Welcome to the Coupe Coop, Home of the AMC Matador Coupe!


Recent Updates
Archived updates from 2001
Archived updates from 2000
Project Background Information


Sept. 24, 2004 - The big news is that I finally got Dolly to the AMC Nationals in Cordova Sept. 17-18. The car ran really well, with a best of 12.65 at 106 mph. That's almost a full second improvement over my previous best of 13.59. The very first run down the quarter mile was a 12.99, and I was taking it easy. I had planned on running in the Gambler's race Friday night, but the exhaust was leaking so badly and so loudly that I decided not to. Dad and I tackled the problem Saturday morning, and I discovered that the driver's side exhaust stud nuts were loose, and the middle two bolts were missing! Luckily, a friend had two spare 3/8 allen exhaust bolts, and I had a spare gasket, so problem solved. Unfortunately, I didn't do to well in the elimination races. I had just run a 13.0 and a 13.11 in the heat of the day, so I dialed a 13.0, but broke out with a 12.92, lifting at the first stripe. I entered the concilation round, but got too excited and redlighted, ending my racing for the day. The car launched straight, the slicks hooked up great, and everything worked well together, so I am pleased with the setup. With some more practice (hey, it's been 4 years!) I think I will be able to do well on the track.

Me and Dad in the staging lanes; Dolly in the pit area; "What, me worry?"; Dolly's interior

Dolly at the starting line; timeslips from Friday; some timeslips from Saturday

I also just got some custom u-joint girdles made. These are made to replace the stock u-joint straps and tiny retaining bolts. Moroso makes them for just about every application, and I tried them. The closest I got was the one for the GM 12-bolt. The u-joint cap size was right, but the mount bolt center-to-center dimension was wrong for the AMC 20. So I had a custom CNC shop make me a u-joint girdle with the correct dimensions for the AMC 20 and I installed them last night. Very cool, and way stronger than the stock straps. The machine work is top-notch. All I had to do was drill out the stock bolt holes to accept the thru-bolts, which I did very carefully, and in increments, so that the holes didn't "wander". I did find that I needed to bevel the edge of the nut that was against the pinion yoke for a snug fit. These are available now, so if you want them for your AMC, let me know! These are made for the AMC 20 rear end found on full size AMCs and some Jeeps, and may not work for compact AMCs (Gremlin, Spirit, Hornet).

The drilled out yoke; images of the new u-joint girdle installed

Side by side comparisons of the custom part (L) and the GM 12-bolt girdle (R); comparison of the new girdle with the stock strap and bolt

Sept. 15, 2004 - Yikes! After many last minute problems, Dolly finally made her first passes down the track! Friday, Sept. 10 I went to the local track (MidAmericaMotorplex) and on street tires, I ran a best of 8.59 at 85 mph on the 1/8 mile track. I ran consistently in the 8.7-8.8 range in the low 80s. My 60' times were in the 2.2-2.3 second range, so I'm sure the slicks will help things out a lot, since even when feathering the pedal, I was still blowing off the BF Goodrich TA 245s. I am heading to the AMC Nationals in Cordova, IL this coming weekend, so I will get to see what she can do on the quarter mile with slicks. My guess is that I'll run deep into the 12s, but I'll have to wait and see. There is also supposed to be a chassis dyno there, so I may take advantage of that and see what horsepower rating I really have.

OK, so what were the problems? Well, let's see - faulty fuel pressure regulator (new); major header gasket leak; faulty starter solenoid (OE) AND neutral safety switch (new); faulty oil pressure gauge (new); faulty thermostat (new); serious oil pressure problems traced to a bad oil pump cover (new); valve cover leak; and several other minor problems. All this combined to keep me off the track for several weeks. I did get the alignment taken care of, and it is now roadworthy. Loud, and not much fun in traffic, but it does drive surprisingly well, considering it has manual steering and a full-manual valve body.

