During the 1971 model year, American Motors Corporation manufactured 11,000 units of the big Matador station wagons.
The AMC Matadors were four-door wagons, with 6,800 units powered the six-cylinder engine with a base price of $3,493. For an extra $330 it could be purchased with a 302-cubic-inch V-8 engine under the hood. A total of 4,200 wagons were built equipped with the V-8 engine.
One of the V-8-powered station wagons, painted Fire Engine Red, was sent to an AMC dealer in Delaware County, just outside of Philadelphia. Schuyler and Adele Jenkins became the proud owners of the Matador station wagon equipped with an AM radio, power brakes, power steering and had a chrome luggage rack on the roof.
The windows on the 1971 model were operated via hand cranks, including the tailgate window. After winding it down the tailgate could be swung open on the hinges at the left side of the door or it could be lowered in a typical tailgate manner over the rear bumper.
Most cars of that era were prone to rust but not this particular Matador, thanks to the exceptional care it received. According to Frank Jenkins, son of the original owners, the station wagon was garaged and was never driven during inclement weather.
The owners often drove to Florida for the winter months, saving the Matador from the ravages of road salt and chemicals on wintry Pennsylvania roads.
Jenkins says his father was especially fond of the reclining passenger seat, which enabled him to kick back and snooze on those long and frequent trips to Florida while his mother drove. That was back in the day before reclining seats were commonplace. The ride provided by the 118-inch wheelbase was cushy.
After his father’s death in 1980, Jenkins says his mother continued driving the wagon until her death in 1999. Some time later, the son had the low-mileage Matador with only 47,000 miles on the odometer hauled to his home in Sherborn, Mass. It had not been started or driven in about five years, so Jenkins had a trusted mechanic give the car a complete examination.
Surprisingly, not much on the car needed attention. There was no rot on the Matador, but Jenkins says none of 14-inch tires had much tread left. They were all replaced with modern tires, each one with the correct narrow white sidewall.
With the car now once again road-ready, Jenkins discovered he had no use for it. None of his three children was interested in the car, and neither were any of the relatives. Jenkins thought about making it his daily driver. “It got terrible gas mileage,” he says, “about 8 or 10 miles per gallon. There’s a lot of metal in it.”
The interior of the Matador is as pristine as the exterior. The seats and door panels are covered in black vinyl. Carpeting throughout the spacious car, including the cargo area, is also black.
In order to judge the market value and interest in the Matador, Jenkins took it to the neighboring community of Framingham where he parked it on a busy thoroughfare with a “for sale” sign in the window. From that exposure he received a few inquiries from curious callers who just wanted to know what kind of make and model that car was.
However, one caller from New Haven, Conn., was serious. Jenkins agreed to his request to inspect the car. He came and carefully examined the car and was impressed. He was even more excited when Jenkins showed him the file his parents had kept with receipts listing everything that had ever been done to the Matador.
Jenkins learned the man was representing Rambler Ranch, a privately-owned veteran car museum featuring American Motors Corporation cars outside of Denver, Colo. Jenkins says the museum has hundreds of cars on display with the majority having been produced by Nash or AMC. The facility is not open to the general public.
Knowing that his parent’s station wagon would be in a good home, Jenkins and the museum representative agreed on a price and sealed the deal with a handshake. That September day, four years ago, Jenkins watched the family AMC being driven off to Denver. He knows that it has a good home and that he can visit his parent’s Matador whenever he gets to Colorado. — by Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009