AMC Matador Coupe Maintenance and Restoration Tips

Updated 5/21/2002

If you have a repair or maintenance tip or trick to share, send it to me at craig@matadorcoupe.com and I'll put it here.
Please keep in mind that although I will not post someting I feel is questionable or unsafe, I can not universally endorse these procedures, and may not have tried them myself. They are presented for your information only. Contact the person who submitted it if you want more information.

On a lighter note, click HERE for some AMC-related humor.

AMC Cylinder Heads
AMC cylinder heads flow very well in stock form. There are differences in exhaust port design from pre 70 and 70 up. The later "dog-leg" design flows much better than the earlier rectangular port. Heads for 290 and 304 engines had smaller valves than those for 343 and up displacement. 1970 390 heads (casting number 319 6291) seem to flow the best even though all the later heads have pretty much the same port design. Typical flow numbers at 0.500 lift and 28" of H20 are 225 cfm intake, 155 exhaust for a 1970 head with 2.025 intake and 1.62 exhaust valve diameters.

With street strip porting and a good valve job, 235 to 240 is typical. A rule of thumb is that 1 cfm is equivalent to 2 horsepower, so this is good for about 30 horsepower.

To take advantage of more aggressive porting, the valve sizes need to be enlarged. SS AMX cars ran 2.08 intake and 1.74 exhaust valves, from big block Chrysler wedge heads. Flow numbers for heads with these valves range from 250 up to 300 in a typical modern day SS head. There is the potential for 150 horsepower over a stock set of heads at this level.

The AMC publication "Performance American Style" (available as a repro today) provides precise recommendations for modifying heads with stock and oversize valves. Most experts today do not modify the combustion chamber to the "open chamber" configuration illustrated. The directions also suggest a 45 degree intake seat but with stock valves the stock 30 degree seat angle will flow a little better and require less machine work. When using Chrysler or after market oversize valves intended for 45 degree seats the seat can be change to 45 degrees since the seat must be re-cut to accommodate the larger diameter valves.

The first two steps in the instructions say to spot face to the valve seat and bore the valve pocket throats. These machining operations take a lot of setup, and are often overlooked. The oversize spot face is important to unshroud the valves. Note that for installation of 2.08 diameter valves, the seat outer diameter will need to be scaled up to 2.06 and it may be desirable to increase the spotface diameter to as much as 2.50 but use the head gasket as a guide and limit spotface diameter accordingly. The valves can be unshrouded with a grinder, but if you can, try to find a machinist that will use the correct spotface cutter. Boring the valve pocket throats is also important, yet also often done with a grinder. If you canít find a shop that will do this preparatory machining make sure your porter knows what the desired dimensions are. Most shops that do performance work should be able to handle the valve and seat and guide work for installing oversize valves.

The directions for valve and port modifications are also very good. Pay particular attention that the ports are opened up in the middle of the port to get the really big flow numbers. Unlike Chevrolet heads, the restriction is not primarily in the valve bowl or "pocket". On the intake the port is widened until you almost break through the wall on the pushrod side, or even to the point the wall must be repaired with epoxy. On the exhaust the restriction is the lump for the exhaust manifold bolt. If you reach in with your finger and pull it out along the wall where the bolt is, you can feel the restriction. The lump needs to be smoothed out as much as possible, so that your finger can slide along the wall.

There is one more thing to consider. One expert quipped " I donít know how someone can take money for porting without a flow bench. You just canít tell by looking". Make sure your porter has experience and insist on flow results to show that the ports are all the same.

Ralph Winslow


You mention an electric fuel pump in your Matador buildup, but no mention of how to block off the hole in the timing cover where the stock pump goes. Here's how. Go to wherever they sell a good selection of engine dress-up goodies, purchase a chrome big block Chevy block-off plate. Doesn't have to be chrome, but, hey, it's supposed to be dress-up, right? Anyway, they are a couple dollars, and fit EXACTLY, including the bolt size.

Mike Hathaway dhathaway@tacomaclick.net

(Mike was kind enough to send this tip. I already knew of this strange Chevy/AMC part exchange, but I thought I would share it with the rest of the site visitors. Just don't get a plate with the Chevy bowtie on it!)

Arizona AMCer John Elle sent me this tip. I looked everywhere for replacement bushings for my shot lower spring seat spindles. I was told that I needed to buy the whole assembly. However, that is not necessary, and I spent a total of only $11, including shipping, to completely refurbish mine, thanks to John. 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 actually leaf spring bushings, but they fit the spring saddle perfectly. First, press out the saddle bolts, which are press fit into the spindle (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. I'll have pictures of the completed assembly here soon. It worked very slick, and has to be better than stock.

