Madd Matt – The Re-Birthen-ing (part 1)

Bet you didn’t see this coming… Psych!  This is HAPPENING people!!!

Sad to say it’s been 6 long years since I got the Matador.  A lot has happened in that time. Mostly what’s happened is my son will be FOUR soon!  But also I have done a lot of other car stuff.  

I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to go through with building this car. It was just too far down on the priority list.  I just can’t get to the track like I used to (been once since my boy was born). So I’ve been concentrating on the street cars when I get shop time.  My thought was that it was just going to sit forever or maybe I’d sell it if a real buyer came along who really wanted it.

Then through a fortunate series of events we got a new member in my local AMC club.  Andy bought Connor’s Hornet and started coming to meetings. I quickly found out he’s been a Rambler man since he was 14 and has a 1963 Rambler Ambassador wagon…  that has a LS/T56 combo and that he’s being doing track days for a while with it. What?! A Rambler person who is into road racing and he’s local? Amazing.  

Did I mention that Andy is also a competent fabricator and understands suspensions? His wagon has a custom built/designed by him, Nascar style truck arm suspension. We’ve had the wagon on my lift and the whole car is really nicely put together.

Well, after all those track days the LS is feeling pretty tired and Andy is looking for a car he can get back on track with to get his competition license.  I told him if he helps me put the Matador together then he can drive it. SOLD. So that’s how Madd Matt has moved to the front of the line.

So we’ve been on this thing about a month now.  Nights here and there and we’ve both been taking Wednesdays off and working all day on the car.  Additionally my friend Don has helped and of course Doyle also. The goal is to have it ready by March.  Here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far.

First Andy and I dragged the Matador out of the car port and gave it a quick wash. It was super dusty but cleaned up real nice.  Looked amazing in fact 🙂

Then we got it in the shop and on the lift.  As mentioned in previous posts on the car a big stumbling block for me was that the main hoop of the cage was too far forward for me to fit (Andy is also tall).   I had convinced myself that I needed to cut the main hoop out and move it back. But Andy looked at it and we decided to just cut out the crossbar and 2 down bars that they had running from the main hoop to the frame rail.  It worked and so I was finally able to put a seat in it far enough back that I could imagine driving the car. 

So we played around with seat placement and welded in some 1×2 tubing. And then welded the seat mounts to the rails.  Then we were able to bolt the seat in and confirmed the placement worked for both of us.

We also started cobbling together a motor.  And we took another bare 360 block I had lying around and mated it to a bellhousing and transmission and put the whole lot into the engine bay.  This was a huge help. With the mockup motor in place we were able to confirm the exhaust bolted up, the shifter came up in the existing hole, the dual remote oil filter and cooler was able to be plumbed, the transmission crossmember was installed, etc, etc. and at the same time we were able to work on the “real” motor on the engine stand.

I forgot to mention that this is a SUPER low budget build.  I’m trying to use anything and everything I have lying around. A real spare parts type build.  Also have scrounged around for some freebies or loaners. Oh, and yes we know we are doing it all wrong 🙂  Here’s a rundown of most of the parts.


From my boss who’s a big time dirt racer I got: a 25 gal circle track fuel cell, some -8 push lock hose, electric fan, random gauges, an ignition/start switch AND a race carb! Andy pitched in with an oil cooler and some black hose to plumb it with.  I also have a weird xTune 5” tach that Tyson gave away at a club meeting a few years ago. Don is loaning us a coil.

The engine

 For the engine we’ve cobbled together a 360 from a couple of cores I have.  One 360 is .030 over and the bores looked nice. But the crank had some scoring you could feel with a fingernail.    The other 360 was .060 over and had some broken piston rings! But the crank looked/felt amazing. So we put that crank in the .030 block.  New main/rod bearings. Also put in a cam and new lifters (comp 280H). For the heads I had a pair of 993s from another 360 I have. These are from ‘71 and have stud rockers. We (Andy) cleaned them up, replaced the springs with new springs and lapped the valves. We replaced the studs with longer pieces and replaced the push rods.  That’s it. Intake is a Torker. There’s been no machine work and nothing to raise the compression so it’s only 8.5:1. From Doyles prodding we got Andy to modify a stock oil pan to hold a little more oil and welded in a Petersen external pick-up. The result is a pan that holds 1.25 extra quarts for a total of 5.25 in the pan. For a distributor I’m running a Pertronix Flame Thrower billet distributor.  It was originally in the race Javelin but the advance mechanism was junk. I switched to an MSD so this distributor was laying around. I pulled off the advance stuff and locked it (tack weld). I’ve had the RobbMC 550hp capable mechanical fuel pump sitting on the shelf for a while and decided it might as well be in a car doing something) and a Bulltear tri-flow oil filter relocation plate. *btw, this motor has no lifter valley oil line mod.