July 23, 2004 - Dolly finally moved under her own power last weekend. I fixed the thermostat housing with studs, was able to clean up the threads, my Dad and I set the final timing, I installed the new Comp Engineering drag shocks front and rear along with coil spring airbags from Air Lift, and took care of a few other last minute odds and ends, then took it out on the road for a short spin. It felt really strong, but it handles terribly right now since I haven't had the alignment done yet after replacing all the front end parts. The lack of power steering also makes it a bit of a handful. The short shakedown drive revealed that the shifter wasn't quite adjusted correctly (already fixed), and I need to fiddle with the fuel line a bit, but I should have it back on the road again this weekend.

June 25, 2004 - Well, I finally got my new oil pump kit, and installed it last night. I took advantage of the cool temps this morning (60 degrees) and fired up the engine. I primed it first, put the distributor back on, which went on a lot easier this time, and it started right up. It ran for 18 minutes, oil pressure stabilized at 40 psi at 2200 rpm (I used 20w50 this time). After 18 minutes, I noticed a little seepage at the thermostat housing, so I started to tighten up one of the bolts when - PHHHSSSSHHHT! The threads stripped out (I was using a 1/4 drive, and not tightening hard at all) and hot coolant is spraying everywhere! I dropped a quick f-bomb and shut the car off quickly and waited for the spraying and hissing to stop, let the car cool down a bit and then sprayed the bay down with clean water, used my compressed air to blow it dry and pulled out the bolt. I may be able to salvage the threads and install a stud, or I may have to heli-coil it. Don't know yet, as I had to get to work. The good news is that the engine ran fine, no leaks, oil pressure was good, I didn't get burned, and it never ran above 190 degrees. So....I'll take off the housing tonight, inspect the damage, and go from there. It's a very minor setback. I am pleased that it ran so well with no problems. However, I think that intake is cursed - that's three stripped threads and endless headaches with the machining, etc.

Views of the installed engine and the transmission cooler.
My Dad and I actually had the engine fired up two weeks ago, but the oil pressure dropped a bit further than I liked after about 5 minutes, so we shut it down. I was using 10w30, and it was pretty hot out, so it was probably normal, but I didn't like the way the distributor had seated so hard anyway, so I yanked out the old oil pump and ordered a new one. I also drained the oil (8.5 quarts!) and changed the filter. I still have a lot of work to make the car roadworthy, but it is getting much closer!

May/June, 2004 - The engine/trans is installed, exhaust hooked up, tranny linkage hooked up, radiator, trans cooler, fluid tanks, wiring, senders, hoses, and lots of other detail stuff is finished. The major items left to install are the carb, fuel line, trans cooler lines, driveshaft (have to install the new u-joints), and starter (a mini starter is on the way), along with all the fluids. I am planning on firing it up the weekend of June 12th! I'll have some pictures up soon.

Pictures of the mated engine and trans, and the locator pins made out of long bolts.

I had trouble with the torque converter - there was insufficient endplay between the converter and the face of the flywheel. I either had to send the converter back to get the pads machined, but I didn't want to wait, so I fabbed up a spacer out of .070 aluminum, which gave me just the right amount of endplay!

This is the aluminum spacer that fits between the block and the transmission bellhousing.

May, 2004 - Well, progress is slow but sure. The engine is assembled, including the intake, valve covers, front accessories (just the alternator and fan), and mounts. The intake machining was a bit more complicated than originally planned, but it fits perfect, and all the runners line up just right. I did have to Helicoil one of the carb stud mounts, and one of the threaded holes into the intake water passage needed to be cleaned up.

The carb is just set on the engine, and I don't have the distributor on, but you get the idea.

Since I will be using an electric fuel pump, I upgraded to a Delco 12si alternator, 94 amp, to replace the old 40 amp Motorola. The part number is AC-DELCO #321-269 or Lester #7294-9, or just tell the auto parts counter person that "The alternator is for a 1985 Buick Riviera, 5.0L (307Y engine), with Heavy Duty options and Air Conditioning." This is the standard three wire setup, so you just run the wire from the #1 terminal on the alt to the orange wire (ALT light wire), and the other to the battery + terminal. The alternator output should go to a terminal block or to the starter solenoid. If you run it to a terminal block, run a charge wire from there to the battery positive. Thanks to Bill Dettman for his tips on this conversion!

Some other useful links:
Olds FAQ

The new Delco 12si alternator.