These are 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.

Craig Bond, webmaster, craig@matadorcoupe.com

My Dad, who was an AMC Service Manager in the 60's and early 70's, sent me this tip on defeating the troublesome 1974 seat belt interlock system:

"As far as I can remeber, at the interlock relay under the hood, remove the pink wire from the relay and cut it off as close to the harness as you can. Discard it. Take the yellow wire with the black tracer out of the relay and put it where the pink wire was."

If anyone has corrections to this, let me know.

Craig Bond, webmaster, craig@matadorcoupe.com

For years I was wondering why I was getting a fouled no. 7 plug. Thought the rings were bad or worse. Got this tip from orig AMC mechanic. Use plug wire separtors on all plug wires from distributor. Next, make sure that nos. 5 and 7 wires are on the outside of the rack of four to the left side (drivers side) are fully separated all the way from the distributor since they fire in sequence and will short across causing a no fire situation on no. 7. That's why it got all gunked up and didn't fire. Haven't had a problem since I changed them. While you're at it keep them neat and in line groups. Looks better too.

On the 360 2 bbl. Matador you can step up the timing about 5 degrees or so to cut down on the hesitation problem. (Never knew why they kept the 2 bbl unit anyway, real drag.) Then make sure you use best grade of no-lead to stop the pinging. Good idea to renew all the vacuum hoses too. They do get old and wrinkled like the rest of us. Be careful about using "Gumout" carb cleaner as it can destroy the rubber seal parts in the carb. I wanted to keep mine all original and stock therefore I still have the orig. 2 bbl. and orig. distributor, air cleaner, etc. With a good degreaser and cleaning and painting looks like new.

P.S. If anyone needs any original AMC aquamarine color engine paint in spray cans let me know.

Ned Stokes LilHoke@aol.com

I was looking at the updates to your web site, and wanted to give you a bit of advice from experience from my AMC's. Your Project Dolly is an interesting one, and I like what you are doing. I see you are using the Comp Cams 280, which is the same cam I used in my 401 in my Javelin, which by the way has a 3.54 axle, 2500 stall converter and is now a high 12 second car that acts like it is on ice when you stab the throttle. I used the Edelbrock 750 carb, and after using many Holleys, some out of the box, the Edelbrock is the choice by far. It is by far more tuneable and holds a setting.

My Matador is going to see a 401 built for more street oriented use, but as I see what you are doing with your other Coupe, I wanted to give you my two cents. My recommendation for a 12-second Coupe: Edelbrock 800 (new offering from them) Edelbrock Torker (as long as stall speed on converter is at least 2800 RPM), Or Performer (if stall speed is closer to 2500 RPM), block the heat off to the intake, use a 160 thermostat, a big tranny cooler (I used a 19,000 lb GVW RV cooler) a MSD blaster coil and an ignition system tailored to the cam. I found that mine does not like vacuum advance too much, and had a low-speed and cruise miss directly related to vacuum advance. I started with an adjustable advance, and finally went with no vacuum advance at all when I changed from points to the Motorcraft system. The 280 does like a significant amount of centrifugal advance, so take a look at that. I noticed a MAJOR difference when giving the engine more centrifugal advance. Initial timing with the 280 is good at about 10 to 12 degrees.

With the Matador's weight at about 3800 lbs, you should be close to my Javelin's weight of 3310 if you are lightening it. My first Coupe was a mid-14 second car with a 360 using the old Crane Cams 'Gripper' cam and 3.15 open gears and a Holley 600. I have learned some things the hard way since then. Oh, by the way, when you install your cam, advance it 4 degrees. It will increase your engine's dynamic compression a bit, and give you a bit more low to mid range torque. I milled my heads .020 and used stock replacement .030 over pistons on a '72 401 giving me just over 8.8 to 1 compression. My 401 runs fine on 89 octane, but kind of complains with the 87 (I tried it once just to see). I usually run a blend of 89 and premium when I have some money. The last thing you will be looking for is a set of drag slicks, as I am in search of a set. The 401 built like this just blows away the tires. At the starting line, I have to be careful, or I go nowhere when the green light comes on. I am using the Performer, but plan on trying the Torker in a couple of months.

