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Here's What Makes The AMC AMX One Of The Most Underrated American Cars – HotCars

by Oct 31, 2022Blog0 comments

Launched in 1968 as a direct competitor to the Corvette, the AMC AMX is a relatively affordable GT-style muscle car.
The company's story is well-known in gearhead circles. American Motors Corporation (AMC) was the result of what was America’s largest corporate merger – the 1954 marriage of Hudson Motor Car Company and Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. To better appreciate the circumstances of AMX’s birth, it’s important to remember that the primary purpose of the Hudson-Kelvinator marriage was to transform the Big Three (GM, Chrysler, Ford) into the Big Four. So, AMC had to venture into new territory.
Until now, it was content with making safe and economical cars that didn't have much sway in the market. To actually take on the big three, the new CEO of this new union, the Hudson co-founder’s son, Roy Chapin Jr, understood the importance of rebranding AMC as a performance car heavyweight. It meant the new company would shed its ‘granny’s economy car’ image to become a serious rival against the Mustang and Camaro. Poor granny would have to look elsewhere while the younger automotive enthusiasts get their muscle car fix.
And so, the AMC AMX was born, unveiled in February 1968 at Daytona International Speedway. Sadly, tombstones represent a lifetime with a hyphen – AMC AMX: 1968–1970. But within that hyphen is an interesting demonstration of automotive design and advertisement, hugely underrated and eclipsed by longer-running models like the Mustang. Here’s why the AMX was more than just the smallest of the Big Four.
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One of the reasons AMX AMC is an underrated muscle car is that people have managed to forget how it helped revolutionize the performance car segment by introducing many industry firsts. It didn't rely solely on its sporty and attractive looks. Those can hardly be the sole basis of the car getting voted "best-engineered car of the year" by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) for two consecutive years in 1969 and 1970.
SAE based its decision to honor the AMX on the innovative dashboard design injection molded in one piece, describing the construction as "for safety purposes, an industry first." Another industry first on the AMC AMX was the 6.4-liter (390 cu-in) engine developed to have a large displacement within its minimal external dimensions and moderate weight. At the same time, the 290 and 343 engines' use of shared components and machining reduced production costs.
Another industry first that came with the AMX’s 1968 debut is the innovative fiberglass safety padding inside the windshield post first seen as a ‘plastic’ on the Javelin. AMC introduced the AMX five months after the Javelin. Speaking of the Javelin, both models are near-identical, with the major difference being that the AMX is a 2-seater while Javelin was a four-seat. The Javelin's debut concept in 1965 knocked enthusiasts off their proverbial seats.
The AMX was basically a sports model of the AMC Javelin. Be as it may, the AMX, including the Javelin variants, won the SAE award again in 1970, with the citation including their use of Corning-developed windshields that were safer, thinner, and lighter than ordinary laminated glass. Corning used a chemical formula to harden the glass layer such that the glass crumbles into small granules on impact, reducing injuries. The 1970 models also featured windshield sealing.
Remember what we said in this article's intro about AMX's "interesting demonstration of automotive design and advertisement?” Before the AMX even hit the dealerships, the company’s performance activities manager, Carl Chakmakian, asked the American professional race car driver and a five-time world land speed record holder to take the AMX out for paces.
It was a strategic marketing and advertisement ploy that worked to the model and the company’s advantage, considering that this record holder was the first in history to reach 500 and 600 mph aboard several turbojet-powered vehicles, all named Spirit of America. And so, land speed record-holding couple Craig and Lee Breedlove and Ron Dykes set 106 speed and endurance records at the January 1968 Goodyear's Texas track aboard two specially-prepared AMC AMX models.
We said 'specially prepared' because Breedlove and his 'Spirit of America' crew, together with Traco Engineering, spent six weeks getting the cars ready for the pace before their debut at the Chicago Auto Show the following month.
The ‘prepping’ resulted in one of the two cars’ 4.8-liter (290 cu-in) V8 bored out to 5.0-liter (304 cu-in), and the other’s 6.4-liter (390 cu-in) bored out to 6.5-liter (397 cu-in). They also added oil coolers, exhaust headers, hi-rise intake manifolds, eight-quart oil pans, larger carburetors, and racing camshafts with solid lifters and stronger springs. These were just some of the updates on the cars.
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Super Stock – what’s that? The AMX Super Stock is essentially a semi-finished base car for dealers and regular customers to buy and cook up a competition car. As the sun set on the AMX’s debut year, AMC responded quickly to a changing market and developed some hardcore performance cars for the hardcore high-performance market, the most hardcore of which was – by far – the Super Stock AMX.
These were purpose-built drag racers, most of which found their way to AMC dealerships to get prepped, finished, and dressed in whatever coating of the dealer's imagination. To ensure the cars made mince meat of the quarter-mile, AMC shipped them with the 390 engine featuring twin Holley carburetors and 12.3:1 compression-ratio cylinder heads, plus aftermarket Doug's headers and exhaust system, complete with drag slick tires. But that wasn’t all, not by any means.
The Michigan-based Hurst Performance carried on with several additional modifications where AMC stopped to take a breath. The Super Stock AMX was available in March 1970, but dealers were already notified four months prior. AMC advertised the Super Stock with 340 horsepower.
However, a letter from AMC to Super Stock owners dated May 6, 1969, said that the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) wasn't buying the 'official' power rating, placing the Super Stock's power output at 420 horsepower, and effectively moving it into SS/E category based on the car's 3,050-pound weight. Ultimately, Super Stock AMXs wound up in SS/C. $5,994 was the base price ($1,900 more than a fully loaded regular 1969 AMX), and the best-recorded quarter-mile was 10.73 seconds at 128 mph.
Philip Uwaoma, this bearded black male from Nigeria, is fast approaching two million words in articles published on various websites, including,, and After not getting credit for his work on Auto Quarterly, Philip is now convinced that ghostwriting sucks. He has no dog, no wife- yet- and he loves Rolls Royce a little too much.