Supposedly, since my car is a 76, it needs the 78+ Jeep alternator brackets, but I found that the stock brackets on my 76 work just fine. That saved me a trip to the yard. I had to put a spacer between the lower mount and the lower bracket, and I had to make a longer spacer for the top between the alternator and the block, but the pulleys line up perfectly. I also pulled the double pulley off my Motorola and put it on the Delco 12si - perfect fit. It's all mounted and ready to go! (HINT - use an impact wrench to remove the 15/16 pulley nut. Use leather gloves, hold on to the pulley fan, and zap it with the impact wrench. It will come right off.) To make the top spacer, I cut a piece of 3/4" weldable thin wall steel tubing to length, rounded off a couple of nuts with my grinder, hammered them into the ends, drilled out the centers to accept the mounting bolt and painted it. I also drilled out the upper mount hole on the Delco to accept the stock mount bolt. The lower mount was unthreaded, so I just used a standard bolt and lock nut. I am very pleased to have the conversion finished!

The single pulley (Left) and spacer was removed in favor of the double pulley from my Motorola. The arrows point to the new top spacer (Center) and the bottom spacer (Right). These were the only mount modifications needed.

The next step is to do some final measurements, install the torque converter in the tranny, mount the flexplate to the engine, and mate up the engine and tranny, ready for install. I still need a mini starter, some exhaust pieces, miscellaneous fittings and some fuel system parts, but I'm getting much closer to done. I need to get the engine installed to finish up.

July 8, 2003 - The intake is out for machining to account for the milling of the heads. The bolt holes and runners didn't quite line up, so it needed some material removed. In the meantime, I wired up the fuel pump with a kit from Painless Wiring - very slick. I added a safety swith from Mr. Gasket that shuts off power to the pump when oil pressure isn't present, and I added a fuel pump master power switch in the dash. I also put on the new poly engine mounts, installed the block oil pressure boss and safety switch sender, the block coolant plugs, and tracked down a bunch of little odds and ends that I will need later. I also bled the brakes and double checked the engine compartment to make sure it is ready for the engine.

July 2, 2003 - The timing cover and water pump is on, the oil pan is on, the alternator is hung, and the fuel cell is installed. I have the fuel pump wiring all laid out and ready to put in. I tried to put on the intake, but the heads were evidently milled just enough that the bolt holes won't line up, so the intake is out for some machining. I am working on routing the fuel lines from the fuel pump to the engine compartment.

The floor of the Matador trunk has a large hump running down the centerline. I tried beating it down to make clearance for the fuel cell, but it was too tough. So, bring on the DeWalt reciprocating saw and cut it out! I filled the gap with a piece of flat steel.

The 20 gallon fuel cell from Summit fits perfectly. Interestingly, the spacing of the tabs lines up perfectly with the reinforcing strips under the trunk floor used to support the stock tank. The spacers under the rear tabs are actually the aluminum spacers found in the center of the stock rear lower control arms. The tank fits snugly to the floor without touching, and the sump angle fits perfectly with the angle of the trunk floor. Cool!

June 11, 2003 - Progress continues, slowly. I have the cam lock kit installed, pictures are HERE. This kit was put together and engineered by Nick Alfano, and it is very slick. It effectively keeps the cam face flush with the block so it can't walk forward and destroy your distributor gear. I have the timing cover/oil pump/water pump all assembled and ready to install, just waiting to drill and tap a plug in the heater outlet of the water pump since I don't even have a heater core in the car any more! Things should move pretty quickly now.

May 30, 2003 - The good news is that the old gas tank is out, all the old fuel lines are out, the fill tube and vent lines are out, and the new electric fuel pump is installed. I ordered a cam anti-walk kit from Nick Alfano, a new cam gear to match the new gear on my MSD distributor, gaskets and some other odds and ends to get the engine finished. I need to fabricate some spacers and then I can mount the new fuel cell and run the fuel lines. From this point forward, all the removal work is done, so everything now is constructive.

