Would a car manufacturer ever tell a little white lie? AMC’s marketing campaign certainly did in 1971, assuring the world that the Matador was an all-new car when it was a face-lifted 1970 Rebel. There was, however, a wide choice of engines and four body styles — two-door hardtop or coupe, four-door saloon and station wagon. Echoes of AMC’s recent muscle-car adventures remained, with The Machine option package available on the two-door hardtop.
But wait! In 1974 AMC really did redesign the Matador, with second generation cars finally approaching that original ‘all new’ claim. The saloon and station wagon saw major changes, with a revamped front end that had a protruding section following the front bumper, earning the nickname ‘coffin noses’. But the real surprise was the two-door’s reincarnation as a completely different, radically styled coupe.
Although this streamlined car with its long bonnet and short rear deck won a ‘Best Styled Car of 1974’ award, the stretched fastback atop a short wheelbase with tunnel headlights was not to everyone’s liking, though part of AMC’s intention in producing this in-your-face machine was to create an aerodynamic something that could go NASCAR racing, and indeed it won five races. So in consequence the Matador Coupe was pretty speedy.
There was a choice of three engines over the production run, with a fourth big one added for 1974 only. Several trim levels were offered, along with a succession of ‘designer’ models — Oleg Cassini (1974-75), Barcelona 1 (1976) and Barcelona 2 (1977-78) — that had luxurious interiors. These (somewhat bizarre examples of 1970s kitsch) have become quite collectable, though it’s fair to say that the Matador Coupe has never entirely captured the hearts of those of today’s enthusiasts who look back to that generation of mighty 1970s American cars with affection.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1974 (until 1978)
4.2 I (258 cid) Straight Six; 5.0 I (304 cid), 5.9 I (360 cid) or 6.6 I (401 cid) V8
With 5.9 I engine – top speed of 116 mph (187 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A copper-coloured Oleg Cassini Matador coupe with its black interior appears in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, where it features rather dramatically as ‘the flying car’.