AMBULANCES + HEARSES part XV on Alphabet beginning with R till S
That were all the R’s up to the S
That were all the R’s up to the S
|Founded||January 14, 1954|
|Headquarters||Southfield, Michigan, United States|
American Motors Corporation (AMC) was an American automobile company formed by the 1954 merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history.
George W. Mason was the architect of the merger to reap benefits from the strengths of the two firms to battle the much larger “Big Three” automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). Within a year, George W. Romney, future governor of Michigan, took over, reorganizing the company and focusing AMC’s future on a new small car line. By the end of 1957 the original Nash and Hudson brands were completely phased out. The company struggled at first, but Rambler sales took off. A Rambler won the 1959 Mobil Economy Run and by 1960, was the third most popular brand of automobile in the United States, behind Ford and Chevrolet. After two model years (1963 and 1964) of only producing compact cars, AMC focused back to larger and more profitable cars like the Ambassador line from the perceived negative of the Rambler‘s economy car image. In the face of deteriorating financial and market positions, Roy D. Chapin, Jr., took charge to revitalize the company, and designer Richard A. Teague economized by developing several vehicles from common stampings. While prices and costs were cut, new and more sporty automobiles were introduced, and from 1968 AMC became known for the Javelin and AMX muscle cars.
AMC purchased Kaiser’s Jeep utility vehicle operations in 1970 to complement their existing passenger car business. Beginning in the early 1970s, they moved towards all-new compact car designs based on the Hornet, including the Hornet itself and the Gremlin. Other new models in the 1970s included the Matador and Pacer. In an effort to create a more efficient cost structure, in the 1979 model year, AMC eliminated the Matador line and then in the 1980 model year, eliminated the Pacer, focusing almost exclusively on their Hornet-based cars and the Jeep line. While the new lines of the late 1970s, such as the Spirit and Concord, were variations on the Hornet’s platform, the company continued with innovations on existing designs: the 4-wheel-drive AMC Eagle, introduced in 1979, was one of the first true crossovers.
From 1980, AMC partnered with France’s Renault to help finance their manufacturing operations, obtain much-needed capital, and source subcompact vehicles. By 1983 Renault had a controlling interest in AMC. In the 1983 model year, the AMC brand focused entirely on AWD autos; the company stopped producing two wheel drive cars. AMC facilities were used to produce Renault Alliance and Encore compact and subcompact cars. In 1985 Chrysler entered an agreement with AMC to produce Dodge Diplomats and Plymouth Furys as well as Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons in AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin plant. At the time, AMC had excess manufacturing capacity thus contract manufacturing for Chrysler made sense. In 1987, after further new vehicle development that included the Medallion (a re-badged Renault 21) and Giorgietto Giugiaro’s Italdesign new full-size front-drive sedan that became the Eagle Premier, Renault sold its 47% ownership stake in AMC to Chrysler. Chrysler made a public offer to purchase all the remaining outstanding shares of AMC stock on the NYSE. Renault left the US market completely as a brand in 1987. The Renault Medallion was sold through the newly formed Jeep Eagle Division of Chrysler as an Eagle, not a Renault. AMC’s badge would be used on the Eagle Sports Wagon through the 1988 model year, then be eliminated entirely. The Jeep/Eagle division of Chrysler Corporation was formed from the AMC Jeep Renault dealer network. The Jeep and Eagle vehicles were marketed primarily by former AMC dealers. Ultimately, the Eagle Brand of car would be phased out like Chrysler’s DeSoto, Plymouth, and Imperial by 1998.
In January 1954, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation began acquisition of the Hudson Motor Car Company (in what was called a merger). The new corporation would be called American Motors Corporation. (An earlier corporation with the same name, co-founded by Louis Chevrolet, had existed in New Jersey from 1916 through 1922 before merging into the Bessemer–American Motors Corporation.)
The Nash-Kelvinator/Hudson deal was a straight stock transfer (three shares of Hudson listed at 11⅛, for two shares of AMC and one share of Nash-Kelvinator listed at 17⅜, for one share of AMC) and finalized in the spring of 1954, forming the fourth-biggest auto company in the U.S. with assets of US$355 million and more than $100 million in working capital. The new company retained Hudson CEO A.E. Barit as a consultant and he took a seat on the Board of Directors. Nash’s George W. Mason became President and CEO.
Mason, the architect of the merger, believed that the survival of the US’ remaining independent automakers depended on their joining in one multibrand company capable of challenging the “Big Three” – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – as an equal. The “frantic 1953–54 Ford/GM price war” had a devastating impact on the remaining “independent” automakers. The reasons for the merger between Nash and Hudson included helping cut costs and strengthen their sales organizations to meet the intense competition expected from autos’ Big Three.
One quick result from the merger was the doubling up with Nash on purchasing and production, allowing Hudson to cut prices an average of $155 on the Wasp line, up to $204 on the more expensive Hornet models. After the merger, AMC had its first profitable quarter during the second three months of 1955, earning $1,592,307, compared to a loss of $3,848,667 during the same period in the previous year. Mason also entered into informal discussions with James J. Nance of Packard to outline his strategic vision. Interim plans were made for AMC to buy Packard Ultramatic automatic transmissions and Packard V8 engines for certain AMC products.
In 1954, Packard acquired Studebaker. The new Studebaker-Packard Corporation (S-P) made the new 320 cu in (5.2 L) Packard V8 engine and Packard’s Ultramatic automatic transmission available to AMC for its 1955 Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models. When Mason died in 1954, George W. Romney succeeded him. Ironically, Romney had once been offered Nance’s job. In 1948, Romney received offers from Packard for the post of chief operating officer and from Nash for the number two position in the company. Although the Packard offer would have paid more, Romney decided to work under Mason because he thought Nash had a brighter future. S-P President James Nance refused to consider merging with AMC unless he could take the top position (Mason and Nance were former competitors as heads of the Kelvinator and Hotpoint, respectively), and a week after Mason’s death Romney announced, “there are no mergers under way either directly or indirectly.” Romney agreed with Mason’s commitment to buy S-P products. Mason and Nance had agreed that in return S-P would endeavor to purchase parts from American Motors, but S-P did not do so. As the Packard engines and transmissions were comparatively expensive, AMC began development of its own V8. AMC also spent US$40 million developing its Double Safe Single Unit monocoque, which debuted in the 1956 model year. In mid-1956, the 352 cu in (5.8 L) Packard V8 and TwinUltramatic transmission were phased out and replaced by AMC’s new V8 and by GM Hydra-Matic and Borg-Warner transmissions.
By 1964, Studebaker production in the United States had ended, and its Canadian operations ceased in 1966. The “Big Three”, plus the smaller AMC, Kaiser Jeep, International Harvester, Avanti, and Checker companies were the remaining North American auto manufacturers.
American Motors combined the Nash and Hudson product lines under a common manufacturing strategy in 1955, with the production of Nashes and Hudsons consolidated at Kenosha. The Detroit Hudson plant was converted to military contract production and eventually sold. The separate Nash and Hudson dealer networks were retained. The Hudsons were redesigned to bring them in harmony with Nash body styles.
The fast-selling Rambler model was sold as both a Nash and a Hudson in 1955 and 1956. These badge-engineered Ramblers, along with similar Metropolitans, were identical save for hubcaps, nameplates, and other minor trim details.
The pre-existing full-size Nash product line was continued and the Nash Statesman and Ambassador were restyled as the “new” Hudson Wasp and Hudson Hornet. Although the cars shared the same body shell, they were at least as different from one another as Chevrolet and Pontiac. Hudsons and Nashes each used their own engines as they had previously: the Hudson Hornet continued to offer the 308 cu in (5.0 L) I6 that had powered the (NASCAR) champion during the early 1950s; the Wasp now used the former engine of the Hudson Jet.
The Nash Ambassador and Statesman continued with overhead- valve and L-head sixes respectively. Hudson and Nash cars had different front suspensions. Trunk lids were interchangeable but other body panels, rear window glass, dash panels and braking systems were different. The Hudson Hornet and Wasp, and their Nash counterparts, had improved ride and visibility; also better fuel economy owing to the lighter unitized Nash body.
For the 1958 model year, the Nash and Hudson brands were dropped. Rambler became a marque in its own right and the mainstay of the company. The popular British-built Metrooolitan subcompact continued as a standalone brand until it was discontinued in 1961. The prototype 1958 Nash Ambassador / Hudson Hornet, built on a stretched Rambler platform, was renamed at the last minute as “Ambassador by Rambler”. To round out the model line AMC reintroduced the old 1955, 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase Nash Rambler as the new Rambler American with only a few modifications. This gave Rambler a compact lineup with 100 in (2,540 mm) American, 108 in (2,743 mm) Rambler Six and Rebel V8, as well as the 117 in (2,972 mm) Ambassador wheelbase vehicles.
Sales of Ramblers soared in the late 1950s in part because American Motors focus on the compact car and its marketing efforts. These included sponsoring the hugely popular Walt Disney anthology television series and as an exhibitor at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. George Romney himself pitched the Rambler product in the television commercials.
While the “Big Three” introduced ever-larger cars, AMC followed a “dinosaur-fighter” strategy. George W. Romney‘s leadership focused the company on the compact car, a fuel-efficient vehicle 20 years before there was a real need for them. This gave Romney a high profile in the media. Two core strategic factors came into play: (1) the use of shared components in AMC products and (2) a refusal to participate in the Big Three’s restyling race. This cost-control policy helped Rambler develop a reputation as solid economy cars. Company officials were confident in the changing market and in 1959 announced a $10 million (US$81,175,799 in 2016 dollars) expansion of its Kenosha complex (to increase annual straight-time capacity from 300,000 to 440,000 cars). A letter to shareholders in 1959 claimed that the introduction of new compact cars by AMC’s large domestic competitors (for the 1960 model year) “signals the end of big-car domination in the U.S.” and that AMC predicts small-car sales in the U.S. may reach 3 million units by 1963.
American Motors was also beginning to experiment in non-gasoline powered automobiles. On April 1, 1959, AMC and Sonotone Corporation announced a joint research effort to consider producing an electric car that was to be powered by a “self-charging” battery. Sonotone had the technology for making sintered plate nickel–cadmium batteries that can be recharged very rapidly and are lighter than a typical automobile lead–acid battery.
In 1959, AMC hired designer Richard A. Teague who had previously worked for General Motors, Packard, and Chrysler; after Edmund E. Anderson left the company in 1961, Teague was named principal designer and in 1964, Vice President.
In an effort to stay competitive, American Motors produced a wide range of products during the 1960s, and added innovations long before the “Big Three” introduced them.
Rambler also was an early pioneer in offering an automatic shift indicator sequence (P R N D2 D1 L, where if one selected “D2”, the car started in second gear, while “1” started in first gear) on its “Flash-O-Matic” transmission which is similar to today’s “PRNODSL”, made mandatory in 1968, which requires a neutral position between reverse and drive, while General Motors still offered a shift selector that had reverse immediately next to low gear (PNDSLR) well into the 1960s.
In 1964, the Classic was equipped with standard dual reclining front seats nearly a decade before the Big Three offered them as options. Bendix disc brakes were made optional on the Classic in 1965, while the Big Three didn’t offer them until 1969 on many models.
In the early part of the decade, sales were strong, thanks in no small part to the company’s history of building small cars, which came into vogue in 1961. In both 1960 and 1961, Ramblers ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales, up from third on the strength of small-car sales, even in the face of a lot of new competition. Romney’s strategic focus was very successful as reflected in the firm’s healthy profits year after year. The company became completely debt-free. The financial success allowed the company to reach an agreement on August 26, 1961 with the United Auto Workers for a profit sharing plan that was new in the automobile industry. Its new three-year labor contract also included generous annual improvement pay increases, as well as automatic cost-of-living raises. However, in 1962, Romney resigned to run for Governor of Michigan. His replacement was Roy Abernethy, AMC’s successful sales executive.
Abernethy believed that AMC’s reputation of building reliable economical cars could be translated into a new strategy that could follow AMC buyers as they traded up into larger, more expensive vehicles. AMC in reality had produced large cars throughout most of its history, The Rambler Ambassadors were every bit as large as a Full Sized Ford or Chevy. There was only an absence of Full Sized cars from the AMC lineup in 1963 and 1964 The first cars bearing his signature were the 1965 models. These were a longer Ambassador series and new convertibles for the larger models. During mid-year a fastback, called the Marlin, was added. It competed directly with cars like the Dodge Charger, AMC’s “family-sized” car emphasized personal-luxury. Abernethy also called for the de-emphasis of the Rambler brand. The 1966 Marlin and Ambassador lost their Rambler nameplates, and were badged as “American Motors” products. The new models shared fewer parts among each other and were more expensive to build.
The continuing quest “in the business world’s toughest race – the grinding contest against the Big Three automobile makers” also meant annual styling changes requiring large expenditures. American Motors’ management total confidence “that the new 1965 models would stem a bothersome decline” actually began falling behind in share of sales. Moreover, a new line of redesigned cars in the full and mid-sized markets was launched in the fall of 1966. The cars won acclaim for their fluid styling, and Abernethy’s ideas did work as Ambassador Sales increased significantly. The dated designs of the Rambler Americans, however, hurt its sales which offset gains from Ambassador sales. There were quality control problems with the introduction of the new full-sized cars, as well as persistent rumors of the company’s demise because of their precarious cash flow. Consumer Reports negative ratings for AMC’s Safety didn’t help either.
American Motors did not have their own electric car program as did the Big Three, and after some negotiation a contract was drawn in 1967 with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and a speed controller designed by Victor Wouk. A nickel-cadmium battery powered 1969 Rambler station wagon demonstrated the power systems that according to the scientist was a “wonderful car”. This was also the start of other “plug-in”-type experimental AMC vehicles developed with Gulton – the Amitron and the Electron.