When I had my heads milled, I did not have to mill my intake. Everything went together fine. There is enough room to play with as far as that goes with the intake gasket, but I would think that much more than that would make it something you may have to do. I used the material from the old intake valley pan gasket to make the blocker pieces for the heat crossover. I cut them so they just fit inside the opening of the gasket, but fit over the crossover port. I used Permatex Red in that area to assure high temperature sealing there. The material that that valley pan is made up is thin enough and will give enough so there is a good seal, they don't rust or pit out on you, and the material is easy to cut. I tried a piece of thin steel once, and it rusted through in less than a year. There is a lot of corrosive properties in the exhaust, moisture gets in there, and steel just cannot live in that environment. That valley pan material is some type of aluminum alloy that works great there. If you cannot come up with a piece of that material, try to use as thin a piece of aluminum as you can find. Maybe a piece cut from an aluminum pop can will work.

Bill Dettman javelinman@hotmail.com

This is useful information if you ever have to remove your Matador's hood for an engine change, repaint, or any other reason. If you own a Matador coupe, you know that the hood is not only very long and wide, but heavy, too. Follow the procedure below for an easy way to remove the hood without damaging your car or yourself. I came up with this method and have used it several times with success. This procedure requires two people, one on each side of the car. Don't try it alone!
  1. Open the hood and place two pieces of 1/2" board or plywood against the windshield. I used pieces roughly 12" X 24", although bigger is fine. Make sure that they are placed behind the pointed edge at the back of the hood, and push them all the way down so the bottom edge of the board extends below the bottom edge of the windshield.
  2. Use a dowel or board to prop the hood in it's fully open position. You can rest the base of the board on any solid part of the radiator support or front sheet metal (not the grille!), and rest the other end on the underside of the hood. You want an angle as near 90 degrees between the hood and prop as possible. This will prevent the hood from moving suddenly when you remove the mounting nuts.
  3. Use a pencil to trace around the hinge bracket where it meets the hood - this is an extremely important step if you want to avoid lengthy repositioning efforts later.
  4. Remove the front nuts attaching the hood to the hinge.
  5. Loosen the rear nuts attaching the hood to the hinge. Back them off nearly completely.
  6. Double check to see that your prop is supporting the hood and that your wooden blocks are protecting the windshield.
  7. Remove the rear nuts completely. Keep downward pressure on the rear of the hood to keep the hood studs in the hinge bracket.
  8. Taking a firm grip on the rear of the hood and as far toward the front of the hood as possible - one person on each side of the hood - lift the hood smoothly up and out of the hinge mount. You can allow it to come back down and rest on the wooden blocks. The key here is to lift smoothly, and remember, the hood is HEAVY!
  9. Carry the hood forward and either stand it up where it can be safely braced in an upright position, being sure to protect the paint from damage, or lay it down where it won't be stepped on or have something dropped on it.
To reinstall the hood, it is best to have three people, and essentially follow the same procedure in reverse. Be sure to use two people to lift the hood!
  1. Place the wooden boards against the windshield.
  2. Lift the hood and rest it against the boards. Keeping a grip at the back and toward the front of the hood makes this easier.
  3. Raise the front of the hood enough so that the third helper can insert the prop board, then set the hood into the hinge bracket, making sure both studs go through the bracket, and that the prop board stays in place.
  4. Keep downward pressure on the rear of the hood and replace the attaching nuts loosely on the hood studs.
  5. Using the tracing marks you made on the hood prior to removal, position the hood in it's original position on the hinge bracket. This is where the third person can really come in handy, making sure the hood doesn't come crashing down on your head or hands. That prop board is really important. Did you forget to mark the original hood position? Now is when you wish you hadn't forgotten.
  6. When the hood is in position, tighten the mounting nuts securely, and you are done. Be sure to remove the prop board and the boards against the windshield before trying to close the hood. I recommend that you lubricate the hood hinge at this point. I use a lithium based spray lube, but any silicone based lube will work too. Close the hood GENTLY and make sure that the gap along the sides is uniform, and that it engages the latches cleanly. If not, you will need to make adjustments so it closes easily.
It is very easy for the pointed corners of the back side of the hood to come into contact with the windshield and crack it. This is why the wooden blocks are important. Take great care when doing this procedure to avoid personal injury and to avoid damaging your car. With the procedures above, you shouldn't have any trouble. If you have questions, please email me at craig@matadorcoupe.com and I will be glad to help!
