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Low-Mile 1978 AMC Matador Barcelona II

American Motors redesigned its Matador product line in 1974 and in the process moved it from an intermediate to a full-size car. They went one step further by giving the 2-door hardtop completely different styling from the sedans and wagons. To many, the look of the 1974-78 Matador coupe is an acquired taste as it resembled nothing else on the market (but neither did the Gremlin or the Pacer). This 1978 edition comes with Barcelona II trim, selected by only about 2,000 buyers that year. In Plymouth, Indiana, this “elegant” AMC is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $13,600.

Without the deep pockets of General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler, new product development at AMC was largely done on a shoestring budget. In 1971, AMC restyled the Rebel mid-size and rebranded it the Matador. The sedan version of the car would be popular with police departments and was featured prominently as a cop car on the TV show Adam-12. Then, in 1974 when the market was beginning to focus more on smaller cars, the Matador grew in size to proportions similar to the Ambassador. The coupe version of the ’74 Matador had a “starring” role in the James Bond flick, The Man With The Golden Gun (remember the flying car scene?)

The company’s marketing gurus came up with two upscale versions of the Matador to compete in the personal luxury car space. The Oleg Cassini Edition (1974-75) and the Barcelona II (1977-78). Neither were big sellers nor are seldom seen these days. Both cars had trim levels that far exceeded anything else that AMC was selling at the time. Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous? Not quite. The seller has a ’78 edition of the Barcelona II (what happened to Barcelona I?) which is finished in Autumn Red Metallic on Claret Metallic, one of only two paint schemes offered.

Parked next to a regular Matador coupe, the Barcelona II was easy to pick out. It came with a thickly padded Landau roof with opera windows, two-tone paint, crushed velveteen fabric on the seats, special 15” slotted wheels, body-colored bumpers, and a host of other finishing touches. The seller’s car appears to be in great shape, although the closer you get some scratches and other wear will become apparent. While rust is not an issue (not sure about one photo of the undercarriage), the vinyl top may require some attention as it’s separating from some of the chrome trim.

The owner has had this Matador for 15 years and uses it mainly on the weekends (car shows?). That might explain why the odometer has yet to cross the 60,000-mile mark. It’s a well-equipped auto, as you would expect, and has the largest engine available at the time, a 360 cubic inch V8. The exhaust and catalytic converter (remember those things?) have been replaced. When new, this Barcelona didn’t venture far from its AMC birthplace in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Apparently, the seller has too many vintage cars and this one has been selected to help thin the herd. Would you like to take a trip to Barcelona?


  1. 8banger 8banger Member

    Holey Kow – ashtrays in the back! Remember when jet airliners had ’em?

    Like 21
  2. Howard A Member

    I know, what were they on? How does a hideous design like this ever get past the draring table? Well, it did and the crazy thing is, enough people liked it to be a relative hit. Besides, Most car buyers were well aware of AMC wackiness. Some actually embraced it, Pacer/Gremlin buyers, mostly. These were actually very nice cars, if you got past the styling, that is. Adam-12 references always liked, but, it seems the series is most known for the AMC cruisers, when, in fact, they only used the AMC for 2 years, and was mostly Plymouth.
    While I dislike common catchy sayings, lipstick on a pig sure fits here. Schmaltz it up with some Italian designer, bound to sell cars,,,it didn’t. Still a nice find, and will still be the talk of the town. Grandpa, what is it, a UFO? And no, I have absolutely no reason to leave the good ol’ USA!!!

    Like 14
    • Randy

      Adam-12 followed the lead of the LAPD..When they switched to AMC, so did the show. Jack be Webb was always accurate.

      Like 6
      • Howard A Member

        That’s true, in fact, L.A. used Mercury Montegos for a while then too. Pete and Jim never drove one, but they did show up on the show. It should be noted, in the episode “Krash”,( Feb. 5, 1974) Pete brings a brand new Matador X to Jims house. Jim noticed it has a “401”, and they take a ride, Jim driving, which was unusual, and they get in a minor accident ( with a non-X Matador). If you notice, Webb had his own “supply” of cars that were used in the filming usually in the background.

        Like 4
    • P1970R

      Take the bumpers off and these are great looking cars

      Like 16
  3. That AMC guy

    Wonderfully garish!

    Unfortunately AMC blowing its scarce development capital on this car and the Pacer, both of which only sold well briefly then quickly became duds, ultimately led to the Company being taken over by Renault.

    Like 5
  4. Dave

    The Barcelona treatment manages to make it even uglier. The only person I ever knew that owned one was the accountant for the restaurant I worked at as a kid. I always thought he was a little different. GLWTS

    Like 4
  5. ClassicP

    White letter tires lol wtf are these people on. I guess pretend it’s a mustang or a firebird.

    Like 5
    • Charles Simpson

      I had a 1975 Oleg Cassini Edition with a 304 engine, the ride was nice,the 304 needed a lot of help,my wife hated it.

      Like 5
  6. Zen

    Would be neat to have since it’s probably the only one left. With a 360, it probably has decent enough power to get on a highway.

    Like 5
    • Michael Berkemeier

      You’d be surprised…at how little power it has, lol. All that whopping performance and about 8 mpg to boot!

      Like 2
      • That AMC guy

        In stock form, yes, that’s about it mainly due to the crude engine-strangling emission controls in use at that time. Today’s tech makes it possible to wake up the engine considerably.

        Like 2
  7. Rank

    The Man With The Golden Gun, would appreciate this.

    Like 4
  8. F. Paul Russell

    The body overhang in relation to the wheels was always a killer on these. Fill out those wheel wells.

