1976 AMC Matador Brougham 304 V8 from North America


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).

General Comments:

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

1974 AMC Matador Wagon 4.3L Inline 6 from North America


Well built, under appreciated American classic


Exhaust donut blew out around 30,000; went through numerous ones before finding a proper fit.

Exhaust pipe rusted and split just under the front seat around 39,000. Replaced exhaust and all hangers.

Radiator upper tank cracked at 40,000; replaced with a custom made aluminium one. Replaced all hoses. Replaced engine mounts.

Brake shoe return springs let go on the right rear at 43,000; replaced hardware on all four corners.

Rear brake cylinders started leaking around 55,000 miles; replaced cylinders, shoes, and rear brake lines.

Master brake cylinder developed a slow leak around 60,000; replaced master and front brake lines.

Fuel pump around 63,000; replaced pump, lines, and hose from filler neck to tank.

Brakes, shocks, bushings and much of the running gear replaced at 75,000, even if it didn't need it. Replaced cracked exhaust manifold.

Periodic oil and filter changes, adjustments, and countless "what exactly is it?" explanations.

General Comments:

American luxury at it's finest? No... but it's still a pretty darn good car either way. Over the past several years we've had the pleasure to own two of these wonderful vehicles; first a sedan (reached almost 400k miles before it's engine blew, which I claim partial responsibility for) and currently a wagon. Most repairs over the past few years have been what you'd expect of a car over 30 years old, however nothing was particularly major, and much of the work was done by myself and my husband.

Solid, well built cars... doors shut with pleasing thuds, not a speck of rust, and that AMC six cylinder doesn't know the meaning of the word quit.

Interior is about what you'd expect of a mid-range car of its time; colour matched synthetic heaven. Thirty three years on, and every bell and whistle still works as it should... AC blows cold, all the power windows work, transmission is smooth and crisp, 8-track stereo still plays fine, and engine is responsive. Everything is logically placed and within easy reach inside the cabin; no searching for that elusive radio knob.

At highway speeds the car is well mannered, and is very forgiving when pushed to its limits. Powerful brakes make stopping the large car easy, even for a small person like me. Though not the most fuel efficient car, it's always the first pick for long family trips... the soft ride and expansive interior can help make even the most grueling car rides that much more bearable. It's sheer presence on the road just makes it a joy to drive; more so than any truck I've owned.

Of all the AMCs we currently own, the Matador is by far my favourite. I love this wonderful car, and am wholly determined to keep it for as long as I'm able to drive.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 31st July, 2007

2nd Aug 2007, 14:54

In my younger days I owned a 72 AMC Matador sedan that I held onto for ten years... perhaps not the prettiest car I have ever owned, but by far the most rugged, comfortable and dependable! Hope you continue to enjoy yours!

13th Aug 2007, 06:21

I agree with all these comments. Especially regarding the comfort, longevity, and road presence of these great cars. The locomotive like snout of these beasts does an excellent job of deterring thoughtless drivers of expensive luxury cars who would otherwise like to cut me off.