiascos?
Teague designed the Alliances, as a reward. [correct me if I’m wrong]
Thanks for a great find and very informative piece Tom! My knowledge of AMCs is very lacking compared to just about anything else. Always glad to learn more!
As for the Matador, I must side with Mrs. Klockau. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say as the “ugliest car I’ve ever seen”, the Matador is pretty high up on that list for me. Oddly enough, I actually like the rear and taillights the best out of everything.
Those crushed velour seats in the 1976 Barcelona remind me of wrinkly old skin. Not something I’d ever want to sit on.
Wait, Mrs. Klockau?!
From the article: “I find these cars interesting, but my mother considers this the ugliest car ever built.”
My very first car shortly after graduating high school in 1983 was a 1977 Matador Coupe. White with a red interior, bucket seats and floorshift (a very rare option.) I absolutely loved the car! I replaced the tired 304 with a 360 from a 72 sedan. I loved rolling down all of the windows, including the rear quarters and riding, even in the stifling heat of central Florida summers. I loved that I didn’t pass myself on the highway. I even had a set of Cragar SS/T rims and white letter tires on it for a while. It was often mistaken for a Javelin and wondered if they should have just given it that name. I sold it in 1987 ironically for a 1987 Chevy Nova LT 5 door liftback, another rarity of the road.
A handsome car! In white and without all that daft 70s paraphernalia (vinyl etc.) it looks really good.
If AMC had widened the track and released this as a late 60s model I doubt the design would be getting as much flak as it is.
Yes, that white one looks really nice. While they’re still not my favorite, they look rather clean without the vinyl roof and other gingerbread.
Don’t know if I have the pre-requisite white suit to go with this Matador…..
Not one Scarmanga or The Man with the Golden Gun comment?
I think the only good part of the Matador coupe is the way the head lights flow into the hood, that’s the only good feature, everything else is awful.
I just woke up. MWTGG Matador gives you wings!
TR4 headlight observation spot on.
I think when Ford and GM saw the script for this one, they passed.
Even though the Matador got away in the movie. The Hornet was the star.
When Corgi put out their version, they passed on the movie tie-in.
It’s pretty grim. It looks odd and bloated now, and I remember it looked odd and bloated when it came out. More than anything, it’s a bad copy of the ’71 Mopar B-Body coupes, which went deep into coke-bottle haunches just as GM was about to go neo-classic (since the ’70 strike pushed the Colonnade’s debut out to ’73). If AMC had been on the ball, they would have noticed the strong support for the formal roof Cutlass Supreme after the ’70 re-fresh.
I will give a hat-tip to the red white and blue striped Penske NASCAR Matador coupes. They looked cool.
I am late to the party, but yeah, Scaramanga’s plane/car was the one of the only reasons that I even know these cars existed.
I do seem to remember someone having one in the neighborhood in the early 80’s also. I recall it being maroon or a dark red. There was also a newer Spirit or Concord in the same driveway, so definitely an AMC fan. I guess you’d have to be if you actually wanted one.
The back seat reminds me of a fastback Barracuda; it looks like the rear seat should fold down, but it doesn’t.
Having spent a memorable night with another person in the back “bedroom” of a Barracuda, I can assure you the rear seat very much does fold down.
Great find, and nice write-up. I love these precisely because they were so anti-Brougham. I consider this car the spiritual successor to the 1953 Studebaker Starlight coupe. I’d love to have one; minus the bumpers. And those round rear taillights are perfect, as they complement the big round headlights.
I meant that the Matador’s seat looks like it folds down–like the Barracuda’s.
I updated the text to make that a bit clearer.
Weird to reply to such an old comment, but after reading it I wonder who had to clean many butt-cheek prints off all that rear glass. 😎
I said the Matador coupe reminded me of the ’53 Studebaker coupe, but perhaps more in spirit than in actual design. Its front end actually reminds me rather of the 1951 Studebaker (minus the propeller nose), with their unusual “underhung” grilles, prominent headlights, and the way they both treated their front bumpers strictly as appendages, without any attempt to actually integrate them.
