14 July 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #28

Cars keep appearing for me to feature in this series. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of a car in passing and make my way back, hoping it's still there. So far I've had about 50% success in those situations. A couple of months ago we were driving down Mystic Avenue in Medford and I spotted something old and beige sitting in an empty lot. A month or so later we were in the same area and the car was still there, so the Mrs. kindly turned around and went back so I could get these pictures.
American Motors Corporation was formed in 1954 when the companies that made the Nash and Hudson brand cars merged. Within three years both those makes were dead and the company focused on Nash's compact Rambler, expanding the brand to a line of compact and midsize cars as a deliberate strategy against the excesses of most other American carmakers in the late 1950s. During the mid- to late 1960s the Rambler name was gradually replaced by AMC as each model line was redesigned.

During this period AMC made respectable efforts to market cars that matched other companies' offerings. For 1968 the Javelin was introduced as a competitor to the Mustang, Camaro/Firebird, and Barracuda. For 1970 they fielded the Hornet, an attractive compact alternative to the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant, Chevrolet Nova, and Ford's new Maverick. Later that year, a shortened variant of the Hornet became the infamous Gremlin.
But in the early 1970s, the heart of the American car market was still (for the time being) large and midsized cars, which brings us to this 1973 AMC Matador sedan. Why it's been left in the corner of this property, which is going to be the future new home of a Volkswagen dealer moving from about half a mile down the street, we can only speculate. I'm not sure what used to be on this piece of land, but maybe this car had been stored there and had to be moved so a building could be demolished.

The Matador began as the AMC Rebel, which replaced the Rambler Classic for 1967. It was a very attractive car, but for 1970 the Rebel got a questionable restyle that, at least in the case of the four-door sedan, looked like the back half of a different car had been grafted to a Rebel's front half. (Compare it to this brochure pic of a '68 Rebel and you'll see what I mean.) For reasons I don't understand, the station wagons retained the rear doors that had also been used on the '67-'69 Rebel sedans, and thus ended up remaining the best-looking Matador model for the rest of its production run. (Here's a '74 Matador wagon to illustrate my point.)
For more reasons I don't understand (which is a phrase that comes up frequently when discussing AMC), the 1970 Rebel became the 1971 Matador with some minor changes to the front end that made it vaguely less disjointed-looking. It would have made far more sense to rename the car for '70 along with the redesign, but it didn't happen that way. The Matador would see one more restyling for '74 (mainly to meet the federal bumper requirements) and would hang around through the '78 model year before finally being taken out behind the barn and put out of its misery.

AMC had almost as many lives as a cat, but there was no happy ending, except for Jeep, which AMC had purchased in 1970. Chrysler Corporation, a company that also knew a few things about second and third acts, purchased all of AMC's stock in 1987 for the bargain-basement price of $1.5 billion, mainly to obtain the Jeep brand and products, which worked out pretty well for Chrysler.

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