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.
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?
Back in the early 1980s, Renault/Jeep/AMC dealers sold quite the assorted lineup of vehicles in the North American market. Shortly after it obtained a 59 percent ownership stake in AMC, Renault launched a new sporty coupe that was assuredly lit.
Come along and check out the Fuego.
Early this year, the Rare Rides series began with this Ghia concept from 1979. A lovely red coupe, it was based on humble Mustang underpinnings. Today we return to the concept car bin with this AMC. Much like the Ghia, AMC’s AM Van is a very 1970s concept based on an existing car platform that never moved past the concept stage.
Let’s check out this pearlescent red box.
Roy Lunn passed away recently at the age of 92, not long after being named to the Automotive Hall of Fame. The name may be unfamiliar, but any one of his manifold achievements probably would have merited inclusion in that august institution.
Lunn was in charge of creating the Aston Martin DB2, progenitor to the James Bond cars. Moving to Ford, he had a seminal role in the development of the Anglia 105-E, Ford’s first postwar hit in Europe and the foundation of much of the brand’s later success on the continent. At Dearborn he engineered the first Mustang concept and was then put in charge of Ford Motor Company’s all-out assault on Ferrari at LeMans with the GT40, developments of which won that race four years in a row.
With LeMans conquered, he became chief engineer at American Motors, going from a virtually unlimited budget with Ford Racing to having to turn AMC’s pigs ears into silk purses, and come in at budget, too. At American Motors, Lunn helped make the original XJ Cherokee arguably the most durable American vehicle ever made.
Lunn didn’t know it at the time, but he also invented what we today call the crossover, or CUV — the UV standing for Utility Vehicle, not ultraviolet. In a sentence, a crossover is a vehicle based on a passenger car but with more ground clearance, a long, station wagon-like roofline, a rear hatch, and some kind of drive system that puts motive force at all four wheels.
Today’s Rare Ride is fairly old compared to the rest of the cars in this series, and it’s the first look at quirky and long-expired manufacturer American Motors Corporation (AMC).
A few years before being swallowed up by Chrysler in its desire to own Jeep, AMC produced this very unique PLC-TC, or Personal Luxury Coupe Targa Convertible.
Come and have a look.
Sure, none of the original players are walking the earth, but we can still celebrate the corporate creation of Charles W. Nash, the man who quit General Motors in its infancy to form his own car company.
Nash Motors wasn’t a Big Three player, but it did make its mark on the automotive landscape. During a wild ride of mergers, acquisitions and changing product direction, the independent automaker spawned a number of innovations that became industry firsts.
Once American Motors was absorbed by Chrysler in 1987, after lingering on the ropes for a few years during a series of early-1980s bailouts by Renault (i.e., the French government), random strands of its Kenosha/Boulogne-Billancourt DNA appeared here and there in various Chrysler products over the following decades. You’ll still find plenty of examples of full-on AMC products in North American junkyards today, in the form of the XJ Cherokee and AMC Eagle (the case could be made that the Chrysler LH is an AMC design, via the Renault 21/25-based Eagle Premier), but full-strength AMC models from the company’s heyday of the George Romney era and into the early 1970s are very rare sights today.
Here’s a pre- Malaise Gremlin, in glorious brown, that I spotted in a Denver yard last week.