Hey, it’s the 1974 Studebaker! JP, you need to buy one now…
I dig those cars but I agree with Tom about the tail panel. It looks unfinished. I came across a factory black 401 Matador coupe last summer, wish I had taken some pictures.
I just watched the clip from The Man with the Golden Gun that Paul posted. At the end You Tube of course lists related videos, and there was this one – a walk-around of .. an Oleg Cassini Matador:
Oh dear. This might be the only car I’ve ever come across that I have trouble looking at. I find myself literally averting my eyes. I was an underdog rooter back in the day, and therefore always had a soft spot for AMC. And then they came out with this. It was such a different look that at first I pretended to like it, figuring that with time my “real like” would come around. It never did, and every time I see one I’m embarrassed I ever tried to identify with it.
Ah…the Matador coupe and the “what if” game. Right in my wheelhouse.
Story goes that Mark Donohue, who was racing AMCs, was complaining that the Matador 2dr hardtop had the aerodynamics of a brick. This started the ball rolling for designing the coupe for track performance.
What makes no sense is, about the same time, AMC management must have made the decision to let the senior platform, which had not seen an update since 69, run down, rather than update it. The Ambassador was dropped at the end of the 74 model year. The Matador line was killed in 78. What ever possessed them to sink some $40M into a halo model of a line they were going to let die?
My favorite scenario is: take the money spent on the Pacer, add the money spent on the Matador coupe, and do a radical redesign of the senior platform, rather than a radical small car. Start with the thinking of the Pacer: famly sedan interior room with minimum exterior bulk.
To aide the space efficiency go with front wheel drive. What’s that Bunkie? Noone had a FWD drivetrain AMC could buy, and couldn’t afford to develop? Think again. AMC inherited the old Buick V6 when it bought Jeep. Instead of selling it back to Buick, keep it and modify it the way Buick did: offset rod journals to smooth the firing and modify for transverse installation. Then ring up Borg Warner for the transverse FWD adaptation of their Type 35 automatic, that they had been selling to Austin. There you have a reasonably mature, off the shelf, FWD drivetrain.
AMC could have built an 82 Chevy Celebrity in 75. Give it the brougham treatment and call it an Ambassador. The only competition it would have had was a broughmated Ford Granada Ghia, and the Ford didn’t have the package advantage of FWD.
All it would have taken was that one pivot in their thinking around 72.
Saving Studebaker? Couldn’t be done. Besides the labor rates some 20% higher than everyone else, their factory complex in South Bend was completely obsolete. Some of the buildings they were using dated to their horse and buggy days before the turn of the century. Their products were not competitive either. The V8 was not designed to grow, but weighed far too much, even compared to other 50s Y blocks. The cars handled like pigs. They had not put anything into their truck line since 48. Engines were too small and by the mid 50s, styling was falling behind.
Saving Packard? Would have required a miracle of foresight and luck.
Packard would have had to move on Willow Run as soon as Kaiser lost it’s Air Force cargo plane contract and started to move car ops to Toledo, having bought Willys the preceeding April. This was a time frame of June-July 53. Packard would have also had to heed the rumors that Briggs Manufactuing, which made Packard’s bodies, was for sale, as Kaiser had a complete body and paint shop at Willow Run, along with all the trim production and final assembly lines.
That August, the Hydromatic plant in Livonia burned down, which precipitated Hydromatic moving into Willow Run. By the time Chrysler bought Briggs in October 53, the opportunity at Willow Run was lost and Packard moved into Connor Ave instead, which was much too small, and a production bottleneck disaster.
With Packard in Willow Run, they would have had a modern facility, available on virtually a turnkey bases, just take over all the equipment Kaiser had put in place.
Then wait for Studebaker to go bankrupt, which probably would have happened in 55.
Buy the Studebaker parts inventory, brands and trademarks. Leave the overpriced labor. obsolete facilities, debt, unfunded pension liabilities and uncompetetive products behind.
Use the Studebaker brand on a retrimmed Packard Clipper for the senior Commander and President models.
Try to expand the existing Packard/Nash technology sharing agreement to make the Rambler line available to Studebaker dealers to replace the Champion, which would have been dropped as uneconomic to produce. This would also feed into George Romney’s eventual decision to establish Rambler as a stand alone brand.
