(first posted 1/26/2014) “So,” said Estella, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”
In late 1973, AMC introduced the 1974 model year Matador Coupe, a fairly radical restyling of the 1971-73 first generation two-door hardtop. With around $40 million invested in tooling unique to this single body style (four-doors and wagons retained the old styling), it was a huge gamble for AMC, and one which they hoped would pay dividends through increased sales. Unfortunately for AMC (and paralleling “Pip” in Dickens’s story), the Matador piled up a mountain of debt for AMC and its benefactor eventually died off.
While Matador designer Bob Nixon suggested that the sleek styling of the new Coupe was driven by the need for better styling integration with other AMC offerings, other sources indicate that then-NASCAR driver Mark Donahue provided input to AMC on the design of the car specifically to make it more competitive at the track. Perhaps that explains the design direction going off at full-tangent to the rest of the industry, which was headed toward full neo-classical mode by this point.
To better understand why NASCAR aerodynamics may have substantially influenced the car’s design, we only need note that the AMC Javelin had been quite successful in the Trans Am series for several years. When Donahue moved up to NASCAR and the intermediate-sized Matador, he managed a win at Riverside in January, 1973, despite having only an AMC 366 c.i.d. (6.0l) engine as compared to the competition’s generally much larger powerplants. The fact that his Matador was the only car on the track with four-wheel disc brakes certainly helped–he was able to enter turns faster and driver deeper than everyone else and most race teams adopted this configuration within the next year. First-gen Matadors generally did okay on tracks with lots of curves and few straightaways, but suffered on superspeedway tracks. Donahue and others referred to the car as a “brick on wheels,” the “flying shoebox,” or just plain “boxy.”
Donahue decided to retire in 1973, but not before his photo appeared with the new-for-1974 Matador Coupe. He would soon came back to the Penske team to race Formula One, sadly meeting his untimely death in a crash in 1975.
After alternating races between Dave Marcis, Gary Bettenhausen and George Follmer, Bobby Allison became Penske’s Matador man, taking a single win in 1974, following up in 1975 with an impressive four wins including the non-points qualifying race at Daytona, at which he placed second the next day in the full race (finishing on seven cylinders). The only driver to race both the first and second-gen Matadors was Marcis, who felt the newer design was much more stable than the earlier car.
The Matador still suffered from various aerodynamic issues, however, and sometime during the largely winless 1976-77 seasons, Allison proposed a modification to the front grill that essentially flipped it upside down to encourage airflow up over the hood instead of below the car. Despite AMC parking a production Barcelona Coupe at the speedway sporting a “grill kit” to demonstrate it was a factory option, NASCAR refused to even consider the modification. Allison would nonetheless use the revised grill in USAC and other race events, and his car displayed at the museum in Talladega sports the revised nose. Interestingly, AMC actually offered the grill kit as the Matador “X-2” option, but it was never advertised or promoted. Allison confirmed in a magazine article that he later sold a number of Matadors fitted with this option in his hometown of Hueytown, Alabama.
One other aerodynamic change that *was* accepted by NASCAR was a reduction in the size of the rear quarter windows to reduce lifting effects at speed. Note the similarity to the ‘opera window’ treatment on the Barcelona Coupe? I did, too.
“Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come.”
At this point, we can only speculate whether the Matador was an attempt to link its larger-size styling to AMC’s smaller offerings, or simply to create a more track-friendly shape to boost AMC’s performance reputation. Unfortunately, one eventually finds that the putting on of airs is only a mask over what truly lies within. Just as Pip’s “great expectations” fell short of who he really was inside, AMC’s expectations for the Matador never came to pass.
First year (1974) sales were an impressive 62,629 (compared to a mere 7,067 two-door hardtops sold in 1973), but slid back to fewer than 10,000 by 1977 and only 2,006 for the final 1978 model year.