Originally I planned to run another Astro Performance A5 (beefed up T5). But those are pricey.  Also, the car as raced previously had a T10 and it came with the driveshaft and z-bar. I realized that if I ran a T10 I’d have way less work to get it mounted in the car (shifter hole, driveshaft, trans crossmember, zbar setup, etc). I lucked out and Connor was selling a T10 he’d picked up.  So I bought it from him. I got the T10 and the shifter, shift arm and knob. I already had a bellhousing from when I had a T10 in the yellow javelin years ago. I have a resurfaced 360 flywheel and I have a new in the box 10.5” clutch.


The car had a lot of wiring still in it and originally I thought about trying to re-use most of it. But Don was up on one of the work days and said rip it out.  I’m glad I listened to him. I kept the heavy gauge battery wiring running from the battery in the trunk, to where a cut off switch was mounted off the main hoop and to the front where it went to a bulkhead fitting and from there to the starter. Also kept the wiring going to the back for the brake lights but everything else I yanked.  Then I started running new wires. I built a mount and got the freebie ign/starter switch plate installed. And I bought and installed a 4 switch panel from Summit. I even had a master cutoff switch that fit in the existing hole where they had theirs mounted. So now we can turn the master on, turn the ign on and bump the starter (I installed the starter in the bellhousing and hooked up the wires).  The ign switch plate had two extra holes that I used to mount a toggle switch and an LED. This is for the electric fan. The 4 switch panel controls a defog blower motor that was still installed under the windshield, an interesting dual fan setup that blows air on the brakes (presumably when the car is stopped in the pits). I’m also going to use one switch for the cool shirt setup and the last switch for anything else we end up needing. Oh this car is going to be wired for my traqmate setup as well.  I got a 2nd car kit from traqmate so that I can just transfer the unit and the traqdash from the Javelin to the Matador when needed.


I bought a Champion aluminum radiator for the yellow Javelin. But it doesn’t need it.  So I’m using it here. Andy fab’d the mounts. I got the free Spal electric fan mounted. And I had an old but never used stock water pump laying around.

Fuel System

Free 25 gal circle track cell. Free -8 blue push lock hose.  The RobbMC 550hp mechanical fuel pump I had on the shelf. Fuel filter and a bunch of -8 fittings from Summit. Fuel cell is in, filter is mounted and lines are mostly made/routed.


I wanted to run Aero 15×10 wheels with American Racer tires.  But I didn’t want to PAY for them. Andy and I kicked around a lot of wheel/tire ideas… then I remembered that I have a set of Cragar steel D-window wheels in 17×9 with very low mile Nitto 555 tires (275 rear, 255 front).  The wheels are impossibly heavy and the offset is wrong so I’m running a lot of spacer. And the tires are YEARS old even though they have no wear *See above where I already said I know we’re doing it wrong 🙂 but it was all free and available so on the car they went.

Anyway, that’s a rough overview of the plan the parts and the progress to date! Stay tuned!

Mock up motor
Mock Up motor
Andy and the GIANT hood
Andy and the GIANT hood
Cragar 17x9/Nitto NT555
uber low buck 360
uber CHEAP 360
Aluminum Rad/Electric fan
Alum Rad/Electric fan
Dual oil filter setup
Dual filter setup
Switch Panel
Switch Panel
25 Gal fuel cell
Fuel Cell
FUel Filter
Fuel Filter
1974 Matador-road race, Drive Train, Electrical, Wheels and Tires

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