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1974 AMC Matador Coupe Flexes AMX Vibes, Sports a Super Rare Option Featured in NASCAR

1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L 36 photos
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L1974 AMC Matador Coupe in NASCAR livery1974 AMC Matador Coupe in NASCAR livery
In the early 70s, America was going through a profound transformation that shook off some of its core values to the ground. A curious side-effect of the ample transformations of the rebellious new generation was the cancelation of a car model. More specifically, it was a nameplate that was too much in tune with the rebellious attitude of the period. You most probably guessed by now that I’m talking about the AMC Rebel.
In 1971, the name was discontinued. American Motors Corporation deemed it way too instigating to keep selling it, so the company scraped the young car altogether after just four model years. Replacing it was the Matador line – a powerful, virile, commanding name. Little did they research beforehand because the macho name – taken straight from the tradition of bullfighting – indicates the man responsible for delivering the fatal blow to the bull after the toreador had finished the fight.

In many instances, the bulls weren’t slain by the toreador’s sword but were mortally wounded nonetheless, so the matador swiftly ended the agony. In other words, the matador was a slaughterer. Whatever the meaning, the new mid-size automobile introduced in 1971 didn’t exactly break the bank with sales, so in 1974 the second generation was launched.

The big novelty came from the sporty two-door coupe, aptly named Matador Coupe (go figure). It was the only all-new intermediate of the model year and proposed a styling language unlike any of its siblings or competitors. The new fastback body convinced customers that the car was as good as it looked. To support this perception, AMC enrolled the new coupe in NASCAR.

1974 AMC Matador Coupe in NASCAR livery
Photo: flickr.com/Dave Reese (brooklandsspeedway)
The immensely popular series wasn’t a new endeavor for the corporation by 1974—Roger Penske put AMC on the brickyards in 1973, with Mark Donohue scoring a win in the debut season of the Matador two-door hardtop. However, Donohue—and the rest of the AMC drivers—didn’t have nice words about the first-gen Matador racer, comparing its aerodynamic prowess with that of a brick.

AMC’s chief designer Dick Teague promptly acted upon this invaluable feedback and styled a profile so sleek it had no rival (in looks). The refreshed Matador Coupe appeared very fluid; it was no longer a hardtop but a well-established coupe.

It was good enough to score five NASCAR wins in 1974 and 1975, but the racecar had one particular difference from the stock model. The rear quarter window of the street model was large, but the NASCAR racer (driven by Bobby Allison) had a tiny porthole behind the B-pillar.

1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
It was available for the road models, too, but only with a specific package of the highest trim of the model, the Matador Coupe Brougham. Along with the three different versions (base, X, and Brougham), introduced at the debut of the 1974 model year production, the Coupe added a fourth option, available from January 1974. They called it the ‘D/L Formal Window Package’ – an expensive extra that raised the price by over 60%.

An opera window and vinyl top, air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, individually reclining seats, spoked wheels, tinted glass, AM/FM Stereo radio, and 14-inch white side wall radials, all accompanied a two-barrel 360 V8 and an automatic transmission. The price was a hefty $1,600 for all of the above, which put the $2,600 Matador Brougham into a different price field altogether. $4,200 for a mid-sized AMC two-door automobile was no small deal.

It was rumored that AMC introduced the D/L package specifically to homologate the small rear side window for NASCAR – the rules stated that at least 500 units had to be produced and available to the general public. How many D/Ls were assembled is not accurately indicated in the Corporation production records.

1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Total Matador Coupe production was around 62,000 units, of which the Brougham trim accounted for 21,000. Of those, the 360-powered cars numbered only one-third of the volume (6,483, to be accurate). However, it is not broken down further as to how many had the D/L extra optional package installed. But we can take one owner’s word for it when he says he has never seen another one.

The rarity starred in one of Lou Costabile’s videos from the February Wisconsin State Fair Park World of Wheels car meet. Except for the missing front bumper, the car is complete and original, but the engine is not the standard two-barrel 360 cubic-inch (5.9-liter) variant but the upscale four-barrel high-compression variant.

In 1974, the ‘high compression’ ratio meant 8.25:1, which gave the 360-cube V8 a net power output of 175 hp and 285 lb-ft (178 PS, 387 Nm) for the single-exhaust two-barrel carbureted variant. Double the venturi headcount, and the performance grew to 195 horses and 295 lb-ft (198 PS, 400 Nm). Double the exhaust tailpipe numbers, and the Matador Coupe was good for 220 hp and 315 lb-ft (223 PS, 427 Nm).

1974 AMC Matador Coupe Brougham D/L
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
It wasn't the most exhilarating figure ever to adorn an AMC product, but it wasn’t a slug. The only transmission offered was a three-speed automatic—column-shifted, as shown in the video below—strapped to a 3.15 rear diff (a stouter 3.54 gearing was optional).

This car’s mileage reads 63,810 (102,692 km), but it almost didn’t make it. The previous owner bought the car with hot-rodding intents and purposes in mind, not knowing what the Matador D/L was. Upon learning how rare the car was, he left it untouched and then sold it to its current caretaker, who lives near Kenosha, Wisconsin, the place of the AMC assembly plant that built it.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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