Our subject car is about as close to a track-ready car as one could order (which isn’t that close at all). The floor shift, bucket seats and console are clues that this car has a V-8 under the hood, which optimistically might be the top-option 401 c.i.d (6.6l) making either 235 (net, single exhaust) or 255hp (net, dual exhaust). I didn’t peek underneath to see how many mufflers there were, so we’re left guessing.
Dicken’s novel ends with Pip and Estella leaving the ruins of Satis House as Pip recites the poignant line, “I saw no shadow of another parting from her.” Despite AMC’s great expectations for the uniquely styled car, the Matador Coupe only experienced a brief period of interest from the car-buying public, who, being largely fickle in nature, soon “parted” for more baroque interests – leaving a far sadder end for AMC than Dickens did for Pip.
Producers used one of these along with other AMC vehicles in a James Bond movie. I remember that I couldn’t believe Bond was driving a Rambler. AMC must have paid plenty for their vehicles appearance in a film with such a potential huge audience.
The Matador X used in The Man with the Golden Gun was, until 2011, in the Bond Museum in England. That museum closed and its collection sold to the Dezer Collection in Miami Florida. No mention is made of the Matador X on their website, though the last entry on the internet movie car database says it is in Florida now.
There’s an entire post on that scene from a few days ago, back when AMC Week was in its infancy:
Yes, it must have cost AMC dearly to Kenoshify the cars of Bangkok in a Bond flick. The Hornet X, in a special paint called Product Placement Orange, piloted by Roger “Worst. Bond. Ever.” Moore looks and performs quite nicely in this lively sequence (assuming the jump wasn’t faked, as some insist it was). Still, nobody will deny that for 007 a Hornet was a deep, deep drop from a DB5. It’s as if he started taking his martinis with any old supermarket house-brand gin instead of Gordon’s; or told his barman “Shaken, stirred, twist, olive, whatever, it’s all good.”
The stunt was done for real. Someone involved with the film heard of a stunt show where the car rolls 360 degrees longitudinally, saw the stunt and put it in the film. In an interview the person who figured out how to do it said it is so dangerous he will not divulge how it is done. There was some film of him performing the stunt several times, all with the AMC. I forgot the name of the stunt show, the TV show was on 007 cars.
The car was widened and the steering placed in the centre. Stunt was definitely real, and not performed with scale models.
It’s called an Astro-Spiral Jump, was the first stunt designed by computer modeling, and was originally performed using Javelins. There is a video floating out on YouTube about the stunt, and as I recall it stated a 5th wheel was used to make the rotation stable. It also noted the use of a Hornet instead of a Javelin in the movie was due to ending production of Javelins in 1974 and AMC wanted a car they would still be selling used in the film.
The stunt team that performed it plugged the heck out of The Man With The Golden Gun before it was out in the theatres and performed the stunt live. I actually did see it as a kid at a state fair in Danbury CT back in 74 or 75. No slide whistle though…
THAT wasn’t James Bond. That was some guy pretending to be James Bond.
I could like one of these, especially with a 401/4speed combo and the NASCAR front end.
“…he managed a win at Riverside in January, 1973, despite having only an AMC 366 c.i.d. (6.0l) engine as compared to the competition’s generally much larger powerplants…” I believe NASCAR was in a transitional phase at that time, and most teams had switched to smaller engines. 7.0 liter cars were still permitted but handicapped with a restrictor plate.
I know AMC were perpetually short of money and couldn’t afford to restyle the sedans and wagons so why not call the Matador something else?It was very different to the sedans and wagons rather like the 2 door Plymouth Satellite was a very different car from the sedans and wagons.This was just one of many nails in AMC’s coffin,they sound like an American BL except there were a few diamonds among the duds.
I think Classic was a better name than either Rebel or Matador. Rebel?! Matador?! On an American Motors product?? They were known for their economy and practicality, so what was the deal with the punchier names?
It would be like renaming the American the Super Sport Turbo.
