Rare Rides: The 1978 AMC Matador - Baroque and Barcelona

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1978 amc matador baroque and barcelona

The Rare Rides series has previously featured a couple of AMC products. First up was the unique and stylish Eagle Sundancer, followed up by the Van concept that never quite made it to production. Today, we head back to the late Seventies and take a look at the seriously brougham Matador coupe. And it’s not just any old Matador — it’s the special Barcelona version.

I hear polyester rustling.

The Matador started out in life as the midsize sedan offering from American Motors in 1971. Ever the penny pincher, AMC created the “brand new” Matador off the bones of its predecessor, the Rebel. Initially, the Matador was available in two-door hardtop, four-door sedan, and wagon configurations. Small trim changes and improvements occurred annually, and by 1973 owner satisfaction had improved over the prior Rebel model.

A second-generation Matador collection debuted in 1974, bringing some substantial changes to the lineup. While the four-door sedan and wagon bodystyles retained the same basic shape, the plain-looking two-door hardtop transformed into a stylish coupe with sweeping lines. Like the Van concept up above, the Matador coupe was penned by AMC’s favorite (and lead) designer, Richard Teague. With his design, the Matador coupe separated from the brass band and went its own direction, as top execs at AMC intended to inject some unique excitement into the burgeoning mid-market coupe segment. For ’74, Matador was the only new coupe on the market, and went toe to toe with the established coupe variants of the Ford Torino, Plymouth Satellite, and Chevrolet Chevelle.

The long, flowing hood matched to a short rear deck made for classic coupe proportions, if a bit distended by US bumper regulations. Not satisfied with the soft middle, AMC aimed higher with two luxury versions of the Matador coupe — the Oleg Cassini designer edition, and today’s Barcelona.

First up was the Cassini, available in 1974 and 1975. It mimicked the Lincoln tradition of employing a designer to outfit both the interior and exterior of a standard car, and putting his name on it in several places. The Barcelona trim followed up for 1977 and 1978, rounding out the remainder of the Matador’s lifespan. Both of these trim levels pushed the Matador coupe to new heights (and into the Personal Luxury Coupe segment).

All Barcelona coupes had a padded vinyl roof and opera windows in the finest brougham tradition. Though initially only available in a two-tone gold color combo, a second color combination in this dual-red was available only for ’78. Other special items included crushed velvet seating, special door trim, headliner, painted headlamp bezels, color-key wheels (gone), and some Barcelona medallions in select locations.

Today’s example has been meticulously maintained. The front bumper has been removed, and it’s been lowered a bit and put on some new wheels. All the standard and additional luxury features of the Barcelona are powered along by the AMC 360 V8, which is 5.9 liters in foreign metric units. The only transmission available is the three-speed Torque Command automatic, because this Matador is for relaxed, luxury motoring only. The seller expects more than $13,000 for it, as the last couple of listings have reached that figure and not met the reserve.

[Images via eBay]

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  • Aron9000 Aron9000 on Apr 23, 2018

    Man that car was about 4 or 5 years too late from being a true classic IMO. Imagine that shape coming out in 1969 or 1970, the designers were free to do the bumpers how they saw fit. Also wouldn't have had that silly vinyl roof/opera window(I know that was optional). The 360 V8 would have had about 300hp or so before the government killed all the fun on horsepower. This would have been an interesting comparison between something like the new 1970 Challenger or 1970 Camaro, both had similar, very swoopy styling.

  • JEFFSHADOW JEFFSHADOW on Apr 26, 2018

    "Look! Up in The Sky! The Flying Car-Plane...The Flying Car-Plane!" That's right, the Matador was used in the James Bond movie "The Man With The Golden Gun"! What a show that was !

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  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
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  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
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