AMC Matador Story…
Like the Rebel, the Matador was based on the full-size AMC Ambassador.
The Matador replaced the AMC Rebel, which had been marketed since 1967.
AMC advertising assured that the Matador was not just a name change and facelift, but in reality, it was the 1970 Rebel restyled with a longer front clip and a new interior.
From the firewall back, the Matador shared its body with the Ambassador, which had a longer wheelbase and front end sheetmetal, a formal grille and luxurious trim, as well as more standard equipment that included air conditioning.
While “Matador” may have been a move away from connotations of the Confederacy inspired by the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, it did not help solve the obscurity problem, as AMC adopted a “What’s a Matador” advertising campaign !
The Matador came with straight-6 or a number of V8 engines and it was available with 2-door hardtop, 4-door sedan and station wagon body styles.
The wagon design was essentially unchanged from the Rebel.
A rear facing third row bench seat was available.
All wagons included a roof rack and a two-way tailgate that opened down or to the side when the rear window was down.
A major design change was introduced with the 1974 models for both the sedan and wagon, while the two-door became a separate and radically styled coupe.
These could be considered the “second generation” Matadors.
However, the automobile market was moving to smaller cars.
Lacking the financial resources for a full redesign (partly because of the expensive tooling costs of the coupe), AMC dropped the large Ambassador after 1974, while the Matador was discontinued after 1978, around the same time as Ford moved their full-size nameplates to a smaller platform.
The downsized 1977 Chevrolet Impala also spelled doom for large intermediates from AMC and Chrysler.
AMC would be left with Jeep, Hornet derivatives, and Renault cars.
Though the Ambassador was also offered as a police car, the Matador would prove to be very popular.
American Motors did not have another large car until the Eagle Premier that was developed with Renault’s partnership and introduced right after AMC was purchased by Chrysler.
The largest user of Matador patrol cars was the Los Angeles Police Department from 1972 to 1974.
It was also used by other agencies, including the Los Angeles Sheriff Department and military police units.
While V8 power was down for many domestic sedans, AMC used a 401ci V8 engine that outpowered most other police vehicles.
Zero to 60 mph times were within 7 seconds, comparable to a 2006 Hemi Charger police car.
Top speed was about 125 mph, which took only 43 seconds, much faster than the previous Plymouth Satellite.
The longer-nosed restyle added weight which affected handling and performance, and was less reliable.
1974 would be the last year for the LAPD’s use of the Matador.
The model would soon fade in police fleets as downsized Chevrolets and Dodge Diplomat-based cars became adopted in the late 1970s.
Matador police cars would appear in many television shows and movies during the 1970s.
The Matador still participated in the muscle car trend.
The Machine trim package was carried forward from the Rebel to the Matador as an option on 1971 model two-door hardtops.
Far lesser known than its 1970 predecessor, less than 50 Matador Machines were produced.
The package featured a set of dual exhaust pipes, a heavy-duty handling package, and a choice of either a 360ci (5.9 L) or 401ci (6.6 L) V8 engine.
Notably absent was the bold red-white-blue striping of the Rebel Machine.
Only one Matador Machine is known to still exist.
The 1974 model year introduced an aerodynamically styled fastback coupe with pronounced “tunneled” headlight surrounds.
The Matador coupe was the only all-new model in the popular mid-size car segment.
The coupe was designed by AMC’s Vice President of Styling, Richard A. Teague, with input from Mark Donohue, the famous race car driver.
The coupe’s wind-shaped look was enhanced by a very long hood and a short rear deck.
The four-door and station wagon models did not share the complete redesign of the coupe.
The requirements for five-mile an hour impact protection meant they received a facelift with massive bumpers (Matadors with this front fascia are sometimes nicknamed “coffin noses“).
The coupe stands out as one of the more distinctive and controversial designs of the 1970s after the AMC Pacer.
Sales of the coupe were brisk, but dropped as intermediate coupes declined in popularity with the 1973 oil crisis.