“May we present the 1969 AMC Super Sport Turbo Wagon! It’s just as competent, reliable and plain as last year, but our marketing people are idiots!”
Sorry. I love AMC, but some of the decisions they made were SO questionable…
I think Classic was a better name than either Rebel or Matador. Rebel?! Matador?!
iirc, when Tom McCahill tested the Rebel, he applauded the name change as he figured Classic was “stiff enough to gag a Bishop”
Rebel fits with the late 60s, just as Ford replaced the Falcon with the Maverick, with colors like “anti-establishmint”
By the mid 70s, Matador was not out of step with Granada and Cordoba, or “fine Corinthian leather”
I’m not really crazy about any of those names, but they were not oddballs for their time.
I know AMC were perpetually short of money and couldn’t afford to restyle the sedans and wagons so why not call the Matador something else?
Exactly. The only thing dumber than AMC building the Matador was naming their new, coupe-only model after an existing line of sedans/wagons that (a) they looked nothing like; and (b) had never been much of a success. Would the Cordoba have sold as well if Chrysler had called it “the New Yorker two-door coupe”?
But then, what do you expect from a design supposedly shooting for a “track-friendly shape” whose leading edge includes deep bucket headlights and an indented, down-sloping grille? In seeking better NASCAR results, we’re lucky American Motors didn’t just alter the grille but glue on a big, plastic Superbird-like nosecone.
I have a soft spot for underdogs, and I like AMC, wish they were still around, and have enjoyed CC’s AMC Week. I also know that “hindsight is 20/20”, and that what we’re doing here is “Monday-morning quarterbacking”. But honestly, what in the H-E-double-toothpicks were those Kenoshans thinking when they greenlighted this and the Pacer? Did AMC not do any market research, or did they ignore what their research was telling them? Because I find it hard to believe that if you had polled Americans in the early ’70s (or for that matter at any other time) on whether or not these looked like appealing cars they would consider owning (“If it were available, how likely, on a scale of one-to-five, would you be to purchase an economy car that’s not particularly economical; looks like an aquarium for humans; has windows that don’t roll all the way down; and whose only distinguishing advantage is that it’s a few inches wider than normal?”), that the results would have been anything but a resounding No.
Nothing a bit of digital altering (and a V6) couldn’t have fixed!
These were designed for “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mind set. To go against the Torino and Charger. AMC was still trying to catch up to ‘youth market’ of the late 60’s, and sell to NASCAR fans in the South, but big fastbacks were fading in mid 70’s.
These mimicked GM’s Colonnade fastbacks [Malibu, LeMans, Century, Cutlass S] but the A-Special formal coupes [MC, GP, Regal, Cutlass Supreme] were the hot sellers in 73-77. And GM added more formal touches to their fastbacks. NASCAR moved to being ‘personality contest’ and away from car promotions, also.
So, left with left over ‘go-go boots’ cars that only sold in Kenosha. Not enough to get by.
AMC pretty much bet the farm on Matador/Pacer and had to get bailed out by Renault, and then Lee Iacocca. Concorde did OK as a make over of Hornet, and Eagle was a hit, but needed more cash rolling in.
“(S)o why not call the Matador something else?”
The “AMC el Toro” actually sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? Add a little cartoon like Chrysler’s Roadrunner or Demon – perhaps even license the bull imagery from “Bully for Bugs”?
In “X” trim with this color, it’s not actually a bad looking car. Add a 401 and you probably had one of the better performers of the year if it was optioned up right. As Ed notes though, tastes had already moved on and few cars suffered in the transition to broughamhood more than this one.
This is a nice example that looks to be a survivor rather than a restoration, and better yet looks like it’s still actually driven. Very nice. If I were shopping cars in ’74 this would have rated a closer look.
Nice find Ed. How odd that both AMC Week Matador coupes were found in the salty Midwest! I really like the blue paint and interior.
This one is about as nice as these cars can look, but I would have to trash those aftermarket wheels for AMC’s sharp aluminum wheels, like on this orange one.