Craig Bond, webmaster
Some of this is simply my opinion, but I think that mechanics and professional drivers will agree with me. There are some things you should definitely check to make sure you Matador (or other car, for that matter) is safe and reliable on the road. After 22+ years, it deserves a little TLC.
  1. BRAKES - Make sure that your brakes are in top operating condition. Since all Matadors are at least 22 years old, the power brake booster, rubber brake lines, and all moving brake parts (drum, shoes, caliper, rotor, wheel cylinders) should be checked and replaced if questionable at all. If you can see cracks on the rubber brake lines leading to the front or rear brakes, replace them immediately. Also check the metal brake lines. Brakes are relatively inexpensive to repair, and could save the lives of you, your passengers, and your car.
  2. BALL JOINTS - If you don't have a service manual, or don't want to do this yourself, take your car in to a good front end shop and have the upper and lower ball joints checked. They are most likely worn out. Worn ball joints that let go at highway speeds will result in a destroyed car and may very well cost you your life. Even at lower town speeds, the front end can come crunching to the ground and make a big mess.
  3. CONTROL ARM BUSHINGS - While you are at the front end shop, have them check the upper and lower control arm bushings. They are rubber and are probably pretty bad. You can drive with them that way, but your ride will suffer, and tire wear will be excessive.
  4. TIE ROD ENDS, STRUT ROD BUSHINGS, IDLER ARM - Again, while you are in the front end shop, have them check these parts and replace them if they are worn. They probably won't cause you to wreck (although they could), but they will definitely affect your ride quality, steering, and tire wear. Plus, you can't align your car if they are shot.
  5. ALIGNMENT - Once the worn out front end pieces are replaced, get your baby aligned. It will make a huge difference in handling.
  6. SHOCKS - You know that 20 year old shocks aren't going to work right, so go get a new set. If you don't mind getting dirty and swearing at rusted-on bolts, it's a do-it-yourself job that shouldn't take more than a few hours, even if you are slow. If you shop when they are on sale, you can get a full set of four for well under $100.
  7. HOSES AND BELTS - Do yourself a favor: replace all of your belts and hoses unless you know for sure that they have been changed in the last couple of years. A broken belt or ruptured hose means you will be stranded, and it may damage your engine. A full set of belts and hoses will set you back less than $100, and it is something you can do over a weekend. While you are at it, get a Prestone flush kit and flush out your coolant system. Replacing all of your rubber fuel lines inside the engine compartment is also a must, and it's cheap. Just make sure that the engine is cool before you start in on that! Engine fires are a real pain.
  8. FUEL PUMP - I can almost guarantee you that your 22+ year old fuel pump is bad. The original fuel pumps have the diaphram assembly mounted up high, so that when the pump goes bad, raw gasoline flows right into your engine crankcase - bad news. Either your oil will be extremely diluted, leading to premature engine failure, or you could just blow your oil pan right off of the engine. Either way, it is definitely no good. I bought a Carter high flow fuel pump for mine, and the pump assembly is mounted below the engine block opening, which makes more sense.
  9. CARBEURETOR - Get a carb rebuild kit from your local parts house. Be sure to get the number off of the little metal tag on the carb. If it isn't the original carbeuretor, there should be a number or identifying mark on it somewhere. Most of these kits cost less than $45, which is 20% or less than the cost of a new or rebuilt carbeuretor. It takes a few hours, but if you are careful and can follow instructions, you can do it yourself.
  10. IGNITION - Get a new cap, rotor, spark plugs and wires. Also get a new coil, since they do go bad over time. For $60-$100 you can make a big difference. If you have points ignition, get a new kit for it, or convert it to electronic with a Pertronix kit. You don't have to go high performance on this stuff - stock type replacements will work better than old equipment, and it doesn't cost very much. Plus, it's something almost anyone can do. You can also go high tech with a new distributor from Davis or MSD.
Well, that pretty much does it for the basics. I didn't cover tire pressure and tires, but you know about that stuff anyway. If you are driving around on bald or seriously underinflated tires, you probably don't care about any other maintenance items.

If you have a pointer, or if you agree or disagree with my list, please email me at craig@matadorcoupe.com and I will be glad to talk it over with you!
Craig Bond, webmaster

First of all, let me say I love your page. I recently bought a 77 Barcelona, 360/2bbl and living in NY means lots of repair/maintenance issues to deal with. Your site was invaluable.

