By: Dave Brownell - Hemmings
Motor News Archives
When the U.S. ponycar phenomenon burst on the automotive
scene in the mid-1960s American Motors got quickly into gear with a response
to the Mustangs, Barracudas, and Camaros that were capturing large chunks
of the youth market. AMC's first response was the Javelin, a four-passenger
coupe in the long-hood/short-deck style, and it was a good effort that
met with success in the showroom and in Trans-Am races in the talented
hands of the late Mark Donohue, among other well-known racing drivers.
But American Motors was prepared to take things a bit further
in the ponycar wars. At the time, the company chairman was financier Robert
B. Evans, who was always encouraging the styling and engineering staffs
do things differently - to try new ideas and find new ways to design and
build cars. With this mandate in mind the AMX was born, derived from the
Javelin as a tautly styled two-seat fastback. Dick Teague, AMC's vice
president of styling, articulated the AMX's image this way: "The
AMX was designed for automobile enthusiasts, for people who really love
cars-not to satisfy statisticians."
And satisfy them it did. Work began in October 1965, in the advanced styling
studio at AMC. The name AMX, incidentally, was coined by Teague to identify
the project as American Motors Experimental. When the actual naming of
the production car was being discussed, Teague's original name won out
over many others in consideration.
The engineless, fiberglass-bodied AMX prototype was sent
on a ten-city tour throughout North America in 1966, along with three
other AMC project cars. This group included the AMX II, which was designed
by an outside consultant. Public and press reaction was quite positive
to the AMX, and studio head Chuck Mashigan turned to Italian coachbuilder
Vignale to build a prototype with a working engine. This car was produced
in the space of only 78 days from start to delivery!
The production AMX was introduced to the motoring press at
Daytona Beach in February 1968. Prior to the intro, Craig Breedlove, holder
of the American Land Speed Record, took two AMXs to Texas and, with his
wife Lee, set 106 American, national and international records with an
AMX. American Motors at last had some bragging rights in the speed arena.
First-year production was to be limited to 10,000 cars, according
to AMC advertising. They had no trouble staying under this figure, as
a total of 6,725 were sold. The great majority of them were equipped with
the 390 V-8, the largest engine ever dropped into an AMC machine.
The AMX also demonstrated how AMC could build new cars on
a shoestring budget. By taking a foot out of the Javelin wheelbase and
moving the bumper, gas tank, deck lid and rear window forward, Teague
and his talented band of designers created an aggressively styled two-seater
that was the match of anything the Big Three could offer. The AMX handled,
went fast on straights and around corners, had a distinctive and attractive
appearance, was (and is) fun to drive and, in sum, was everything a good
sports coupe of the time should be.
Today, there is always a good selection of AMXs available
on the collector car market. Several enthusiastic clubs are devoted to
these cars and parts are relatively easy to come by for maintenance and