Agreed on both points. I, too am amazed at how many of these old Kenosha hot rods are here in the midwest, but then again, it warms my heart. Yes this car would look much better with the aluminum wheels from the 77 shown in your pix, but to be accurate it should have the steel rally wheels that graced many AMCs back in the day.
The front end looks like Harry Potter. No offense to Harry, but not an appropriate look for a car if you actually want it to sell.
The Mark Allison aero update front is a huge improvement, if a bit generic Camaro. I still think this car would have done better with a decent schnozz and better booty.
Exactly my opinion. the silhouette is not bad at all, but that front end, what the hell?
Admittedly the angle the car is shot for Donahue’s autograph card helps a little, but most of the time sewer pipes and superfly pimpmobiles come to mind.
For starters, I’d take those ugly head lights out , and hide them in the grill. Pop open covers when you turn them on.It would have given the car a more sporty aerodynamic look. Restyle those rear side windows. The tail lights aren’t bad, like what you’d see on a Corvette .
When quad rectangular lights became legal, they should have mounted those in the grille cavity (side-by-side, of course) and tooled up a new smooth hood. Light problem fixed. Now, about the rest of the car…..
Surprising that having a NASCAR driver helping design it they ended up with a lift generating front end, did nobody listen to him,of course that was the style of the day having the nose slope under the car but doing that to a car that was meant to operate at high speed seems silly. I quite like the car though I’m never going to buy one.
Damn, I love this car.
We can debate AMCs marketing decisions all we want, but it always comes down to cars.
This car in this color just seems right to me. Later Matador coupes with their fancy trims and broughamed up interiors became cartoons, but this car is perfect.
If you held my feet to the fire, I guess I’d admit the rear three quarters view is a bit too wide in the hips. It’s a shame Dick Teague did not use this look on the Javelin, instead of the intermediate chassis.
But I still like it. Must be the contrarian in me.
This has got to be the best looking swoopy Matador I’ve seen. I agree on the color. The white stripe contrasts well and that gentle kick-up over the rear wheelwheel shows off the car’s interesting shape in a good way.
The bucket/console setup is probably pretty rare…and that steering wheel is one of my favorite designs. It’s probably an enjoyable car to cruise around in…although like Tom, I’d be searching for some factory wheels.
We have griped (with good reason) about AMCs names, but the “X” series is one they nailed. From the Gremlin X to the Matador X and every one between, each gave the car its very sharpest look. And when you mentioned a whatever X, everyone knew that you were talking about the cool one (to the extent that you could equate cool and AMC in the same sentence. )
This may be the most attractive of these. The Cassini was a nicely done package on the wrong car (should have been the Ambassador) but this one does not look so bad in this X version.
I keep looking at the rear quarter windows. That beltline can’t seem to decide if it wants to resolve in a Hoffmeister kink or in some kind of organic flow. As it is, just an awkward treatment that comes off as weak somehow.
The steering wheel in this car is one of my very favorites, one of the best of its era.
Totally agree with you on the ‘X’! Whenever I see an old AMC like this, I look for the ‘X’. Just the simple name “X” is so very groovy and it works well on these Matadors, the Pacer & Gremlin.
I noticed that back in the 1970s NASCAR still had some stock in the cars. Very refreshing. Unlike now where the only thing that is stock in NASCAR is that the car has four wheels.
I had a friend back in the day that bought one of these new. It was a ’74 X model, white with a green half vinyl top, stripe, and bucket seat interior. As best as I can recall it had the 304. It was a nice looking car, but the build quality was not all that good. They had a 1 year, 12,000 mile factory warranty at that time. It was just out of the warranty period and the transmission went out. They refused to cover it, so he had to pay to have it rebuilt. That (and other issues) soured him on the car, so he traded it for a ’75 Opel Manta. I don’t think that was much of an improvement from what I recall.
