1976 AMC Matador Brougham 304 V8
Not class-leading in its day, but more intersting than its class-leading peers today
- It tended to carbon-foul its spark plugs, manifesting itself in sluggishness and spongy throttle response - e.g. an increase in throttle opening caused a less than anticipated increase in speed. After a burst of wide-open-throttle acceleration, it would smoke (blue) upon deceleration - either valve seals/guide wear - never got around to diagnosis.
- The alternator went, almost immediately followed by the followed by the voltage regulator (luckily I checked the charging system with a voltmeter a few days after the alternator install, before 18+ volts destroyed the remainder of the electrical system).
In a sense of fairness, the following comments are made in comparison with its contemporaries (Mid-seventies Chevelle, Fury, Torino, et al) that I also drove/repaired in the early-80s.
The interior was decent (in a mid-seventies sort of way) - the Brougham package got you 2 overstuffed seats - front and rear. The front was a split-bench, that allowed you to recline each seatback individually. The instrument panel was interesting in that the gauges had a woodgrain background. The temperature gauge would indicate coolant temperature fluctuations - idle with the hood closed, and the needle would rise almost half way. Open the hood, and it would drop to 1/3. Mind you, this was back when gauges were not "damped" in their response like they are today. The gauge never went beyond the 1/2-way mark - even with the A/C full-tilt in heavy traffic/traffic jams.
The center dash vents were a bit low (they were beneath the radio), so if you were tall, they didn't quite blow air towards your forehead on a hot day - luckily, it had an air conditioner with decent heat removal capacity.
It could be fairly dramatic if you prodded it - when you punched it (With clean plugs), it would ride up on its haunches and lay several feet of rubber (OK - a "single-legger" from the open differential) unlike competitive cars of the period that were faster. The competition might have been faster, but not as dramatic. When you spiked the brakes, it stopped hard and let you know with plenty of nose-dive. While the stops were long, they were straight.
The handling was OK at mom-n-pop speeds, but (OK sense of straight-ahead, steering low effort and reasonably quick), but try to make time, and the front end would wash out pretty easy. If you snapped a quick lane change, the tail would start to get like a pendulum - it didn't like shenanigans.
With clean plugs, it would get about 7-10 feet of wheelspin, but before you made a year/12,000 miles on the plugs - not unlike a Mopar big-block of the same time period.
The mid-seventies were a tough time for car makers with government mandates for emissions and fuel economy. A company with deep pockets (read:GM) could weather the storm (and did). A smaller company - AMC - did not have as easy a time. This difficulty manifested itself in various ways.
At the end of the day, you realize that attention to detail was not a AMC strong suit, but the fundamental honesty of the vehicle is a charmer. It's easy to forgive refinement shortcomings in that context.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 5th March, 2011