Move Studebaker truck production to Willow Run, using the Transtar brand that Studebaker introduced in 56, reengined, using the technology sharing agreement, with the Hudson 232/262/308 sixs, with the Packard 320/352 V8s optional. Power problems solved. Offer the truck line to AMC for distribution through it’s Nash and Hudson dealers.
This would all require the cooperation of George Mason, George Romney and Studebaker’s going bankrupt on schedule. The ultimate merger of AMC and Packard, which Mason had proposed, could have been realized after Romney left when elected Governor of Michigan in 62, clearing the way for Packard’s Jim Nance to be President of the company.
Interesting, its HydrAmatic by the way, not HydrOmatic.
The Classic Motorbooks road test compilations make for facinating reading, a chance to see how the models were seen by their contemporaries.
The 56 Studie road test says “handles well…most people will not need power steering in this car” …which conflicts with my Dad’s perception of clumsy, heavy, truck like handling.
The test of the 57, which introduced variable rate coil springs and revised steering, which reduced friction, said “handles much better than last year, most people now will not need power steering”
The test of the 58, which introduced asymmetrical leaf springs says “handles better than the 57…if they had this car in 54, they would have sold a lot of them”, which confirms my Dad’s opinion of the 56, and confirms that the Studebakers were obsolete and uncompetitive.
I wanted to like this car, there are likable things about it. The side profile is pleasant. In an era that was going opera window and colonnade, the somewhat quirky rear quarter window is a unique look that works.
But, the front and rear appearance is awful. Maybe AMC didn’t pick up on that partially because first year sales for this car really were not that bad for a big AMC coupe. But, a significant refresh would not have likely done much. The car reminds me of the ’71 – ’74 Charger and Satellite coupes from Chrysler that also didn’t do very well. GM nailed the era with its formal personal coupes, Chrysler eventually copied that with success, and Ford finally succeeded with a slightly different look with the ’77 – ’79 T-Bird / Cougar.
Finally, AMC should have named it anything but Matador; a bland, aging, slow selling sedan sitting next to it in the showroom. Cassini and Barcelona both may have been better model names than trim package names. Create a base, sport and luxury version from there – in the Pontiac Grand Prix approach. Leave the designer stuff to Lincoln.
Am I the only one who thinks the front overhang is way too much? It’s so big AMC could have provided a wind tunnel for the radiator and dual “saddle bag” cargo compartments.
Perhaps this is an instance of a car being styled not in the way the designers would have preferred, but the way a thick-headed management thought the unwashed public wanted.
Am I the only one who thinks the front overhang is way too much?
AMC was trying to make it more aerodynamic, while still having enough hood height to fit over the existing front suspension and engine, so lenthening the front gives more room to taper the front.
Also, the cheapest way to make a car look big is to make it longer, outside of the wheelbase. A lot of cars had large front overhangs in the 70s, including my favorite bad styling whipping boy, the LTD II
I’ve always liked these cars, a neighbor up the street from me when I was a kid a had a first year 401 Matador X, red with the white stripes. It was 180 degrees away from anything else you could buy new that year. Additionally, a friend of my fathers had a more pedestrian Matador, decked out in the style of the time, 304, autobox, vinyl roof and interior, PS PB and white wall tires. Probably had the “pot pie” wheel covers too, but we’re going back 40 years now… As I remember the car, it was pretty average.
I was always under the impression that the funky styling was an attempt to “productionize” the AMX/3 show car, as there seems to be a lot of that car’s lines in the styling of the production car. It *IS* the contemporary anti-brougham, even when brougham bits are pasted on; maybe even more than the BMW 2002 that would have been selling at that point in time.
I’ve long believed that AMC was a victim of CAFE, EPA and safety standards overreach, I think if they would have been able to receive some sort “cottage industry” status, they may have been able to survive longer than they did. Maybe not.
Maybe the bad decisions that were made starting in the early 1960’s would have never been mitigated, even with relief from these new standards. Maybe the 19th century business standards weren’t going to work in the 20th century.
But they did make some pretty weird machinery. And some pretty machinery. Take your pick.