A neighbor up the street from my childhood home had a Matador X like this back in 1974, but it was red instead of blue. Otherwise very similar to the feature car.
IIRC if the car was equipped with the 401, it would have fender badges directly behind the front side marker light or below the “Matador X” fender badge, depending upon the model year.
More than once I’ve thought that the Mat would look very different if they had adopted hidden headlights for the front grille area. See my (very crude) photo for my rendering. Additionally, this arrangement would have been closer to the look of the AMX/3 show car, rather than the production Matador. However, neither arrangement would be very aerodynamic, especially with regard to NASCAR racing demands. The X2 shovel nose IS the way to go, but unfortunately was denied by NASCAR.
Like the Matador but then I like all the AMC offerings of the ’70s. Personally I think AMC had the styling right much of the time. Their idiosyncracies help to differentiate them from the big 3. I think the US consumer was heading down a dead end with the Brougham look .
As for the names???They are spot on- hell the Rebel should have been the choice for the Duke brothers ‘General lee’!
The Hornet stunt was indeed real. It was patterned after the Astro Spiral Javelins in the Hells Driver Thrill Shows. This is at Houston Astrodome (which as I write is rotting sadly not used for 5+ years here, in this shot record crowd of over 58,000) http://www.planethoustonamx.com/press_photos/72-astro-spiral-javelin-astrodome.jpg
A photo of Chick Galliano behind wheel
and a high flying Thrill Show Javelin
a look thru some of the photos in my “AMC Racing, Hell Drivers & Cops!” files shows that the AMC Hornet stunt was not only relatively new (72) but that Hells Drivers also used AMXs, Hornets, Gremlins, Matadors for their stunts
It is my understanding 6 Hornets were used for the Man With golden Gun, and the actual ramp car is in Iowa currently, alive & well and was driven to Johnny Lightning HQ in Chicago for photo shoot to make 1:43rd diecasts of the red hatchback, of which you can still find those on ebay.
This is a few stills off my site of the Hornet breaking thru the dealers showroom in The Man With The Golden Gun http://www.planethoustonamx.com/amc-dealerships/hornetcrashingthruglass.jpg
The “X” designation was AMC’s ‘sports package’ for a whole slew of cars including Concord, Gremlin, Hornet, Matador & Pacer. On the 401, there were about 112 74 Matador coupes made first year with 401V8, maybe 5 exist. No 401s for 75 in coupes, too bad. El Toro someone mentioned: This WAS a AMX kit George Barris, (THE George Barris) designed for 68/69 AMXs. The opera window: If you have ever been inside a opera windowed Matty coupe, you will notice that there is no window crank. AMC ‘sealed this in’ so while it has same windows as coupe tear drop shaped, outside it is altered to look like opera window by roof trim, inside they simply punched out 1/4 door rear panels with no holes. Viola, great thinking, save costs. already mentioned here are some of the legendary names that raced the NASCAR Matador coupe, if you go to my AMC PRESS PHOTOS file you will see photos of the coupes many have never seen before, also the ‘flying brick’ 72-37 NASCAR Matador:
The biggest obstacle facing Matador coupe owners of lack of restoration items, roof rail weatherstrips, door weatherstrips, trims pieces, just ‘common stuff’ a lot of us AMX & Javelin (& some other AMC models) take for granted. A windshield used for 74-78 coupe is $500+ if only you can even find one, much less someone willing to ship it. I have onwed about 5 Matador coupes out of 380 AMCs owned since 1976, and nice cars, the interiors on the Barcelona is most plush AMC offered in a AMC, even better than the Oleg Cassinis. This was my 77 low miler Matador coupe (along with convertible Rebel Machine not shown in front of theater) grand opening of movie Blast From The Past at the AMC 30 Theater in Houston about decade ago http://www.planethoustonamx.com/stuff/matador-coupe-movie.htm lots of neat comments from people who thought it was full blown custom car, no dead stock 29K mile car. Nice article about coupes day in the sun above, the blue really looks good. Now if I can just find a 74-76 Matador AMX (Mexican VAM built) coupe!