Abernethy was ousted from AMC on January 9, 1967 and damage control fell to the new CEO, Roy D. Chapin Jr. (son of Hudson Motors founder Roy D. Chapin). Chapin quickly instituted changes to AMC’s offerings and tried to regain market share by focusing on younger demographic markets. Chapin’s first decision was to cut the price of the Rambler to within US$200 of the basic Volkswagen Beetle. Innovative marketing ideas included making air conditioning standard on all 1968 Ambassador models (available as a delete option). This made AMC the first U.S. automaker to make air conditioning standard equipment on a line of cars, preceding even luxury makes such as Lincoln, Imperial, and Cadillac.
The company introduced exciting entries for the decade’s muscle car boom, most notably the AMX, while the Javelin served as the company’s entrant into the sporty “pony car” market created by the Ford Mustang. Additional operating cash was derived in 1968 through the sale of Kelvinator Appliance, once one of the firm’s core operating units.
The Rambler brand was completely dropped after the 1969 model year in North America, although it continued to be used in several overseas markets as either a model or brand name, with the last use in Mexico in 1983. From 1970, AMC was the brand used for all American Motors passenger cars; and all vehicles from that date bore the AMC name and the new corporate logo. However, the names American Motors and AMC were used interchangeably in corporate literature well into the 1980s. The branding issue was further complicated when the company’s Eagle all-wheel drive passenger cars were marketed as the American Eagle in the 1980s.
Chapin expanded American Motors product line in 1970 through the purchase of the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation (formerly Willys-Overland) from Kaiser Industries. This added the iconic Jeep brand of light trucks and SUVs, as well as Kaiser-Jeep’s lucrative government contracts – notably the M151 MUTT line of military Jeeps and the DJ-Series postal Jeeps. AMC also expanded their international network. The military and special products business was reconstituted as American Motors General Products Division, later reorganized as AM General.
In 1970, AMC consolidated all passenger cars under one distinct brand identity and debuted the Hornet range of compact cars.
The Hornet and the later Gremlin shared platforms. The Gremlin, the first North American-built subcompact, sold more than 670,000 units from 1970–1978. The Hornet became AMC’s best-selling passenger car since the Rambler Classic, with more than 860,000 units sold by the time production ended in 1977.
The new mid-sized AMC Matador replaced the Rebel in 1971, using an advertising campaign that asked, “What’s a Matador?” In 1972, AMC won the tender for Los Angeles Police Department cruisers, and Matadors were used by the department from 1972 to 1975, replacing the Plymouth Satellite. American Motors supplied Mark VII Limited owner Jack Webb with two Matadors for use in his popular television series Adam-12, increasing the cars’ public profile.
Starting in 1974, the Matador sedan and station wagon were mildly refreshed, with new boxier front ends. The Matador two-door hardtop, known as the “flying brick” due to its poor aerodynamics in NASCAR competition, was replaced at great cost with a sleek, smoothly shaped, and radically styled two-door coupe. The model received praise for its design, including “Best Styled Car of 1974” by Car and Driver magazine, customer satisfaction, and sold almost 100,000 coupes over a five-year period. The Matador Coupe shared few components with the Matador sedan and station wagon other than suspension, drive train, some trim, and interior parts.
The Ambassador was redesigned and stretched 7 inches (178 mm) to become the biggest ever, just as the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo sparked gasoline rationing across the nation. The additional length was due to a new front end design and stronger energy absorbing bumpers required of all automobiles sold in the U.S. Sales of all large cars fell due to economic problems and rising gasoline prices. The full-sized Ambassador was discontinued as AMC’s flagship line after the 1974 model year. Nash and AMC made Ambassadors from 1927 to 1974, the longest use of the same model name for any AMC product and, at the time, the longest continuously used nameplate in the industry.
In 1974, AMC’s AM General subsidiary began building urban transit buses in cooperation with Flyer Industries of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Metropolitan coach had sold 5,212 units when production ceased in 1978.
The AMC Pacer, an innovative all-new model introduced in March 1975 and billed as “the first wide small car”, was a subcompact designed to provide the comfort of a full-sized car. Its pre-production development coincided with two changes in U.S. Federal passenger auto laws: first, the reduction in permissible emissions for passenger auto engines, which the Pacer would have met with the Wankel-type engine it was designed for, as the Wankel’s compact dimensions allowed space for extensive emission control equipment in the engine bay; second, a tightening of U.S. passenger auto safety laws, which accounted for the Pacer’s designed-in safety features, e.g. internal door beams. These, together with the wide body and large glass area, added considerable weight.
With the advent of the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, General Motors aborted the Wankel rotary engine around which the Pacer had been designed, as its fuel consumption exceeded that of conventional engines with similar power. Therefore, AMC’s existing 258 and 232 cu in (4.2 and 3.8 L) AMC Straight-6 engines were used in the Pacer instead. Fuel economy was better than a rotary, but still relatively poor in light of the new focus on energy efficiency. Also, as the Pacer shared few components other than drivetrain with other AMC cars, it was expensive to make and the cost increased when sales fell steeply after the first two years.
Development and production costs for the Pacer and Matador Coupe drained capital which might otherwise have been invested in updating the more popular Hornet and Gremlin lines, so that toward the end of the 1970s the company faced the growing energy crisis with aged products that were uncompetitive in hotly contested markets. However, “AMC used cars, as far back as 1967, had the advantage of good warranty coverage … so most owners were conscious of low-cost car maintenance … AMC units [became] some of the very best buys on the used car market” by 1975.
The 1977 Gremlin had redesigned headlights, grille, rear hatch and fascia. For economy in the fuel crisis, AMC offered the car with a more fuel-efficient Volkswagen-designed Audi 4-cylinder engine 2.0 L (122 cu in). The engine was expensive for AMC to build and the Gremlin retained the less costly but also less economical 232 cu in (3.8 L) as standard equipment.
The AMX nameplate was revived in 1977. It was a sporty appearance package on the Hornet hatchback featuring upgrades, as well as the 258 cu in (4.2 L) inline six as standard with a choice of three-speed automatic or four-speed manual transmissions. The 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was optional with the automatic transmission.
As all Matadors now received standard equipment that was formerly optional (e.g. power steering, automatic transmission), the “Brougham” package was dropped. Optional on the Matador coupe was a landau vinyl roof with opera windows, and top-line Barcelonas offered new two-tone paint.
For 1978, the Hornet platform was redesigned with an adaptation of the new Gremlin front-end design and renamed AMC Concord. AMC targeted it at the emerging “premium compact” market segment, paying particular attention to ride and handling, standard equipment, trim, and interior luxury.
Gremlins borrowed the Concord instrument panel, as well as a Hornet AMX-inspired GT sports appearance package and a new striping treatment for X models.
The AMC Pacer hood was modified to clear a V8 engine, and a Sports package replaced the former X package. With falling sales of Matador Coupes, sedans and wagons, their 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was dropped, leaving only the 258 cu in (4.2 L) Inline-6 (standard on coupes and sedans) and the 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 (optional on coupes and sedans, standard on wagons). The two-tone Barcelona luxury package was offered on Matador sedans, and two-tone red paint introduced as an additional Barcelona option. Matador production ceased at the end of the model year with total sales of 10,576 units. The Matador was no longer attractive as automakers struggled to overcome economic woes including continuing fuel price increases and double digit domestic inflation.
In December, Pacer production ceased after a small run of 1980 models was built to use up parts stock.
Concords received a new front end treatment, and in their final season, hatchbacks became available in DL trim. On May 1, 1979, AMC marked the 25th anniversary of the Nash-Hudson merger with “Silver Anniversary” editions of the AMC Concord and Jeep CJ in two-tone silver (Jeeps then accounted for around 50 percent of the company’s sales and most of their profits); and introduced LeCar, a U.S. version of the small, fuel-efficient Renault 5, in dealer showrooms.
Concord and Spirit models were dropped after 1983.
In February 1977, Time magazine reported that although AMC had lost $73.8 million in the previous two fiscal years, U.S. banks had agreed to a year’s extension for a $72.5 million credit that had expired in January; that Stockholders had received no dividends since 1974; and that Pacer sales did not match expectations. However, Time noted record Jeep sales and a backlog of orders for AM General’s buses.
Also in 1977, Gerald C. Meyers was appointed chairman and chief executive.
On March 31, 1978, AMC and Renault announced a sweeping agreement for the joint manufacture and distribution of cars and trucks that would achieve benefits for both. A month later, AMC announced that it would halt the production of standard urban transit buses after about 4,300 were sold by its AM General subsidiary during three years. In May 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the recall of all AMC’s 1976 cars (except those conforming to California emissions regulations) – some 270,000 vehicles— plus 40,000 1975 and 1976 Jeeps and mini trucks, for correction of a fault in the pollution control system. Total cost was estimated at up to $3 million—more than AMC had earned the previous quarter.
American Motors lost an estimated $65 million on its conventional (non-Jeep) cars for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1978, but strong Jeep sales helped the company to an overall $36.7 million profit on sales of $2.6 billion. However, AMC faced costly engineering work to bring their Jeeps into compliance with a federal directive for all 4-wheel-drive vehicles to average 15 mpg-US (16 L/100 km; 18 mpg-imp) by 1981.
A year later, with its share of the American market at 1.83%, the company struck a deal with Renault, the nationally owned French automaker. AMC would receive a $150 million cash injection, $50 million in credits, and also the rights to start building the Renault 5 in 1982. (A deal for Renault products to be sold through the AMC-Jeep dealer network had already been made in 1979.) In return, Renault acquired a 22.5% interest in AMC. This was not the first time the two companies had worked together. Lacking its own prestige model line in the early 1960s, Renault assembled CKD kits and marketed Rambler cars in France.
In 1979, AMC announced a record $83.9 million profit on sales of $3.1 billion (US$10,107,336,084 in 2016 dollars) for the fiscal year ending in September—this despite an economic downturn, soaring energy prices, rising American unemployment, automobile plants shutting down, and an American market trend towards imported cars. In October, the company’s car sales surged 37%, while they sank 21% for the industry as a whole.
However, a drop in Jeep sales caused by the declining economy and soaring energy prices began to constrict AMC’s cash flow. At the same time, pressure increased on the company’s non-Jeep product lines. The face-lifts and rebranding of AMC’s once-innovative and successful cars were not enough in a competitive landscape that had changed dramatically. No longer was the threat limited to the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). The Japanese manufacturers (Honda, Toyota, Nissan) used streamlined production methods such as outsourcing and Just In Time (JIT) supply-chain management. They had new, highly efficient assembly plants in the United States. And now they targeted the heart of AMC’s passenger product line: small cars.
While Americans turned to the new imports in increasing numbers, AMC continued its struggle at the inefficient and aging Kenosha, Wisconsin facilities—the oldest continuously operating automobile plant in the world, where components and unfinished bodies still had to be transported across the city.
In early 1980, the banks refused AMC further credit. Lacking both capital and resources for the new, truly modern products it needed to offer, the company turned to Renault for a $90 million loan (US$258,477,383 in 2016 dollars). By September that year, AMC’s U.S. market share had fallen to 1.7%, and in November sales dropped 19.1%. AMC warned stockholders that the company could be bankrupted if they did not approve a plan for Renault to acquire as much as 59% of the company. On December 16, 1980, AMC shareholders “overwhelmingly approved making the French Government-owned Renault” their company’s principal owner.
In January 1982 the company’s former president W. Paul Tippett Jr. replaced Gerald C. Meyers as CEO, and Jose Dedeurwaerder, a Renault executive, became president. Dedeurwaerder brought a broad perspective at this critical time: as an engineer and international business executive with 23 years at Renault, he is credited with streamlining many of AMC’s arcane management techniques. He also instituted important improvements in plant layouts, as well as in cost and quality control.
Renault, having increased their stake in the company several times to keep it solvent, eventually owned 49% in 1983. This development effectively ended AMC’s run as a truly American car company.
New ownership and new management heralded a new product venture for AMC: a line of modern front-wheel drive cars, designed by Renault, to be produced at Kenosha.
In August 1979, for the 1980 model year, AMC introduced four-wheel drive versions of the Spirit and Concord, calling the collective line the AMC Eagle. Eagles rapidly became one of the company’s best-known products and is considered one of the first “crossover SUVs“. Eagles used the 2-wheel drive body shells mounted on an all-new platform developed by American Motors in the late 1970s. Featuring an innovative full-time four-wheel drive system, it sold best in snow-prone areas. Sales started strongly but declined over time. While the two-wheel drive Spirit and Concord were both discontinued after 1983 as the company concentrated on its new Renault Alliance, the Eagle survived for five years longer, albeit only in station wagon form, into the 1988 model year. This meant the four-wheel drive Eagle was the lone representative of the AMC brand from 1984–1988. All the company’s remaining output was branded Renault or Jeep. The last AMC Eagle was built on December 14, 1987.
The Renault Alliance was the first joint product of the AMC-Renault partnership. Introduced in 1983, the Alliance was a front-wheel drive Renault 9 compact restyled for the American market by Richard Teague and produced by AMC at Kenosha. The car was initially badged as a Renault, and some cars carried both Renault and AMC badges, however most 1986 and all 1987 models had only AMC branding; it was available as a sedan with two or four doors, a hatchback (introduced in 1984 and badged as Encore), a two-door convertible and, for the final 1987 model year, a higher-performance version of the 2-door sedan and convertible sold as the GTA.
The new model, introduced at a time of increased interest in small cars, won several awards including Motor Trend Car of the Year. Motor Trend declared: “The Alliance may well be the best-assembled first-year car we’ve ever seen. Way to go Renault!” The Alliance was listed as number one on Car and Driver‘s list of Ten Best cars for 1983, The positive reception and sales of 200,000 Alliances by 1984 was hindered by the availability of only two body styles. The Alliance was a European-designed car and not fully suited to U.S. market demands. The distribution network was also not well supported, which led to lower quality delivered by dealerships with “disastrous consequences” for the image of the automobiles, as well as high warranty costs. Alliance production ended in June 1987.
