AMC Muscle Car History
AMC takes on the big automakers for muscle car dominance
The "Big" automakers of Detroit were building muscle cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but little AMC (American Motors Corporation) was not sitting idly by in Kenosha, WI. While none of their models had the wild success such as the Ford Mustang (1.5 million models sold in the first two years), AMC produced some of the most collectible muscle cars today.
1968 saw the launch of two new models, the Javelin and AMX. The Javelin was a smaller car, and could be powered from a small V6 to the 390 V8 in 1969. This is technically a "pony car" since it is on a smaller frame, but many clump the terms pony cars (small models) and muscle cars (mid size models) in the same group. The Javelin model line ended after the 1974 model year.
The AMX was basically a two seat version of the Javelin, sharing some of the same body parts keeping the cost down. The 390 V8 was also available in the AMX, giving it some serious "street cred" at the raceline. The AMX however is technically a "sports car" since it is a two seater, and sales never reached the goals of AMC management, and the model line ended after 1970. The AMX badge did continue on as a trim and sports package on the Javelin in 1971 and throughout the 1970s on other AMC models.
The true muscle cars came from 1969 through 1971 The 1969 AMC SC/Rambler ended the Rambler line, which had been running since 1958. AMC decided to end this simple and cheap sedan model, but not without giving it the true respect it deserved, by gutting the car and adding some serious racing equipment. There were no options other than the AM radio, and all models included the 390 V* producing 315 horsepower, beefed up 4 speed transmission, a functional ram air hood scoop, heavy duty shocks, an anti-sway bar, and Bendix front disks, which it truly needed to stop properly. 1,512 SC/Rambler models were built, and there were two paint schemes produced, "A" and "B". The first 500 were "A", consisting of a thick red line down the side of the car, but this was changed to a thinner red, white, and blue line for the next batch "B". The most likely reason was that this was an easy target for police, and it was possibly too intimidating for racers, knowing what this car could do in a race. The last batch reverted back to the "A" paint scheme.
AMC decided to end the Rebel line in 1970, and once again decided to have a muscle car model, and the "Rebel Machine" was born. A 390 V8 producing 340 horsepower was standard, but unlike the 1969 SC/Rambler, AMC offered other options on the Machine, including a manual or automatic transmission. "The Machine" emblems were on the front fenders, and the first 1000 produced had reflective red, white, and blue striping on the side. After the first 1000 were produced, any color AMC sold was available on The Machine, and the red.white, and blue striping became a $75 option. This was a fast car, but it's main drawback was that the Rambler station wagon rear coils were used on this model, causing the nose to be very low while the back was high in the air. It was hard to keep control from spinning out due to the weight imbalance.
The last muscle car AMC produced was the 1971 Hornet SC/360, but this model line would stay alive after 1971. The 390 V8 engine produced 245 horsepower, or for $199 more you could get the "Go" package, bumping the horsepower to 285 with a 4 barrel carb, dual exhaust, and a functional hood scoop. This was some serious power in a smaller car! Only 784 Hornet SC/360's were built, and it's believed only around 80 still exist today, creating this one of the most hard to find muscle cars out there today.
AMC had some memorable and noteworthy muscle cars, but could never truly compete with the bigger Detroit automakers. However, things could be different on the racetrack.