I get tired of hearing this figure of 40 million dollars to develop this car. I’d like to see some proof of that. It’s fiction. It’s the same platform as the previous car and the interior dash and seats were the same as the four door and wagon. Somebody has made a figure up and it’s become fact now…….it literally makes no sense, no way it cost AMC 40 million to produce this car.
The official number for the 1971 Gremlin, per Gerry Meyers, was $6 million for unique pieces not in the Hornet, and that’s not nearly as extensive a change as the 1974 Matador. The Gremlin didn’t even have an opening trunk lid.
The big problem isn’t the $40 million, it’s that AMC didn’t keep selling 60,000 Matador coupes per year after 1974. Midsize coupes were the hottest segment of the auto market. If they’d sold 300,000 Matador coupes in five years, $40 million would be chump change; about $130 per car. That’s a laughably small tooling charge to sell a $4000 car.
And the 50,000 Matador sales per year (200,000 total) that AMC didn’t make after 1974 were an even bigger disaster than the $40 million dollars spent to tool that car. That’s probably $1000 per car in gross profit not earned.
The development/tooling costs for the matador coupe and Pacer were the 1-2 punch that basically knocked AMC out the leagues and left the company as an also-ran. With falling sales, it was really only Jeep that kept the lights on thereafter; even the Concord/Spirit/Eagle didn’t help that much as they didn’t generate the needed sales volume.
Got my license in ‘78 and plunked down $250 on an old B210; I think because I saw in a magazine Paul Newman racing a red/white/blue painted one. Month later I spied an old (4 years in Wisconsin back then made a car old) blue matador x, blue with the white stripe hidden on the back lot of a Buick dealership ready for auction. They wanted $800. A week or so later they let me have it for $250. It had rust holes in front of rear wheels, and rockers. Cut it off and welded some new sheet metal at the school shop no problem. The thing was fast enough, but for some reason it was really great to hit turns on all the neighborhood corners. It didn’t seem to dive, roll, or float like most other cars. Anyhow, it was fun. Poor kids starsky and hutch Torino. Only problem was the valves and lifters. Made that old amc gurgle noise and regularly started shooting blue smoke. But the problem was easy to fix… just had to do it a lot. Went through a bunch of beater cars and what can I do to make this fun cars and cycles through high school, but kept that matador as my main drive: after college I left it with my stepdad to use while I was fulfilling my army active duty commitment. Came home from Egypt to find old dad traded the x for a rusty ford truck. Oh well.
This was one of those times where AMC was damned if they do, damned if they don’t. These reminded me of the Javelins, so the shape was not that far off the mark. Perhaps they would have sold better had they carried the Javelin name. Calling them Matador carried the cop car/old lady vibe that the previous Matadors and sedans sitll had. Putting the Javelin name on these may have sold a few more than what actually moved off dealer lots.
All other issues aside, in the 1970s, cars were still being changed regularly, with minor changes yearly and major changes every 3-5 years. Historically, AMC used product until they just could not put any more lipstick on the pig. They needed fresh product to keep up, and the restyle of the Matador coupe was a gamble worth taking, at least in my mind. Sales were dropping, so perhaps something daring would stir folks to purchase these. In hindsight, it was bound to flop, as do most daring designs do, but it was a moonshot worth trying.
The round headlight nacelles and fastback styling missed the mark. Buyers were more interested in formal styling like the Cordoba.
On the topic, I imagine if the Cordoba based Charger kept a unique fastback body after 1975, the result would have probably ended up Matadorish.
I dont think the mix of formal and fastback styling was purely at fault, GM’s 73 Collonades had formal styling with fastback base rooflines, and while it could be argued whether those are less attractive than the formal roofs on Monte Carlos/Supremes/Regals, they never draw the ire the Matador gets. This Century Gran Sport isnt conceptually far off from the Matador X, it’s just more subdued.