The Matador coupe was named “Best Styled Car of 1974” by the editors of Car and Driver magazine.
Design plans for a sedan and wagon based on the coupe’s styling themes did not reach production.
A special Oleg Cassini edition of the Matador coupe was available for the 1974 and 1975 model years.
American Motors had the famous American fashion designer develop a more elegant luxury oriented model for the new Coupe.
Cassini was renowned in Hollywood and high-society for making elegant ready-to-wear dresses, including those worn by Jacqueline Kennedy.
The Cassini Coupe was unlike all the other personal luxury cars.
The new Matador did not have the typical vintage styling cues of formal upright grille and squared-off roof with opera windows.
Cassini Coupes could be had in only black, copper, or white, and all came with a vinyl covered roof.
The Cassini version was only available on the Brougham two-door models that included standard features such as individually adjustable reclining seats.
It also featured copper-colored trim in the grille, headlamp bezels, in turbine-type full wheel covers, and within the rear license plate recess.
The interior was a Cassini hallmark featuring a comfortable and plush environment.
A special black fabric with copper metal buttons on the seats and door panels was set off by extra thick copper carpeting.
Additional copper accents were on the steering wheel, door pulls, and on the instrument panel.
Embroidered Cassini medallions were featured on the headrests.
The glove compartment door, trunklid, front fender, and hood featured Cassini’s signature.
For 1977 and 1978, the Barcelona coupe featured a padded Landau roof and opera windows, styling cues that were required at that time by buyers in the highly popular two-door “personal luxury” market segment.
In 1976, a “Barcelona” option offered an alternative to the Chrysler Cordoba and Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
NASCAR racing : Penske prepared factory-backed Matador hardtops and coupes that were used in NASCAR stock car racing by Indy winner Mark Donohue and Bobby Allison, and won a number of races.
Donohue did not survive to drive the new aerodynamically designed fastback coupe, that many believe was aimed at NASCAR racing. A lot of myths have been formed about the number four US auto maker.
The new coupe replaced the previous “flying brick” two-door hardtop design; Penske was quoted as saying that they did what they could with the old hardtop, and it did better on tracks with more curves and fewer straight ways.
The most persistent is that they used parts from other makers and just made bodies of their own.
That isn’t entirely true.
AMC did use some parts from other makers, but less than 15% in any given year.
What AMC learned to do was use what resources they had very wisely.
If purchasing a part from an outside contractor was more cost efficient than developing their own and didn’t take away from the unique character of the company’s products that’s what they did.
In this they were actually way ahead of the other manufacturers !
Today most manufacturers, even the largest like GM and Ford, subcontract many of their parts and assemblies to other companies.
Like other manufacturers, AMC owned in whole or had an interest in many smaller companies that produced parts for them and other auto makers.
AMC bought the following major parts from other major auto companies : Steering columns (Saginaw, 1966-up) Steering boxes (Saginaw, 1960-up manual, 1965-up power) Carburetors (all years, mix of Carter and Holley, Motorcraft added in 1970) Ignition Systems (all years, mix of Delco and Autolite points, 1975-77 Chrysler BID electronic, 78-88 Motorcraft electronic) Charging and Starting Systems (all years, mix of Delco, Autolite and Bosch) Other parts such as belts, hoses, tires, batteries, etc. have been purchased from outside sources by all manufacturers for many years.
AMC has always made their own engines with only a few exceptions, and always built their own bodies. The first V8 AMC used was the Packard 320.
Packard’s “Ultramatic” automatic transmission was the only trans available with this engine.
It was used only in 1955 and some 1956 models.
AMC had talked with Packard in the late 40’s about possible merger.
AMC officials still hoped this would happen and felt a cooperative venture would strengthen bonds between the two companies and pave the way.
AMC and Packard agreed to use each other as parts suppliers, or so AMC thought.
In reality Packard president James Nance felt he was doing AMC a favor by selling them engines and felt no obligations to purchase from them (Packard was still a healthy company in 1955) .