April 29, 2003 - I have been working on Dolly's engine. I have tracked down all the parts (thank God I bagged and tagged them!), have assembled the tranny and have the timing cover/water pump/oil pump all ready to install. I am waiting for my intake to get back from the shop with it's new ceramic coating, and I still need to double-check the engine timing and swap in the extended oil pickup for the deep oil pan.

August 7, 2002 - Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'............The car still sits without an engine, and time slips by. I did order a new batch of parts that should allow me to get the engine and tranny in the car, so that would be progress! I still want to get it on the racetrack this year, but there is quite a bit to do yet. On another note, I am selling (they are now sold) my two Yamaha QT50 scooters, so if someone out there is interested, just email me. You can see them in my mess of a garage HERE. I'll have some better pictures soon.

May 31, 2002 - Well, the car is finally back on it's wheels! The new pivot bolts came and were correct, and I installed and torqued down everything that I could. It would have been easier if I hadn't had to redo the driver's side when I noticed that the lower ball joint boot had worked out of it's retainer - after everything was installed, of course. At least it's now ready to accept the engine, when I get the new timing cover on.

May 27, 2002 - I attached the new flexible brake hoses to the hard lines and the calipers and hung the front lower control arms and steering knuckles on the car. I'm still waiting on new pivot eccentric bolts, so nothing is tightened down until I get them. Once I get the car back on it's wheels, I can install the engine and transmission. After that I'll be at a standstill until I can afford more parts.

May 26, 2002 - Both upper control arms and the new front coil springs are now on the car. I also finished the installation and sealing of the trunk divider bulkhead per NHRA specs. I felt a great bit of relief getting the springs in, since there is always an inherent risk dealing with compressed springs. Many home mechanics have been injured and even killed due to carelessness or accidents when dealing with coil springs.

The bulkhead is required by the NHRA and other sanctioning bodies if you place the fuel cell in the trunk. I used right angle aluminum along the bottom edge of the bulkhead in the middle to give it an attachment point.

One of the springs compressed prior to installation - a live bomb.

May 22, 2002 - I finally found a place to buy some aluminum sheet for my trunk divider bulkhead. It's .040 aluminum, and the NHRA minimum is .032, so that's fine. I also compared the new 6 cylinder coil springs I got with the 8 cylinder springs I took off the car. Quite a bit of difference. Weather cut short any chance at assembly, but everything is painted and ready to go.

The original V8 springs are on the left, the new 6 cyl. springs are on the right.

May 21, 2002 - I will definitely not be done by Power Tour this year, but I decided that it would be better to really finish this project right rather than rush and throw things together. I have removed the stock fuel lines and will soon remove the stock fuel tank and replace it with a fuel cell in the trunk. The new floor section has been painted with POR-15, which is amazing stuff, and the seams have been sealed. The suspension components will be painted tonight, and installed beginning tomorrow. The control arms have new bushings pressed in and are painted and ready to go. The lower spring saddle spindles have been rebuilt thanks to a tip from Arizona AMCer John Elle. If you want to rebuild your spindle bushings, order four of part number ENE2048G from:

Performance Suspension
3001 N. 35th Ave
Phoenix Arizona
Phone 602-272-4085

These are leaf spring bushings, but they fit the spring saddle perfectly. First, press out the saddle bolts, which are press fit like wheel studs. Then press out the spindle, clean out the old rubber, press in the new bushings, and install the spindle. I recommend using a teflon type spray lube to help the spindle go in smoothly. Press the bolts back in and reinstall the perch on the control arm, making sure you get it oriented correctly. The notch for the end of the spring should be at the back. Pictures are below. It worked very slick, and has to be better than stock.

You can see the clean, ready-to-install control arms. The closeups show the new polyurethane spindle bushings installed. They don't run through the entire shell of the spindle housing like the originals, but they are very stout and can't work their way out, since they are trapped by the shoulders of the control arm.

May 15, 2002 - Odds are good that I won't be finished in time for Power Tour. I started too late and have had a number of delays, financial, mechanical and personal. Oh well, I can't just stop my life to finish this project. It will get done soon, but probably not by May 23. I finished sanblasting the control arms and spring seats today, and have the rebuild kit for the spring seat spindle (thanks John Elle for the tip!) and will take the control arms in to a shop to have the new bushings pressed in.