When it became apparent that performance was dead and the market was going brougham in the seventies, AMC, like Chrysler, didn’t have the funds to develop a dedicated personal luxury car like the Monte Carlo or Grand Prix, so they half-assed it, just like Chrysler’s 1971 B-body cars. The difference was AMC tried to morph-in GM colonnade-type big-ass quarter window styling, only with a fastback and some outrageous, oversized head- and tail-lights to cover what was left of the performance market, primarily aimed at NASCAR.
The effort didn’t work but, as someone else pointed out, AMC had to do something to try and get in on the higher profit action. Honestly, if the Pacer hadn’t been such a god-awful mess, I don’t think the Matador X would have gotten half the vitriol it ended up receiving.
Speaking of the Pacer, it seems like AMC management really screwed the pooch on that one. You’d have thought they’d have gotten a firm legal commitment from GM to provide those rotary engines and, if GM bailed, AMC would get some kind of serious reparations. But it seems more like it was more of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ where, when GM ‘did’ renege on the deal, AMC was left holding the bag with a radical new car that had no engine, and that’s exactly what happened.
A small independent would have a hard enough time as it was, without spending a lot of the precious little development money they had on a radical new car predicated on getting a promised new engine from GM that never materialized.
Disregarding the broughamified Barcelona, I’ve long thought these are one of the better American design jobs in ’74. It appeals to me in the same way as the ’66-’67 Charger and the Rambler Marlin. Which is unusual, since I generally prefer 4-door cars with box-on-wheels styling, but there’s no accounting for taste.
(Even stranger: for me the ’64-’66 Baccaruda is yes, but the boattail Riviera is a quick, flat, repulsed no. Go figyuh!)
If those hideous, sticking wayyyyyy out 5 mph “crash bumpers” were removed; a most attractive car is left over.
Much like a bullet nosed Studebaker.
40 million dollars.
And they sold 75,000 cars.
That’s $533 PER CAR in tooling costs. On a car that stickered at about $4300? I’m no accountant, but that sounds like a money loser to me.
Okay, lets assume some wildly optimistic exec projected to sell 200,000 cars in this bodystyle. That’s *still* $200 per car.
It’s hardly a surprise that AMC became an easy takeover candidate.
$200 per car in tooling costs (less than 5 percent) would be on the low side to sell a car.
The problem wasn’t the $40 million. The problem was that AMC was planning on selling a significant number of Matador coupes, and instead they mostly didn’t sell anything. They lost much more than $40 million on the sales they didn’t make.
I’ve always admired the “Oleg Cassini” interior option on this bodied Matador.
These cars are a darn good combination of available parts.
The AMC V8 engine was the equal of anything the “Big Three” were producing at this time.
The Mopar “Reference Standard” sourced Torqueflite automatic transmission gave quick, non-sloppy shifting performance.
The Ford/Holley carburetors worked just fine.
The GM sourced power steering step up gave quick ratios and good road feel.
AMC had been well known and respected, for decades, for their HVAC systems.
I’d choose this Matador over the same year Ford Torino in a heartbeat!
I had a friend who said that the biggest engineering department at AMC was Brackets and Adapters.
IMO one of the most hideous front-end designs ever! But just look at it and imagine the simple change of putting quad headlights in the grille ends instead of the monstrous protuberances employed instead… it would have been quite handsome and modern, albeit not following in the throwback fake Benz/Rolls grill cliche then becoming so popular in Detroit. A huge missed opportunity that may or may not have helped to boost sales… AMC had so many other problems and sinkhole products, it’s likely nothing could have saved them by then.
That NASCAR front end version looks for all the world like a 5/4 scale Pinto! LOL
I am pretty biased, having owned six AMC vehicles, but I have nothing negative to say about durability or drive ability. I like the awkward looks, there is just something endearing about the “trying and not quite getting it right” appearance they all seem to have.