A few bids were sent over just for show, but were rejected as being too high.
This took place early in the hand-shake agreement.
This incensed AMC president George Mason so much that he ordered his engineers to develop a V8 engine as soon as possible (the hand-shake agreement was meant to foment trust between the two companies, we see how that worked!).
In order to do this AMC hired former Kaiser engineer Dave Potter.
He had already worked on V8 designs at Kaiser and was able to have an engine ready for installation in a vehicle in less than 18 months !
In order to meet the short development time the engine couldn’t be cutting edge technology.
Instead it used all proven design and build techniques.
It was on a par with other V8s of the time, but not the then-new, cutting-edge Chevrolet small block (also introduced in 1955).
There wasn’t time to build and test cast rods and crankshafts so forged parts were used.
In other words the engine was relatively bulky and heavy for its displacement, but very strong.
With the bulk of the block and forged crank and rods, this proved to be an exceptionally strong engine.
Today a few racers have discovered this and are using them for high boost turbocharging.
The only thing required is custom forged pistons, the crank and rods are as strong or stronger than aftermarket performance parts after a little preparation.
The only drawback to the design was the heads.
They used conventional vertical overhead valves.
With the valve going straight down into the head there was limited room, the valves could only be so big before shrouding affected flow.
The block was capable of supporting over 400 cubic inches, but the heads would need to be redesigned to support large enough valves.
Only slightly larger valves can be installed in these heads, and it may not be worth the cost.
The turbo racers mentioned earlier overcome valve size somewhat with boost, up to 23 psi, but limit displacement to near stock, only boring to take out wear.
Note that Chevrolet didn’t make their small block 327 until 1962.
The early AMC V8 more closely resembles the Chevrolet 396 big block, though there are very notable differences.
This is as close to a “big block” as AMC ever made.
AMC engineers knew that the heavy V8 couldn’t compete with more modern small blocks introduced by the competition (Chevy in 55, Chrysler 55, Ford 63).
The heavy engines weren’t in line with AMC’s economy image either, though they were very much responsible for the Rambler’s reliability and smoothness reputations.
The new engine, introduced in mid 1966, shared some features of modern small blocks and others more common with big block of the era.
AMC started development on a new V8 shortly after the first was in full production.
It had wide bore centers comparable to a big block.
This made the block a little longer but provided plenty of room for future growth and increased stability.
For this reason some publications call it a “mid block“.
It had a Buick style oil pump made into the timing cover.
The distributor was driven off the camshaft via a gear that bolts to the front of the camshaft.
The oil pump drive shaft was slotted to fit a tang on the end of the distributor shaft.
A 390 cubic inch performance model was introduced for the 1968 AMX.
This used the same dimensions as the 268, 290 and 343 but had thicker main bearing webs for added stiffness in that area.
AMC never produced a factory four bolt main bearing engine as they felt the two bolt cap was adequate, but they did cast the webs thick enough to be drilled for aftermarket four bolt main caps for racing purposes.
To keep high reliability with the longer stroke all 390 and larger AMC engines used forged crankshafts and rods.
AMC decided to keep the forgings, either due to low numbers of the engines or to retain high reliability.
According to AMC engineers forgings were originally used due to inadequate time to test cast parts.
In either case an AMC 390/401 is much stronger than comparable small block 400 engines.
No aftermarket cranks or rods are required for racing, just careful preparation of the stock parts.
Displacements were increased in 1970 by lengthening the deck height of the block by 0.16″ for that much longer stroke.
The 390 had built such a performance reputation that a new rod was made to keep a 390 for 1970.
The stroke was changed only 0.11″ for the big engine to bring displacement to 401 cubic inches for 1971.
It was felt that more than 400 inches would be larger than needed.
Even then the block had to be notched at the bottom of the bores to clear the crankshaft counterweights.
The higher deck height meant a slightly wider intake was necessary.
The heads were also changed in 1970.
1966-1969 heads have rectangular exhaust ports.
