Documentary Series The Last Independent Automaker in Production, Will Chronicle the Life and Times of American Motors Corporation
A new documentary is currently in production and promises to be of interest to many of our readership. It’s about everyone’s favorite underdog automaker, American Motors Corporation (1954-1988)! Pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The team behind the production of The Last Independent Automaker is assembling a deep dive into the brand’s history, which started in 1954 when car and refrigerator manufacturer Nash-Kelvinator Corporation acquired Hudson Motor Car Company, and formed AMC.
We return to the Turbo-Hydramatic once more today, and our third installment sees us at a critical point in the timeline of the automatic transmission. Fuel economy pressure from the government and performance demands of the consumer increased considerably in the intervening years since the THM’s debut in 1964. That meant the creation of lighter, more compact, and cheaper versions of the Turbo-Hydramatic compared to its flagship shifter, the THM400. GM branched out into the likes of the THM350, THM250, and the very problematic THM200.
In 1987, GM stepped away from the traditional THM naming scheme and switched to a new combination of letters and numbers. Number of gears, layout, and strength combined to turn the THM400 into the 3L80. But the hefty gearbox was already limited by then to heavier truck applications; passenger cars moved on to four forward gears after the dawn of the Eighties.
Our Abandoned History coverage of the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission series continues today. The THM was a singular solution to two different automatic transmissions in use by Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Buick in 1963. Turbo-Hydramatic arrived at a time of modernization for the automatic, which prior to the mid-Sixties was regarded as inefficient and less than smooth.
The THM400 was the 1964 replacement for the Hydra-Matic and Buick’s Dynaflow and established itself as a smooth and reliable gearbox. It proved useful in a variety of luxury and heavy-duty applications and shrugged off weight and torque easily. In short order, it took off as the transmission of choice for various small manufacturers outside of GM. However, no matter how excellent the THM400 was, it found itself squeezed by a drive toward greater fuel efficiency. It was also a bit hefty to be of broad use in smaller or lighter passenger cars. GM needed more Turbo-Hydramatics!
A few weeks ago, we concluded Abandoned History’s two-part coverage of the Chrysler UltraDrive transmission. Within the comments was a request for more transmission coverage of an equally abandoned nature. Let it be so! Come along as we discuss the vast automatically shifted expanse that was the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission family, by General Motors.
We finish up our Rare Rides Icons coverage of the AMC Matador today by spending some time abroad. The Matador maintained a few different passports as it donned new branding and nameplates for its various international adventures. And unlike many domestic cars of the period, AMC saw sales success when its midsize arrived in other markets.
We left off in Part II of our AMC Matador coverage during the model lineup’s second year on the market. The Matador was working overtime by 1975, as AMC marketed their largest car to the intermediate and large car buyers. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from there.
AMC introduced its new Matador lineup into the very competitive intermediate (midsize) car market in 1971. It was a time when the company was making advances in build quality, streamlining, and an industry-leading all-encompassing warranty. And though the Rebel by any other name was selling decently, it wasn’t grabbing market share as AMC expected. Especially lackluster were sales of the Matador Coupe, a body style that was the top seller amongst its domestic competitors. As 1974 approached, AMC prepared to make some big changes to Matador, and introduce an all-new two-door.
The American Motors Matador line was many things to many people during its run from 1971 to 1978. Built domestically and abroad, Matadors occupied more than one size class, a broad range of price points, and were even dressed in fashionable luxury garb for a while. Come along as we explore the world of Matador.
When George Romney— yes, father of Marlin-drivin’ Mitt— took over American Motors soon after its 1954 formation in a merger between Hudson and Nash, he set about shifting the company’s focus from “traditional” big cars locked in an annual styling arms race to a line of affordable compacts built on the success of the little Nash Rambler. By 1961, Nash and Hudson were long gone and every AMC car was a Rambler; the smallest Rambler that year was the American, and the cheapest American was the Deluxe two-door sedan. That’s what we’ve got for today’s Junkyard Find, spotted a few months back in a Denver yard.
The AMC Gremlin celebrated its 50th birthday recently, a fact which would have passed by without notice were it not for commenter Steve Biro. And since we’re talking Gremlin today, we may as well take a look at an oddball trim that’s as quirky as it is rare.
It’s a Levi’s Gremlin from 1976, and it comes standard with an invitation to the Pants Party.
Our most recent late-Seventies Rare Ride from AMC was a delightfully brougham Matador Barcelona from 1978. Today’s Rare Ride shared showroom space with the Matador that very same year, but had its eye on a slightly different customer. It’s a base model Pacer DL, complete with wood paneling.
Vehicles from plucky AMC are always welcome here at Rare Rides. Thus far, the series has featured a Metropolitan, a concept Van, a Matador Barcelona, and a very tasty Sundancer. The latter is a cousin of today’s relentlessly beige Concord two-door sedan.
Ready for some malaise?
The Rare Rides series has dabbled in AMC previously, cataloging some of the fun ideas generated by the good people of Kenosha, Wisconsin. We’ve featured the luxury targa Concord Sundancer, the unrealized Van, a baroque Matador Barcelona, and the Renault-by-AMC Alliance GTA. But none of those represents the AMC brand quite as well as today’s Rare Ride. It’s a pre-CUV crossover. A luxurious Subaru Outback, before there was such a thing.
It’s of course an Eagle 4×4 wagon, looking Limited in black over tan.
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.
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- Jeff S I can understand 8 cars is a bit much unless you are a serious collector. I always loved the Challenger when it first came out and now. I don't need a car like this but I am glad it exists at least for 1 more year. If I had a choice between a Mustang, a Camaro, and a Challenger I would opt for a Challenger but probably with a V-6 since it has more than enough power for most and I don't need to be burning rubber. Challenger has the classic muscle car looks, more cabin room, and a decent size trunk which makes it very livable for day to day driving and for traveling. The base models of the Dodge Challenger has a 3.6-liter V6 engine that gives you 305 horsepower with 268 lb-ft torque. The car attains 60 mph from a standstill within just 6 seconds, which is quite fast. Even with their base engines, the Challenger and Camaro are lightning-fast. The Camaro reaches 165 mph, while the Challenger can go up to 11 mph faster!
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