Geozinger, I came here to also comment that the Matador’s lines seem to echo those of the AMX/3.
Quite an interesting find (and lots of interesting comments too), it is a nice unusual collectible in driver condition with scope for improvement.
I see a bit of 2nd-gen Camaro in the roofline, the early tail treatment of those could have been an improvement too. Like a lot of AMC product the styling is close but just a bit off and the car ends up looking awkward.
Hideous car. By far the ugliest thing on the road in that era. Perhaps any era.
I want one.
I’m responding to a five year old comment. In case you’ve been checking every day for a response, here it is.
Okay, go back to your life and family now.
What was up with AMC and their dislike of center armrests? Not even in their luxury models with reclining seats? I’m guessing it was cheaper to make reclining seats without them.
My brother had a 74 Matador Coupe back in the 80’s — it was yellow with a black top and black stripes. Looked like a bee.
The Matador in the pics has been on Craigslist for a while ( yeah….. I fantasize about finding a cheap one and running in it the 24 HOL, painted in the AMC racing RW&B ). Looks good in black and tan.
I have mixed feelings on these. On one hand, they ARE pretty unique and there are some interesting, even very handsome lines on this car. And being a Jeep fanatic, AMC rides those coattails every time. Some of the comments about this car being about 7 years too late are spot on. For one, this example looks just fine without those ugly ass gub-mint bumpers. Finding and installing replacements would be like the Titanic backing up and hitting the iceberg again. The valance gaps would look good filled with some billet grilles, match them out back and call it good. Also, I don’t mind the choice of wheels at all, they just need some lovin’ to look good.
The frogeye lites always looked wonky to me. Why didn’t they just hide them in the grille, Charger/Cougar style? And that rear tail light/valance is all kinda jacked up! Like a big booty that SHOULD be voluptuous and appealing, but is covered in cellulite. YUCK.
But Ive had a little soft spot for both Matadors, since I grew up with an AFX slotcar set. I still have all my original cars. I have one like this:
and one like this:
I just noticed the blue one at the bottom, in the snow. That color scheme really makes the car ‘pop’. Scrap those whitewalls, and it would be in business…
Yes, those chrome wheels were really, really sharp. They even look good on a woody Matador wagon!
Posted this pic a couple weeks ago, but now it’s AMC Week! From the local AMC meet last summer
The car looks so much better without its bumpers. That clock is going to be a tough find for my collection!!
I always thought the Matador was ugly as sin, but seeing one without the huge bumpers has put it in an entirely different light. Perhaps the design would have worked a lot better with those daintier pre-1973 bumpers that could have integrated themselves into the body more.
I find myself wondering if Jackie Kennedy Onassis was ever seen in one of these Oleg Cassini outfits…
“…in 1973 the GM intermediates lost their swoopy, semi-fastback looks and traded them for formal-roofed Broughmanticism.”
No, there were still the base Chevelle/Cutlass/Century/LeMans Colonnade coupes with semi fastbacks for 1977-73. The Grand Am also. The 74 Matador was aimed at them, and also the 1972 fastback Gran Torino. And lastly, AMC wanted a piece of NASCAR action with this swoopy car.
This car was a reaction to the 1971 Charger, also. Designed long before the 73 Monte Carlo was burning up the sales charts, meant to compete with Big 3 middie fastbacks, all the rage in 1970, but bottom of the line by 74.
You’re correct, but the Colonnades were still a bit more “three-box” than the 1968-72s, at least to me.
I remember this car. My parents had a 1975 AMC Matador coupe when I was little. It wasn’t a bad looking car, although I think it could’ve used a better looking grille. I believe the 1976 and later models had a better looking grille than what was used on the 1974 and 75 Matador.
Again, the coupes were available stripped or loaded. The best looking had the aluminum
or ” styled road wheels”, bucket high back seats, the ’76 and later grille. Recent drivers comparing the driving experience of a Matador coupe with Monte Carlos and Cutlass remarked on how contemporary the Matador felt compared to the old fashioned boxes on wheels feel of the GM’s.The Matador coupe, AMC’s Avanti.
