AMC Matador Racer Rises from the Ashes

RJ95 Photo 02

Larry Southard of Waupun, Wisc. was in the right place at the right time when he got the No. 11 AMC Matador that Bobby Allison and Davey Allison raced.  “They call it a ’75,” Southard told RacingJunk.  “But, there’s not doubt it could have been re-bodied from previous years by Penske Racing.”

Southard said that Bobby Allison got this car and his No. 12 car from Penske after he filled in for Mark Donohue, who was at another race.  “Bobby started driving the cars for Penske,” Southard explained.  “Then, later, Penske just sold it to him because he was disgruntled with the president of AMC because he wouldn’t approve to the cars that Allison suggested.”

Bobby ran the No. 11 car in Wisconsin.  It raced at the Milwaukee Mile and at Wisconsin International in Kaukauna.  “He also did a lot of ASA and USAC races here with it,” Southard said.  The Allisons were also running their No. 12 Matador, so Bobby turned No. 11 over to Davey.  It was the first car that Davey drove in Winston Cup races.

“After that, he competed in a lot of Winston West races,” Southard pointed out.  “He then wrecked the car at Phoenix.”  The AMC program was just about over by then, so the car was sold to Randall AMC in Mesa, Ariz.  Southard was a fabricator for Randall and did off-road racing for the family, which had one of the top off-road teams going between 1976 and 1980.  Bobby Allison used the Randall facilities to prep his Winston West cars.

The Randalls thought they would take the car apart and rebuild it to use it in Winston West racing.  They took off the sheet metal and more or less took the car apart.  They sandblasted it, but then they lost interest in the project and put it out in a yard.  Southard came to work for them in 1990 and five years later, they gave the old race car to him.  He brought it back to Wisconsin and re-skinned it and put it back to its racing condition.

“I practically lived with the Randalls and they gifted the car to me,” Southard explained.  At one time the Matador looked like little more than a pile of junk, but today it’s a hit at the race track and at events like the Iola Old Car Show where some of the accompanying photos were snapped.

About John Gunnell 104 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.
  • gas28man

    Awesome! I always loved the Matadors.

  • Jeff Rice

    Wasn’t RKE (Ronnie Kaplan Engineering) involved with the building and running of these cars for AMC, too?

  • Dale E. Kipp

    WOW! about the time you think that these fine old racecars are gone, somebody brings them back to life

  • Chris Glenn

    Davey Allison never drove a matador in any Winston Cup race. He did however run one in ARCA at one time. But that car was not even legal for cup by the time he got there. Bobby ran those cars in cup for Penske for a year or two in the mid 70’s then they went to the Cam 2 Merc. 77 he ran his own team with amc and in 78 he started driving for Bud Moore then from 78-80 in the sportsman series which became the Busch series after that Davey ran them in ARCA some and that was it. They did run a javlen and hornet in ASA and ARTGO and other series.

    • relbmar16

      Thanks for Clarifying the story, it didn’t make a lot of sense when I first read the above. Gerald C. Meyers was the President of AMC in 77 and he orchestrated a massive turn around and profits for 1977. It’s not hard to believe the he refused to make changes to the 78 Matador considering they sold less than 10.000 coupes in 1978. Penski was out of the picture on the AMC team in 1977 as you said. Again, thanks for the clarification from the above article. By 1981, AMC was in difficulties again because they left the big car market.

  • Jim L’esperance

    i would love to read a story on wally booth who raced for amc.he did very well with his gremlin and hornets drag racing cars.
    he gave grumpy, dyno don and sox and martin all they could handle on a limited budget.wally had to start from scratch to build and develop these amc engines to be competitive with the big manufacturors who had been involved in racing and winning for many years.jim

    • James Burt

      Hi Jim, I remember Wally. He was very competitive. I used to (1969) drive one of the Hurst S/S AMX cars for MacDonald Rambler in Montreal. Would you have any info on that car? Date sold, vin #, anything? Man what a wonderful car that was. If you like, you can reach me at: [email protected]

    • Cali son bound for Idaho

      The better AMC team was Maskin and Kanners……they are the Sickos who siamesed 4 cylinder heads into a pair of Pro Stock heads. Dick Maskin helped found Dart Machinery the racing cylinder head/block company.

      • Jim L’esperance

        i watched maskin and kanners race against wally booth several times at national events and they always seemed to qualify behind wally at these events.
        wally won several national events in pro stock but a cannot remember maskin and kanners winning any.did they ever win any events back in those days?jim

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