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PROJECT DOLLY Archive - 2001

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Archived updates from 2000
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October 30, 2001 - Wow, not much to report here. Still haven't welded in the floorpan metal, although I do have a template, and I still haven't painted the engine bay. However, the heads are neaAC. If I am lucky, I will get the tranny all put together this weekend and start working on the engine.

October 30, 2001 - Wow, not much to report here. Still haven't welded in the floorpan metal, although I do have a template, and I still haven't painted the engine bay. However, the heads are nearly done, and will be awesome. I'm going with roller rockers, milled the heads for higher compression, and have new stainless valves, new springs and performance keepers and locks. I'll get the flow numbers posted as soon as I can. When combined with new pistons, the engine will sport an honest 9.5-9.8:1 compression. The engine is still partially disassembled, and will go to the shop in November.

August 22, 2001 - Well, work continues, despite the fact that this season is out. I have the heads out with a friend to be worked on, and they will have new stainless valves, roller rockers, new competition springs, keepers and locks, ported, and milled slightly to raise compression. The block and crank will go out soon for their work.

I have been working on the driver's side floor pan as well. It was bad last year, and it is even worse this year. I have a template made for the sheetmetal to cover the holes, and will have it welded in soon, after cutting out the cancerous sections. It wasn't as bad as I had feared, since the outer frame rail section is intact.

I'll be continuing prep work, including painting the engine bay and cleaning up wiring. I'll also be doing some body work to make the car look better. I won't be doing any full-blown restoration type work until I know the car is fast - nothing worse than a pretty poser. I'd rather be fast and ugly than pretty and slow.

July 24, 2001 - Sad, sad, sad. I sat down with my wife, and we discussed what to do about this project. We finally decided that the best thing to do was to sit out the 2001 racing season and get the engine put together the way I want, rather than slap it back together for just a couple of month's racing, then pull it again to rebuild this winter. The engine has at leat 9 years of driving on it, and lots of miles. When I checked the rod and main bearings, I found that rod bearing #8 and main bearing #5 were both bad, so to get it ready to race this season, I'd need to replace the mains and at least the one rod bearing, so I might as well just do the rebuild that the engine needs.

This means that I won't get to race at the 2001 AMC Nationals, but it also means that I'll get to show my brown 76 Matador Coupe at an AMC show for the first time. My wife will drive her newly acquired 78 Matador 4 door, so we will each have a show car. It will still be fun to watch the races, but it's more fun to be actually racing. Next year. I have a lot of work to do to the car in the meantime, and this gives me the rest of the Summer and all Winter to do it. Unfortunately, I just didn't have the money this past Winter and Spring to get an early start on the engine work, or I would be racing already.

July 17, 2001 - Well, I took major advantage of the nice weather this weekend and did a LOT. First, I painted and installed the filler sheet metal to cover the gaping holes in the firewall left after removing the AC and heater assemblies. I pop-riveted it in place using the stock holes used to mount the AC/heater pieces and used RTV on the inside and outside of the sheetmetal to prevent leaks. This way, if I want to reinstall the AC stuff, I don't have any extra holes to fill in, and nothing has been hacked or welded.

Second, I removed the MSD 6AL and rev limit module from the engine bay and attached them under the dash on the newly installed patch panel. This will keep them clean and cool, and will clean up the engine compartment. I also reinstalled some of the interior trim in areas I am finished. There were some other minor things done to the interior too, like removing wiring that is no longer needed.

Third, I mocked up the install of my Hurst line lock, and bent the new brake lines to fit. I didn't install it yet, since I will be power washing and painting the entire engine bay. I isolated the wiring needed and mocked up the location of the relay.

Fourth, since I will be washing and painting the engine bay, I removed everything from the inner fenderwells in preparation. I also finalized the wire routing and bundled the remaining harness together. The end result will be a very clean, simple looking installation. To prepare for the power washing and painting, I hung all the wiring from a wire in the center of the engine bay. I will be painting the entire engine bay black, along with the transmission mount and the front end chassis pieces. Not only will this help it look better, but it will help fight off rust.

Fifth, I finished draining the engine of oil and coolant and took the oil pan off in preparation for checking the bearing clearances. I'm hoping that everything specs out right, otherwise I'll be replacing bearings. I also put the tranny on the workbench in preparation for installing the valve body and cover.

In addition to all this, my wife decided that she really liked a red 1978 Matador 4 door that was for sale in town. We gave it a test drive, and she fell for it, so we bought it.

