(April 22, 1998)
Whenever the greatest racing stock cars of all time are discussed, a particular make that is rarely if ever mentioned is American Motors Corp., or AMC. They'd make an argument to present the 1974 AMC Matador. For a three-season period in the 1970s, car owner Roger Penske believed in and proved the power of the Matador.
In the opening race of the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup season at Riverside International Raceway, Mark Donohue drove a Matador equipped with disc brakes, the first time they ever appeared on the NASCAR circuit.
He won with an average speed of over 104 mph and a margin of victory in excess of a full lap. The innovative brake system was given much of the credit.
The next year, 1974, Bobby Allison was driving a Matador, which was not exactly the lightest car in the world. The chassis that were coming from Allison's shop and the 364-cubic inch V8 engine was modified by Penske to crank out almost 515 horsepower.
Allison's Matador produced seven top-5s and a victory in 1974, proving that AMCs could effectively hang with the "big three" auto manufacturers out of Detroit. The next season, 1975, Allison debuted on the pole at Riverside and won.
With front and rear chassis "clips," a coil spring front suspension and fully fabricated control arms, Allison's operation produced a car that fully dominated the road course. He also took second in the Daytona 500 and won both events at Darlington. On the year, he garnered 10 top-5s and 10 top-10s.
Allison's final appearance in a Matador was in the next season's opener at Riverside. Engine failure took the AMC out by lap 149, and the Penske team switched its ride to a Mercury for the rest of the year.
While definitely not sleek and stylish -- some might even call it ugly -- performance is what counts, and on the whole, AMC Matadors did pretty well in NASCAR racing (75 starts, four poles, four wins and 20 top-5s).