Why does this article fail? Because once again, as always, facts are wrong and assumptions are wrong. Proving once again that, people that think they are automotive journalists, (or so-called automotive journalists) don’t actually have to know anything about history or automobiles.
So let’s speak about Apples and Oranges. Monte Carlo, Regal, Cutlass Supreme compared to the Matador styling and their respective formal roof lines. Why don’t you compare the Matador Coupe to a Station Wagon, because it would just as illustrative. This car was not aimed or targeted against the cars mentioned. The Matador was targeted against the Ford Torino Coupe, the Chevy Chevelle Coupe, or Plymouth Satellite Sebring Coupe, all sporting fast back styling, not Formal Roofs. The Torino and Chevelle all ended up with non formal roofs or roofs that were tried to be styled using opera windows or vinyl to make them look sporty thru 77 and 78 respectively. The same trick AMC tried to use with the Matador after 75.
All the comments from the readers are great, 10 million, 20 million, 40 million….10 billion….nobody here has any idea of what AMC spent on this car and it’s development. It’s simply not a published figure.
Another trick of bad auto journalists, siting figures and not explaining them and putting them out of context. To suggest that the AMC Matador only sold 100,000 cars vs. the Chevy Malibu Wagon is ridiculous. Here’s a good idea, how about comparing it to the previous AMC Matador sales year??? Oh, no, you can’t do that because it would then show the car not to be a failure but a success. For the record, the 73 AMC Matador coupe sold 7,065 examples. That’s over a 1000% sales increase. By any definition, the 74 AMC Matador Coupe was a winner for AMC, a home run. That extra 93,000 vehicles added cash to the cash register. These sales didn’t cannibalize another AMC model, they came at the expense to the other car companies.
A third trick of a poor auto journalist is to not understand history or to just out right distort it. AMC can’t be compared to Studebaker or Packard. Those two brands of cars closed down, shut the doors, turned out the lights, fired everyone and vanished from the planet. AMC continued on with the Eagle as a division of Chrysler Corporation. In fact, the success of AMC made it an attractive Take over candidate. Value was provided to AMC share holders, dealers continued selling cars, the factories kept churning out vehicles. Yes, the AMC brand is gone, but the Jeep brand is alive and well……..also remember, they don’t make Plymouth, Imperial, Oldsmobile, Mercury, Saturn, Pontiac anymore, but you wouldn’t call GM, Ford or Chrysler a failure would you????
Then while your at it, in terms of being a bad auto journalist, they usually take a swipe at Management, or other models. Here once again, the rule comes to play. Siting the Popular Pacer and the Matador not doing as well in sales…..yep, the both sold 100,000 units rounded in the first year……..again a wrong fake.
The best part about crappy auto journalists is that they can always some how get into the mind of the auto executive and infer how decisions were made based on zero facts……then these get turned into internet myths due to un-educated readers spewing the same incorrect facts. Comments on the concept of AMC Executives probably not wanting to pay a royalty to Cassini is classic. The non-journalist here doesn’t even know the basis of the financial arrangement with Cassini, but jumps to the conclusion that it’s a royalty and clearly very large. How about this concept……maybe they simply decided not to do designer cars anymore after 75. No more Gucci Hornets or Cardin Javelins or Cassini Matadors?????? Cadillac and Lincoln were moving into the designer series………
The AMC Matador was an attractive car, it performed well in NASCAR, it won styling accolades from automotive magazines at the time. It didn’t garner ridicule if driven down the road as people seem to like to portray today. It produced significant sales for a small company in it’s first two years……and lower sales in the life cycle of a product which is normal
I thought these were beautiful when they came out and still do. The headlights and taillights are two of it’s best features and the roll down rear windows are still the way to go in 2 door cars. No wonder no one sells 2 doors any longer. A true penalty box for rear passengers.
And the plan was for a 4 door version of the Matador using the same styling. Obviously there was no money in the coffers after both the coupe and the Pacer took up so much of AMC’s finances.
Patrick Foster, a noted author and expert on AMC in his book American Motors The Last Independent, verified exactly what Tom Klockeau said about the Matador costing AMC big time when it proved to not have legs in the sales department after the initial 1974 offering.