The Matador has all of the most fashionable details that made Muscle Cars appealing, and the most fashionable details that made personal luxury cars appealing, and the result is totally unappealing! I love it!
The X is probably the most appropriate package, the broughamy dash and headlight pods betray its sporty vibe but ultimately that perimeter stripe masks some of the bulkiness of the body. Big fat tires like this surprisingly pretty blue one make a huge difference too, and look appropriate. If you get this in the bronze and tan vinyl personal luxury garb it looks severely compromised, and the narrow track and skinny wheels make it look tippy
As you note, these aren’t too bad-looking in the X version. The design – sort of – works without a vinyl roof and with the white-letter tires and styled wheels.
During 1975-76, Motor Trend regularly predicted that AMC was planning to bring out a four-door Matador styled along the lines of this coupe. The articles included a drawing of what such a Matador would look like. They weren’t bad-looking – then again, those magazine renderings had a way of exaggerating or changing key proportions to make the car look better than it would have in real life.
I’ve really liked the looks of this Matador coupe ever since it came out, because I really like circles.
Major circularity in the headlight surrounds and taillights, connected by circular wheel cutouts. All on a sleek flowing shape. My favorite.
All cars have big circles called wheels. The heart of a car is circular: pistons or a motor armature. Embrace all this circular motion with circular features in the body style!
That’s Donohue, with two ‘os’ and no ‘a’, out of respect to the late, great racer!
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…
TheMann–you win the posting award for today! Hilarious!!
It’s too bad they didn’t adopt the “X-2” grille across the line as a second- or third-year facelift. It goes a long way towards blending in the sticking-out bumper. Dick Teague probably coulda come up with something for the rear using a cheap-to-tool plastic filler panel and existing (Pacer?) taillights.
I like that those big old rear windows actually opened.
Someone in marketing should have taken notice of the increase in the ’69 Grand Prix sales plus the success of the ’70 Monte Carlo, told Teague to gin up a personal luxury sport coupe styling interpretation of that which could be applied to the Matador hardtop coupe body. Derivative? Me Too? Sure, but AMC was far too small to fly off into a tangent style and hope the customer preference would turn and embrace it. Ambassador was the top-line, so too should their ‘classic’ personal luxury coupe.
Growing up in Wisconsin I saw quite a few AMCs (especially when the state bought a huge fleet of Aliances, aka, Appliances).
My dad had a ‘73 Hornet hatchback, probably the only Hornet with a car phone, and my best friend’s mom had a Pacer Wagon. A co-worker back in the early ‘80’s had a ‘74-‘78 Matador 2dr, which I rode in a couple times – this was a car I could never warm up to. I appreciate these Matadors now, but it was a design that I did not care for when new. Thankfully AMC did have success with the Pacer in ‘75 – that was a car which was a better fit for AMC, although the Pacer was goofy it did have a slightly futuristic look to it.
Besides showing up in a James Bond movie, a Matador X was also driven by “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
Although the fastback styling was unique for the time, it was a surprisingly clean design and very competitive with the Chevrolet Chevelle coupe of the same time. I especially liked how AMC did not try to hide the gaps between the bumpers and the car body and how the shock absorbers that suspended the bumpers were visible, but not obtrusive.
Never liked this – it was introduced at the wrong time and was such a waste of resources on a product that had no future. Vinyl roofs on this were just plain ugly – those tail lights and headlights were horrific in execution. There is not much to like about this thing.
Tried to out-do Charger, Gran Torino sportsroof, and Colonnade fastbacks, but only sold fair in first year to the ‘first on the block’ car fans. Then were as out of style as “mood rings” and forgotten.
These were just too big for the ‘hot rodder’ who preferred the 64-72 Chevelle, Camaro/Mustang or Nova sized coupes. And NASCAR wins didn’t sell new cars anymore by mid 70’s. Certainly didn’t help Chevy Lagunas.