1976 American Motors Matador
8-cyl. 304cid/120hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Matador was AMC’s mid-field offering in the middle 1970s. The car had been in existence since 1971, when it replaced the previous Rebel model. For 1974, though, a mid-life refresh gave the Matador new relevance, as AMC tried to raise awareness of the car.
The Matador was always available as a two-door coupe or a four-door sedan or wagon. Until 1974, Matadors had always come in a single trim level, but that year Matador coupes could be ordered in a sportier Matador X trim with an appearance package, three-spoke steering wheel, and a 304 cubic inch V-8 coupled to an automatic transmission. There was also a pseudo-luxury Brougham Coupe trim, which was simply an appearance package, and a Cassini luxury package that included copper-toned exterior and interior appointments including a vinyl landau roof covering. The Matador sedans and wagons remained normal mid-size economy cars.
Engine options for the AMC Matador included a 232 cubic inch inline six-cylinder at 100 hp or a no-cost upgrade 304 cubic inch V-8 at 150 hp. Buyers could also opt for a two-barrel or four-barrel 360 cubic inch V-8 at 175 or 195 hp, or the ultimate 401 cubic inch V-8 at 235 hp with single exhauset or 315 hp if the 401 was ordered with dual exhaust. Standard transmission was a three-speed manual with column shift, but most buyers opted for a three-speed Torque-Command automatic.
Changes for 1975 and 1976 were predictable, except that the Matador Coupe and Sedan/Wagon were separated into two distinct models, with the Sedan and Wagon taking the high end of the AMC lineup. The base six-cylinder engine was enlarged to 258 cubic inches, but lost 5 hp to 95. The 304 and 360 V-8 options also lost a little punch in this year dropping to 120, 140, and 180 hp. The 401 was available only for police cars, which were generally sedans, but four coupes were known to be equipped with that engine. In 1976, the Cassini package was replaced with a new Barcelona luxury pack, which mainly consisted of a plush velvet interior with matching cut-pile carpet.
In 1977, the horsepower rating on the base six-cylinder actually rose slightly to 98, and the 304 V-8 got one additional pony for 121. The bad news was that the 401 and high performance 360 were gone entirely, and the two-barrel 360 option made just 129 hp. Things improved again for the final year in 1978, with extra standard features like automatic transmission and a more luxurious interior. Also for 1978, the six-cylinder was back to 120 hp and the 360 option made 140 horses. Station wagons used the 304 V-8 at 130 hp. Note that cars made for sale in California in this era give up about 20 horsepower due to emissions regulations.
When looking for a collectible Matador, seek out the early models with the 401 cubic inch engine and dual exhaust. These are likely to be retired police cars and most likely to be found in southern California, as they were extensively used by the Los Angeles Police Department. Fans of mid-70s chic may enjoy the Cassini edition models, while performance enthusiasts will lean towards the Matador X. Probably the most recognizable, AMC Matador, however, will be the red, white and blue, Penske-prepared and factory-backed examples driven in NASCAR during the mid-1970s by Mark Donohue and Bobby Allison.