More beneficial to AMC’s future was the introduction of an all-new line of compact Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer models in the autumn of 1983 for the 1984 model year. The popularity of these downsized Jeeps pioneered a new market segment for what later became defined as the sport utility vehicle (SUV). They initially used the AMC 150 C.I.D. (2.5L) OHV four-cylinder engine with a carburetor, and a General Motors-built 2.8 L (171 cu in) carbureted V6 was optional. In 1986, throttle-body injection replaced the carburetor on the 2.5 L I4 engines. A Renault 2.1 L (128 cu in) Turbo-Diesel I4 diesel was also offered. Starting with the 1987 models, a 4.0 L (244 cu in) I6 engine, derived from the older 258 cu in (4.23 L) I6 with a new head design and an electronic fuel injection system, replaced the outsourced V6. American Motors’ “new” engine was designed with help from Renault and incorporated Renault-Bendix (Renix) parts for fuel and ignition management. The 4.0 developed an outstanding reputation for reliability and toughness. Retained by Chrysler after the buyout, the design continued to be improved and refined until its discontinuation at the end of the 2006 model year. The 4.0 engine saw extensive application in XJ Cherokees and Wagoneers, Grand Cherokees, and Wranglers, and many of those engines saw (or are seeing) extremely long lives, quite a few exceeding 300,000 mi (480,000 km). The XJ Cherokee itself was built by Chrysler until the end of the 2001 model year in the U.S. and until 2005 in China.
Three other designs continued to be used after the Chrysler buyout: the Grand Wagoneer full-size luxury SUV, the full-sized J-series pickups, built on the same chassis as the earlier SJ model Wagoneers and Cherokees that dated from 1963 with the AMC 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8, and the Jeep Comanche (MJ) compact pickup, which debuted in 1986. Unlike most sport-utility vehicles which are based on adapted pickup truck designs, the Cherokee XJ SUV came first and the Comanche was designed as a later pickup truck version.
Production of the full-sized pickups ceased after 1987. The Grand Wagoneer and 360 V8 engine were dropped after 1991 (the last American-made vehicle whose engine used a carburetor for fuel delivery), and the Comanche bowed after 1992.
There were significant changes in 1985 as the market moved away from AMC’s small models. With fuel relatively cheap again, buyers turned to larger more powerful automobiles and AMC was unprepared for this development. Even the venerable Jeep CJ-5 was dropped after a 60 Minutes TV news magazine exposé of rollover tendencies under extreme conditions. AMC also confronted an angry work force. Labor was taking revenge, and reports circulated about sabotage of vehicles on the assembly lines because of the failure to receive promised wage increases. There were rumors that the aging Kenosha plant was to be shut down. At the same time, Chrysler was having trouble meeting demand for its M-body rear-drive models (Dodge Diplomat, Plymouth Gran Fury and Chrysler Fifth Avenue). Because they were assembled using the old “gate and buck system” and the tooling could be easily moved, Chrysler could supply the components and control the quality, while AMC assembled the car. Therefore, Lee Iacocca and Joe Cappy reached an agreement to use some of AMC’s idle plant capacity in Kenosha.
These problems came in the midst of a transfer of power at AMC from Paul Tippet to a French executive, Pierre Semerena. The new management responded with tactical moves by selling the lawn care Wheel Horse Products Division and signing an agreement to build Jeeps in the People’s Republic of China. The Pentagon had problems with AM General, a significant defense contractor, being managed by a partially French-government-owned firm. The U.S. government would not allow a foreign government to own a significant portion of an important defense supplier. As a result, the profitable AM General Division was sold. Another milestone was the departure of Dick Teague: AMC’s design vice president for 26 years, he was responsible for many Jeep and AMC designs including the Rambler American, Javelin, Hornet, Gremlin, Pacer, and Matador coupe.
American Motors’ major stockholder, Renault, itself was experiencing financial troubles of its own in France. The investment in AMC (including construction of a new Canadian assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario) forced cuts at home, resulting in the closure of several French plants and mass layoffs. Renault was down to just three alternatives regarding its American holdings: (1) They could declare AMC officially bankrupt thereby lose its investment; (2) They could come up with more money, but Renault management perceived AMC as a bottomless pit; or (3) AMC could be put up for sale and the French could get back part of their investment. Against these detractions, Renault’s chairman, Georges Besse, continued to champion the French firm’s future in the North American market; pointing to the company’s completion of the newest and most-advanced automotive assembly plant in North America, then known as Bramalea Assembly, as well as the recent introduction of the thoroughly modern, fuel-injected 4.0 L and 2.5 L engines. In addition, Jeep vehicles were riding an unprecedented surge in demand. It seemed to Besse and others that AMC was on course for profitability.
However, on November 17, 1986, Georges Besse, who had a high profile among French capitalists, was assassinated by Action Directe, a clandestine militant extremist group variously described as communist, anarchist and Maoist, which professed strong sympathies for the proletariat and the aspirations of the Third World. The murder was carried out by members of Action Directe’s Pierre Overney Commando (named after a Maoist militant killed by a Renault factory guard). The group stated that the murder was in retaliation for Besse having sacked tens of thousands of workers – 34,000 from the French aluminum producer PUK-Péchiney and 25,000 from Renault.
Under pressure from Renault executives following Besse’s death, Renault’s new president, Raymond Levy set out to repair employee relations and divest the company of its investment in American Motors. Renault owned 46.1% of AMC’s outstanding shares of stock.
The earlier agreement between Chrysler and AMC in 1985, under which AMC would produce M-body chassis rear-drive large cars for two years from 1986–88, fed the rumor that Chrysler was about to buy AMC. According to the head of manufacturing for Chrysler at the time, Stephan Sharf, the existing relationship with AMC producing a car for a competitor facilitated the negotiations.
On March 9, 1987, Chrysler agreed to buy Renault’s share in AMC, plus all the remaining shares, for about US$1.5 billion (US$3,124,340,949 in 2016 dollars). AMC became the Jeep-Eagle division of Chrysler. It was the Jeep brand that Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca really wanted – in particular the ZJ Grand Cherokee, then under development by Jeep engineers, which ultimately proved highly profitable for Chrysler (the nameplate remains in production today). However, the buyout included other attractive deal sweeteners for Chrysler. Among them was the world-class, brand-new manufacturing plant in Bramalea, Ontario, which offered Iacocca an unprecedented opportunity to increase his company’s production capacity at a fire-sale price. AMC had designed and built the plant in anticipation of building the Renault 25 based Eagle Premier. Additional profitable acquisitions were the AMC dealer network (the addition of which strengthened Chrysler’s retail distribution – many AMC dealers switched to selling Chrysler products); and AMC’s underrated organization and management talent – which Chrysler quickly assimilated (numerous leading Chrysler engineers and executives were ex-AMC). AMC was fully merged as of March 29, 1990.
The sale came at a time when the automotive press was enthusiastic about the proposed 1988 lineup of Renault, Eagle and Jeep vehicles, and reports that the financial outlook for the tiny automaker were improving. AMC quarterly results for all of 1987 were positive, Chrysler purchased AMC at a time the company appeared to be in very good financial position with its new product line.
The sale marked Renault‘s withdrawal from the North American market (excluding Mexico) in the 1988 model year. However, the French company has since returned to that market with its subsequent purchase of a US$5.4 billion controlling stake in Nissan in March 1999. In contrast to the AMC/Renault partnership, Carlos Ghosn, CEO and President of Renault of France and Nissan of Japan, is guiding the Renault-Nissan alliance away from national identities.
American Motors was forced to constantly innovate for 33 years until Chrysler absorbed it in 1987. The lessons learned from this experience were integrated into the company that bought AMC. The organization, strategies, as well as several key executives allowed Chrysler to gain an edge on the competition. Even today, the lessons gained from the AMC experience continue to provide benefits to other firms in the industry. There are a number of legacies from AMC’s business strategies.
AMC had an ability to formulate strategies that were often evaluated by industry critics as “strokes of brilliance”. According to Roy D. Chapin Jr., AMC realized they were up against the giants of the industry, so to compete successfully they had to be able to move quickly and with ingenuity. An essential strategy practiced by AMC was to rely on outside vendors to supply components in which they had differential advantages. This approach was finally accepted within the U.S. auto industry, but only after each of the Big Three experienced the failure of attempting to be self-sufficient.
The smallest domestic automaker did not have “the massive R&D budgets of General Motors, Ford, and foreign competitors … [thus] AMC placed R&D emphasis on bolstering the product life cycle of its prime products (particularly Jeeps).” In 1985, AMC originated product lifecycle management (PLM) as a strategic business approach according to Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor for Manufacturing Business Technology, in an effort to better compete against its much larger rivals by ramping up its product development process.
Another example of AMC’s agility was the ability of management to squeeze money out of reluctant bankers, even in the face of bankruptcy. These core abilities helped save the company from collapse and after each obstacle, give it the wherewithal to keep it operating. Ironically, AMC was never stronger than just before its demise.
AMC’s managers anticipated important trends in the automotive industry. It preached fuel efficiency in the 1950s, long before most auto buyers demanded it. Led by AMC’s Rambler and several European cars, the small car innovation reduced the Big Three’s market share from 93% in 1957 to 82% in 1959. The company inherited foreign manufacturing and sales partnerships from Nash and continued developing business relations, decades before most of the international consolidations among automobile makers took place. AMC was the first U.S. automaker to establish ownership agreement with a foreign automaker, Renault. Although small in size, AMC was able to introduce numerous industry innovations. Starting in 1957, AMC was the only U.S. manufacturer to totally immerse all automobile bodies in primer paint for protection against rust, until competitors adopted the practice in 1964. Even one of AMC’s most expensive new product investments (the Pacer) established many features that were later adopted by the auto industry worldwide. These included aerodynamic body design, space-efficient interiors, aircraft style doors, and a large greenhouse for visibility. AMC was also effective in other areas such as marketing by introducing low rate financing. AMC’s four-wheel drive vehicles established the foundation for the modern SUV market segments, and “classic” Jeep models continue to be the benchmark in this field. Roy D. Chapin drew on his experiences as a hunter and fisherman and marketed the Jeep brand successfully to people with like interests. The brand developed a cult appeal that continues.
The purchase of AMC was instrumental in reviving Chrysler. According to Robert Lutz, former President of Chrysler, the AMC acquisition was a big and risky undertaking. The purchase was part of Chrysler’s strategic “retreat-cum-diversification” plan that he states did not have the right focus. Initially the goal was to obtain the world-renowned Jeep brand. However, Lutz discovered that the decision to buy AMC turned out to be a gold mine for Chrysler. At that time, Chrysler’s management was attempting to find a model to improve structure and operations, “something that would help get our minds unstuck and thinking beyond the old paradigms that we were so familiar with“. In this transformation, “Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC was one of the all-time great moments in corporate serendipity” according to Lutz “that most definitely played a key role in demonstrating how to accomplish change“.
According to Lutz (1993), while AMC had its share of problems, it was far from being a bunch of “brain-dead losers”. He describes the “troops” at AMC as more like the Wake Island Marines in battle, “with almost no resources, and fighting a vastly superior enemy, they were able to roll out an impressive succession of new products”. After first reacting with anger to the purchase, Chrysler managers soon anticipated the benefits. To further solidify the organizational competencies held by AMC, Lee Iacocca agreed to retain former AMC units, such as engineering, completely intact. In addition, AMC’s lead engineer, François Castaing, was made head of all engineering at Chrysler. In an unthinkable strategic move, Castaing completely dismantled the entrenched Chrysler groups. In their place AMC’s “platform team” was implemented. These were close-knit cross-functional groups responsible for the whole vehicle, as contrasted with Chrysler’s highly functional structure. In this capacity, Castaing’s strategy was to eliminate the corporate administrative overhead bureaucracy. This move shifted corporate culture and agitated veteran executives who believed that Chrysler’s reputation as “the engineering company” was being destroyed. Yet, according to the popular press, by the 1980s Chrysler’s reputation was totally shot, and in Lutz’s view only dramatic action was going to change that. In summary, Chrysler’s purchase of AMC laid the critical foundation to help re-establish a strategy for its revival in the 1990s.
Top managers at Chrysler after the AMC buyout appeared to have made errors similar to those by AMC. For example, Chrysler invested heavily in new untested models while not keeping up its profitable high-volume lines.
After the DaimlerChrysler merger, the combined company also encountered the problem of having too many platforms. It also failed to achieve synergies by sharing components and from Chrysler’s paperless design and supplier capabilities. Mercedes-Benz managers were protective of their designs and components and “advanced R&D was clearly put under German direction.” This policy increased production costs. They could have observed the experience of the Nash and Hudson merger designed to achieve manufacturing efficiencies and savings from component sharing. The first product combining Chrysler and Mercedes technology and engineering with a Mercedes name was in 2006, eight years after DaimlerChrysler AG was created.
The AMC influence also continued at General Motors. GM recruited a new executive team to turn itself from near bankruptcy in the early 2000s. Among the new strategists at GM was Lutz who brought an understanding of the importance of passion in the product design. Lutz implemented a new thinking at GM that incorporated the systems and structures that originated from AMC’s lean and focused operations.
Renault implemented the lessons it learned from its investment in AMC. The French firm took a parallel approach as it did with its initial ownership of AMC and applied it to resurrect the money-losing Nissan automaker in Japan.
In 2009, in a deal brokered by the Obama administration, Italian automaker Fiat initiated a white knight takeover of Chrysler to save the struggling automaker from liquidation. The deal was immediately compared to the AMC-Renault deal; Some commentators noted the irony in that Chrysler now faced the same fate that AMC faced 30 years earlier, while others expressed skepticism of whether the Italian firm could save Chrysler, given how the Renault deal failed. However, there have been key differences between the two; Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne became CEO of Chrysler as part of the deal and immediately began globally integrating Fiat and Chrysler’s assets and product lines; The Fiat-Chrysler merger doesn’t face the political opposition the AMC-Renault deal did since Fiat is entirely private and independent and the US Government supported the merger; Most importantly, while AMC proved to be a continuous money-loser for Renault, Chrysler returned to profitability fairly quickly and has since become an important source of revenue and profits for Fiat, which has been struggling to maintain volume and profitability amid the European debt crisis. The two firms would later fully marge to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2014.