You can see the before and after here. The arm on the left is almost done, while the arm on the right is in it's original state.

May 10, 2002 - Hallelujah! The floorpan is in! Mike came over at about 6:30 this evening, and by 8:30 was finished. It went pretty smoothly, and the finished result is probably stronger than factory. I'll be sealing the seams and putting on a rust-preventing primer after grinding down the welds a bit. This was a huge hurdle, as from this point on, everything I do to the car will be constructive, rather than the tear-down work I have been doing for the past week.

Three views of the new floor section welded in place, and a view of the steel inserts I used to level the frame rail. It may not be beautiful, but it's solid!

May 8, 2002 - I didn't have much time to work, but I managed to get the manual steering box installed, remove both coil springs and the passenger side control arm. The front end is now completely stripped down. I hope to get the new bushings installed and all the parts put back on the car this weekend in preparation for installing the engine. If the weather cooperates, I should be in good shape to be finished by the 23rd.

You can see the stripped down front end, the manual steering box, and my project workspace.

May 6-7, 2002 - Yesterday (the 6th) I finished trimming the floor patch and prepping the floor. It is now ready for welding. Today I got a ton done on the front end. I removed both lower control arms and all the front end pieces required for that, removed the driver's side upper control arm, and replaced the worn stock strut rod bushings with new polyurethane bushings. The front end of the car is now pretty much stripped. It is SO much easier to work on this stuff while the engine is out of the car. I'll be taking the control arms to a shop to have them press in the new bushings.

The new polyurethane strut rod bushings.

May 5, 2002 - I cut out my patch and rough trimmed it to fit. It looks pretty good. It still needs some final trimming, but it looks like it will work. Mike came by to check it out and said the prep work and patch are just about ready for welding. That will sure be a big weight off my shoulders! I also began tearing down the front end to replace the wasted control arm and spring seat bushings. George Graham from Texas loaned me a nifty internal spring comressor that works great! It uses the top spring seat to contain the spring and drops into the center after removing the shock and the shock tower cap. I'm also going to replace the flexible front brake lines, since the outer casing is cracked and they don't look too good.

From left to right, you can see the new patch being trial fit; the spring compressor doing it's work; and the top side of the spring compressor.

May 4, 2002 - Lots of work yesterday and today. The biggest chunk was cutting out the rusted sections of the floorpan, and cleaning and prepping the metal for welding in the new patch. Lots of grinding, cutoff wheel work, and scraping of undercoating. I can see why body shop guys get paid so well. I also spent some time painting the engine bay diagonal braces, the new manual steering box, as well as the throttle cable mounting bracket and the shifter cable bracket.

You can see the big hole left after cutting out the rusted sections. The picture on the right shows some of the material removed. Sure hope my homemade patch will work!

May 2, 2002 - Success! I cut and reflared the brake line, and it worked great. Since the Eastwood tool was junk, I bought a double flare tool from O'Reillys and it worked like a charm. I made the final connection, so now all that is left is to bleed the brakes and pressure test the system for any leaks. Mike Cole came over and we looked over the floorpan and made a plan of action. I'll be cutting out the rotted areas and cleaning it up, and making the patch this weekend, then Mike will come over and weld the patch in. That will be a huge step toward completion. I also started the process of blocking off the trunk from the passenger compartment. The rear seats are now out for good, and I installed metal patches over the speaker openings after removing the speakers. That leaves the center grille in the rear package tray and the opening behind the seat. The NHRA requires .024 steel or .032 aluminum minimum for bulkhead material.

Pictures of the line lock, the line lock relays and the finished engine bay.

May 1, 2002 - I think I finally have all the under dash wiring done, and all the routing of wires and tubing through the firewall done. I hadn't realized how many things I had changed since last year until now. The engine compartment looks pretty darn good with everything neat and tidy. Still wrestling with the last brake line connection. I may have to cut and reflare my own end. Didn't want to have to do that. Plus, the double flare kit I got from Eastwood doesn't work at all. I tried it on a spare scrap of tubing first. I guess I'll need to get another flare kit. I have a fellow AMCer coming over tonight to look at Dolly's floorboard to see what needs to be done to repair it. After that, the only big thing left will be the control arm bushings.

