Meet “Mad Matt” the Road Race Matador!

If you watched the video from the last post you know that’s there’s been a new addition to my little AMC fleet (totaling 5 cars now). Here’s what I know of the story so far. In the late 90’s a guy named Lynn Peterson bought a green 1974 Matador. He drove it around for a while and then he and his wife moved from Illinois to Portland, OR. He left the car with his friend Matt Lagessie. At some point in 2000 or 2001 Matt decided he wanted to go endurance racing and the Matador was the perfect candidate. So he tore into it and produced this awesome looking road racer. They ran a race in 2002 with a 343 motor. They blew the motor due to low/no oil pressure (sound familiar???). So, they decided they weren’t going to mess around and built a dry sumped 401 motor and raced it again in 2003 at Gingerman Raceway. They were going good but then threw a belt and couldn’t continue… looks like they took 2004 off and in 2005 they ran the car again at Blackhawk Farms. Not sure what happened in that race but I think they had some trouble again…

In 2006 Lynn was preparing a motor to compete in the Engine Masters Challenge. Very late in the build he finally went to put the intake manifold on the motor and found out that it didn’t fit the Indy heads and he had no time to fix the problem. So, they pulled the 401 out of the Matador and converted it to wet sump (required by the rules). That’s the motor they ran for the Engine Masters Challenge. Engine did ok but wasn’t optimized for the competition. Apparently, someone from New York bought the motor from them on the spot. So maybe it’s still in New York somewhere…

I’m not sure exactly what happened after that but at some point the car was sold. And then around 2007 the guy I bought it from got it in a trade. He put it in a shed and didn’t touch it for 7 years. Then I came along and bought it.

Matt went on to build a few more race cars; a Corvair and two Chevelles, a ’66 and a ’70? Unfortunately, in 2011, while racing the ’66 Chevelle, Matt suffered a heart attack. He was in the hospital for a few months but wasn’t able to recover and passed away in early 2012.

I first saw the car on the AMC forums in a thread someone started about building a circle track Matador. Another guy I know on the forums posted pictures of this car and said it might be for sale… I ended up talking to the guy that posted pics and he had the contact info of the current owner. A few weeks went by and no one else seemed to take the bait. So I finally jumped. I called the owner and said I’d take it. Then an agonizing 6 weeks went by while I waited for the shipping company to have a truck available to get it back to me in California.

Now it’s here and I’ve had a chance to look it over. It’s got no engine/trans and no fuel cell. Wiring’s a mess and I will need to modify the seating to even be able to fit in it. It’s got an AMC 20 with 3.54 gears and an Eaton posi. Matt fitted Cadillac brakes on it so it has four wheel disc brakes but, it’s got the Chevy bolt pattern. That’s a bummer since I can’t use any of my wheels. I’m pretty sure I’m going to switch it over to 5×4.5″. I don’t want to start buying/collecting Chevy pattern wheels. It’s a pretty BIG car too. It doesn’t look that big when you’re looking at it on it’s own but next to my Javelin race car it makes the Javelin look really low and small…

So that’s the story of Matt’s awesome Matador. Not sure when this will be back on the road but I plan to find a motor for it and get it running again. It’s such a cool car and needs to be back on track flying the AMC flag! Here’s a few pics after I cleaned it out and washed it.

Matador - clean and mean!

1974 Matador-road race

4 comments


  1. Jim Novotny

    I was part of the team that built the Matador, there were about 8-10 of us all together pitching in. I was also one of the three drivers for the first race, the 10 hour Enduro, at Gingerman. Feel free to contact me.

  2. Hey Jim, that’s awesome! thanks for stopping by. Got any pics of the car back in the day? Lynn sent me a bunch of stuff but interested in anything else that might be still around. Unfortunately I haven’t done anything with the car yet. Too many other projects ahead of it. But at least it’s indoors now. I did pick up a 401 for it though and hope to build the motor this winter.

  3. Jim Novotny

    I will have to look through the old photo album to see if I have any pictures. I was they guy that did the body and paint on the Matador and also wrote the article about the long race and our team for the Midwest Council newsletter. I know I have a copy of that somewhere. I will gladly share my phone number with you but I don’t know how to do that without it going public. I used to race a 78 Porsche 924 and a 72 Opel Manta in Midwest Council.

    Jimbo ITA/VH #66

  4. hey Jim,
    I sent you an email. thanks.
    -A

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