1970 and later heads have a “dog leg” or “pork chop” shaped exhaust port.
The larger port increased exhaust flow by around 50%, making AMC heads the best flowing production heads available.
For this reason the Chrysler “Magnum” V8 head was based on the AMC design.
The new ports also required new exhaust manifolds.
AMC V8 engines are generally classified as GEN-1, GEN-2, and GEN-3 (GEN for generation).
The GEN-1 engine is the large 1955-66 250-327 block, GEN-2 the smaller 1966-69 286/343/390, and GEN-3 the taller 1970-78 286/304/360/390/401 model.
Although the GEN-2 and GEN-3 share essentially the same block except for the 0.16″ deck height increase, the head, intake manifold, and exhaust manifold changes justify the separate designation.
GEN-3 engines also use 1/2″ head bolts, GEN-2 uses 7/16″ head bolts.
Heads will interchange between the two as long as the bolt size is accounted for.
Step dowels are made to fit the better flowing GEN-3 heads on GEN-2 blocks, but for racing purposes it is better to drill and tap the older block for 1/2″ head bolts.
Technically AMC didn’t build a small block or big block, they just made one V8 engine with the exception of the short overlap in 1966.
To put GEN-2 heads on a GEN-3 block the bolt holes must be reamed to fit 1/2″ bolts.
In reality the engines are compared with the competition.
With this in mind the GEN-1 can be considered a “big block” because of its external dimensions and weight, and the GEN-2 and GEN-3 small blocks for the same reasons.
Some publications have mistakenly called the 390 and 401 “big blocks” because of the displacements.
Externally all GEN-2 and GEN-3 engines are the same size with the exception of height and width.
All bolt patterns and external bolt on parts (except intake and exhaust manifolds) are identical.
All internal parts interchange, though crankshaft and rod swaps may require custom pistons.
GEN-1 parts are unique to that engine.
All 1970 and later AMC heads use the same port design.
All 360, 390, and 401 heads are identical.
These use 2.025″ intake and 1.680″ exhaust valves (early 70 used a 1.625″ exhaust valve) and have the high flow “dog leg” exhaust ports.
If building an AMC race engine simply order pistons for the desired compression ratio and forget the smaller chamber heads, it won’t cost any more (maybe less!) if the pistons need replacing anyway.
1970-early 71 304 heads use a different casting (3199517) but are essentially the same as the 360/390/401 heads.
Combustion chamber volume for the 304 head is 52.20cc and produced a compression ratio of 9.0:1 with stock pistons.
Ports may be slightly smaller and castings a bit thinner, but according to all AMC technical data 2.02″/1.62″ valves can be installed.
Later 304 heads have a 58.92cc chamber and produce 8.4:1 compression.
The bore size of GEN-1 engines is cast into the right rear of the block just behind the head. It’s in the space between the head and bell housing flange.
This area is very hard to see with the engine in the car due to the close proximity of the heater housing.
It may be viewable with the help of a small inspection mirror, and might need cleaning with a small wire brush.
The cubic inch size of all GEN-2 and GEN-3 engines is cast into each side of the block just behind the engine mount plates in the center of the engine.
Since the Engine Day Build Code or serial number is located on a removable tag this is the only reliable way to identify engine size.
This does not apply to the Packard V8 engine.
An exception is the 1970 thick cast 360 used as a service replacement (SR block).
This block could be bored and decked to build a 343, 360, 390, or 401.
Dealers could therefore stock one part number to service four different engines.
It can be identified by the lack of a displacement cast into the side.
The casting number will be for a 401 engine.
This block was used for racing as a thick walled 360, and in Trans-Am racing as a 5.0L.
It may have been cast specifically for T/A racing at Mark Donohue’s request for a heavy duty block, but because it carried a standard AMC part number and was available across the counter to anyone, it did not have to be homolgated like the “Duck Tail” spoiler.
The Donohue Javelin could be ordered with a 360 or 401.
If the SR block had required homologation, it would have ben the only engine option.