Chrysler revived the “Spirit” name dropped by AMC after 1983 for use on one of its A platform cars, (the Dodge Spirit) from 1989–1995. The planned Renault Medallion was sold as the Eagle Medallion in 1988 and 1989. A Renault/AMC concept, the Summit, was produced by Mitsubishi Motors beginning in 1989. The planned all-new 1988 Renault Premier, a joint development effort between American Motors and Renault, and for which theBrampton Assembly plant (Brampton, Ontario—originally called the Bramalea Plant) was built, was sold by Chrysler as the 1988–1992 Eagle Premier, with a rebadged Dodge Monaco variant available from 1990–1992. The full-sized Premier’s platform was far more advanced than anything Chrysler was building at the time. After some re-engineering and a re-designation to Chrysler code LH, the Eagle Premier went on to form the backbone of Chrysler’s passenger car lineup during the 1990s as the Chrysler Concorde (a revived model name that was briefly used by Plymouth in 1951 and 1952), Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler LHS, Dodge Intrepid, and Eagle Vision. Plymouth almost received their own rendition of the LH platform, which was to be called the Accolade, but Chrysler decided to nix this idea not long before LH production started. The Chrysler 300M was likewise a Premier/LH-derived car and was initially to have been the next-generation Eagle Vision, until the Eagle brand was dropped after 1998.
Chrysler marketed the SJ Jeep Grand Wagoneer until 1991, leaving it almost entirely unaltered from the final AMC rendition before the buyout. The Jeep Comanche pickup truck remained until 1992, while the Cherokee remained until 2001 in the U.S. (the XJ Cherokee was produced in China through 2006 as the Cherokee 2500 [2.5L] and Cherokee 4000 [4.0L]). Although it was not introduced until 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was initially an AMC-developed vehicle.
Traces of AMC remained within. AMC’s Toledo, Ohio plants continued to manufacture the Jeep Wrangler and Liberty, as well as parts and components for Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles (although Toledo Machining and Forge was closed in 2005). AMC’s main plant in Wisconsin, albeit heavily downsized, operated as the Kenosha Engine Plant, producing engines for several Chrysler Group products including the Wrangler. The plant was closed as part of the post bailout restructuring of Chrysler in October 2010. The 4.0 litres (242 cu in) engine was used until the 2006 model year by DaimlerChrysler in the Jeep Wrangler. AMC’s technologically advanced Bramalea Assembly and Stamping Plants in Brampton, Ontario later produced the LX-cars – the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300, and the now discontinued Dodge Magnum.
In terms of AMC-related parts, some were used as late as 2006, when the Jeep Wrangler (the last new product introduced by AMC before the Chrysler deal) was still using the AMC Straight-6 engine in some models, as well as the recessed “paddle” door handles that were used since the 1968 model year by AMC. Both were retired when the Wrangler was completely redesigned for the 2007 model year.
AM General, sold by American Motors in 1982, is still in business building the American Motors-designed Humvee for American and allied militaries. AM General also built the now-discontinued civilian variant – the H1 – and manufactured a Chevrolet Tahoe-derived companion, the H2, under contract to GM, who acquired the rights to the civilian Hummer brand in 1999. GM was forced to phase out the Hummer brand in early 2010 as a part of its bankruptcy restructuring after offering it for sale, but failing to find a suitable buyer.
Although Chrysler introduced new logos for its brands in the 1990s and again in 2010 after the Fiat Group took control of the company, Jeep still uses the AMC-era logo introduced shortly after AMC’s purchase of the brand in 1970. Until the Chrysler purchase, Jeep’s logo also featured the AMC emblem.
During its history, American Motors bought or created, then later sold and divested itself of several specialized divisions, some which continue to exist today:
Kelvinator, the subdivision of Nash-Kelvinator, was sold by American Motors in 1968 to White Consolidated Industries and subsequently became part of Electrolux. The Kelvinator Company is still in business.
Jeep is now a brand of the Chrysler Group. Many Jeep models retained the mechanical specifications and styling cues that were developed by AMC well into the 1990s or even into the first decade of the 2000s.
Beijing Jeep was established by AMC in 1983 to produce Jeeps for the burgeoning Chinese market; the joint venture was inherited by Chrysler and continues under the ownership of the new Chrysler. AMC’s trials with the venture were the subject of a fairly well known book on the venture, “Beijing Jeep”, by James Mann.
AMC World Headquarters (1954–1975) was located at 14250 Plymouth Road in Detroit and was widely known as the Plymouth Road Office Center (PROC). In 1975, AMC moved its headquarters from the facility on Plymouth Road to a newly constructed building on Northwestern Highway in Southfield, Michigan known as the American Center.
The initial building had been built in 1926–27 by the Electric Refrigeration Corporation (subsequently Nash-Kelvinator) with design by Amedeo Leoni, industrial layout by Wallace McKenzie, and tower enclosure and industrial units by William E. Kapp, of SHG. The original 600,000 sq ft (56,000 m2) three-story factory and four-story administration building had been headquarters to Nash-Kelvinator from 1937–1954 as well as a factory for refrigerators, electric ranges, and commercial refrigeration—as well as airplane propellers for the U.S. military effort during World War II.
During World War II, the U.S. War Department contracted with Nash-Kelvinator to produce 900 Sikorsky R-6 model helicopters. As part of that contract, a 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) site north of the factory was used as the smallest airport in the world as a flight testing base. Nash-Kelvinator produced about fifty R-6s a month during the war. When the contract was terminated at the end of the war, a total of 262 helicopters had been constructed.
During Chrysler’s occupancy of the complex, it was known Jeep and (Dodge) Truck Engineering (JTE), including facilities for Body on Frame (BoF) work as well as testing facilities and labs. The buildings included 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2), approximately one third devoted to engineering and computer functions.
As of 2007, Chrysler still employed over 1,600 people at the complex, moving those operations in mid-2009 to the Chrysler Technology Center. PROC was made available for sale by Chrysler in early 2010.
In October 2006 its recent tenant, Union Stamping and Assembly, declared bankruptcy.
The era of 1900 to 1925 saw various corporations, in several U.S. states, use similar “American” names, such as American Motor Carriage Company (Ohio, 1902–1903), American Automobile Manufacturing Company (Indiana, 1911–1912), and American Motors Incorporated (New York, 1919–1920). In 1916, An earlier “American Motors Corporation”, apparently unrelated to the more famous later corporation of the same name, was formed in 1916 in Newark, New Jersey, with Louis Chevrolet as vice president and chief engineer. By 1918 it was producing cars in a plant at Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1923 it merged with the Bessemer Motor Truck Company of Pennsylvania into Bessemer–American Motors Corporation, which lasted less than a year before merging with the Winther and Northway companies into Amalgamated Motors. The latter company apparently ceased soon after.
A new company was formed in Palmdale, California, in 2001. A registration for the American Motors trademarks was filed in 2001 by this California-based firm. The company’s website specifically claimed no affiliation to the previous American Motors, but used AMC’s history and logos on its website. The website is now dead, and the company’s claims to AMC’s trademarks expired in 2005.
The new Chrysler LLC holds a live registration for the name “American Motors”, which was applied for in 2005. The AMC trademark, complete with “A-mark” – as was originally used in 1970 and through the late-1980s – was registered and published for comment by Chrysler as of 2010.
1979–1983: AMC Spirit
1987 AMC Eagle wagon burgundy-woodgrain NJ
1981–1983: AMC Eagle (SX/4 and Kammback)
1985 Renault Alliance convirtible photographed in College Park, Maryland, USA.
1985 Encore 2-door hatchback
* – The Metropolitan was introduced by Nash in 1954.
** – The Gremlin was the company’s first modern subcompact.
Also: Kaiser Jeeps used the AMC 327, Buick 225 (“Dauntless V6”), Buick 350 (“Dauntless V8”), Willys 134 I4 (“Hurricane”). The Downsized Jeep XJ Cherokee/Wagoneer used the Chevrolet 2.8 Litre V6 in 1983–1984.
1 AMC contracted with Volkswagen to buy tooling for the Audi 2.0 L OHC I4. Major parts (block, crankshaft, head assembly) were initially purchased from Audi and shipped to the U.S. where final assembly was accomplished by AMC at a plant purchased specifically for production of this engine. Sales never reached numbers to justify taking over total production. AMC made several changes to the engine. They were prevented from using the Volkswagen or Audi names in association with the AMC assembled version by contractual agreement.
AMC models historically regarded by hobbyists as particularly “collectible” include the Javelin, AMX, and performance specials such as the 1957 Rambler Rebel, 1965–67 Marlin, 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler, 1970 Rebel Machine, and 1971 Hornet SC/360. These models enjoyed limited popularity when new, resulting in low production figures. In January 2007, the AMC AMX was “really taking off in the muscle car market” according to the editors ofHemmings Classic Car, and it had “left its mark among AMC collectors’ minds as a great alternative” to higher-priced Hemi-powered muscle cars.
The early Javelin (1968–70) stands out from the Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars. Car expert Jack Nerad noted in a 2007 article “several fully restored AMX models” listed for sale at “little more than half the price of a comparable Buick Gran Sport, Chevrolet Chevelle, Olds 4-4-2 or Pontiac GTO” in support of the author’s opinion that the 1971–74 Javelin was “clearly an outstanding alternative muscle car for the enthusiast on a budget.”
According to James C. Mays, automotive historian and author of The Savvy Guide to Buying Collector Cars at Auction, the “Wow! Factor” is an important and measurable pleasure to an owner whether their car is driven or sits in a climate-controlled garage. His “Wow! Factor” includes examples of a bright red 1969 AMX that according to its owner “is just a fast Rambler”, but draws more people at events than the more prestigious Ferraris and Lamborghinis, as well as a “million-dollar moment” when a Rambler owner was serenaded with the “Beep Beep” song by The Playmates while fueling at a travel plaza. Moreover, the author’s collector car, a 1969 Ambassador station wagon, made friends as strangers came to greet and host him as if “long lost kin”. Mays points out the ready availability of parts for AMC engines and his experiences in having service done on Ramblers without being charged for the work in exchange for the experience of driving a “sassy Rambler” (a 1966 American convertible) and having pictures taken with it.
Other AMC models, once somewhat ignored by the hobby, are now considered “future collectibles”. Examples include the 1959 Ambassador 4-door hardtop station wagon, of which only 578 were produced, and the Jeep Scrambler CJ8, a combined pickup truck-Jeep, of which only a few thousand were produced.
Hemmings Classic Car magazine included the 1969–70 Rebel SST and the 1974–78 Matador coupe in their 2008 list of “dollar-for-pound [weight]” cars that could be bought in show-quality condition for a comparatively modest outlay, The writer also noted that “most of AMC’s ’70s lineup” qualified for inclusion on the list.
The AMC Gremlin is described to have “a cult-like following in today’s collectible car market. The Gremlin shares components with some other AMC models its repair and restoration can be relatively inexpensive compared with other “historic cars”.
The AMC Pacer increased in value according to a Pacer owner who is the CEO of a major insurance provider for collector car owners.
There are active Rambler and AMC car clubs in the U.S. and elsewhere (examples in External Links).
In April 2008, Hot Rod Magazine released an article claiming that American Motors was in the process of being revived. The vehicles in the works were to be the AMX, Matador, Ambassador, Pacer, and Gremlin. Illustrated with drawings of the concept cars entering production and accompanied by plentiful information, it was a popular article, although it was later revealed to be an April Fools’ joke.
My personal photo collection:
for part one:
1971 AMC Javelin SST
|Manufacturer||American Motors Corporation(AMC)|
|Also called||Rambler Javelin (Australia)
Javelin 79-K (Europe)
VAM Javelin (Mexico)
|Production||1967 – 1974|
|Assembly||Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Port Melbourne, Australia
Osnabrück, Germany (Karmann)
Mexico City, Mexico
|Designer||Richard A. Teague|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door hardtop|
|Platform||AMC’s “junior” cars|
The AMC Javelin is a front-engine, rear wheel drive, two-door hardtop manufactured and marketed by AMC in two generations, 1968-1970 and 1971-1974. Styled by Dick Teague, the Javelin was available in a range of trim and engine levels, from economical pony car to muscle car variants. In addition manufacture in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Javelins were assembled under license in Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, as well as Australia —and were marketed globally.
American Motors’ Javelin served as the company’s entrant into the “pony car” market created by the Ford Mustang. The design evolved from two AMX prototypes shown in AMC’s “Project IV” concept cars during 1966. One was a fiberglass two-seat “AMX”, and the other was a four-seat “AMX II”. Both of these offerings reflected the company’s strategy to shed its “economy car” image and appeal to a more youthful, performance-oriented market.
Sales of convertibles were dropping and AMC did not have the resources to design separate fastback and notchback hardtops that were available on the Mustang and on the second-generation Plymouth Barracuda, so the AMC designer team under Richard A. Teague penned only one body style, “a smooth semi-fastback roofline that helped set Javelin apart from other pony cars.”
The Javelin was built on AMC’s “junior” (compact) Rambler American platform only as a two-door hardtop model to be a “hip”, dashing, affordable pony car, as well as available in muscle car performance versions. “Despite management’s insistence on things like good trunk space and rear- seat room, Teague managed to endow the Javelin with what he termed the wet T-shirt look: voluptuous curves with nary a hint of fat.”
|1968 and 1969|
1968 AMC Javelin base model
|Also called||IKA Mica (Argentina)
Rambler Javelin (Australia)
VAM Javelin (Mexico)
|Production||August 1967 – July 1969|
|Designer||Richard A. Teague|
|Body and chassis|
3-speed “Shift-Command” on console
|Wheelbase||109 in (2,769 mm)|
|Length||189.2 in (4,806 mm)|
|Width||71.9 in (1,826 mm)|
|Height||51.8 in (1,315.7 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,836 lb (1,286.4 kg)|
The car incorporated several safety innovations including interior windshield posts that were “the first industry use of fiberglass safety padding”, and the flush-mounted paddle-style door handles that later became an enduring AMC safety and styling signature. To comply with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety standards there were exterior side marker lights, and three-point seat belts and headrests for the front seats, while the interior was devoid of bright trim to help reduce glare.