Hi Im in the uk or England.This is my 1978 Matador barcelona 360 cubic in. Road going all together a fine car
I had one of these for drivers ed back in 77 along with a beautiful silver olds cutlass supreme coupe, with red interior. Both cars were gorgous. But the black oleg cassini matador, though not a traditional looking car was unique in many ways. Its 304 v-8 ran beautifully, while the olds 350-v8 was sluggish at best. Quite surprised just how well and put togather the AMC was. I wish I had both, but the Matador was very unique, and would be a very rare and cool collector car!
(This is an old comment of mine from another Matador posting I am rerunning😛)
I’ve always loved the looks of this thing. It is hard for me to explain. It’s like the designers talking to each other went something like this: “Alright, here’s the front. What do you think?” “Go wider? No, more…more…just stop when you reach the wall. Same on the other side.” “Okay, how ’bout the lights? Small quads next to each other?” “No. Bigger. Single giant bulbs…the biggest they make.” “How’s this?” “Okay, but move them to the extreme edges. Like they’re about to fall off. Now make pods for them. No, bigger. Good” “How about bumpers? Standard stuff?” “No. Bigger. Farther out. Like way way out. And wider. Can we do a 20 mph bumper? I guess that’ll have to do.” “Rear quarter window? How about a small one since I think they will become popular.” “Oh, no. Much bigger. And not any identifiable shape either. Like an upside-down oddly cut orange slice.” Mmm, okay. Good?” “No, much bigger. Have it meet the C pillar at an odd angle. Actually, make the shape of it like an unevenly worn crayon. Crayon styling is tight.” “Like this?” “Yes. But you know what I’m about to say. ” “Yes I do. Bigger? Like this? I am almost into the C pillar now.” ” That’s okay. Those rollover regs are never going to happen. Can we just make the entire rear end out of glass?” “No, that would cost too much.” “Okay then. Can we keep the whole top horizontal?” “No, then it would be a small van. Keep it sloped enough to technically be a car. No one would ever buy a small van. Can you imagine?” “Yeah, that would be dumb. Big googly cars are the future.” “Oh, without a doubt. Googly is gonna be as big as crayon styling.” “I agree. This thing is gonna sell millions. Now let’s work on that giant goldfish bowl you were talking about.” “Okay. Want some more mesculine?” “Yes, please.” -and so on.
It just occurred to me that we are all lucky that AMC didn’t follow the trend of converting the front end to stacked quad square headlights. Can you imagine?
If someone could/would Photoshop that it would be awesome!
Most likely AMC didn’t have the money to restyle the front. By the start of the 1977 model year, it was also obvious that the coupe was dying on the vine. Switching to quad headlights would not have changed this.
Who is (or was) Zackman?
He is famous around here for despising cars with windows for back seat passengers that do not roll down.
Or only part way down, something like that.
Oh. Well, on that count I agree with him, then.
I saw one of these very early on and I didn’t know what it was, but I sure thought it was ugly. It was red and far enough ahead of me on a Toledo street I couldn’t tell. But a couple of days later, I went by the AMC dealer and there it was, or it had a twin, sitting near the entrance. You had to pass right next to it to come in. My friend with me said, “Is that the ugly car you said you saw?”. “Yep, that’s it!”, and we laughed at it. To this day, I still believe that drugs were involved in the designs coming out of AMC during this period.
IMO: Better looking and driving than the same year Monte Carlo or Torino.
Styling is subjective, but I can understand why the Chevy and Ford were far more popular with buyers. These Matadors were definitely out of the mainstream even when new.
In retrospect, the Matador coupe would have been more successful if it had debuted for the 1969 model year, and without the federally mandated bumpers. By 1974, buyers were thoroughly enchanted by the formal look, as exemplified by the GM Colonnade personal luxury coupes.
These cars went completely against that grain.These Matadors simply weren’t attractive enough to generate enough sales to justify the investment in unique tooling. Chrysler Corporation was having a tough time selling the swoopy Dodge Charger and Plymouth Satellite Sebring against the GM juggernaut.