There is a machined pad just above the front left oil pan rail that usually has the built size stamped into it.
Some builders/dealers used a code that has yet been undeciphered, possibly because they are not all the same, though partly because these blocks are relatively rare now.
In this case the only way to verify displacement is to measure the bore and stroke.
These blocks have been found in almost all AMC models, a few verified to be factory installed.
Note that a SR block that has been bored out to 390/401 size is worth no more than any other 390/401 block, at that point that’s all it is.
My personal opinions on the monetary valuation of the Matador Coupe :I am frequently asked about the valuation of Matador Coupe, both by buyers and sellers. While I try my best to intelligently answer these questions, first let me say that I am not an automotive valuation expert, a speculator, or a futurist. I am simply a guy who enjoys these cars. I do, however, have some opionions on the subject. I have put these opinions in a question and answer format.I’m selling my Matador Coupe – what is it worth ? The best answer is – “Whatever someone will pay for it.” If you are looking for a dollar amount, I have seen low mileage, excellent condition Matador Coupe sell for as little as $10,000, and as much as $20,000. Personally, I have a hard time seeing how anything over $15,000 is justified unless it is a low mileage car in excellent condition. While well-restored examples of Matador sedans can still be purchased well under $5,000, ads have been published asking over $45,000 and more for restored coupes.I want to buy a Matador Coupe. What should I look for ? First, buy a Matador Coupe because they will highly collectible. I am realistic enough to realize that the coupe is a rare car, and will attain the collectible status. If you simply like the car, and enjoy it’s looks and character, then by all means get one. They are not all that rare, although it is getting more difficult to find one in pristine condition. Look for a Coupe that is complete, with as little body damage as possible, and with as many options as possible. X, Brougham, Cassini and Barcelona/Barcelona II trim packages are your best bets, although base models can be dressed nicely, too. As with any older car, the less things missing or broken, the happier you will be. Glass, lights, rubber seals, metal trim, and interior pieces are all unique to the Coupe, so those should be a high priority. If the engine or tranny is trashed, but the car is complete and in good shape otherwise, get it. Any AMC 6 or 8 cyl. engine and transmission from 1970-1987 will fit, including the 232/258 6 cyl., and the 268/304/360/401 V8. The earlier AMC 268/290/343 and 390 V8s will also work. 1974 Road&Track Test
Seven years ago American Motors embarked on a program to upgrade and update its product lines with a company-wide commitment to design, engineer and market new cars that met specific consumer needs.
First came the subcompact Gremlin, made by cutting the Hornet’s rear end down, then the functional and handsome Hornet Hatchback and Sportabout models-cars that by a combination of foresight and luck hit a changing U.S. market at the right time with styling atypical of Detroit look-alikes.
As a result, today the AMC corporate ledgers are inked in black whereas a few years before they showed nothing but red, AMC isn’t exactly snapping at the heels of Detroit’s Big Three, but in a marketplace where success is measured in tenths of a percent of increased market penetration, American Motors increased its share during 1973 from a little over 3% to slightly more than 4% (a jump of almost a third) at the expense of its domestic competition.
Buoyed by this success, AMC has taken another bold step and introduced a dramatically restyled Matador-a car that was until this year so innocuous that the 1973 ad campaign was built around the question “What’s a Matador ?’‘
The 1974 Matador coupe will not pass unnoticed.
It is styled to appeal to the buyer of intermediate- size cars (U.S. carmakers’ designation, not ours) such as the commercially successful Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Am.
As with most cars in this field the styling is all-important: according to AMC the buyer of a domestic “intermediate” is the most style-conscious of all.
The Matador coupe – with its long hood and forward-thrusting headlights, sharply raked windshield, concealed wipers, ventless front door glass and fastback roofline blending into the sloping rear deck – hits that market head on.
If the exaggerated curving sides give the car a very narrow-track look – even with optional wide radial tires – imagine how each of those fender wells will look with 20 inches of NASCAR gumball lurking underneath.
