American Motors Corporation, like Studebaker, like Packard, like so many other long-gone automobile companies, breaks your heart. Sometimes I drive myself crazy with what-ifs: What if Roy Abernethy never became president of AMC? What if Packard never got tangled up with Studebaker? What if Studebaker hadn’t rolled over for the union and stockholders EVERY SINGLE TIME? But for this, but for that, could any of these marques have survived? By the same token, if different decisions had been made, would they have disappeared even earlier? If AMC hadn’t purchased Kaiser Jeep in 1970, would they have gone out of business in 1971-72? If Studebaker hadn’t suckered Packard into bailing them out and hidden their book cooking, would they have been toast by 1955? Who knows? But one thing is clear in AMC history: The 1974 Matador coupe was a costly mistake.
Here it is, the last ‘big’ AMC car. The Matador. Technically a midsize when it first appeared in 1971, alongside its slightly flossier, slightly longer Ambassador sibling. Essentially, the ’71 Matador was a facelifted 1967-70 AMC Rebel with a new front clip and name.
It became American Motors’ largest passenger vehicle after the Ambassador (itself a Matador with more chrome, fancier interior, and longer hood and front clip, but with the same interior dimensions) was cancelled after the 1974 model year.
Many, many folks have questioned why the ’74 Matadors got such a Jimmy Durante style facelift to go with its new 5 mph front and rear bumpers, with the pronounced proboscis of the grille jutting away from the front fenders and headlights. I’ve heard they simply wanted the car to look bigger. But for whatever reason, I’ve always liked these. The sedans, the woody station wagons, even the big, blowsy 74-78 Matador coupes. What can I say, I like the offbeat stuff!