Couple of tips I'd like to add:

  1. Make sure you check the REAR brake lines as well. Brake fluid attracts water - mine were replaced for a cost of under $10.
  2. Even if the car runs well, check the accelerator pump on the front of the carb - mine leaked and made the car hard to start - all the fuel leaked out when not running and had to be pumped all the way from the tank. This caused me a little head scratching at first because the carb is normally hidden by the air cleaner (which I replaced w/K&N - BIG difference on a 2 barrel carb!). The rebuild kit cost me $45, which is kind of expensive for a Motorcraft carb, but it included everything. I also found out that HELP makes the accel. pump seal by itself for a couple of bucks. Sorry I don't have a part #, but it should be easy to find if you ask for one for a Motorcraft 2100 series.
  3. I know you mentioned this, but replace all hoses. Gas, coolant and p/s are obvious, but a vacuum leak will cause the car to idle BADLY (mine did). 6 feet of line is cheaper than all the aspirin you'll be buying otherwise.
  4. While checking the ball joints and suspension, get under there with a grease gun and a spray can of white grease. Give the ball joints and various steering gear bushings a couple of shots with the gun, and the shifter/tranny linkage with the white grease. This will definitely extend the life of the ball joints and bushings.The linkage has a lot of moving parts and is usually overlooked.
  5. CLEAN THE ENGINE! It will actually run cooler in addition to being much easier and more pleasant to work on. Rent a power washer and hit the suspension as well. Cheap, easy and gratifying when you see your clean engine. I also painted the valve covers and gave 'em new gaskets, just for the heck of it.
  6. I don't know if you want to post this on the page or not, but here goes: when I bought the car, the air pump and fittings for the exhaust manifold were shot, as was the catalytic converter, which sounded like a coffee can full of rocks. However, after a complete (and I mean COMPLETE) tuneup, including rebuilding the carb, new plugs (Bosch Platinum - why skimp there?), new wires, dist. cap and rotor, K&N filter, fuel filter and oil/flter change, the car not only passed emissions inspection without emissions equipment, but it was significantly below the limits in both hydrocarbons and CO. My theory on this is that since most carbs come jetted rich from the factory to help the engine run a little cooler, adding a high flow filter increased the air/fuel ratio and made the engine run more efficiently. In conjunction with the tuneup, the engine runs and idles extremely well (wish I could say the same for the suspension).
Thanks in advance, and thanks for a great page!


I would like to share what I know about replacing drooping headliners. These type of headliners are a foam backed cloth. apparently over time the foam disenegrates and the cloth starts to sag. Replacment is fairly straightforward. First, go and buy the new headliner material either from an upolstery shop, or some fabric stores carry it. Be sure to take in some of your old headliner material to get as close a match as you can. This material is relatively inexpensive, the adhesive is not. I use 3M's Spray Adhesive #08090. It runs about twelve dollars a can. Buy three cans. Once you have these things go on and take your headliner shell out of the car. You've got to take out trim,sunvisors and dome lights to get at it. You will probably think the shell was the first thing on the assembly line and the car was built around it but it will come out. Once out of the car, lay it down and remove all the old cloth and foam. The old foam always seems to be a pain to get off the shell but keep at it, it's got to go. A stiff brush and a shop vac pay for themselves now. Do not tear up your shell. I don't know what it's made of but it's not too awfully strong. If I find a tear, say where the sunvisors fit through, I use duct tape (on the backside of the shell) to hold it together. After your shell is prepped up roll your new material over it to double check that you have plenty, with some extra, all the way around. Now, it's a good idea, I think, that while you're gluing wear old clothes, a long sleeved shirt and a comfort (dust) mask. The adhesive sprays out stringy like and it would no doubt be a good thing to not to breathe in any of it. It smells bad too. Roll up your new material foam side out. Starting at the front edge, spray across the shell and the foam a band of adhesive about six inches wide. Roll out the material (that with adhesive on only) and press/smooth it on the shell. Spray another six inch band on the shell and foam unroll and press/smooth. Keep on until you're done. While you are pressing and smoothing use only enough pressure to do it. Don't mash the cloth into the adhesive. Let the adhesive dry at least over night before installation. All you do now is trim off the excess and put it back up. It does take some time to do it, but it's not difficult. The odor of the adhesive will go away in a month or so. Hey, I don't claim to be an expert at this so if any of y'all know a better or different way, sing out, I'd like to hear it.
Thanks, Richard Maxon
The model "F" sponge rubber weatherstrip from JC Whitney is good for up the front and across the top. I haven't located anything similar to the wider rubber down the back edge of the window. For now I ust cut and glue the new top and front edge to the formed pieces. I also used the #40 for the outside belt weatherstrip along the top door edge.
Much, much more to come. Y'all come back!

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