    Like 2
  9. CCFisher

    It’s hard to imagine a bunch of executives looking over this monstrosity with a garish, two-toned, color-keyed appearance, an overstuffed and out-of-place padded vinyl roof, woodgrain gauges, and every other 70’s personal coupe cliche piled on, and saying “Yes! That’s what we want!” Unless, of course, the executives were all wearing plaid leisure suits, gold chains, and white belts and shoes.

    Like 5
  10. BajaPFE Member

    A face only a mother could love…

    Like 3
  11. jwaltb

    I like it, surprising even myself!

    Like 4
  12. BlondeUXB Member

    Oh dear…

    Like 2
  13. Doug

    I worked as a lot boy at an AMC dealership in late 76.In the back corner of the show room was a 75 model 2 door. I worked there 6 months and when I left in late 76 the car was still there. I thought.it was ugly and I wasn’t the only one.

    Like 0
  14. JustPassinThru

    There is one mystery to me, about this period of the slow death of AMC. How, in the name of all that’s sacred, with all the money pouring in from their Jeep subsidiary, from 1974…how is it they were not able to design/engineer/tool for a modern small or midsized car that people wanted?

    We hear about the money problems. But Jeep was bringing in the cash, back then.

    For a corollary, I give you Honda. Honda had motorcycles, and in their domestic market, kei trucks. So Honda wanted to cross over to cars. They made one, with a motorcycle engine – the 600. It was a mixed bag and a niche product.

    They took a stretch, engineered an automotive-suitable engine and drive train…and put out the Civic. It was a success.

    The Civic gave birth to others, longer and different…and then more and more, to where Honda today is an automobile company that has a motorcycle sideline.

    Or, take Hyundai. They made industrial goods. And made one Mitsubishi clone, the Pony. From that, they got enough momentum to break into the North American market with a full array.

    Now I grant that Korean executives and engineers probably work cheaper than American, but not THAT much cheaper. And American Motors was, at the time, desperately learning how to do more with less. With some success.

    Where did the Jeep money go? It wasn’t even absconded, that anyone can see. AMC was paying no dividends, except for one quarter in 1980…from 1973 to its takeover by Renault.

    How was it that the underdogs of Kenosha and Southfield, couldn’t find a way to leverage Jeep profits into a marketable niche small car? Why did it take TEN YEARS from need to unveiling, just for a good four-cylinder engine? All they had to do was amputate two cylinders from the 233 six. Why did THAT cost so much, when Honda and Hyundai could bring an engine out from nothing, in a third the time and a cost not even worth mentioning?

    Like 1
    • CCFisher

      AMC purchased Jeep from Kaiser in 1970, but it wasn’t the juggernaut is is today. Volume was less than 10% of current Jeep sales. Jeep was profitable, but it was barely enough to offset AMC’s losses, let alone fund new development. Besides, by the time AMC bought Jeep, it was already too late.

      Your comparison to Honda is interesting, but I would assert that AMC was on the same trajectory as Honda, but in the 1960s. They had two basic models – the American and the Six/Rebel/Classic/Ambassador, and their focus was on refining and improving these models. It was only when they decided to match the big 3 head on in the mid-1960s that things started to go south. It just wasn’t possible to sustain a full lineup of cars on 300,000 units per year. Honda didn’t start expanding its lineup in the US until the late 1990s. Had AMC pursued a more conservative growth plan, the story may have ended much differently.

      The comparison to Hyundai, however, is not apples-to-apples. Hyundai has the backing of an enormous industrial conglomerate, which funded its early automobile development. Like Honda, they started slowly, with the Excel and Sonata. The Elantra arrived a few years later. Poor quality and reliability nearly tanked Hyundai in the US, and without the support of the mother ship in Korea, imports likely would have stopped.

      AMC deserves credit for doing as much as they did with as little as they had.

      Like 3
  15. Geoff C

    AMC’s Cartoon Car. Who did the “voice over?”

    Like 1
  16. Loving AMC

    Even though I am an AMC fan, I have just 2 words to describe this Matador…”Hor rible”.

    Like 1
  17. Big C

    Roger Penske loved these things enough to make them into race cars. AMC’s folly was trying to be different on a shoestring. Thus wacky styling, but no real engineering feats.

    Like 1
  18. Hey this works for Bobby Allison and Mark Donahue for NASCAR

    Hey this works for Bobby Allison and Mark Donahue for NASCAR

    Like 1
  19. Gerard Frederick

    Good Lord, nothing but negatives, nothing but monday morning quarter backing. There´s nothing like kicking a man when he is down right?Lighten TF up guys.

    Like 3
  20. Blake, does my opinion really matter ???

    Fugly x 10 times infinity times beyond the universe fugly. Why do I kind of like it? I will check my HMO and see if therapy for liking such a monstrosity is covered. I obviously need help if I didn’t vomit after seeing this car.

    Like 0
  21. Peter Pasqualini

    Remember catalytic converters? As in they aren’t still in use??????

    Like 1
  22. Glenn Schwass Member

    At my first job as a dishwasher , the cook would let me drive his white 2 door Matador like this. It only had thev6 but with 3 on the tree so it was good practice. It vibrated like it ran on 5 cylinders which was weird because my parent’s Rebels and Hornet ran smooth. He said it was because it had been wrecked, but I think it just needed a good tune up.

    Like 0
  23. JoeNYWF64

    Was named “Best Styled Car of 1974” by the editors of Car and Driver magazine. A Popular Mechanics survey indicated “luscious looks of Matador coupe swept most owners off their feet” with a “specific like” listed by 63.7% of them for “styling”.
    Too bad at the least you could not get a 401 & 4 speed manual in these.
    The partial vinyl roof is not helping the looks, IMO.

    Like 0

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