I remember AMC Matadors quite well from my childhood because I had a Scoutmaster who had one, and I remember that, as a small 12-year-old Boy Scout, I could sit very comfortably on the Matador’s front bumper, right in front of the turn indicator, with the weirdly pronounced grille forming a very cozy seat. The Matador had kind of an ugly face, but this one 1978 Matador that was for sale, somehow, doesn’t. What’s going on here?
My unofficial, unpaid, untamed research intern Hans found this AMC Matador for sale, and noted the peculiarity. In case you’re not familiar with AMC Matadors, somehow (perhaps you’ve just awakened from a coma, or emerged from a hiberniculum?) here’s a picture of what Matadors generally looked like:
See that front end, with that weird, massive grille protuberance that formed the part of that seat I was talking about? See the single round headlamps and off-the-AMC-parts-heap turn indicators? See that whole, kinda phoned-in front end? That’s how Matadors were, in every reality I’ve known.
And then we’re faced with this Matador face, from this (now sold) Classic Cars ad. This is not the same Matador face at all:
The Matador was AMC’s top of the line car, and the front end on this particular Matador fits the part so much better than the normal one, it leaves me wildly curious. Who did this? Why was it done? Why didn’t AMC do it this way?
What’s even more interesting about this redesign is that it uses parts from AMC, which makes it feel like perhaps it could have been some sort of official factory styling study?
The new quad rectangular headlight units are from the 1979 (or maybe 1980, for those full amber indicator lenses) AMC Concord or Eagle, and absolutely fit the upscale position of the Matador better than the basic round single sealed beams of the actual Matador.
The grille design, with the vertical bars that actually make the dramatic bend interesting looking and the classy center split is extremely well done, and looks like a professional plastic-casting job.
This can’t just be some amateur customizer’s work, can it? I mean, why would anyone spend all this effort slightly classing up a Matador? It only makes sense to do that for one entity in the known universe, and that’s 1979-ish-era American Motors Corporation.
The only hints as to the history of this Matador in the seller description is this:
This Beauty was AMC Dealers Demo, Dealer liked it so much he kept it for over 20 years!
Could a dealer demo car possibly have also been a factory styling exercise? Perhaps sent to a dealer to gauge public reaction?
I reached out to the seller contact, but they had no further information to provide.
Personally, I think this has to be some kind of official styling study; the work is just too good, the parts are all AMC, there was an actual reason for AMC to consider facelifting the not-so-wonderfully-selling Matador, and, again, why the hell would anyone else bother to do this?
I’ll keep digging, but for now, this remains a mystery.
Another, perhaps better known mystery about the AMC Matador has to do with how is it that somehow AMC was the only major automaker with the ‘nads to not just make their dashboards covered in fake woodgrain, but the faces of their instruments, too.
Gotta admire that commitment to texture.