These cars had the same problem as the AMC Pacer. Namely, they appealed to a limited market, and within two model years, almost everyone who wanted one had bought one. By 1976, my car-conscious friends and I wondered who would buy one of these. That sentiment was common at the time.
As for driving these – the 1973 and later Monte Carlos were noted for their improved handling and braking. GM really did try to improve both on the Colonnades. The Torinos were smoother and quieter, and had nicer interiors.
Was a six cylinder offered with a stick shift ? How about overdrive ?
This was an AMC Deadly Sin.
Kenosha needed a Hornet upgrade, instead AMC did this. Wrong size, wrong car, wrong styling. AMC could have just kept the old Matador and gave it a new front clip that wasn’t the Ambassador’s snozzola. A clean, brougham sedan. Would have cost little and would have easily surpassed what this vehicle did in the market. The rest of the loot wasted on this car could have give the Hornet a new clean design that would have carried it into the 1980s.
Then they could have offered a new Gremlin as well – longer, lighter and more economical. Even if it wasn’t a FWD at the time, AMC had 4WD technology they could have used with a new Hornet/Gremlin design. AMC already had drawings for a mini-van they could have used this new compact body with. The versatility would have been endless.
The Auto Industry knows one another. AMC knew that Ford was designing a new replacement for their compact line. AMC knew they could get mileage out of a Volvo knock-off. The idea that AMC did this vehicle and the Pacer is insane.
The Lincoln Mark that changed auto design was already in vogue by the time this vehicle was designed. The trend was already going in that direction. Why?
Why did AMC do this?
This car is from the era when the role of aerodynamics in NASCAR racing was influencing new car design. The low-production wing-cars were out, but the lessons of flush front ends and high rear decks were shaping cars like the 3rd generation Dodge Charger and this Matador. AMC’s big coupe was built with much input from Roger Penske and Mark Donahue. Car and Driver magazine praised it as the “Best Styled Car’ of 1974. Hero worship can be an embarrassing thing, or maybe they were just aggressively fighting the baroque fakery of carriage lights and vinyl tops on ‘formal’ rooflines by heralding the Matador Coupe’s swept roof and large windows.
You are correct. NASCAR had a big effect on the styling.
I have long very much preferred the design of this Matador to its GM, Ford, and Chrysler competitors; while a fair amount of Dick Teague’s work makes me roll or avert my eyes, I appreciate this one (but it’s not news that my automotive tastes are well off the fat part of the bell curve). The Oleg Cassini edition I was not aware of—I’ll file it with the Levi’s Edition Gremlin.
AMC was too small a factor to field a car this far out of the styling mainstream, it was a recipe to get its head handed to it. Foremost for Teague and staff should have been to read the market which was shouting “personal formal coupe” at the top of its lungs. Even Chrysler finally capitulated, abandoned their “no small editions’ foolishness, ginned up the B-body Cordoda with every styling cliché, raked in the dough.
Teague had four platforms on which to design a personal luxury coupe: the 114″ wb they selected, the 118″ wb for more hood length and the 122” wb for an Ambassador personal formal coupe to compete with Riviera. Further, the second generation Javelin platform could have made an elegantly proportioned one as well.
Teague was versed in pre-war Classic-era car design, doing a knockout one should have been a cake walk for him. Listening to Penske and Donahue about their NASCAR wants held no where near the sales potential as the personal formal coupe did.
BTW, drove one of these Matador coupe briefly, but long enough to leave me to tell my mechanic friend when ask “what a junky car!” This in spite of it being low mileage. If it was generally representative of what AMC was building, small wonder the sales tanked.
At this point in my nearly 50-year classic car fascination, if I see any more Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, GTO, 356, etc., I’m gonna puke. This Matador represents something different, and frankly when I see these at a car show, it’s the most interesting car there.
The body styling is awesome and un-afraid, the interiors are ever surprising. I want one of these and I don’t care who knows it!
I love those Super Stock (is it II or III?) wheels on that ’78 to ’80 copper colored Cutlass. They look really good with raised white letter tires and just as good with whitewalls like the car in the photo does. To me, the Magnum 500 or the Olds Super Stocks were the best looking styled steel wheels ever made, although the 15″ X 7″ color keyed steel wheels on my ’78 Z28 are great too. Those wheels were also shared with the ’71 and ’72 Chevelle SS. A shame nothing like that is available today.
