One Year Only: 1960 Dodge Matador

No manufacturer is immune from one very specific law within the automotive world. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, if you release the wrong car at the wrong time, then you are assured of a sales disaster. Whereas, the right car at the right time will reap a manufacturer a sales bonanza. Ford proved these laws correct. It is hard to believe that a company could release cars like the Edsel and the Falcon so close together, and get such extreme sales results. The same could be said of Chrysler. By 1960, sales of full-sized cars were at their lowest level since the end of the war. That was not the best time to release a new full-sized car, but that is precisely what they did with the Dodge Matador. At any other time, an entry-level car of this size would have been an enormous sales success. That they only managed to sell 27,908 cars during 1960 was a perfect demonstration of that “wrong place, wrong time” syndrome. This 1960 Matador sedan is a fairly nice car that has the potential to really stand out. It is located in Warren, Ohio, and is listed for sale here on eBay. At the time of writing, bidding has reached $7,400, but the reserve hasn’t been met. The owner also offers a BIN option of $12,500.

The overall appearance of the Matador is quite good. The owner refers to the paint as being of good driver quality, and I think that this is a pretty fair assessment. He also says that the only rust present is in the trunk floor, and even that doesn’t look to be too bad. The external chrome and trim look to be in good condition, with the exception of the missing “D” off the hood. There are a few styling features on the Matador that I really like. The truncated fins are a great styling queue and made even better by the lights that are set into the rear edge of them. That enormous front bumper is another great feature, and it really says “don’t mess with me, because if you do, you’ll lose.”

In 1960, the world had never heard of Ralph Nader, and Detroit knew that while safety didn’t sell, style most certainly did. That’s one of the things that makes cars like this Matador such attractive propositions. In today’s safety conscious world, an interior like the one in this car would be enough to cause heart palpitations. There’s plenty of chrome trim, sharp and unpadded edges, and hard control knobs poking out from the dash. That’s precisely what makes it so attractive. Not that it’s unsafe, but that it has an overpowering sense of style. The interior of this Matador is in impressive condition, with the only one obvious issue to consider. I don’t think that the covers on the seats are original, but they don’t look out of place. What does strike me as odd is the green carpet and the matching green armrests on both front doors. This isn’t original and does look quite odd. Still, it’s not something that would be hard to fix. I’m finding it hard to move on any further at present because I’m really taken by the amazing dash and a steering wheel that actually tells you that the car is fitted with power steering.

In a Matador, you could have any engine that you liked, as long as it was the 361ci V8. This engine produces a healthy 295hp and is backed by a 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission. Given the Matador’s impressive dimensions, with a weight of 3,785lbs, it is a surprisingly light car. This equated to a ¼ mile time of 16.3 seconds, and a top speed of 122mph. Those are certainly healthy numbers. The owner doesn’t give us a lot to go on with regards to mechanical health with the Matador, but he does say that it needs some work on the brakes.

The full extent of the sales failure that was the Dodge Matador can best be summed up by the raw sales figures. While Dodge managed to sell a total of 367,804 passenger vehicles in 1960, a paltry 27,908 of these were new Matadors. At any other time, a new, full-sized entry-level vehicle would have been expected to sell like hotcakes, but the Matador was reduced to the role of a bit-player that was in the shadow of the enormously successful Dart. This failure saw Dodge retire the car and the badge after a single year of production. Today, it is actually pretty rare to see these on the market, and even when they do, prices aren’t outrageously high. This one is priced towards the top end of what you would expect to pay for one today, but it doesn’t look to be in bad overall condition. Unfortunately, none of us have a crystal ball, but if you consider the relative rarity of the Matador, the condition of this one, and the rising popularity of full-sized cars from this era, that might make buying this a good long-term investment. Or you could just buy it because it’s a cool car that you really like. Either scenario works for me.

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Comments

  1. TimS Member

    The “to many doors” crowd can just click on past. This thing is cool. Sort it & Friday night, here we come. Great family/friends cruiser. Or breathe on the 361 for a bit more fun. Plus no one would have another.

    23
    • Mountainwoodie

      On behalf of the “Too Many Doors Crowd”. I can say that most old cars pre- 1966 are exempt from this rule of thumb.

      On another topic wonder where the green door pulls came from.

      Sweet car.

      13
      • dr fine

        I always wondered why our ’53 Chrysler New Yorker was blue in every detail except the steering wheel; it was that same shade of green!

        2
    • Steve R

      Even if it were a 2 door, it would be a stretch to reach $12,000. It’s rare, but is it desirable enough for someone to pay the BIN? Not likely.

