1974-1978 AMC Matador

1977 and 1978 AMC Matador
Aluminum wheels and a vinyl roof were among the options for the 1977 Matador.
Aluminum wheels and a vinyl roof were among the options for the 1977 Matador.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1977 and 1978 AMC Matador underwent only minor changes. When the 1977 AMC cars debuted October 11, 1976, they had a new slogan: "THERE'S MORE TO AN AMC!" The 1977 Matador coupe didn't offer many styling changes despite being in its fourth year of production, but its standard equipment list was greatly enhanced. Automatic transmission, power steering, power disc brakes, full wheel covers, and individual reclining seats were now included on every Matador.

The 258-cubic-inch six continued as the base engine in most states, but it picked up three brake horsepower to 98. The 304-cubic-inch V-8 got a boost to 126 horsepower, but the lone 360-cubic-inch offering dropped 11 horsepower to 129.

The big story for 1977 was a new appearance package dubbed Barcelona II. This Brougham replacement provided what AMC termed "Distinctive fine car luxury." Included was two-tone paint in either Golden Ginger Metallic on Sand Tan or Autumn Red Metallic on Claret Metallic; a landau-type padded vinyl roof; opera quarter windows with special accents; body-color bumpers with black bumper guards and protective strips.

A padded opera window roof was added as part of the 1978 Barcelona package.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Also included in the Barcelona II were dual body-color remote mirrors; accent color around the headlamps; slotted wheels (in body color); GR78X 15 whitewall radial tires; Knap Knit upholstered seats; and a Barcelona hood ornament, insignias, and medallions. But AMC car sales were in a slump even the Barcelona II couldn't lift. Matador coupe production sank to just 6,825 for the model year.

The 1977 Matador made a surprise return to the NASCAR racing circuit. Allison and Penske parted company after the 1976 season, and for 1977, the veteran driver chose to strike out on his own. He talked American Motors into providing factory support, rounded up some banking industry sponsors, and returned the red, white, and blue Matador livery to the speedways.

Allison managed five top-five finishes in the 30 races on the schedule, but could do no better than a second in the short-track Nashville 400 in July -- and only then as the result of a scoring review several days after the race that moved him up from third. The following season Allison was in a Ford and AMC's fling with stock car racing was finally at an end.

In 1978, AMC was preoccupied with launching the "new" Concord compact (really a reworked Hornet), its latest attempt at reviving the company's passenger-car business. There wasn't much interest in the mid-size line and thus there wasn't too much that was new.

The 1978 Barcelona package became more elaborate with new color-keyed bumpers and slotted wheels.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The popular Barcelona package returned -- minus the "II" designation. (For 1978, package availability was even extended to Matador sedans.) Drivetrain choices were trimmed, however. The 258-cubic-inch six with automatic remained standard, but the 360-cubic-inch became the only V-8 option.

The engines did get beefier, though. The six was puffed up to 120 horsepower and the V-8 was restored to its 140-horsepower rating of 1975-1976. Torque was up, too, especially in the V-8, which went from 245 pound-feet at 1,600 rpm in 1977 to 278 pound-feet at 2,000 rpm for 1978.

American Motors was clearly shifting its priorities to compact and smaller cars, and most of its dealers knew the Matador was at the end of its run. Production for this final year was a mere 2,006 coupes, slightly more than one per AMC dealer.

By mid-1978 AMC had reached an agreement with Renault to market the French company's line of small cars in America. The agreement eventually led to Renault taking over AMC, but that was still in the future. At the end of the 1978 model year, American Motors abandoned the intermediate market and the Matador coupe became a part of AMC's past.

For more information on cars, see: