1969 Chevy C70 Fire Truck or 1978 AMC Matador Barcelona: Which Weirdo Wins?

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Good morning, Autopians! It’s that time once again, and today we have two random oddball vehicles from opposite ends of the country. Why? Because I can. But first let’s see how our derelict ’50s yachts fared:

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Looks like smooth sailing for our Packard Clipper to an easy win. The Olds might be a little easier to find parts for, but its eight cylinders are arranged the wrong way.

Today, there is no theme. No tie that binds. Once or twice a week, in the course of looking for vehicles to feature, I come across something that just doesn’t have an obvious mate, that doesn’t really match up with anything else. We’ve had a few odd pairings before, but nothing as mismatched as these two. They go together like chocolate sauce and iron filings, which is to say, not at all. [Editor’s Note: Pretty sure I’ve seen David eat that. – JT] But I think they’re both cool, so let’s dive in and see what we can make of them.

1969 Chevrolet C-70 fire truck – $1,000

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Engine/drivetrain: engine not specified, manual, RWD

Location: Concord, CA

Odometer reading: 11,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sadly, no

The first two things you need to know are 1.) it’s a fire truck! and 2.) No, lookit, it’s a fire truck!

The third thing you need to know is that it’s really hard to find definitive specs on these older medium-duty trucks. As far as I can tell, this truck probably has either a 366 or 427 cubic inch gasoline V8 in it, and although the ad lists it as an automatic, there’s a manual gear lever clearly visible in the interior. It’s either a 4 or 5 speed, with a “granny” first gear either way, and possibly a 2 speed rear axle as well.

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It’s a hell of a long way from home, I can tell you that: the Brussels-Union-Gardner Fire Department is in Door County in northeastern Wisconsin, and the truck is for sale in the San Francisco Bay area. How did it get there? Was it driven? Are a couple thousand miles of its scant 11,000 mile total from an epic cross-coutry journey somebody made in a decommissioned fire truck? (If so, I’m envious as hell, because that sounds like a lot of fun.)

Look, it’s even still got the pump on the front! And gauges on the top edge of the grille! Does your truck have gauges on the top edge of the grille? Didn’t think so.

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Sadly, this wonderful old relic does not run, and has no title. I’m sure there are ways of fixing both of those problems, but then what? You’ve got a kick-ass classic fire truck that you can’t really do anything with, and have to find someplace to park. Rent it out as a movie prop maybe? Drive it in the Fourth of July parade with Miss Small-Town Whatever waving from the back? Just sit and admire it and think, “I have a fire truck?”

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I wonder if the siren still works?

1978 AMC Matador “Barcelona” sedan – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 360 cubic inch V8, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Stony Brook, Long Island, NY

Odometer reading: 72,973 miles

Runs/drives? Ad says it runs, but also says bring a trailer

Just about as far away from Concord, California as you can get in the US, and jst about as far from an old fire truck as vehicles get, is this last-model-year AMC Matador sedan. It’s the “Barcelona” edition, which as far as I can tell has no connection to the Spanish seaside city. But then, I often wondered what the Spanish-speaking world thought of a car named “Matador” anyway.

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This weird, beaky, second-generation of the Matador sedan looked nothing like the sleek personal luxury coupe of the same name. Nicknamed the “coffin-nose,” this car’s honker puts W.C. Fields to shame. However funny-looking, the Matador did well in contemporary road tests and earned praise from the press. Quite a few of them found duty as police cars, and not just on TV.

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This Matador is equipped with David’s favorite engine, AMC’s 360 cubic inch V8. By 1978, emissions controls choked down much of the performance that made the early Matadors such effective police cars, but then, nothing was very fast in 1978. The engine is backed by a Chrysler Torqueflite automatic, marketed by AMC as the “Torque-Command.” Whatever you call it, it works.

Inside, where most of the “Barcelona” trim package resides, things look mighty comfy. There isn’t much rust showing on the outside of the body, but a few of the photos show pronounced holes in the floors and in the trunk. Something to check more closely, for sure.

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The funny thing about the Matador is that the longer you look at it, the less weird it seems. I’m not sure I’d call it a handsome car, exactly, but when you take a minute to study it, it starts to make sense. Kind of.