My goal at this point is to have Dolly up and running before the May 24 start of Hot Rod's Power Tour. It begins in Lincoln, which is only a little over an hour from my house. Who knows - I might even get "Best Beater" award! As Han Solo said, "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts." If I get done early, I may even take her to a car show in Emporia, KS, where several area AMCers are showing their cars, including the AMC club from Wichita, and several Kansas City AMC club members.

April 30, 2002 - I finally got the line lock wired up and working correctly. I have a switch on the dash that triggers a relay that allows the horn to work normally when the switch is off, and to trigger the line lock when the switch is on. I have a green LED on the dash that indicates power to the relay, and a red LED to indicate power to the line lock (when the horn button is pressed). I also have a relay that turns on the brake lights when the line lock is activated. This setup allows me to keep a clean install, and to place the line lock switch (the horn button) in a convenient place. CLICK HERE for the wiring diagram. The colors of any stock wiring on the chart reflect the actual wiring colors on the car as closely as possible. Go to motorsportsdigest.com for more line lock installation information.

You can see the new switch and LEDs, plus the new block-off plates to clean up the dash. I think it looks pretty cool. The rest of the wiring will be cleaned up soon, and the lower dash trim reinstalled.

I also finished up the wiring cleanup in the engine compartment. All the wiring for the MSD is run, and all the remaining stock wiring is now wrapped and routed cleanly. It looks so much nicer than before, plus any questionable wiring has been replaced, and new connectors installed where needed.

April 28, 2002 - Picked up my engine for Dolly and a rebuilt 727 for my other Matador today. The engine looked great, and it is a real motivator to have it at home. Knowing that it is ready to install (after installing the valve cover, oil pan and timing cover), makes me want to finish soon! I also had John fix a stripped mounting hole in my racing transmission. I was a little nervous about drilling in it.

John had made a custom engine cradle some time ago, and he let me borrow it. You can see by the state of my garage that I either need less stuff, or more space. Of course, I vote for more space.

Since I spent most of the day driving, I didn't have much time to work on the car, but I did get the MSD 6AL box mounted in it's new location under the dash, and mounted the voltage regulator, horn relay and starter relay in their original locations. The painted engine bay looks sharp. The wiring will be next, which involves wrapping the harness and running the MSD leads.

Some shots of the new engine John took in his shop - you can see the Crane Gold roller rockers, the valley oil line kit, the polished rods, and the rest of the visible goodies. The specs for the engine and heads are below.

April 26, 2002 - I finally have the dash completed and wired up. The improvements include block-off plates to cover the holes left by the absence of the thermostat controls, radio and vents. I mounted my 2" oil pressure and temperature gauges in the space left by the center vent, and also mounted a master switch and LED indicator lights for my Hurst Line Lock there. The Line Lock is all wired up, leaving only one brake line to be connected. I'll have pictures up here soon.

April 22, 2002 - Okay, okay! Several of you have emailed me begging me not to give up on Dolly. The frustration of not having enough money to finish both my Matadors just got to me, but I have reconsidered, and will get the old girl ready for racing. I'll be picking up the engine soon, and will get to racing. I painted the engine compartment this weekend, mounted the line lock, and worked on the dash for mounting the gauges and switches in new locations. I still have to finish the line lock install, upgrade my fuel line, fix the floorboard, and some other odds and ends, but I should have it race ready some time in May.

March 18, 2002 - Well, time does fly. The car is still sitting in the driveway without an engine or tranny, and I haven't tackled the floorpan yet. However, the engine and transmission are both done, awaiting pickup. I thought I would post a bit of information on the engine. It is using stock later-model heads that have been worked quite a bit to improve flow.

