Junkyard Find: 1976 AMC Matador Barcelona

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

A couple of days ago, I accompanied a friend on a journey to pick up a couple of Rabbits at a mysterious not-open-to-the-public yard that sprawls across a couple of square miles of prickly-pear-covered prairie east of Colorado Springs. I’ll tell the story of that adventure soon, but I just couldn’t wait to share this car that I spotted during our visit: one of the finest examples of Malaise Era special-edition marketing madness in the history of the universe!

After Chrysler scored big with the vaguely Spanish-themed Cordoba personal luxury coupe in 1975, the marketing wizards in Kenosha knew they had to fight back with their own crypto-Iberian-themed machine. Unfortunately, AMC had a budget of about 19 bucks to work with, so they couldn’t afford to hire their own Ricardo Montalban counterpart… but they could spray the Matador coupe in two-tone brown and put some special badges on it.

I already had a pretty severe case of Junkyard Stendhal Syndrome by the time I spotted the Matador Barcelona, having been wandering around endless fields of Willys Aeros, IHC Travelalls, and the like in 100-degree air full of smoke from all the nearby wildfires. Sort of a mid-apocalyptic environment, and then this brown-on-brown apparition appeared out of the haze, parked between a Cordoba and the only Integra for miles.

I may be the only person in this time zone who thinks that the Matador coupe is a good-looking car, and someday I will own one. Sadly, this car is already spoken for. By the way, the official names for the paint colors are “Golden Ginger Metallic” and “Sand Tan.”

Life at 6,000 feet on the High Plains is not kind to car interiors, but you can get a sense of the former majesty of this soft velour upholstery.

Imagine this car with a built 401 and a 4-speed… and a Montalban-esque Spanish accent, of course.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Autocrat Autocrat on Oct 19, 2012

    Personally, I like the styling of the Matador coupe, but vinyl tops, or the faux opera windows on the later models ruin a really clean design. I like to think Dick Teague used the SR 71 Blackbird as a design reference. All 74 cars suffered from the federally mandated 5 mph bumpers, but the Matadors, freestanding, allowed a little more of the original concept. Beauty is in the prejudiced eye of the beholder. Its always been easy to dismiss tiny AMC vs. giant GM. Really compare a 74 Matador X with a 74 Monte Carlo -truly a homely barge- then and now. Popularity trumps aesthetics whether it's watches, clothing, architecture, or cars. Most people, insecure, go with the herd. The narrow tread width was a result of AMC having no budget... The basic chassis dates at least to 67, and the coupe and sedan even share the dash. Wider wheels and thin bumpers (think Avanti or 71-2 Camaro) would result in a stunning automobile. Car and Driver called the Matador "best looking car" in '74. The problem was its introduction as a styled design, right on the paradigm shift to ersatz Mercedes boxy anachronisms ushered in en masse in 1975. Ford Granada is a perfect example. The Matador was an "old" design on its first birthday.

  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on Dec 28, 2015

    This car was crap when new and ugly and it has not changed since. I generally understand that AMC had little to work with, but this car was 10 years late to market and was weird. I love Detroit iron and coupes but never could understand why something with a fast back would be whored out as a luxury product (well, called a luxury product). As a muscle car, this would be a worthwhile trip down memory lane, but even when the Matador was introduced in this form, it had the performance of a 50 year old couch potato marathon runner. This would have been cool in 1968 with some of the engines Rambler/AMC offered then.

  • Vatchy Just think how many electric vehicles could be charged from a new nuclear power plant...
  • Arthur Dailey 'The capitalists will sell use the very rope that we use to hang them.' In our household we have cut down our shopping/spending and pay more to purchase products from 1st world nations or 2nd world nations that are our 'allies'. That also means quite often only buying and eating fruit and vegetables that are in season. Just like our parents and grandparents did.At least TTAC published an article on May 21st regarding LAN transformers that contravene the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act being used in some BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and VW products?
  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!