The new Javelin “offered comfortable packaging with more interior and luggage space than most of its rivals” with adequate leg- and headroom in the back and a trunk capacity of 10.2 cubic feet (288.83 l). There were no side vent windows. Flow-through ventilation extracted interior air through apertures in the doors controlled by adjustable flap valves in the bottom of the door armrests. All Javelins came with thin-shell bucket seats and a fully carpeted interior, while the SST model had additional appearance and comfort items that included reclining front seat backs, simulated wood grained door panel trim, and a sports-style steering wheel. The Javelin’s instruments and controls were set deep in a padded panel, with the rest of the dashboard was set well forward, away from the passenger.
The car’s front end had what AMC called a “twin-venturi” look with recessed honeycomb grille and outboard-mounted headlamps, and matching turn signals were set into the bumper. There was a pair of simulated air scoops on the hood and the windshield was raked at 59 degrees for a “sporty overall appearance.”
Road & Track magazine compared a Javelin favorably to its competitors on its introduction in 1968, describing its “big, heavy, super-powerful engine” as “an asset in such a small vehicle”, and the styling as “pleasant”. Motor Trend, putting the Javelin at the top of the “sports-personal” category in its annual “Car of the Year” issue, said it was “the most significant achievement for an all-new car” and “the most notable new entry in [its] class.”
Available only in a two-door hardtop, body style, the Javelin came in base and more premium SST models. Standard engines were a 232 cu in (3.8 L) straight-6 or a 290 cu in (4.8 L) two-barrel carburetor V8. Optional was a 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 in regular gasoline two-barrel, or high-compression, premium-fuel four-barrel versions. Racing driver Gordon Johncock said the Javelin had “a nice, all-round blend of features”, that it “stacks up as a roomy, comfortable, peppy and handsome example of a so-called “pony car” and that after his road test he “wanted to take it home.”
With the standard straight-six engine, the Javelin cruised at 80 miles per hour (129 km/h) when equipped with an automatic transmission, while those with the small 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 had a top speed of 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). A three-speed “Shift-Command” automatic transmission was optional with a center console-mounted gear selector. Forward settings included “1”, “2”, and a “D” mode that was fully automatic, and the driver could choose to shift manually through all three gears.
The optional “Go Package” included a four-barrel carbureted 343 cu in (5.6 L) AMC V8, power front disc brakes, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhausts with chromed outlets, wide body-side stripes, and E70x14 red-line tires mounted on chrome-plated “Magnum 500” styled road wheels. A 343 Go Pac Javelin could accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in 8 seconds, had a top speed approaching 120 miles per hour (193 km/h), and could run a quarter-mile in 15.4 seconds. The largest engine in the first few months of 1968 production was “a 5.6 litre V-8 that delivered 284 SAE bhp, which made the car dangerously fast.”
In mid-1968, the new AMX 390 cu in (6.4 L) engine was offered as a “Go-package” option with a floor-mounted automatic or manual four-speed transmission. “Its impressive 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) and 425 pound force-feet (576 N·m) of torque could send the Javelin from zero to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in the seven-second range.”
American Motors supported the AMX and Javelin muscle-models with a range of factory-approved “Group 19” dealer-installed performance accessories. These included among others, dual four-barrel cross-ram intake manifolds, high-performance camshaft kits, needle-bearing roller rocker arms, and dual-point ignition.
The average age of the “first 1,000 Javelin buyers was 29 — a full ten years under the median for all AMC customers.” The Javelin’s marketing campaign, created by Mary Wells Lawrence of Wells, Rich, and Greene Inc, was innovative and daring in its approach. Print and TV advertisements broke with the traditional convention of not attacking the competition, and some compared the AMC Javelin to the Ford Mustang side by side, as well as showing the Mustang being beaten to pieces with sledgehammers.
The car was longer and roomier than the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Plymouth Barracuda, and its shape was described as “exciting and beautiful”. Total production for the 1968 model year was 55,125.
Minor changes for the second model year included revised side striping, an altered grille with a bull’s eye emblem, and trim upgrades. An optional side-stripe package consisted of a C-shaped graphic that started behind the front wheel openings. The optional (standard with the “Go-Package”) five-spoke Magnum 500 steel road wheels now came with a stainless steel trim ring. The interior received new door panels and upgraded carpeting. Instrumentation featured a 0–8,000 rpm tachometer that now matched the speedometer in style. Late model-year production received a cowl over the instrument panel directly in front of the driver.
The “Mod Javelin” Package was introduced mid-year in 1969 and included a “Craig Breedlove” roof-mounted spoiler, simulated “exhaust” rocker trim, and twin blacked-out simulated air scoops on the hood. Optional “Big Bad” paint (neon brilliant blue, orange, or green) also became available from mid-1969 and came with matching front and rear painted bumpers, as well as two vertical rubber-faced painted bumper guards for the rear and a special bright lower grille molding for the front bumper. These optional colors were available on all Javelins through 1970.
The Go-Package option was available with the four-barrel 343 or 390 engines, and continued to include disc brakes, “Twin-Grip” (limited slip) differential, red-line performance E70x14 tires on “Magnum 500” styled wheels, heavy-duty suspension with thicker sway-bars, and other enhancements. Starting in January 1969, four-speed manual transmissions came with a Hurst floor shifter.
Production total for the 1969 model year was 40,675.
In 1968 Kaplan Engineering (Ron Kaplan and Jim Jeffords) had been contracted by AMC to run two AMC Javelins in the SCCA’s Trans-Am series. For 1968, three cars were actually constructed: two for racing and one for shows and demonstrations. In 1969, Jeffords left the team and Kaplan was contracted to run the program. Using his developmental work from the prior year, Kaplan built three more cars, two for AMC and one for himself using his own finances.
For 1968, the initial drivers had been George Follmer (#1) and Peter Revson (#2). Revson was let go part way through the year after a disagreement with management. The team picked up Lothar Motschenbach for the next two races in Canada.
The first year of the AMC program was a success; the team was written up as a “Cinderella” team. American Motors placed third in the over-2-liter class of the 1968 series, and established a record as the only factory entry to finish every Trans-Am race entered.
The overall performance of the team in 1968 can be attributed to the heroic efforts of Kaplan, his professional staff, and some very significant help from other west coast manufacturers. Kaplan had set out to resolve handling problems and fix the engine oiling problems. Mid-season he also started the development of a dual-carburetor cross-ram manifold and (looking ahead) a new engine casting.For 1968, the team had consistently improved and suffered only one DNF from an engine problem. Any stories concerning difficulties invariably focused on the inadequacies of the original AMC engines. This was largely true but obscured a number of other important issues. For example, the race program idea was floated from inside a company that had absolutely no performance parts, no test facility, and no technical support for the program. As for the production cars, they had no anti-dive potential built into the uni-body; they had only single-barrel carburetor manifolds; and even when running properly, they didn’t make as much horsepower as the competitors. The only good thing about the 1968 deal was the support that Jeffords and Kaplan received from Carl Chakmakian, who was the primary contact on the AMC program. Carl was a “fixer” and knew how to get things done.
The development of the Watt’s linkage rear suspension came first. This was followed by the front anti-dive modifications. The development of the anti-dive geometry was actually done quite quickly. To meet AMC’s timing schedule, Kaplan copied the basic design of the inner fender components from a Mustang. He added two more degrees of anti-dive to the Mustang’s 4 degrees, made the drawings, and sent them to the factory. The manufacture of the parts was then contracted to Central Stamping. Despite succeeding in developing the parts as a rush job, however, there was no capacity to fit the components to the unibody on the 1969 assembly line, so it fell to Kaplan to incorporate them into the cars when they arrived in his shop as bodies in white. Other related suspension pieces were also acquired through specialty manufacturers who were also building performance parts for Ford.
The whole question of reliable and powerful engines took a bit more time. The team had started the 1968 season with two engines from TRACO. But although TRACO had worked hard to resolve oiling issues and to generate as much power as they could, single-carb layout and the basic two-bolt-main block were serious limitations.
To develop a cross-ram manifold, Kaplan went to Vic Edlebrock, who not only loaned him a pattern maker but also gave him a lot of personal help. Kaplan also got some help from Champion Sparkplugs who let him use their dyno room to fine-tune and correct any design problems.
Then, towards the end of the 1968 year, Kaplan enlisted some help from Dan Byer, a retired engineer from AMC, for the development of a new block casting. Using the basic AMC 390 drawings, they added more mass for four-bolt mains and improved the oiling system. A run of 50 blocks was contracted to Central Foundries in Windsor, Ontario. Because this was a small run, and there was little factory support, it fell to Kaplan and his staff to clean up the blocks from the sand casting, hone the various passages and, finally, send them to AMC’s “Parts Central” in Kenosha. From there, they could draw on the inventory, as required.
If one were to put a small number of specially cast blocks into the general inventory, chances are pretty good that you’d never find them again, so Kaplan painted all the blocks in a bright orange so they could identify them on the transfer line. Kaplan drew on about 12 of these special castings during his development program and two were eventually (much later) sold to customers.
Kaplan’s specific preparations included shaving the deck on the new block by about 5/8 inch and heavily modifying the ports. The new cross-ram manifold was installed and Kaplan would add his own specifically designed pistons, a shorter throw crankshaft and new camshaft. While a few engines were lost during testing, the whole design proved quite reliable.
In the intervening period, AMC replaced Kaplan’s race program contact with two new men (Chris Schoenlip and John Voelbel from Leaver Brothers (soap marketing people)), who had no experience in the automotive field and they were absolutely ignorant of anything to do with racing. They would ultimately prove to be more trouble than they were worth. In fact, it was these two new boys who failed to enter the parts to the official AMC parts system and to submit homologation papers. The importance of this mistake became clear when Kaplan sent the first car to run at the first race of the 1969 season at Jackson, Michigan. Kaplan sent one of the older 1968 cars with a new engine but, because they were late and had not qualified, the team had to do some consensus building amongst the other racers to permit them to enter at all. When the SCCA agreed to let them run, they started last but, within 10 laps, they were chasing Donohue down and the time differential was narrowing rapidly. After the race, the SCCA asked to see the engine but he had sent the cars home already. At Lime Rock, the SCCA wanted to tear down the engines before they could start the race. Kaplan bought some time by countering with the challenge that they would have to tear down the Camaros and Mustangs too. That wasn’t going to happen so they were allowed to run. It was clear, however, that the problems with the SCCA weren’t going away, at least until the parts could be homologated.
AMC did eventually assign a part number (after the SCCA program) and two blocks were later sold to customers.
For 1969, the season started with Ron Grable (#4) and John Martin (#3). But this time it was Martin who was released mid-season. Jerry Grant replaced him in the #3 car.
It was at this point that Kaplan approached AMC management and proposed that the whole concept behind the 1969 contract be modified. He suggested that AMC should not compete in the actual races, since the new engines weren’t recognized and the old engines weren’t competitive. Instead, Kaplan suggested that they go to the tracks on the subsequent Mondays and run a developmental program using Sunday’s winning times as the benchmark. AMC didn’t agree and Kaplan ran the year with the engines on hand. Because the older style engines weren’t competitive, results were poor and, to add insult to injury, there were a series of budget cuts. It was a downward spiral.
Kaplan was having trouble remaining calm about the situation and, after the final race at Riverside, he decided he would drop all of AMC’s material at their zone office in El Segundo, California, and take a month to think about the next year. When he came back, he found that a deal had already been cut with Roger Penske and he was out.
Penske picked up all the team cars and equipment from the El Segundo offices and shipped everything back to his shop in Pennsylvania. Through the fall of 1969 and into the winter, Penske used the no. 3 Jerry Grant car for developmental purposes. When he acquired the 1969 cars, Penske found that Ron Kaplan had already done considerable work with suspension but he felt that the front suspension could still be further developed. With Mark Donohue doing the testing, Penske’s team lowered the front of the car and replaced the rubber bushings in the radius rods with heim joints. New roll bars were also developed. After several months of development, Donohue felt that the team now had car that drove like it was on rails.
At this point, Penske built all new cars for his own team and sold-off all the earlier Kaplan cars and equipment. Mark Donohue was in charge of selling-off the inventory.
See more on the 1970-71 seasons further below, under “Penske”.
1970 AMC Javelin SST with “Go Package”
|Also called||Rambler Javelin (Australia)
VAM Javelin (Mexico)
|Production||August 1969 – July 1970|
3-speed “Shift-Command” on console
|Wheelbase||110 in (2,794 mm)|
|Length||191.04 in (4,852 mm)|
The 1970 Javelins featured a new front end design with a wide “twin-venturi” front grille incorporating the headlamps and a longer hood. It also had a new rear end with full-width taillamps and a single center mounted backup light. This was a one-year only design. Side marker lights were now shared with several other AMC models. The exterior rear view mirror featured a new “aero” design and in some cases matched the car’s body color. The three “Big Bad” exterior paints continued to be optional on the 1970 Javelins, but they now came with regular chrome bumpers. Underneath the restyle was a new front suspension featuring ball joints, upper and lower control arms, coil springs, and shock absorbers above the upper control arms, as well as trailing struts on the lower control arms.
The 1970 AMC Javelins also introduced Corning‘s new safety glass, which was thinner and lighter than standard laminated windshields. This special glass featured a chemically hardened outer layer. It was produced in Blacksburg, Virginia in a refitted plant that included tempering, ion exchange, and “fusion process” in new furnaces that Corning had developed in order to be able to supply to the big automakers.
The engine lineup for 1970 was changed with the introduction of two new V8 engines: a base 304 cu in (5.0 L) and an optional 360 cu in (5.9 L) to replace the 290 and the 343 versions. The top optional 390 cu in (6.4 L) continued, but it was upgraded with new cylinder heads featuring 51 cc combustion chambers, increasing power to 325 hp (242 kW). The code remained “X” for the engine on the vehicle identification number(VIN). Also new was the “power blister” hood, featuring two large openings as part of a functional cold ram-air induction system; this was included with the “Go Package” option.
Many buyers selected the “Go Package”, available with the 360 and 390 four-barrel V8 engines. This package as in prior years included front disc brakes, a dual exhaust system, heavy-duty suspension with anti-sway bar, improved cooling, 3.54 rear axle ratio, and wide Goodyear white-lettered performance tires on styled road wheels.