It has less than 48K miles, the interior is very nice, and most of the original paint is excellent. We got the AC serviced today, and have new tires, belts and hoses ordered. She's wanting to drive it to Cordova for the AMC Nationals, so I guess I better get busy, now that I have two cars to get ready.

July 12, 2001 - Man, am I moving slowly, or what. I ordered some more parts for the car, namely a high flow water pump, urethane motor mounts, urethane strut rod bushings, and some other odds and ends. I put in the new reverse plate in my shifter to ready it for the manual reverse valve body. I am sorting out what wiring I can ditch and what needs to be saved. I am carefully cutting out the harnesses I am removing in case I want to go back to stock. I should finish that up tonight - thank goodness for my wiring diagram! I also have the sheet metal I need to patch the holes in the firewall from the blower, heater and AC. If I am lucky, I will get the tranny all put together this weekend and start working on the engine.

July 5, 2001 - Well, my plans have changed, again. I will not be doing any internal engine modifications, other than a new water pump and an oil pump kit. I just don't have the time or money right now to do anything more than clean the car up and reinstall everything. There will be some significant upgrades over last year, mainly in the new tranny. I now have all the parts to put it together. I will also have a line lock, a MSD Pro-Billet distributor, and a manual steering box. I also managed to remove all components of the heating and AC system, including the large blower motor assembly, heater core and box, and evaporator/defrost assembly. These things were a pain to remove, but will clean up my engine compartment (no more blower motor or AC hoses), and will remove quite a bit of weight. I will be mounting a simple fan to defog the windshield if needed, and to help keep me cool in the staging lane. Of course, now I have several large holes in the firewall I will need to fill with sheetmetal.

This project is moving along very slowly right now due to the large number of other projects I am working on around the house. On the bright side, I did get my workbench finished and cleaned up my garage, so I now have a nice work space - a bit small, but much better than before.

June 4, 2001 - I successfully removed the engine and transmission on Memorial Day in preparation for engine modifications and transmission replacement. It was a lot easier thanks to the Foldable Shop crane and Load Leveler from Harbor Freight Tools. If you want some tips on how to safely remove the hood from your Matador coupe, go to my Tips Page. I have all the parts for my new racing 727 transmission either on hand or on order. The last piece was a torque converter. I ordered a 10" converter from Turbo Action, which should be in by mid-June.

The original plan was simply to replace the transmission and then stuff it all back in the car, making engine modifications next year. However, after having had the fun of removing it once, I really don't want to have to do it again soon. So, I will keep the engine out of the car until I have the mods finished. Plans for it include decking the heads for higher compression (9:1 or 9.5:1), unshrouding the valves, more porting work, new valves and a 3 angle valve job, new valve springs and retainers, Comp Cams 280 cam and lifters, and roller rockers. I will inspect the bottom end, but I don't plan on making any changes there.

Induction-wise, I will be using a Holley 3310 carb, and either a Performer or Torker intake manifold. I'm getting conflicting advice regarding the benefits of each. I will need the low end torque to get off the line, and since I will be limiting RPMs to 6000, the high end horsepower numbers aren't all that useful. Time will tell, since I have both of them on hand. I may just experiment and see which one works better.

I also have a manual steering box on the way so I can get rid of the power steering pump and box, eliminating one more source of fluid leakage, reducing a lot of weight, and freeing up 5-10 horsepower. Having the engine out of the car also gives me a good excuse to clean up the engine bay and eliminate extra wiring. I also will get rid of the AC evaporator and heater core if time allows. Who knows, I might even repaint the engine bay - it would look better than the rest of the car!

April 19, 2001 - Well, after a long, hard winter, I finally am getting around to working on the car. I drove it just for fun a week or so ago, and it sure sounds good! My goal this summer is to get into the 12 second range. My best so far is 13.59 @ 101 mph. The transmission I have in the car now is not really up to the task of racing, so I had a friend of mine, John Garland in Kansas City, make up a racing 727 transmission for me. The tranny features 4 pinion planetary, rear roller, oiling modifications, and heavy duty bands and clutches. I am buying the Cheetah manual valve body from Turbo Action, a 3200 stall torque converter, and a TCI cast aluminum deep pan. My guess is that the new tranny setup alone will help me pick up 3-4 tenths in the quarter.

I also have a Hurst Roll Control front brake line lock kit to help me with more consistent burnouts, and I ordered a Pertronix Ignitor kit (#1181) to replace the points in my distributor. If I have time, I will replace the Performer carb I have now with a Holley 3310 that is currently sitting on my shelf awaiting a rebuild.


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.