401 block align honed, bored .030 over, main studs installed.
Power honed with torque plate, hot tanked, new cam bearings and freeze plugs.
.010/.010 401 crankshaft, 72 401 rods with polished beams, shot-peened, ARP bolts.
Sealed Power 71 forged .030 over pistons.
Sealed Power plasma moly rings.
Michigan 77 rod and main bearings
Balanced and blueprinted to Garland specs
Summit hydraulic cam (SUM-8601) and lifters:
  • Advertised duration: 282 intake/292 exhaust
  • Duration at .050 in. cam lift: 224 intake/234 exhaust
  • Gross valve lift: .496 in. intake/.521 in. exhaust
  • Lobe separation: 114 degrees
Trick Flow .080 wall chrome moly push rods, screw in 3/8 rocker studs
Crane Gold Race 1.6 roller rockers, Comp Cams guide plates.
Isky springs locks and retainers, head milled .035 to get compression in at 9.75 to 1
ROL head Gaskets
Heads pocket ported, match ported, new stainless Melling valves

0.50 49.9 43.3
1.00 82.7 73.1
1.50 114.3 106.3
2.00 146.4 132.3
2.50 179.5 147.6
3.00 207.1 158.2
3.50 228.7 165.5
4.00 232.5 168.2
4.50 234.7 172.7
5.00 239.6 174.2
5.50 242.8 176.9

Engine and transmission built by John Garland
704 Cheyenne Dr.
Independence, MO 64056
816/796-7063 (evenings)


This car was given to me by my father in 1995. He bought it in 1987. In 1992, we had pulled the 360 out and replaced it with a 401, mildly built up. It served as my daily driver for several years, but body rust after a cheap repaint, and transmission problems had sidelined it for over a year. My intentions were to either customize it, or build it up for racing.

The car in it's original state

In 1999, my Dad began racing his '89 Mustang, and going with him to the races, watching him run, and walking around the pits gave me racing fever in a big way. I could visualize Dolly (the name my Mom gave to the car) charging hard down the quarter mile, wasting Big Three products with abandon. However, I knew that there was a lot of work to do.

Fast forward to July, 2000. I began work on the transformation. I had several constraints, not the least of which was budget. I decided to limit my approach to racing, and will modify only those components that need it. I will also keep the car street legal. My plan looked like this:

  • Engine: No real modifications here. Currently has an Edelbrock Performer intake and carb, not an ideal set up, but fine for the medium cam the car has (Comp Cams 268). The stock style cast pistons and bottom end will hold up fine under a redline cap of 5500 rpm and a shift point of 4800-5000 rpm. The Carter high flow fuel pump should also be sufficient.
  • Ignition: I will upgrade to the MSD 6-AL, giving me rev limit protection and a tremendous increase in ignition efficiency. I will also be using a MSD Blaster 3 coil, and 8.5 mm plug wires. The points distributor will remain stock for now.
  • Transmission: It is slipping really badly and will need a major overhaul. A 2600-2800 stall converter is a possibility.
  • Exhaust: Currently 2", will need to be at least 2 1/2" or even 3".
  • Rear end: Unfortunately, this car did not come with a Twin Grip, so either an AMC or aftermarket posi will need to be installed, along with 3.54 gears in place of the stock 2.73s in it now.
  • Suspension: I have a pair of NOS AMC fully boxed high performance rear lower control arms that I will install. I will also need to reduce the height of the station wagon springs in the rear to give me a better ride height and yet retain the stiffer spring rate. The front springs will remain, although I may get 70/30 racing shocks or adjustable shocks. Subframe connectors will also be fabricated and installed.
  • Front/Rear weight distribution: The Matador Coupe has a very long nose, so this is important. The plan is to remove pretty much everything that doesn't contribute to speed or safety as time permits, and relocate the battery to the trunk.
  • Safety: I anticipate a quarter ET in the 13-14 second range at 100-110 mph. A roll bar is not mandatory at those speeds, and is too much of an expense at this point. The stock hood latches are questionable at that speed, however, especially if there is any body flex (and there will be), so hood pins are needed. The brakes are adequate, and the car is mechanically sound otherwise.
  • Wheels/tires: I will stick with the front tires I have now, but will need something better for the rear if I hope to hook up at all. I'm planning on 26X10 Mickey Thomson ET Street tires, and 15" wheels. I would love to get something really cool like the Weld ProStars, but I will probably be stuck with much cheaper steel wheels for the time being.