The interior for 1970 was also a one-year design featuring a broad dashboard (wood grained on SST models), new center console, revised interior door panel trim, and tall “clamshell” bucket seats with integral headrests available in vinyl, corduroy, or optional leather upholstery. A new two-spoke steering wheel was available with a “Rim Blow” horn.
A comparison road test of four 1970 pony cars by Popular Science described the Javelin’s interior as the roomiest with good visibility except for a small blind spot in the right rear quarter and the hood scoop, while also offering the biggest trunk with 10.2 cubic feet (289 l) of room. It was a close second to the Camaro in terms of ride comfort, while the 360 cu in (5.9 L) engine offered “terrific torque.” The 4-speed manual Javelin was the quickest of the cars tested, reaching 0 to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in 6.8 seconds.
One of the biggest surprises of the 1970 motorsports season was the announcement that Penske Racing had taken over the AMC Javelin program, thus leaving the Camaro Trans-Am program to Jim Hall. American Motors hired Roger Penske and driver Mark Donohue to seriously campaign Javelins in SCCA Trans-Am Series. This coincided with the change in the Trans-Am rulebook allowing manufacturers to de-stroke preexisting corporate engines, so AMC’s 390 cu in (6.4 L) was used as the starting point to meet the 5 L (305 cu in) displacement rule that was still in place. The team included former Shelby chassis engineer Chuck Cantwell and a clockwork pit crew. The two-car Javelin effort provided the Bud Moore Ford Boss 302 Mustangs their “closest competition.”AMC finished in second place in the Over 2-liter class of the 1970 series.
Capitalizing on the Javelin’s successes on the race track, AMC began advertising and promoting special models.
Among these was the “Mark Donohue Javelin SST”. A total of 2,501 were built to homologate the Donohue-designed rear ducktail spoiler and were emblazoned with his signature on the right hand side. Designed for Trans Am racing, the rules required factory production of 2,500 spoiler equipped cars. The original plan was to have all Donohue Javelins built in SST trim with the special spoiler, as well as the “Go Package” with Ram Air hood, a choice of a four-speed or automatic transmission on the floor, and a 360 cu in (5.9 L) engine with thicker webbing that allowed it to have four bolt mains. The cars could be ordered in any color (including “Big Bad” exteriors) and upholstery, as well as with any combination of extra cost options.
American Motors did not include any specific identification (VIN code, door tag, etc.) and some “Mark Donohue Signature Edition” cars came through with significant differences in equipment from the factory. This makes it easy to replicate, yet difficult to authenticate a “real” Mark Donohue Javelin.
An estimated 100 “Trans-Am” Javelins replicating Ronnie Kaplan’s race cars were also produced. All cars included the 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine with heavy-duty and performance features along with the front and rear spoilers, and were also painted in AMC racing team’s distinctive Matador Red, Frost White, and Commodore Blue “hash” paint scheme. Designed to commemorate AMC’s entry into SCCA racing, the Trans-Am Javelin’s retail price was $3,995.
The strong participation by AMC in Trans-Am and drag racing served to enhance its image, and notable was that its motorsports efforts were achieved on a shoestring budget with the automaker racking up a respectable number of points against its giant competitors. For example, with an estimated 4.5 million participants and 6 million spectators, drag racing was the fastest growing segment of motorsport in the U.S. The marketing strategy was to appeal to buyers who otherwise would not give AMC a second glance.
|1971 – 1974|
1974 AMC Javelin AMX with “Go Package”
|Also called||IKA Mica (Argentina)
Rambler Javelin (Venezuela & Australia)
VAM Javelin (Mexico)
|Production||August 1970 – 1974|
3-speed “Torque-Command” on console
|Wheelbase||109 in (2,769 mm)|
|Length||191.8 in (4,872 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,875 lb (1,304.1 kg) – 3,184 lb (1,444.2 kg)|
The AMC Javelin was restyled for the 1971 model year. The “1980-looking Javelin” design was purposely made to give the sporty car “individuality,” even at “the risk of scaring some people off.”
The second generation became longer, lower, wider, and heavier than its predecessor. Wheelbase was increased by 1-inch (25 mm) to 110 in (2,794 mm). The indicated engine power outputs also changed from 1971 to 1972-74. Actual power output remained the same, but the U.S. automobile industry followed the SAE horsepower rating method that changed from “gross” in 1971 and prior years to “net” in 1972 and later years.
The new design incorporated an integral roof spoiler and sculpted fender bulges. The new body departed from the gentle, tucked-in look of the original.
The media noted the revised front fenders (originally designed to accommodate oversized racing tires) that “bulge up as well as out on this personal sporty car, borrowing lines from the much more expensive Corvette.” The new design also featured an “intricate injection moulded grille.”
The car’s dashboard was asymmetrical, with “functional instrument gauges that wrap around you with cockpit efficiency”. This driver-oriented design contrasted with the symmetrical interior of the economy-focused 1966 Hornet (Cavalier) prototype.
AMC offered a choice of engines and transmissions. Engines included a 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 and a four-barrel 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 with high compression ratio, forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods engineered to withstand 8000 rpm. The BorgWarner T-10 four-speed manual transmission came with a Hurst floor shifter.
From 1971, the AMX was no longer available as a two-seater. It evolved into a premium high-performance edition of the Javelin.
The new Javelin-AMX incorporated several racing modifications and AMC advertised it as “the closest thing you can buy to a Trans-Am champion.” The car had a fiberglass full-width cowl induction hood, as well as spoilers front and rear for high-speed traction. Testing at the Ontario Motor Speedway by Penske Racing Team recorded that the 1971 Javelin AMX’s rear spoiler added 100 lb (45.4 kg) of downforce. Mark Donohue also advised AMC to make the AMX’s grille flush for improved airflow, thus the performance model received a stainless steel mesh screen over the standard Javelin’s deep openings.
The performance-upgrade “Go Package” provided the choice of a 360 or 401 4-barrel engine, and included “Rally-Pac” instruments, a handling package for the suspension, “Twin-Grip” limited-slip differential, heavy-duty cooling, power-assisted disc brakes, white-letter E60x15 Goodyear Polyglas tires on 15×7-inch styled slotted steel wheels) used on the Rebel Machine, a T-stripe hood decal, and a blacked-out rear taillight panel.
The 3,244-pound (1,471 kg) 1971 Javelin AMX with a 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 ran the quarter-mile in the mid-14 second range at 93 miles per hour (150 km/h) on low-lead, low-octane gas.
The 1972 model year Javelins featured a new “egg crate” front grille design with a similar pattern repeated on the chrome overlay over the full-width taillights. The AMX version continued with the flush grille. A total of 15 exterior colors were offered with optional side stripes.
To consolidate the product offering, reduce production costs, and offer more value to consumers, the 1972 AMC Javelins were equipped with more standard comfort and convenience items. Engine power ratings were downgraded to the more accurate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) net hp figures. Automatic transmissions were now the TorqueFlite units sourced from Chrysler, called “Torque-Command” by AMC.
American Motors achieved record sales in 1972 by focusing on quality and including an innovative “Buyer Protection Plan” to back its products. This was the first time an automaker promised to repair anything wrong with the car (except for tires) for one year or 12,000 miles (19,000 km). Owners were provided with a toll-free telephone number to AMC, as well as a free loaner car if a repair to their car took more than a day.
By this time, the pony car market segment was declining in popularity. One commentator has said that “[d]espite the Javelin’s “great lines and commendable road performance, it never quite matched the competition in the sales arena … primarily because the small independent auto maker did not have the reputation and/or clout to compete with GM, Ford, and Chrysler.”
During the 1972 and 1973 model years 4,152 Javelins were produced with optional interior design by fashion designer Pierre Cardin. Official on-sale date was March 1, 1972. The design had multi-colored pleated stripes in red, plum, white, and silver on a black background. Six multi-colored stripes, in a nylon fabric with a stain-resistant silicone finish, ran from the front seats, up the doors, onto the headliner, and down to the rear seats. Chatham Mills produced the fabric for the seat faces. Cardin’s crest appeared on the front fenders. MSRP of the option was $84.95 ($451 in 2015 dollars). A 2007 magazine article described the design as the “most daring and outlandish” of its kind.
The 1973 Javelin had several updates, most noticeably in the design of the taillights and grille, although the AMX grille remained the same. While all other AMC models had bumpers with telescopic shock absorbers, the Javelin and AMX were fitted with a non-telescopic design that had two rigid rubber guards. These allowed the cars to withstand a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) front and 2.5-mile-per-hour (4 km/h) rear impacts without damage to the engine, lights, and safety equipment. The doors were also made stronger to comply with new U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety standards that they withstand 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg) of impact for the first 6 inches (152 mm) of crush. The “twin-cove” indentations were eliminated from the Javelin’s roof and a full vinyl top was made available. The 1970-72 “Turtle Back” front seats were replaced by a slimmer, lighter, and more comfortable design that provided more leg room for rear seat passengers.
All engines incorporated new emissions controls. The 1973 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 was rated at net 255 hp (190 kW; 259 PS) and achieved 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 7.7 seconds with a top speed of 115.53 mph (185.93 km/h), despite the Javelin’s four-place size and weight. Performance figures conducted by Road Test magazine of a 1973 Javelin SST with the 401 cu in (6.6 L) 4-barrel V8 engine and 4-speed manual transmission resulted in “respectable” quarter-mile (402 m) dragstrip runs of 15.5 seconds at 91 mph (146 km/h).
American Motors continued its comprehensive “Buyer Protection” extended warranty on all 1973 models that now covered food and lodging expenses of up to $150 should a car require overnight repairs when the owner is more than 100 miles (161 km) away from home. The automaker promoted improved product quality with an advertising campaign that said “we back them better because we build them better”. Profits for the year achieved a record high.
Javelin production for the 1973 model year totaled 30,902 units, including 5,707 AMX units.
Javelins driven in the Trans-Am captured the racing title for American Motors in both the 1971 and 1972 seasons. The back-to-back SCCA championships with specially prepared race cars was celebrated by AMC by offering a limited run of “Trans Am Victory” edition 1973 Javelins. The package was available on cars built from October to December 15, 1972, on any Javelin SST, except with the Cardin interior. A single magazine advertisement, featuring the winning race drivers George Follmer and Roy Woods, promoted the special package.
Cars that were ordered with the optional visibility group, light group, insulation group, protection group, and sports-style steering wheel, received at no additional cost (but valued at $167.45) a large “Javelin Winner Trans Am Championship 1971-1972 SCCA” fender decals on the lower portion behind the front wheel openings, as well as 8-slot rally styled steel wheels with E70X14 Polyglass raised while letter tires and a “Space-Saver” spare tire. The Trans Am Victory cars were also typically more “heavily optioned than regular production Javelins.” American Motors designed a quick identification system of its models by an information-rich Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) system. However, because this was only a limited promotional “value added” marketing campaign, except as noted on the original window sticker, there is no VIN or door tag code to distinguish an authentic Trans Am-Victory edition car.
By 1974, the automobile marketplace had changed. Mid-year, Chrysler abandoned the pony car market. Whereas Ford replaced its original Mustang with a smaller four-cylinder version, and other pony car manufacturers also downsized engines, the Javelin’s big engine option continued until the production of the model ended in October/November 1974 amidst the Arab oil embargo and overall declining interest in high-performance vehicles.
The 1974 AMX did not do as well in the marketplace when compared to the new Camaro, Firebird, and the downsized Mustang II – all of which saw increased sales. Javelin production meanwhile reached a second-generation high of 27,696 units. Out of that total number, a total of 4,980 Javelin-AMX models were produced for the final model year.
A new seatbelt interlock system prevented the car from being started if the driver and a front passenger were unbuckled. The functional cowl-induction fiberglass hood was no longer available for 1974, and the output of the 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 dropped by 20 hp (15 kW; 20 PS). Some late-production cars came with hoods made from steel.
Several factors led to the demise of the Javelin model, not least of which was the economic climate of the time. Unlike General Motors’ Camaro and Firebird, the 1974 Javelin models were not exempt from new stricter front and rear bumper standards. AMC estimated that approximately $12 million ($63,751,124 in 2015 dollars) would need to be spent in engineering and design work to revise the bumpers to meet the new standards for 1975.
American Motors also introduced the all-new 1974 Matador coupe that was described by Popular Mechanics automotive editor as “smooth and slippery and actually competes with the Javelin for “boss” muscle-car styling”. The automaker also needed a manufacturing line to build its all-new AMC Pacer. Nevertheless, more cars were built during the final year of Javelin production than the prior second-generation years, with 27,696 units built, of which 4,980 (about 15 percent) were Javelin AMX models.
Racing AMC Javelin versions competed successfully in the Trans-Am Series with the Penske Racing/Mark Donohue team, as well as with the Roy Woods ARA team sponsored by American Motors Dealers. The Javelin won the Trans-Am title in 1971, 1972, and 1976. Drivers included George Follmer and Mark Donohue.
One Javelin race car had the distinction of having different sponsors and being piloted by Mark Donohue, Vic Elford, George Follmer, Peter Revson, and Roy Woods. This Javelin actually began life as a 1970 model, but was updated to 1971 sheetmetal. The race car is now restored to its 1972 livery and is driven at Vintage Trans-Am events.
In an effort to find a more suitable and lower priced alternative to the traditional large-sized police cruisers, the Alabama Department of Public Safety (ADPS) first took a basic 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 as a test vehicle, found its power lacking, then sampled a vinyl roofed AMX with a 401 cu in (6.6 L) engine from the local dealer, Reinhart AMC in Montgomery.
Javelins equipped with the 401 cu in (6.6 L) engine proved their performance and beginning in 1971, the Alabama Highway Patrol used them for pursuit and high-speed response calls. The bid price was $3,047 for the 1971 police cruisers, and $3,242 for the 1972 model year versions.
The 132 Javelins purchased during 1971 and 1972 were the first pony cars to be used as a normal highway patrol police car by any U.S. police organization.
The last of ADPS Javelins was retired in 1979. One of the original cars is now part of the Museum at ADPS Headquarters.
