In 1954, Nash and Hudson merged and became American Motors Corporation or AMC. Hudson's heritage of speed was brought to AMC. An intermediate vehicle, the Matador was introduced by AMC in 1971 and it lasted until 1978. The Matador was assembled in Mexico by Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) and also in Australia by the Australian Motor Industries (AMI), with modifications for their markets while continuing to use the Rambler marque.
The AMC Matador was the replacement for the AMC Rebel which had been marketed since 1967. The Matador was based on the full-size AMC Ambassador, much like the Rebel.
The Matador was advertised as more than just a name change and facelift, according to AMC advertising. The vehicle in fact was the 1970 Rebel restyle with a much longer front clip and an all-new interior. The Matador shared its body with the Ambassador from the firewall back, which had a longer wheelbase and front end sheet-metal, luxurious trim, a formal grille and additional standard equipment that included AC.
The 'Matador' was quite possibly a move away from connotations of the Confederacy inspired by the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, it didn't help solve the obscurity problem. AMC adopted a 'What's a Matador' advertising campaign.
Available as either a 2-door hardtop, a 4-door sedan or a station wagon body style, the Matador came with straight-6 or a variety of V8 engines. The wagon style wasn't much different from the Rebel it replaced. An option was a rear-facing third-row bench seat. All of the wagons came with a roof rack along with a two-way tailgate that opened down or to the side when the rear window was own.
Part of the muscle car ear, the Matador featured a trim package, the Machine trim package was carried forward from the Rebel to the Matador as an option on the '71 model two-door hardtops. Merely 50 Matador Machines were ever produced as this vehicle was even less known than its 1970 predecessor. The trim package included a heavy-duty handling package, a set of dual exhaust pipes, and a choice of either a 360 cu in or 401 cu in V8 engine. The Matador Machine didn't feature the bold red-white-blue striping much unlike the Rebel Machine. Today, only one Matador Machine is believed to still be in existence today.
From 1972 until 1974, the Matador was utilized as a police vehicle, largely with the Los Angeles Police Department. Several Matadors remained in service until halfway through the 1980's. Other agencies utilized it as well, including the L.A. Sheriff's Department along with a variety of other law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was also utilized by military police units.
Inside the police version, AMC used a 401 cu in. V8 engine that out-powered many other police vehicles. The police version could achieve 0-60 mph in just barely 7 seconds and was quite comparable to the 2006 Hemi Charger police vehicle. The Matador police version could achieve a top speed of around 125 mph in just 42 seconds. 1974 was the final year for the LAPD's purchase of the Matador and the model soon faded in police fleets as they were replaced by downsized Chevrolet's, Ford's and Dodge-Diplomat-based vehicles.
For the 1974 model year, AMC Matador introduced an X Coupe that featured an aerodynamically styled fastback coupe with pronounced 'tunneled' headlight surrounds. This coupe would be the only brand-new model in the ultra popular midsize car segment. AMC's Vice President of Styling, Richard A. Teague designed this coupe with help and input from Mark Donohue, famous race car driver. The coupe featured a very 'wind-shaped' look that was enhanced by an extremely long hood coupled with a short rear deck. The Matador coupe is famous for being one of the more distinctive and controversial designs of the 1970's, this is after the AMC Pacer. Car and Driver magazine named the Matador Coupe as 'Best Styled Car of 1974'. For its initial year, a total of 62,629 Matador Coupes were sold, in comparison to the 7,067 Matador hardtops sold in 1973.
The second generation of the Matador was introduced in 1974 and had undergone quite a substantial design update for both the sedan and the wagon. At this time, the two-door became a separate and radically styled coupe. This second generation of the Matador featured new passenger car requires calling for five-mile-an-hour impact protection that was accomplished with massive bumpers.
During this generation, both four-door models and wagons received an all-new front fascia with a hood and grille that featured a prominent central protrusion that followed the front bumper design. Fondly, the Matadors with this type of styling were nicknamed 'coffin noses'.
Unfortunately, consumers were leaning towards smaller vehicles, and the big, cumbersome Matador wasn't as attractive. Customers wanted more economical vehicles as both fuel and money constraints were in the forefront of everyone's mind due to the '73 oil crisis along with the double digit inflation. AMC didn't have the resources or the funding to redesign the large Ambassador and so it was dropped following 1974. The Matador continued on until 1978 and was dropped around the time Ford moved their full-size nameplates to a smaller platform.
Unfortunately, Chevrolet downsized the Impala in 1977 and this was a bad omen for large intermediates from AMC and Chrysler. AMC would finish off with the Hornet/Gremlin derivatives, Jeep, and Renault vehicles, but American Motors didn't have another big car until the Eagle Premier that was developed with Renault's partnership and was also introduced directly after AMC was purchased by Chrysler.By Jessica Donaldson