Here’s one that I found on ebay, brand new, 53 actual miles, AND it’s a SIX cylinder! 🙂
To be fair, these were probably planned a few years before they came out…and the 1973 gas crisis probably came too late in the cycle to amend the offerings (similarly the large MOPAR cars that came out at the “wrong” time also in 1974 right after the crisis). They probably would have been OK if they came out in the early 70’s but the crisis changed things quite a bit….AMC might have been better off concentrating on its small cars rather than its midsized by this point…none of the cars got great mileage, but AMC lacked a 4 cylinder engine (I guess they bought iron duke from GM in the later 70’s as an option on the smaller cars) which might have served them better. Similarly the Pacer wasn’t an economy car, though it was roomy it was also wide, which of course impacts fuel economy more than making the vehicle longer (at least at higher speeds) especially with the wind resistance of most cars in the 70’s.
I think this was probably more trying to match models with GM..of course, the midsized GM (particularly the Olds Cutlass) was flying high in the mid 70’s, and I guess they got moderately better fuel economy than the full sized models, but had lots of luxury. If AMC came out with the Concord in 1974 rather than waiting till 1978 that probably would have been a better move…a “luxury” compact probably would have sold better than a mid-size if it came out earlier…the Hornet was OK, but even with the special editions like Gucci wasn’t really a luxury compact. If they had moved up the Eagle a few years that might have been even better, but I don’t think it would be too easy to spot that trend that early…most 4WD vehicles in the 70’s were utilitarian trucks, hard to think that people would eventually equate them with premium passenger vehicles 50 years ago.
My parents had 2 AMCs in a row, a ’61 and a ’63 wagon…these were really practical economy cars…Maybe AMC could have become the “American Volvo equivalent” if they decided to focus on premium small sized cars? Who knows?
I like the overall AMX/3 shape of the Matador coupe, but so many details are off. I photo-slopped at least a dozen different front ends on it before realizing that the fix was really quite simple. Move the headlights outward to the ends of the grill and mold the tunnels into the fenders, eliminating the pointed leading edges of the fenders. Night and day difference.
After posting the front and rear views, it dawned on me that you really need to see the changes side-by-side with the original images to see how significantly these subtle changes affect the design, so I went back and combined both versions into one image. When I tried to edit my posts, however, the time limit allowed for editing had expired. Therefore, here are the stock front end and my version together in one image.
At the other end, I likewise tried a dozen different taillights before settling on a simple solution. Clean up the lenses by eliminating the center ring and move the inboard lights a few inches closer to the outboard lights.
Likewise, the stock taillights and my version together in one image.
Finally, I tried several different rear quarter window shapes, but in the end, I found that simply reshaping the top of the window by lowering the rear of the drip rail a couple of inches was all it took to make it go better with the roofline. These images also show how eliminating the points from the front fenders cleans up the lines.
I bought a new 1976 Matador Barcelona I version. I’ve had Cadillacs, Lincolns and Benzs, and always have had a warm spot for my AMC Barcelona. I actually liked the dealer, I liked the service, I liked that car. When I’ve shown up driving a another make, well, everyone had one. White Cadillacs in Scottsdale are a dime a dozen. I’ve had Chryslers, convertibles of different makes, but no one, ever, ever showed up driving one of these. Like the background song on a recent new Packard model video, ” who drives up? ” You want to spend far more money? Been there, done that. You want something iconic no one else has? Think AMC.
I bought a new 1976 Matador Barcelona I version. I’ve had Cadillacs, Lincolns and Benzs, and always have had a warm spot for my AMC Barcelona. I actually liked the dealer, I liked the service, I liked that car. When I’ve shown up driving a another make, well, everyone had one. White Cadillacs in Scottsdale are a dime a dozen. I’ve had Chryslers, convertibles of different makes, but no one, ever, ever showed up driving one of these. Like the background song on a recent new Packard model video, ” who drives up? ” You want to spend far more money? Been there, done that. You want something iconic no one else has? Think AMC.