AMC introduced its radically styled Pacer subcompact in 1975, so changes to the rest of its car lines were held to a minimum. The 1975 and 1976 AMC Matador coupe lineup was trimmed down to a single model, but the Brougham and X survived as option packages. The Cassini decor continued to be available, as well, tempting 1,817 buyers in 1975.
The advent of emissions-tempering catalytic converters sapped net horsepower and led to a shakeup in the 1975 Matador's engine roster. The 258-cubic-inch six with electronic ignition became standard equipment, except in California, where the 304-cubic-inch V-8 was the base engine. Respective power ratings fell to 95 and 120, however. Furthermore, the 401-cubic-inch V-8 option was dropped (though some reports claim that four coupes and a total of 85 sedans and wagons were built with the big engine).
Two 360-cubic-inch V-8s were still available; a 140-horsepower two-barrel version with single exhaust, and a four-barrel variant with dual exhaust rated at 180 horsepower. The Matador X's shift to appearance package status meant it could be had with the base six, but the two made for a rare combination. The three-speed manual transmission continued as the standard gearbox, though most Matadors were ordered with the optional automatic.
Fuel economy was still a concern months after the OPEC oil embargo ended, so easier-rolling steel-belted radial tires were fitted as standard equipment. Also, a fuel economy gauge became available.
During the 1975 NASCAR racing season Allison and the Matador coupe racked up additional victories at the season-opening Winston Western 500, the Rebel 500, and the Southern 500. But by season's end, AMC decided to discontinue factory support of the Matador racers. After one more start with the Matador in the 1976 Winston Western 500, the Penske-Allison effort switched to a Mercury.
It was a bad year for the auto industry, with sales affected by fuel scares and a business recession. Production of the 1975 Matador coupe sagged to 22,368 for the model year. AMC reported a $27.5 million loss.
For 1976, the Matador coupe received an interesting new grille consisting of two rectangular panels filled with horizontal grille bars and rectangular park/signal lamps. An inside hood release, previously optional, became standard equipment and the seat belt interlock system departed. Oddly enough, bias-ply rubber was standard again as radial tires returned to the option list.
The popular Brougham decor was still offered, but the X package was no longer available. However, buyers desiring a sportier looking coupe could order new 14x6 forged aluminum wheels, a rally stripe, bucket seats, and firmer suspension parts to make a Matador X in all but name.
Engines were retained from 1975, but the twin-exhaust, four-barrel 360 V-8 was in its last year. A more economy-minded 2.87:1 rear axle ratio came with all V-8s, but the previously standard 3.15:1 cogs could still be ordered.
There was no Cassini option for the 1976 coupes, but AMC Styling came up with a new trick, the Barcelona package. Matador Brougham coupes with this package were treated to lush individual reclining seats in tan or black Knap Knit fabric, thick carpeting with matching trim for the lower door panels, black or tan color-keyed wheel covers, a stand-up hood ornament, Barcelona nameplates for the hood and decklid, special medallions on the glove box and fenders, and a red-and-yellow bodyside stripe. If the tan interior was chosen, the grille, headlamp bezels, and rear license plate cove received tan accents.
AMC car sales dropped dramatically for 1976, Matador included, and the company suffered a loss of $46 million for the year. To see how the Matador fared in 1977 and 1978, continue to the next page.
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