For that’s another purpose of the new Matador shape: styled by Dick Teague with suggestions from Mark Donohue, the new Matador coupe was designed to become a serious contender on the NASCAR speedways, where the previous boxy coupe had been at a distinct disadvantage.
The new Matador coupe is available in three models: a basic 6-cylinder, the sporty V-8 “X” we tested, and a top-of-the-line Brougham with fancier interior and exterior trim.
The coupe is built on a 114-in. wheelbase, 4 in, shorter than the Matador 4-door and station wagon models, which are basically carryover for 1974.
There is no common sheetmetal between the coupe and the other models, although the mechanical components and restyled interiors are shared by all.
The Matador is an example of American Motors’ ingenuity at its best.
Lacking a development budget like those of the Big Three, AMC has chosen several refined and readily available items from the parts bins of Detroit’s other automakers in engineering the Matador.
A Matador driver sits behind a General Motors collapsible steering column, latches up a Chrysler-designed seatbelt interlock system, starts an engine that breathes through a Ford Motorcraft carburetor, puts a Chrysler Torqueflite automatic transmission into gear and steers with GM variable-ratio power steering.
This is truly a product of “American motors” !
That these components work well together (for the most part) is proof that AMC has chosen wisely. American Motors engines, however, are in-house designs, and like most American cars the Matador can be ordered with several different displacements starting with the l00-bhp 232-cu-in. 6-cylinder and ending with a huge 40l-cu-in. V-8 of 235-bhp.
In the Matador X a 2-barrel 268 or 304 V-8 is standard; 2- and 4-barrel versions of the 360 plus a 4-barrel 401 V-8 are optional.
Our X had the 4-barrel 360 with dual exhausts, a $31 option good for an additional 25 bhp (with no other changes) over the single-exhaust 2-barrel.
Like most U.S. V-8s this engine runs quietly – but only until you stand on it, when it becomes rough and noisy. In these days of emission-choked, ill-behaving engines, however, the Matador’s near-faultless drivability merits high praise.
This seems to be the rule rather than the exception at AMC – the Hornet Hatchback we tested last year had a similarly well-mannered engine and the Editor-in-chief’s Wagoneer behaves well too.
The 360 Matador is also relatively quick for its great weight (two tons) but one does pay a price, higher and higher these days, for this level of performance.
Fuel economy is a miserable 13 mpg.
Though a Matador buyer has a wide range of engines to choose from, transmission options are few.
Automatic is standard with all V-8s; the only thing left to decide is whether you want the lever on the column or will spend an extra $73 for a floor shift.
The Matador buyer can’t even pay extra for a 4-spred; this year it’s available only on certain Javelin and AMX models.
“Sporty” has obviously taken on a new meaning at AMC.
Not that we would criticize the automatic: the Chrysler 3-speed is a very satisfactory unit. It doesn’t offer the instant demand downshifts of the Mercedes automatic, but its upshifts are precise, quiet and smooth.
The shifter pattern AMC has chosen is unusual, allowing the driver to shift between 2nd and Drive without depressing the button on the T-handle but requiring it to be pushed to get into neutral.
Other American automatics (even this transmission in Chrysler cars) provide free shifting between Drive and Neutral, with the possibility of overselling the engine if the lever should slip during a manual upshift.
The Matador interior is completely devoid of the European look GM tried to design into the cockpits of some of its recent intermediates.
The purse strings had to be tied somewhere, but it’s surprising that a car with such an interesting outward appearance should be so nondescript inside.
The dash design is overstated and cheap-looking, and gauges provide only the barest of information; tachometer, ammeter and oil-pressure gauge are absent from the panel.
Ventilation is also behind the times.
There are no dash-level vents – only underpass openings – and all the air is directed at the lower body.
The big ventless side windows draw in lots of air without much wind noise or buffeting, thanks to the aerodynamic shape of the car, but one doesn’t necessarily want to drive with the windows open just to get air.