So. I don’t know how you begin to compare or contrast these two, but they’re what you’ve got to work with. Discuss, dissect, vote.


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75 Responses

  1. Just sit and admire it and think, “I have a fire truck?”

    This is the way.
    If you can’t get it running, it would make a hell of a great lawn ornament because who doesn’t love a fire truck?
    My son was on a flight one time that was also carrying 20 or 30 Special Olympics competitors. The plane developed some issues and they had to divert to another airport. As they were preparing to land, there was palpable tension on the plane. But then one of the Special Olympians spotted the crash crew assembling below and shouted, with obvious glee and excitement: “Fire Truck!!” Many of the others in his group joined in and soon the entire plane was smiling and laughing about the pure joy of seeing a big, gleaming red fire truck.

    1. It sounds like the ultimate mind **** against a HOA.
      How could they possibly argue against a fire truck on your lawn! There’s probably even something in the constitution about it 😀

  2. AMC Matador.
    You can get floor pans or fab ’em, the brakes are almost certainly toasty (hence the bring a trailer,) but it’s otherwise intact, rust free, and easy to obtain engine and transmission parts for.

    Fire truck, yeah, no. No matter which engine is in it, you are never finding parts. The truck 427 is nothing like the car version (different casting,) and being a C70 with a PTO, it’s almost certainly going to be a 366, a GMC Toroflow 479 V6, or if you’re really lucky, a Detroit Diesel 4-53. You can almost find parts for a Detroit 4-53. You’re not getting it running in a weekend. You’re probably not getting it running at all without a completely new driveline. Talk about an infinite moneypit.

    1. The 427 truck block is a different casting it has a .400 inch taller deck height than the passenger car big block.
      This was to accommodate taller, long skirt pistons. The heads are similar in dimension to the oval port car heads. Quite a lot is interchangeable with the passenger car 427.
      For a window in time these were the darlings of big inch stroker motor builders for cars and boats and still might make sense for a big inch “budget” build. In more modern times there are aftermarket replacement tall blocks.
      There are intake manifold spacers as an off the shelf item to accommodate car manifolds.

      Now the 366 is basically the same thing, but with a smaller bore and that makes it not particularly desirable.

  3. An orphan car is on the menu two days in a row? I like where this is going!

    Sadly, this particular orphan car is being hopelessly outshined by that glorious old fire truck. Even if the Matador didn’t have rust holes in the floor pan and trunk, it would be damn near impossible to beat out a fricking fire truck.

  4. I am torn between the two. I don’t have a fascination with fire trucks, and the AMC seems like too much sugar for a dime. I guess I’m taking the trap door exit again.

  5. “Runs” doesn’t necessarily mean “moves,” hence the bring a trailer comment on the AMC.

    Went with the fire truck because come on, it’s a fire truck for $1K! Even if you can’t get it moving under its own power, I’m sure someone could find a use for it for a grand. Playground equipment! Movie prop! Yard art!

        1. It has room for a welder, air compressor, all kinds of stuff. Would be great for an independent mobile mechanic who works on big rigs or equipment, and the truck itself would get him all kinds of attention.

      1. Lol I highlighted “TMPGA”, it’s a mushroom growers association of some sort? I didn’t click the link. I thought…what? You’re going to use the truck to cultivate mushrooms?

  6. Because I’m a dedicated AMC fan I’m going with the Matador. That said, as I look at it today I think that last generation Matador was AMC’s signal to the world they just didn’t want to do it anymore.

  7. I often drive by decommissioned fire trucks in town, either on back lots or by random houses and my first thought is “WOW! I want a fire truck!”
    Then, my 17th thought finally roles around: “Then what? Where do I put it? Where do I drive it? When I get there, where do I park it?

    Somebody needs to open up a farm for retired Fire Trucks to live out their final days in peace and harmony together.

    1. There is a brewery/restaurant in the Black Hills that has a bunch of old fire trucks in the yard as their theme, and for hundreds of miles through SD, there are fire trucks sitting in fields along I-90 west as advertisements for this place.