Australian Motor Industries (AMI) assembled right hand drive versions of both the first- and second-generation Javelin models were in Victoria, Australia from CKD kits. The right hand drive dash, interior and soft trim, as well as other components were locally manufactured. The cars were marketed under the historic Rambler name. The AMI Rambler Javelins were the only American “muscle cars” of that era to be sold new in Australia. The Australian Javelins came with top trim and features that included the 343 cu in (5.6 L) 280 bhp (210 kW) V8 engine, three-speed “Shift Command” automatic transmission, and “Twin Grip” limited-slip rear differential. They were more expensive, had more power, and provided more luxury than the contemporary Holden Monaro.
Javelins were built in Europe, primarily because they had the largest and most usable rear seat of the American pony cars. The German coach builder, Wilhelm Karmann GmbH assembled 280 complete knock down (CKD) Javelins between 1968 and 1970 that were marketed in Europe. This was a significant business relationship because the Javelin was a completely American-designed car that was made in Germany. Karmann’s “Javelin 79-K” could be ordered with the 232 cu in (3.8 L) six, the 290 cu in (4.8 L) 2-barrel or 343 cu in (5.6 L) 4-barrel V8 engines. About 90% of the parts and components came in crates from the United States. At Karmann’s facility in Rheine the cars were assembled, painted, and test-driven prior to shipment to customers.
Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) assembled Javelins in Mexico under license and partial ownership (40% equity share) by AMC from 1968 through 1973. The VAM versions were equipped with different, locally made components, trim and interiors than the equivalent AMC-made models. The Mexican built Javelins came in only one version and had more standard equipment compared to U.S. and Canadian models.
The Javelin was introduced in Mexico by VAM until April 1, 1968, making the model a “1968 and half” similar to the February 1968 debut of the two-seat AMX. The Javelin represented a third line within VAM’s product mix for the first time and the first regular production sports-oriented model. It would eventually become the only AMC muscle car to be available in Mexico. Other AMC muscle cars were equivalents built by VAM or as special editions. The Javelin introduced many firsts for VAM, such as a standard four-speed manual transmission and the option of a three-speed automatic transmission. These were the only transmissions available on the Javelin and only with floor-mounted shifters, just as on the two-seater AMX. Cars with the automatic included a center console with locking compartment, as well as power drum brakes.
The 1968 VAM Javelin featured the 155 hp (116 kW; 157 PS), 8.5:1 compression ratio 232 cu in (3.8 L) six-cylinder engine with two-barrel Carter WCD carburetor, a 3.54:1 rear differential gear ratio, 12-inch heavy duty clutch, manual four-wheel drum brakes, quick-ratio manual steering, electric wipers, electric washers, 8,000 RPM tachometer, 200 km/h speedometer, AM monaural radio, cigarette lighter, front ashtray, locking glove box, courtesy lights, day-night rearview mirror, padded sun visors, two-point front seatbelts, low-back reclining bucket seats, rear ashtray, dual C-pillar-mounted dome lights, dual coat hooks, sports steering wheel, driver’s side remote mirror, side armrests, vinyl door panels with woodgrain accents, bright moldings on top of the doors and rocker panels plus hood and fender extension edges, wheel covers, 7.35×14 tires, protective side moldings, and front fender-mounted Javelin emblems.
The standard trim and features make the VAM Javelin equivalent to the U.S. and Canadian AMC Javelin SST. Factory options included power drum brakes with manual transmission, power steering, heater, center console for the manual transmission, passenger’s side remote mirror, remote controlled driver’s side mirror, custom sport wheels and rear bumper guards. Dealer installed options included side decals, light group, map pouches, vinyl roof, locking gas cap, license plate frames, mud flaps, AM/FM radio, front disk brakes, heavy duty adjustable shocks, and many others.
A unique dealer-installed option also VAM’s own “Go Pack”. This consisted of manual front disk brakes, heavy duty suspension with front sway bar plus rear torsion and traction bars, aluminum four-barrel intake manifold with four-barrel Carter carburetor, headers with equal-length tubes and dual final outlets, dual exhausts, ported head with larger valves and heavy duty springs, 302 degree camshaft, Hurst linkage for the manual transmission, “Rallye Pak” auxiliary gauges on dashboard (different from AMC’s original units), exclusive steering wheel, exclusive dual remote mirrors, and exclusive turbine wheels. The performance upgrades of the Go Pack represented a 40% increase of engine output making the VAM Javelin far more competitive against its V8 rivals from Ford de México,General Motors de México, and Automex (Chrysler de México).
Despite the lack of a V8 engine, the VAM Javelin was a success in both sales and among public opinion.
The 1969 VAM Javelin obtained the previously optional heater as standard equipment, the foot pedals received bright trim and the accelerator was changed into a firewall-mounted unit, a support pull strap was applied on the passenger’s side dashboard above the glove box, the center cover with the radio speaker grid changed into a woodgrain unit. A unique aspect of the 1969 Javelin is that it kept the same gauge configuration as the 1968 models in contrast to AMC’s modifications to the Javelin (and AMX) instrument panel for 1969 with a larger 8,000 RPM tach on the right pod, leaving the smaller left pod exclusive for the clock. The VAM Javelins exterior now had bright trim package with new moldings starting at the corners of the tail lights running on the sides all the way to lower rear corner of the side glass and drip rails plus all around the rear glass and top edge of the C-pillars. The new Javelins looked more luxurious, even though a factory vinyl roof was not available. The front fender emblems were relocated to the base of each C-pillar and were accompanied by red-white-blue bulls eye emblems. A third Javelin emblem was applied near the lower right corner of the grille. The 1969 model year was also VAM’s first self-engineered engine, the 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS), 9.5:1 compression ratio 252 cu in (4.1 L) six-cylinder engine with a two-barrel Carter WCD carburetor and a new VAM-engineered 266 degree camshaft. In both standard and Go Pack versions.
The VAM Javelin saw considerable aesthetic changes with only minor technical ones. The VAM models included the same novelties as its AMC counterpart, such as new headlight bezels and grille, smooth front fender extensions and bumpers without divisions, larger tail lights without wraparound portions and a single central back-up light, larger side marker lights with both light and reflector sections in both amber and red, and new wheel cover designs resembling Magnum 500 wheels. The discontinuation of the central rear reflector in favor of the back-up light resulted in the addition of a fourth Javelin emblem placed on the right corner of the trunk lid. Two hood designs were available, the one with the Ram Air-type scoops at the front center, and a smoother one with the two rectangular stripped bulges. Despite this, no Ram Air system was ever offered for the car, at least at a factory level. In the interior, a new collapsible steering column with built-in ignition switch and anti-theft lock plus a new simulated two-arm three-spoke sports steering wheel with a central bulls eye emblem were present. A secondary anti-theft mechanism was present in the form of the floor-mounted shifters being linked to the ignition switch regardless of the transmission type. AMC’s new dashboard design included full woodgrain surfaces, complete with a new center console and shifter design for the automatic transmission. However, all three gauges were still the same as in the previous two years. New door panels were also included.
The 1970 VAM Javelins received a new front suspension design with dual control arms and ball joints. Units with four-speed manual transmissions incorporated a Hurst linkage as factory-installed equipment, which was previously available only with the optional Go Pack package and separately in certain dealerships. A mid-year change replaced the imported Borg-Warner T10 manual transmission in favor of the Querétaro-produced TREMEC 170-F four-speed model to comply with the percentages of both local and imported equipment mandated by law.
The year of 1971 was vital to VAM as it represented a complete turn around for the company. The new Camioneta Rambler American based on the Hornet Sportabout was introduced, the Rambler Classic obtained all characteristics of AMC’s new Matador, and the Javelin was restyled as a new generation. On the outside, the car was exactly the same as its AMC counterpart with the only exception of the wheels and the lack of factory stripes and decals. A unique characteristic of the second generation VAM Javelin was round porthole opera windows mounted on the C-pillars that made by some VAM dealerships either with or without vinyl roofs.
The standard engine was the new 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS), 9.5:1 compression ratio 282 cu in (4.6 L) six-cylinder engine with Carter ABD two-barrel carburetor. It was VAM’s second self-engineered engine, and taking the Javelin up to performance levels against its V8 competition. The Go Pack version of this engine took the car to its maximum height in terms of performance. The new engine was announced by two “4.6” emblems on the side of both front fenders. The only other technical difference of the new version was a 3.07:1 rear differential gear ratio for units equipped with automatic transmission. The interior saw more changes starting with all-new non-reclining high-back bucket seats with built-in “J” emblems on their seat backs which also appeared at the center of the back of the rear seat. The dashboard was restricted to the unit with woodgrain overlays only; the instrument cluster was once again completely different from everything seen on the AMC Javelins. The right pod housed a clock and tachometer hybrid with exactly the same design and appearance as the US Rallye Pak units, except that it was tuned for six cylinder engines. The center pod had a 240 km/h speedometer, a range that puts it on par as an equivalent to AMC’s 140 MHP unit of the Rallye Pak; but the colors, graphics, and typography of the dial were the same as the standard gauges. This created a high contrast on plain sight between the speedometer and the clock/tack hybrid. On the left pod were the fuel and water temperature gauges with no oil pressure and ammeter gauges to be present. Like the AMC Javelins, the car now held a single dome light at the center of the headliner and a new brake pedal design for units with automatic transmission.
All the quality and engineering upgrades and revisions seen on AMC cars for 1972 were also present in Mexico. The 1972 VAM Javelin saw considerable improvements in terms of both performance and sportiness. Heavy duty springs and shocks along with front sway bar were passed on to the standard equipment list, as also were power front disk brakes and power steering, all regardless of transmission. Units equipped with the four-speed manual transmission changed to a rear differential gear ratio of 3.31:1 and included a center console with locking compartment as standard equipment. The “Shift-Command” Borg-Warner automatic transmissions were replaced by the new “Torque Command” Chrysler-built A998 TorqueFlite. The chromed grille applied on the tail light lenses and the new rectangular grid front grille of the AMC Javelins arrived for the VAM ones. The exterior included for the first time factory stripe in-house designs. The interior saw new seat pattern designs and a new three-spoke sports steering wheel with an “American Motors” legend on the transparent plastic cap of the horn button. A new steering column design with a built-in safety lever to engage the steering lock came and the mechanism blocking the shifters to ignition switch departed.
For the 1973 model year, the VAM Javelin received cosmetic changes. The car incorporated the new smaller rectangular grille design with integrated rectangular parking lights and mesh grille, open air vents under the front of the fenders for cooling the brakes, the “TV screen” tail light design with a larger central bulls eye emblem between them and new original seat patterns. Mechanically, the car was the same as in the year before with the only exception of a new engine head design with larger valves and independent rockers without flute-type shaft. Except for the lack of intake porting, these heads were same units used in the Go Pack engines. These were the most powerful VAM Javelins ever made in stock condition. Similarly to the Mexican originals, the second-generation Javelins were not available with cowl induction hoods as the AMC Javelins in any form. Sales of this year went down from the previous seasons and the beginning of engine emission certification scheduled by the Mexican government the following year would take toll on all high-compression gasoline engines produced in the country. This started to threaten not just the Javelin, but all performance cars produced in Mexico. All this plus the need to open a space to introduce the Gremlin line and the company’s perception that new Matador coupe model could take the position as the image builder and enthusiast generator of the marque prompted VAM to discontinue the Javelin at the end of the 1973 model year production, one year before AMC’s production of the Javelin ended in the U.S.
Constructora Venezolana de Vehículos C.A. was a subsidiary of AMC. The firm assembled AMC Javelins from 1968 to 1974 in its Caracas, Venezuela facility.
The Venezuelan 1968 Javelin was equipped with the 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 engine. In 1969, it came with the 343 cu in (5.6 L) with automatic or four-speed manual transmission. 1970 saw the Javelin with 360 cu in (5.9 L) automatic or four-speed manual, while the optional 390 cu in (6.4 L) was only available with the four-speed transmission.
For the 1972-1974 (second-generation) Javelins, the only powertrain available for the Venezuelan market was AMC’s 360 cu in (5.9 L) with 4-barrel carburetor coupled to the Chrysler automatic transmission.
These were the fastest production cars in Venezuela, and were also used for drag racing and road racing in local racetracks.
The Javelin is among the “highly prized” models among AMC fans.
The Chicago Sun-Times auto editor Dan Jedlicka wrote that the Javelin, which he describes as “beautifully sculpted” and “one of the best-looking cars of the 1960s”, is “finally gaining the respect of collectors, along with higher prices.” The first generation Javelin has also been described as a “fun and affordable American classic with a rich racing pedigree and style that will always stand out from the omnipresent packs of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars.”
The AMC Javelin does not command the high prices of some other muscle cars and pony cars, but offers the same kind of style and spirit for collectors. However, in its day the car sold in respectable numbers, regularly outselling both the Plymouth Barracudaand Dodge Challenger that are popular with collectors today.
The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) divides the “muscle” AMC Javelins into two categories: Class 36-e for 1968-69 Javelin base and SST models equipped from the factory with 343 cu in (5.6 L) 4-barrel or larger V8 engines; and Class 36-j for 1970-74 Javelin, SST, and AMX models equipped from the factory with 360 cu in (5.9 L) four-barrel or larger V8 engines. Javelins built with smaller engines compete in the regular AMC classes according to their respective decade of production.
According to estimates from the 2006 Collector Car Price Guide some of the desirable extras include the V8 engines, particularly the 390 and 401 versions, as well as the “Go” package, and special models including the “Big Bad” color versions. The 1971 through 1974 AMX versions also command higher prices, according to several collector price guides. The 1973 Trans Am Victory edition also adds a premium in several classic car appraisal listings, but the distinguishing decal was readily available and it has been added to many Javelins over the years.
The book Keith Martin’s Guide to Car Collecting describes the cars as providing “style, power, nostalgia, and fun by venturing off the beaten path … these overlooked cars offer great value” and includes the 1971-1974 Javelins as one of “nine muscle car sleepers.”
Some owners use the second-generation Javelins to build custom cars.
