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AMC Matador

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AMC Matador
AMC
Production: 1971-1973
Class: Intermediate
Body Style: 2-Door Coupe
4-Door Sedan
5-Door Wagon
Length:
Width:
Height:
Wheelbase:
Weight: 3300-3700 lbs
Transmissions: 3-Speed Manual
4-Speed Manual
3-Speed Automatic
Engines: 3.8L (232 cid) I6
4.2L (258 cid) I6
5.0L (304 cid) V8
5.9L (360 cid) V8
6.6L (401 cid) V8
Power: 120-330 hp

AMC introduced the Matador in 1971 as a replacement for the Rebel. As was the case with most of American Motors products, the Matador wasn't all new, but in fact a basic continuation of the former Rebel with several detail changes. The Matador was AMC's second-largest offering behind the more upscale Ambassador, which had a longer wheelbase and front end sheetmetal, a formal grille and luxurious trim, as well as more standard equipment. The Matador would be redesigned in 1974 and last through the 1978 model year.

Here's a quick rundown:

1st Generation (1971-1973)

The Matador replaces the dowdy Rebel this year, but, as mentioned, is actually more of a continuation than an outright replacement (much like when the Concord replaced the Hornet in 1978). Nonetheless, the buying public took to the Matador more than they ever did with the Rebel, initially becoming one of AMC's better sellers. Styling touches included a semi-loop front bumper that was also a design used on Chrysler models of the day. Bodystyles included a 2-door fastback coupe with a Gremlin-styled rear quarter window, 4-door sedan and a 5-door wagon, which was available with a rear facing third row bench seat and woodgrain side trim on upper-level models. The Matador was available with just about any engine that AMC offered, starting with the lowly 3.8L (232 cid) I6, with the 4.2L (258 cid) I6, 5.0L (304 cid) V8, 5.9L (360 cid) V8 and the 6.6L (401 cid) V8. Transmission choices included a 3-speed manual on the I6 models, with a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic available on any engine (most had the automatic).

The Machine trim package was carried forward from the Rebel to the Matador as an option on 1971 model two-door fastbacks. Far lesser known than its 1970 predecessor, about 50 (or so) Matador Machines were produced. The package featured dual exhausts, a heavy-duty handling package, and a choice of either a 360-4 or 401-4 cid V8 engine. Unlike the previous Rebel Machine, the Matador Machine did not have the loud red-white-and-blue paint scheme - it was far more understated by comparison.

1972 Matadors changed very little from the 1971s other than a slightly revised grille that eliminated the center horizontal bar. Cars with the 360 and 401 cid V8s now used the Chrysler-built 727 torqueflite automatic transmission. The Machine package was dropped from the coupe. In 1973, the grille was revised again and black rubber "bumperettes" were added to the front bumper, but all else remained the same. The fastback Matador coupe, while generally a slow-seller to the public, nonetheless remained a successful NASCAR choice with drivers like Mark Donohue and Bobby and Donnie Allison. There would be a restyled Matador for 1974.

Matadors were a popular choice with many police departments. In Seasons 5-7 (which first aired on NBC-TV from 1972-75), the TV police-drama Adam-12 would prominently feature a black-and-white LAPD AMC Matador police car, complete with the heavy-duty "police interceptor" package that included the 401 cid V8, which would also have "401" badges on the front fenders.

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AMC Matador
AMC
Production: 1974-1978
Class: Intermediate
Body Style: 4-Door Sedan
5-Door Wagon
Length:
Width:
Height:
Wheelbase:
Weight: 3500-4000 lbs
Transmissions: 4-Speed Manual
3-Speed Automatic
Engines: 4.2L (258 cid) I6
5.0L (304 cid) V8
5.9L (360 cid) V8
6.6L (401 cid) V8
Power: 120-180 hp

2nd Generation (1974-1978)

The Matador is extensively restyled this year, but the chassis and running gear were carryovers from the previous model. All Matadors became longer, bigger and heavier with the restyle, and the front ends on the sedans and wagons now had an extended prow, nicknamed "coffin-nose". The coupe models, however, would be completely new this year and become a quasi-personal luxury car, sharing no body panels with the sedan (see the AMC Matador Coupe (1974-1978) for information on this model). The base engine was now the 258 cid I6, with the 304, 360 and 401 V8s still optional. Virtually all but a very small handful of Matadors had the 3-speed automatic transmission.

AMC dropped the slow-selling Ambassador after 1974, which now made the Matador AMC's largest car. And with the Ambassador gone, the Matador tried to take on a more upmarket, luxury role as well. By this time, however, the Matador's sales fell off a bit from the previous years, as AMC continued to struggle in the intermediate car market. 1976 models had a revised grille but were mostly unchanged from 1975. The catalytic converter had become standard on some models this year, depending on where it was sold. 1977s weren't changed much either. All models and drivetrain choices remained the same as before. In 1978, the up-level Barcelona package became available on the sedan, which included two-tone paint and other luxury niceties, but, with sales continuing to slide, and GM's downsized intermediate and full-size entries continuing to dominate the market, the Matador was really starting to look old-fashioned and irrelevant. The writing was clearly on the wall for this outdated, overweight bullfighter, and the curtain finally fell on it permanently after 1978. There would be no replacement for the Matador.

The 2nd gen Matador would (at first) still be a popular choice for various police departments. The TV show The Dukes of Hazzard used mostly white Dodge Monaco and Plymouth Fury Sheriff cars, but it would also occasionally feature a white Matador Sheriff's car in its first 2 seasons. Early 1st gen Matadors would occasionally make guest appearances as well on DOH, often driven by various "bad guys" or other guest stars.

The 1974 James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun featured a flying '74 Matador coupe as well as Hornets and many black-and-white sedan police cars, despite the fact that the movie was set in Thailand and no AMC cars were ever sold in Thailand (a classic case of product placement, a popular theme in James Bond movies). The 1984 hit movie Police Academy also featured a Matador police car.

See Also

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