      With them putting in that kind of effort, I just had to give their beer a try.

      1. Grew up in the Black Hills, but moved away 35+ years ago..
        Never saw this establishment, will definitely look it up next time in the area.
        Do you have any more details to share, such as name & location?

        Side Note: Today (June 9th 2022) is the 50th anniversary of the great Black Hills Flood.
        I was 8 at the time; 238 people perished.

        1. @Dale,

          The place I went to was called Fire House Smoke Jumper, in Hill City. I think there may be a larger restaurant in Rapid City as well but the vacation was last year and well, I was drinking beer 🙂

    2. A firefighter friend’s company had a raffle for their oldest truck a few years ago (I think the body dated from ’79 or something; it was only occasionally used in recent times, purely as transport.), something like $100 or $200 for a chance. The caveat, of course, being exactly that–needing a CDL for non-FD use, and parking. They did manage to raise more money than its actual resale value, though.

      1. Local town found an old triumph spitfire in a building they were tearing down. Put it up on muniauction. Had keys not title not running an article in the paper quoted the local head of the triumph group saying he was mystified when the bidding got to $1800. Damn thing sold for over $4000. WTF running spitfire boxes can be had for under $3k.

    1. Yes, but, the brown Matador means you can cruise around pretending to be a bad guy from an episode of Kojack. Or Streets of San Francisco, or Columbo (I could go on, but you get my drift). It’s so brown!

  8. The AMC Matador is such a conundrum. The Matador sedan has to be one of the worst looking cars of the 1970s. However, the Matador coupe is gorgeous. Not sure how that happened to the same model of car.

    As for the fire truck, an ice cream shop near my house has one of those super ugly Ford COE fire trucks that they converted into a ice cream truck. It’s rad as heck and kids love it. I see a business opportunity.

  9. We were an AMC family in the 70s 🙁

    We had an early 70s Matador wagon that was always mildy failing in small ways but also had these high*/lowlights:
    – run off the road into a telephone poll – dent could not be fixed so it just rusted instead
    – stolen in Mexico for weeks (sadly returned)
    – Rest of the car literately rusted so fast I can’t remember the original car color (Midnight Blue?)
    – dropped it’s transmission right in the middle of the street one day

    My Dad had finally HAD ENOUGH, so he towed the wagon to the dealership and blocked the front doors so no one could get in until they gave him some recompense.

    Which they did by giving him a “great deal” on a …

    Brand new 1975 Pacer! : o

    It was the same Blue as the one in Wayne’s World, with the every popular Southwestern styled interior. Heaviest doors every made. Trans also feel off of that one. ugh. Somehow my cousin’s Gremlin ran for 20 year though….

    So yeah, give me the fire truck.

    * The wagon still serves up some nostalgia though because it had the back door that had a window that opened/closed and the door both swung out and flattened out. Plus you could fit an entire little league team in the wagon and we often did.

  10. Ugh. I like ’70s domestic iron, but that Matador is just an ugly, weird-looking 4-door festival of brown-n-beige. It’s like an off-brand peanut-butter-cup turned inside out that you discover too late is actually made out of carob and cashews. The fire truck, however, is a big pile of potential for pocket change. Yard art! Parade queen! Period movie picture car rental! Custom themed food truck or drinks dispenser! Swimming pool accessory! Cut & weld a big tub in the middle and use it as a backyard fire pit! It’s only a grand, go nuts! Have fun! I don’t want an ugly, non-smog-exempt grandpa sedan that has The World’s Shittiest Engine in a butterscotch wrapper, not when I can set my very own fire engine on fire for less money.

  11. I’ve got to admit the fire truck is tempting. It would suit occasional farm use,especially for harvests.
    It almost certainly has a pto for driving accessories.Could be super useful

  12. I went matador, as I feel like it’s more something you could get, fix up a little, and use in and of itself; it looks in decent condition for $1500, so with a bit of patching up etc. you could have an old-school period piece land yacht to cruise about in. While the fire truck is cool, I feel its the sort of thing you could only really buy as a base for a project, to turn into a car hauler or an RV or something, by which time, the bulk of the cost of the project isn’t really going to be in the purchase price of the vehicle, but in the time investment, parts, materials costs etc. for the rest of the project.