Front individual seats are better than average for a U.S. car, but they (like most others in domestic cars) lack seatback adjustment – and AMC was the company that pioneered them here.
Reclining seats are an option but they are a split-bench design which offers no lateral support and their backrests pivot at a point about halfway up the spine – hardly conductive to comfort.
There’s considerable legroom for rear-seat passengers, but headroom is at a premium because of the fastback roofline. Incredibly, the rear seat accommodates just two, making the Matador one of the world’s largest 2 + 2s and a particularly inefficient user of space and resources.
On the positive side there’s an easy-to-grip padded steering wheel, plus a large lockable glovebox and more storage space in the center console.
Removable litter bags, which attach to the doors, and intermittent wipers were pleasant options on our test car.
If the Matador owner isn’t particularly impressed by what he sees inside, at least the world outside is visible.
There’s good outward vision in all directions, including the rear, through the sharply raked back window and the large rear-quarter windows, a tall windshield and the ventless door windows.
The Matador’s road behavior is a noticeable cut above the usual Detroit offering but it’s still clear that the car’s chassis isn’t a sophisticated one.
There’s reasonable suspension travel – more than we normally expect to find on a sporty domestic car – and less front-end float when coming out of gentle undulations at speed than with comparable GM and Ford intermediates, although our comments relate to (and we recommend) the $30 handling package fitted to our car.
But the Matador’s unlit body-frame construction is a weak link that lets through bumps and noises trapped and isolated by the separate-frame designs of the Matador’s Ford and GM counterparts.
The optional radials are partially to blame; they’re smooth when cruising but feed in low-speed harshness. Some more chassis tuning is in order.
On a skidpad the Matador’s big radials work up to a respectable lateral loading – nearly 0.7g and about equal to its GM rivals – but with strong, tire-scrubbing understeer.
This isn’t surprising, considering 58% of its 2-ton mass is hanging over that expansive front end.
However, on the road the Matador is surprisingly agile and its natural tendency toward understeer can be greatly diminished by application of the proper amounts of throttle and steering lock.
Applying the right amount of steering is an art in itself, as the GM power-assisted variable-ratio steering gear is typically vague, almost without road feel and in this car not particularly quick, it’s meant for parking, not driving.
Braking also has its strong and weak points.
In normal use the brakes are fine; the car stops straight, and effort (25 lb for a 1/2g stop) is close enough to ideal.
Stopping distances in panic stops are also respectable, but the distances by themselves are deceiving because erratic locking caused the car to slew sideways on every hard stop.
lf the driver hadn’t been so busy modulating the braking effort to prevent lockup, stopping distances would have been even shorter.
Judging from the admiring looks it got wherever it went the Matador is a styling success in the context of the traditional domestic market.
And though it lacks the refinement of its rivals in several areas it costs considerably less – about $1000 less than an equivalent Grand Am, Monte Carlo or Olds Cutlass Salon.
The Matador’s biggest failing is its lack of relevance to the times.
A year ago only people like the editors of R&T would have given this a second thought, but in these days of fuel and other resource shortages it is probably hard for anyone to become enthusiastic about any design (not just the Matador’s) that places so much emphasis on style and so little on economy of means.
Michael Teutul from the TV series “American Chopper” owns a Matador Barcelona that was given to him by his father as a gift. In the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”, the villain Francisco Scaramanga drives a Matador coupe that could transform into an aircraft. Matador sedans (2nd generation) were used as local police pursuit vehicles. In that movie, various American Motors vehicles were used despite the fact that the movie was set in Thailand, where AMC cars were never sold; this was a pioneering use of product placement. The television series “Adam-12” adopted the Matador along with the LAPD from 1972-1975 California Highway Patrol Matador police cars appear in the movie “The Wall”. Various Matador police cars were used in the first Police Academy movie The Michael Jackson music video “Black or White” (the 11 minute version) featured a 1971-73 Matador sedan – in the music video, Jackson bashes the door glass and windshield. The Matador is also used as a stage prop in some of Jackson’s concerts…