      Steve R

      1
  2. james acri

    When i turned 16 in 1978 this was the first car i bought for 50.00,sold it to a guy for 100.00 and he entered it in a demo derby and won,young and dumb.

    10
  3. Will Fox

    1960 Brought unibody construction for all Chrysler products, except the Imperial.And while they did develop rust issues, this Dodge is in amazingly clean condition.The Matadors and Polaras had the larger wheelbase vs the Darts, and nicer trim. This sedan represents the highest production bodystyle, but still very desirable. Maybe check with SMS Interiors for NOS upholstery fabric; it might not be impossible to locate. The `61 Dodge wheelcovers look nice, but I would try to find the proper spinner wheelcovers. And as Tim said, you’ll likely have the only `60 Dodge PERIOD at any car show! This to me is a keeper!

    19
  4. Ben T. Spanner

    My Father bought a brand new 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix convertible. (Plymouth sized) He also had a new 1958 Plymouth convertible. My first car was a 1957 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer. Of the three. the 1960 Dodge had the worst build quality. Even the turn signals were wired incorrectly.

    The Dodge division did not learn from their mistakes. For 1962 the still wanted a full size car and tried to sell the Dodge 880, a Chrysler with a “Dodge’ front end.

    My Father ordered one, a blue convertible with blue top and interior. It came in with blue paint and black interior and top. The sales material, sales room display and order form showed blue interior and top as available. Per the Dodge factory, all blue convertibles got black interior and top. Dodge built it their way and left it up to the dealer to sell it. He couldn’t. My Father refused to car and switched to Pontiac. He bought a new car ever 2 years, and kept it four. He never bought another Dodge.

    11
    • Bob

      I agree that car companies don’t make the best choices. When they discontinued the Plymouth the suits said that Plymouth buyers will switch over to Dodges………….never happened and Plymouth buyers went elsewhere. Today they still think changing a name to a more relevant one will help sales……..no! Two examples:
      Chrysler LeBaron = great sales, changed to Sebring = less sales, Chrysler 200 = even less sales to non-existent.
      Buick Century = great sales, Buick Lacrosse = less sales, and next year no Lacrosse……..

      11
      • dweezilaz

        Same with Saturn, Bob. Everyone was supposed to go to another GM make. And Pontiac as well. Never happened.

        BTW: The LaCrosse was the replacement for the LeSabre.

        Cirrus to Sebring to 200.

        But correct: fewer sales every time they get the idea a new name will reignite an old offering in a segment.

        2
      • Will Fox

        And within 10 years Bob, Buick will very likely be gone, leaving Chevy/GMC to represent “GM”‘s line. It’s what the bean-counters wanted all along. So much for GM’s “legacy”.

        1
      • Dovi65

        GM tried the same nonsense with Oldsmobile, when they dropped the venerable Cutlass, Eighty Eight, & Ninety Eight names in favor of more ‘up to date’ names.

        Cutlass- Achieva-Alero
        Eighty Eight- LSS
        Ninety Eighy-Aurora
        No one can ever accuse GM of being overly market savvy. Given what Pontiac, & Olds became, perhaps it’s best they were shuttered

        2
    • Andy

      Had to do a double take on this, as my first car I bought was a Matador. An AMC Matador! That was back in ‘81, the car was 6 years old, no rear bumper, and a huge dent on the drivers rear fender. Paid $500 for it…

      3
    • dweezilaz

      The 880 was created because of the down sizing of the standard Dodge for 62.

      It was a hedge against the poor sales of the bizarro new styling.

      Dealer and customer demand brought it about.

      https://www.allpar.com/cars/dodge/880.html

      1
      • Will Fox

        As the story goes, in `59 at a cocktail party of Detroit car execs, A Chrysler Brass overheard some Chevy guys talking about a ‘downsized’ car for `62. Thinking it was Chevy’s full-size line, the Chrysler guys mistakenly ‘re-thought’ their `62 strategy and downsized their full-sized line of Dodges/Plymouths. A costly mistake, as the ‘talk’ overheard was about the upcoming “Chevy II”, not the Impalas/Bel Airs! Chrysler had no choice but to backpedal, and rush the Dodge 880 to market with parts on hand. It cost MoPar a serious chunk of the market & millions in profits.