There are many active AMC automobile clubs, including for owners interested in racing in vintage events. The Javelin shared numerous mechanical, body, and trim parts with other AMC models, and there are vendors specializing in new old stock (NOS) as well as reproduction components.
1976 AMC Matador coupe
|Manufacturer||American Motors Corporation|
|Also called||American Motors Matador
Rambler Matador (export markets)
VAM Classic (Mexico)
|Assembly||Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Port Melbourne, Australia (AMI)
Mexico City, Mexico (VAM)
Thames, New Zealand (CMI)
|Designer||Richard A. Teague|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Mid-size (1971–1973 and Coupes)
Full-size (1974–1978 sedans and wagons)
Personal luxury (Oleg Cassini and Barcelona)
|Body style||2-door hardtop (1971–1973)
2-door coupe (1974–1978)
4-door station wagon
|Engine||232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
252 cu in (4.1 L) I6 (Mexico only)
282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 (Mexico only)
304 cu in (5.0 L) V8
360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
401 cu in (6.6 L) V8
|Transmission||3-speed manual (1971–1976)
4-speed manual (1971 only)
3-speed Shift-Command auto (1971 only)
3-speed Torque-Command automatic
|Wheelbase||114 in (2,896 mm) coupe
118 in (2,997 mm) sedan and wagon
|Length||209.3 in (5,316 mm) coupe
206.1 in (5,235 mm) sedan
205 in (5,207 mm) wagon
|Height||51.8 in (1,316 mm) coupe
53.8 in (1,367 mm) sedan
56.4 in (1,433 mm) wagon
The AMC Matador is a mid-size car that was built and sold by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1971 to 1978. The Matador came in two generations: 1971 to 1973 and a major redesign from 1974 to 1978. The second-generation four-door and station wagon models were classified as full-size cars and did not share the distinctive styling featured by the Matador Coupe that was introduced in 1974.
Factory-backed AMC Matador hardtops and coupes competed in NASCAR stock car racing with drivers that included Mark Donohue and Bobby Allison winning a number of the races. The new Matador Coupe was featured in The Man with the Golden Gun, a James Bond film released in 1974. AMC Matadors were a popular vehicle in the police market as it outperformed most other police cars. It was also featured in many television shows and movies during the 1970s.
The Matador became AMC’s largest automobile following the discontinuation of the flagship AMC Ambassador that was built on the same platform. Premium trim level Oleg Cassini and Barcelona versions of the Matador coupe were positioned in the “personal luxury car” market segment. Matadors were also marketed under the Rambler marque in foreign markets, as well as assembled under license agreements with AMC that included Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM), as well as built in right-hand-drive versions by Australian Motor Industries (AMI) and by Campbell Motor Industries (CMI) in New Zealand.
The Matador replaced the AMC Rebel, which had been marketed since 1967. With a facelift and a new name, the AMC Matadors were available as a two-door hardtop as well as a four-door sedan and station wagon. The Matador was based on AMC’s “senior” automobile platform shared with the full-size Ambassador line.
The sedan and wagon models “offered excellent value and were fairly popular”, including as a prowl car. Matadors were offered to fleet buyers with various police, taxicab, and other heavy-duty packages. Government agencies, military units, and police departments in the U.S. equipped Matador sedans or wagons with 360 cu in (5.9 L) or 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engines.
The Matador received a redesign in 1974, in part to meet new safety and crash requirements, as well as a completely different model “to contend with the bull market for plush mid-size coupes that sprang up after the end of the muscle car era.”
American Motors advertising assured that the new Matador was not just a name change and facelift, but in reality, it was the 1970 Rebel restyled with a longer front clip and a new interior. The 1971 model year Matadors acquired a “beefier” front end look for all three body designs: 2-door hardtop, 4-door sedan, and station wagon. The AMC Matador shared its basic body design from the firewall back with the Ambassador, which was built on the same platform, but had a longer wheelbase and front end sheetmetal, a formal grille and luxurious trim, as well as more standard equipment that included air conditioning.
While “Matador” may have been a move away from connotations of the Confederacy inspired by the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, it did not help solve the obscurity problem, as AMC adopted a “What’s a Matador” advertising campaign. This self-disparaging marketing campaign “turned the styling of anonymity into an asset.” Consumer-research polls conducted by AMC found it meant virility and excitement to consumers. However, American Motors ran into problems in Puerto Rico. Matador turns out to have connotations for “killer” on the island where bull-fighting was abolished when the U.S. took control of Puerto Rico.
The Matador station wagons had an available rear-facing third row bench seat increasing total seating from six to eight passengers. In addition, all wagons included a roof rack and a two-way tailgate that opened when the rear window was down either from the top to serve as an extended flat surface that was even with the load floor, or to swing open like a regular door hinged on the left side.
The Matador came with straight-6 or a number of V8 engines. Transmissions for the Matador included the Borg-Warner sourced “Shift-Command” 3-speed automatic, and a column shifted 3-speed manual or a floor shifted 4-speed manual.
Continuing the muscle car trend, The Machine was moved from being a distinct AMC Rebel model to the new Matador only as a performance package option on two-door hardtops. The performance options could also be ordered individually making it possible to “Go Package” equip a four-door Matador sedan or station wagon. The 1971 “Go package” Matador coupe version lacked the optional bold red-white-blue striping of its AMC Rebel-based predecessor, and also had no special identification or badging. Less known than the 1970 original, around 50 Matador Machines were produced for 1971. The package featured 15 x 7 inch slot-styled steel wheels with white-lettered “polyglass” belted tires, dual exhaust system, a heavy-duty handling package, power disk brakes, and a choice of either a 360 cu in (5.9 L) ($373 option) or the 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engine (for $461) with either a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic transmission.
Changes to Matadors were minor until the 1972 model year when the innovative AMC Buyer Protection Plan was introduced. This was the automobile industry’s first 12 month or 12,000 miles (19,312 km) bumper-to-bumperwarranty. American Motors started with an emphasis on quality and durability by focusing on its component sourcing, improving production that included reducing the number of models, as well mechanical upgrades and increasing the level of standard equipment. This was followed by an innovative promise to its customers to repair anything wrong with the car (except for tires). Owners were provided with a toll-free number to the company, as well as a free loaner car if a warranty repair took overnight. The objective was to reduce warranty claims, as well as achieve better public relations along with greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The previous Borg-Warner sourced “Shift-Command” 3-speed automatic transmission was replaced by the Chrysler Corporation-built TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic that AMC marketed as “Torque-Command.” The column-shift 3-speed manual continued as the standard transmission, but the optional 4-speed manual was discontinued.
The 1973 model year brought new U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations that required all passenger cars to withstand a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) front and a 2.5-mile-per-hour (4 km/h) rear impacts without damage to the engine, lights, and safety equipment. Matadors gained stronger front and rear bumpers. The front bumper included self-restoring telescoping shock-absorbers and more prominent vertical rubber guards, while the rear bumper gained vertical black rubber bumper guards that replaced a pair of similar and previously optional chrome bumper guards.
A comparison of 1973 Matador owners conducted by Popular Mechanics indicated increased satisfaction and fewer problems than was the case with the owners of the essentially similar 1970 AMC Rebel three years earlier.
Automobile Quarterly reviewed the 1973 cars and summarized that “AMC actually has a very strong product line, but public awareness of it seems so feeble as to be negligible. … The Matador became a typical intermediate, an exact counterpart of the Satellite/Coronet or Torino/Montego“, and ranked AMC’s car as a “good buy.”
A major design change was introduced with the 1974 models for both the sedan and wagon, while the two-door became a separate and radically styled coupe. These could be considered the “second generation” Matadors. New passenger car requirements set by NHTSA called for the front and rear passenger car bumpers to have uniform heights, take angle impacts, and sustain 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) impacts with no damage. The 1974 AMC Matadors accomplished this with massive bumpers. The four-door sedans and wagons received a new front fascia with a hood and grille featuring a prominent central protrusion that followed the front bumper shape. Matadors with this front fascia are sometimes nicknamed “coffin noses”.
Second generation sedans and station wagons continued over all the model years with only minor trim and equipment changes. Powertrains were basically unchanged for all the 1974 to 1978 Matadors. Either an inline six orV8 engines were available with a three-speed automatic transmission. A three-speed manual column-shift transmission was also available with the six-cylinder engine from 1974 to 1976. For 1977 and 1978, all Matadors came standard with the automatic transmission.
A road test by automobile journalist Vincent Courtenay of the 1974 Matador station wagon “praised its performance, handling, and fuel economy considering its size and 360 CID engine.” He described it as “a real sleeper on the market. Its performance ranks it in the first line of cars, yet it’s reasonably priced.”
Changes for the 1975 model year were minor as AMC focused on the development and introduction of its innovative Pacer, but Matadors now included a standard “no maintenance” electronic ignition developed by Prestolite. All U.S. market Matadors featured catalytic converters that required the use of unleaded regular-grade fuel. New “Unleaded Fuel Only” decals were placed by the fuel filler door and on the fuel gauge. Steel-belted radial tires were now made standard equipment on all Matadors.
American Motors’ executives saw an opportunity to replace the “uninspired” Matador two-door hardtop with a new design to capture people looking for exciting, sporty styling in a market segment that was outpacing the rest of the automobile market; and were looking to answer the demand for plush mid-size coupes after the end of the muscle car era.
The 1974 model year introduced an aerodynamically styled fastback coupe with pronounced “tunneled” headlight surrounds. The Matador coupe was the only all-new model in the popular mid-size car segment. The coupe was designed under the direction of AMC’s Vice President of Styling, Richard A. Teague, with input from Mark Donohue, the famous race car driver. AMC’s Styling Department had greater freedom because of a decision to design the new Matador strictly as a coupe, without the constraints of attempting to have the sedan and station wagon versions fit the same body lines. Reportedly Teague designed the coupe’s front as an homage to one of the first AMCs he designed, the 1964 Rambler American. Many were amazed that AMC came up with the fast, stylish Matador, considering the automaker’s size and limited resources.
The coupe’s wind-shaped look was enhanced by a very long hood and a short rear deck. The Matador coupe stands out as one of the more distinctive and controversial designs of the 1970s after the AMC Pacer and was named “Best Styled Car of 1974” by the editors of Car and Driver magazine. In contrast to all the other mid-sized and personal luxury two-door competition during the mid- to late-1970s, the Matador coupe did not share the requisite styling hallmarks of the era that included an upright grille, a notchback roof, and imitation “landau bars” or opera lights. A Popular Mechanics survey indicated “luscious looks of Matador coupe swept most owners off their feet” with a “specific like” listed by 63.7% of them for “styling”.
Sales of the coupe were brisk with 62,629 Matador Coupes delivered for its introductory year, up sharply from the 7,067 Matador hardtops sold in 1973. This is a respectable record that went against the drop in the overall market during 1974 and the decline in popularity of intermediate-sized coupes after the 1973 oil crisis. After it outsold the four-door Matadors by nearly 25,000 units in 1974, sales dropped to less than 10,000 in 1977, and then down to just 2,006 in the coupe’s final year. Nearly 100,000 Matador Coupes in total were produced from 1974 through 1978.
American Motors executives, including Vice President of Design Richard A. Teague, described design plans for a four-door sedan and station wagon based on the coupe’s styling themes that did not reach production.
The Man with the Golden Gun features the newly introduced coupe – along with Matador 4-door police cars (painted in the black and white livery used by the Los Angeles Police Department) and a Hornet X hatchback. This was Roger Moore‘s second appearance as the British secret agent. The Matador is the car of Francisco Scaramanga, and along with Nick Nack, they use the “flying” AMC Matador to kidnap Mary Goodnight and make their escape. “Bond is foiled by perhaps the best trick a getaway car has ever performed” as the Matador transforms into a plane to fly from Bangkok to an island in the China Sea. The whole automobile is turned into a light airplane when wings and a flight tail unit are attached to the actual Matador coupe (that served as the fuselage and landing gear). The idea was based on the Taylor Aerocar design of a roadable aircraft. The machine for this Bond movie was 9.15 metres (30 ft) long, 12.80 metres (42 ft) wide, and 3.08 metres (10 ft) high. A stuntman drove the “car plane” to a runway. The machine was not airworthy and could only make a 500-metre (1,640 ft) flight, so a meter-long (39-inch) model was used for the film’s aerial sequences. The scenes show the remote controlled scale model built by John Stears.
According to some critics, the movie “didn’t offer much to recommend it other than the clever use of cars” such as the conversion of car into an airplane. The “flying AMC Matador” machine was exhibited at auto shows. It was part of AMC’s marketing efforts for the aerodynamically designed coupe, as well as publicity exposure for the concept of unique flying machines.
A special Oleg Cassini edition of the Matador coupe was available for the 1974 and 1975 model years. American Motors had the famous American fashion designer develop a more elegant luxury oriented model for the new coupe. Cassini was renowned in Hollywood and high-society for making elegant ready-to-wear dresses, including those worn by Jacqueline Kennedy. Cassini himself helped promote the car in AMC’s advertising.
The special Oleg Cassini Matador was positioned in the popular and highly competitive “personal luxury car” market segment at that time. The Cassini Coupe was unlike all the other personal luxury competitors. The new Matador did not have the typical vintage styling cues of formal upright grille and squared-off roof, though the rear quarter windows were restyled to resemble small opera window openings. The new “smooth and slippery” two-door featured “marks of haute couture” with the “upholstery, panels and headliner done in jet black, with carpets and vinyl roof in a copper accent color. Outside, striping, rub rails, wheel covers and a crest mark the Matador as Cassini’s.” The Cassini Coupes were limited to black, white, or copper metallic exterior paints, and all came with the vinyl-covered roof. They also featured copper-colored trim in the grille, headlamp bezels, in turbine-type full wheel covers, and within the rear license plate recess.
The interior was a Cassini hallmark featuring a special black fabric with copper metal buttons on the individual adjustable and reclining front seats and on the padded door panels, that was set off by extra thick copper carpeting. Additional copper accents were on the steering wheel, door pulls, and on the instrument panel. Embroidered Cassini medallions were featured on the headrests. The glove compartment door, trunk lid, front fender, and hood featured Cassini’s signature.