The muscle-car era had begun in the early ’60s with the advent of the Impala SS of Beach Boys fame (“She’s real fine, my 409”) and other makes soon jumping on the bandwagon including the Pontiac GTO, Oldsmobile 442, Dodge Charger, Mercury Marauder and even Studebaker fielded a high-powered contender when the supercharged Avanti launched in 1963.
American Motors, languishing in the shadow of the sensible and frill-free image of the Rambler, came late to the performance party. In 1968, it crashed that party with a vengeance when the Javelin pony car and its almost instant spawn, AMX, launched within months of each other. The AMX, based on the Javelin minus a full foot of wheelbase – and back seat – was, by far, the sexier of the two. It offered the cache of limited production with a dash plaque attesting to the fact.
Javelin was a response to the Mustang, Camaro, Firebird and Barracuda crowd; AMX couldn’t be construed as a response to anything but Corvette. In one of the most audacious moves of the era, staid old AMC was transformed by the no-holds-barred AMX. AMX loyalists pointedly note the car was the first new steel-bodied domestic sports car since the ’55 T-Bird debuted. Even if one accepts Ford’s boulevardier as a sport cars, that’s still akin to a skewed baseball stat: “left handed National League pitcher starting on the second Tuesday in May in a leap year.” Yet, this good-looking hunk of American steel was equipped with the kind of firepower that made for a great rookie year.
Craig Breedlove and wife Lee established 106 new USAC records, with recorded lap speeds of 175 mph at the AMX launch. Over the three model years, 1968-’70, AMXs were offered with a range of V-8s in four convenient sizes – 290, 343, 360 and 390 cubic inches. So strong the high-performance aura that a majority of buyers shelled out for the 390 (good for as much as 340 hp) most of which were mated to the standard 4-speed manual transmission.
The trim, aggressive design is as strong as the power train. Refreshingly clean and unembellished, the style has worn very well over time. With 0-60 times in the sub-7 second range, the “go” is just about as up to date as the “show.” Upon the introduction of the AMX in 1968, Car and Driver magazine suggested, “American Motors might be starting to swing,” Today, AMX is still a swinging statement of muscle and style.
WHAT TO PAY: A true “sleeper,” a very presentable AMX can be bought for $15,000 or less but prices have been rising recently. A few special models, including the garishly painted “Big Bad Color” option cars in screaming blue, green or orange, command a minimal premium. If you find one of the 50 or so Craig Breedlove Specials, you’ll dig deeper; one of the 53 Hurst-prepped Super Stock AMX drag cars can run as high as $50,000 plus.
PRODUCTION FIGURES: 19,134 over three years. AMC has predicted 10,000 per year; AMX limited production was, in fact, truly limited.
WATCH OUT FOR: Rust, the scourge of AMC-unit bodies; ill-fitting replacement parts
READ MORE: AMX and Javelin Muscle Car Portfolio: 1968-1974, R.M. Clarke (Brooklands Books); Illustrated AMC Buyer’s Guide, Larry G. Mitchell (Motorbooks International)
CLUBS: American Motors Owners Association, Portage, MI, www.amonational.com