        3
  5. Tempo Ray

    The instrumentation is that of “Ground-control-to-Major-Tom…” Very cool time capsule. A cruiser indeed…

    10
  6. S Craig MacDonald

    The windlace in the pic of the VIN plate is green. That matches the carpet but nothing else. It seems unlikely someone would replace the windlace and do that with the wrong color. That suggests the rest of the interior has had a color change, which seems equally odd. But even Dodge wouldn’t do a blue/green combo, would they?
    Hmmmm.

    3
  7. DRV

    The greenhouse looks too large for the wheelbase but I love the quirk in this one. The face looks like a tight lipped smirk.

    2
  8. g Wentzell

    I have been a car fiend since birth. I am two years older than this vehicle. This is the first I recall hearing of a Dodge Matador. It’s a cool ride!

    8
  9. moosie moosie Member

    Very nice car, original ? no such thing as 2 doors 2 many if youre into old cars. kinda gotta take what you can get while you can. Curious as to what that is on the instrument panel in front of the odometer, a thermometer ?

    7
    • Ed P

      Compass?

      1
      • Glenn

        That is the clock! The hands were stationary and the numbers rotated! I have one that as a kid I had hooked up in my bed room along with the entire dash out of a 50 Ford on my head board, with working clock and radio! When I turned 17 I finally got my 49 Ford club coupe! My first car and I still own it! Im 66 year young!!

        6
  10. Kenneth Carney

    Wow! What a rocketship! Space age
    styling and fast too! All I can say is
    I WANT IT!!! Surprised to see that this
    car has very little rust on it. Early ’60’s
    Chrysler products are notorious rust
    traps and in my hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, cars like this were
    sent to the junkyards within the first 5
    years after they were built. After 1970
    or so, these things became as scarce
    as hen’s teeth! The last one I saw was
    ’73, when an older brother of a friend
    of mine bought a ’60 Dart 2-door sedan
    blue with a black top made of that spray
    on vinyl stuff they were selling back then.
    Even painted those colors, that car still
    looked good. It had a 225 slant 6 with
    a 3-on-the-tree. Basic transportation
    and good looks too! You just can’t
    beat it!

    4
  11. ACZ

    When cars were 99% art. Those were great days!

    7
  12. Tony Primo

    Is everything okay today boys? That sure is a long time between posts!!!

    3
  13. Forward Look Frank

    The instrument in the center is the orbital clock, a mechanical oddity but functional.

    2
  14. Bob McK Member

    Never seen one of these. Really cool car. Hope someone saves it.

    2
  15. Bob C.

    Your quote on the 361 engine reminded me of Henry Ford on the Model T. You can have it in any color you want, so long as it’s black.

  16. Fossil

    The post for this piece of art reminds me why I spend an hour or so each day cruizin’ through each and every car/truck/bike.
    I would be just as happy to have this in my garage as I would my Texan friends ’57 Chev in close to concourse condition. He wants to sell but wants far too much for it.

    3
  17. Roger C

    My uncle had one of these. Jet black in and out. He bought it new and pulled
    the engine after a couple of months and built it. That thing would fly straight line. He blew off everything out there except a ’61 Chevy that had been built to the hilt. Only one I ever saw. Too many rods in my garage to think about this one.

    Roger C

    2
  18. Moparman Member

    My Dad bought one of these! It was pale yellow, with a white top, and had patterned gray/black/white seat covers, with gray door panels. The 361 would rock your head back when he stepped down on it! It ended up being replaced by a ’65 Fury III sedan, (five kids were rough on interiors!). I remember washing it and making sure that those tunneled lights were clean, LOL!! :-)

    4
  19. TimM

    Even with to many doors this car is a great buy at $12000!!! Super clean interior!!! Paint looks pretty nice and I would drive the tires off that Art Deco beast!!!

    2
  20. Sundaydriver

    I could fit my Jensen Healey in the glove box.

    2
  21. hatofpork

    Nice looking ODGE

    2
  22. Glenn

    Id say the green arm rests, carpet and wind lace is correct, it would have had two tone green seats that would go along with the green dash and two tone green door panels Its the after market seat covers in black that are wrong!

    2
  23. Grizz

    Got my drivers licence on a 1960 Dodge phoenix, slant 6 push button auto. It was a test to parallel park that beast but I managed to pass. Huge rear window and drove like a boat, small skinny tires, good times.

    1
  24. Kevin McCabe

    Haven’t read through all the comments on this car, but two things stand out to me. First the car has been repainted. The vin tag in the door jamb is black. If this car were original paint, the entire tag would be shiny, not just the raised areas. Second, the car wears 1961 Dodge Dart wheelcovers. Those are not Matador wheelcovers.

    1

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