  13. I’d buy the AMC Matador *Barfelona*.

    It is an orphan after all and it is also the perfect excuse for me to break out my Polyester Leisure suits to wear whilst navigating the Matador down to the local flea market! 😉

  14. Has to be the fire truck for parade or toy use.

    Any auto parts store in your local farm town stocks parts for the medium duty big blocks, and if you’re not close to one of those, RockAuto probably does. They big stupid lumps of iron, and worst case scenario, it’s a great yard ornament.

  15. As a long time member of my local volunteer FD, I have no choice but yell FIRE TRUCK with joy. What to do with it? That’s simple.
    1. Get it running.
    2. Clean up the paint.
    3. Install multiple taps on both sides and take that thing to festivals and block parties far and wide.
    4. Profit.

    Sprecher Brewery here in Milwaukee did exactly that. I see that truck everywhere.


    1. Ah the local VFD in Tarentum PA has a beer Firetruck and uses it for fundraising at festivals. Always the longest line. Not just because being PA you get in one line to buy a ticket then a 2nd to get your free beer for buying a ticket.
      Don’t ask it’s Pennsylvania, no dumber than the required airplane bottle liquor at bars.

  16. You literally took a page out of my play book, as my garage currently holds both an unloved AMC (a Marlin, in my case) and a retired fire truck. Both options are unique and eye catching, but for practicalities sake I voted Matador; my preference for big, beefy medium duties lean towards the blue oval, and the one heavy Chevy I owned didn’t last the summer in my care. On top of that, my allegiance to AMC goes much deeper than any old fire engine could reach. That said, we need more off the wall choices such as these!

  17. Matador for me, the fire truck would be fun if you had money to burn for things like finding a truck tire shop that’ll handle those split-rim wheels.

    I’m not that clued-in on Spanish but I’m given to understand that “Matador” literally translates as killer but has the definite connotation of the bullfighting context. That being said, VAM in Mexico marketed this car as the “Rambler Classic”. But again, not to avoid the Matador name but because the older Ramblers avoided the fogeyish connotations they had north of the border, and there was capital in the old name rather than the need to keep rebranding to run away from the oldfartmobile image.

  18. The matador is weird but has, I don’t think charm is the word exactly, but maybe a sense of purpose? It’s a big, ugly 70s car in period-correct colors and is less off-putting than most of its contemporaries.

    Plus it’s an excuse to purr the word BARRRRTHHHHELONNNAA

  19. I’d take the Matador sedan. I don’t understand the fascination with fire trucks, unless you’re a farmer who needs a mobile irrigation pump, or have a swimming pond and want a summer fountain.

    I love the Matador Coupe, but we actually had a 1978 Matador four door, in chocolate brown. It really was a great car.

    That car was solid, smooth, and completely reliable, as long as the battery had a good charge. There was a flaw in the electrical system that regularly drained the battery over the course of a few days.

    We never found the problem. The Matador was rear-ended and totaled when struck by a commercial duty truck of a similar size as that fire truck.

    It’s an odd coincidence that you selected a big ol’ Chevy C70 truck on the same day you picked a ’78 Matador sedan.

  20. While the fire truck has the kid in me going “ooohh” The reality is getting this running and driving it not viable option. Unless I had a huge plot of land in the middle of nowhere and needed my own truck.

    The AMC is one of oddballs that I just like and it runs (ish). It would be a more useable vehicle for me.

  21. Fire truck is only cool because it’s a fire truck, otherwise it’s just a worn out Chevy truck. The Matador though, glorious in two-tone brown and where have you seen another one? I’d rock the hell out of that thing!

  22. The firetruck is cool but utterly useless as currently constituted. The Matador could ultimately be a fun ride. I do wish the Matador was pre-’75 to avoid California smog, though. Then again, I have a soft spot in my heart for the AMC family of products.

  23. I had a 74 Matador in State of MN Maroon. It was running and unloved junk to me. That would be worth more to me than a fire truck. Barcelona edition it is with all its wood paneled glory

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