Hooniverse Asks- What's History's Greatest AMC?


No other deceased U.S. auto maker generates as much blue collar love as does American Motors. Formed in 1954 by the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson, AMC was never invited to any of the “Big Three’s” parties, having, instead to stand around outside in the cold Wisconsin winter, peering in through the window at the festivities. That’s not to say that they didn’t think up some memorable rides out there in Kenosha. But which one was the best?
Discounting all the Renault-sourced crap (seriously, just don’t even bring it up) and the post-Chrysler adoption metal – when AMC was forced to use the assumed name Eagle, and wear funny dresses – the company built some so-weird-they’re-cool cars.
Not only did the AMC own Jeep, developing some of the most advanced 4-wheel drive systems on the planet, but they transfered that technology to their AM General division, creators of the Jeep-replacing Humvee. Commandos and Grand Cherokees remain to this day cultishly beloved by many.
But it wasn’t just trucks for which AMC is remembered. The AMX has the distinction of being “America’s other two-seater” at a time when the primary red white and blue due posti was the Corvette. And the 325-bhp 390 V8 in the truncated Javelin could give the small block Vettes a run for their money. At the other end of the spectrum was the unique and, in some ways, innovative Pacer. Fat and sassy it’s remembered today more for its comedic chops than its performance.
So, 4-wheel drives and individualist cars, was that all that AMC did? Well  no, and in a you-got-your-peanut butter-in-my-20w/50 moment, the cheese-heads in Kenosha realized that sliding their 4×4 drivetrain under the tried and true mid-size Hornet platform would create yet another niche in which they could play without the big kids kicking sand in their face and stealing their lunch money.
Those Eagles were remarkably innovative for the time, and presaged an entire class of car that today remains popular- the crossover. Sadly, that foresight couldn’t save AMC, and the French car maker Renault’s purchase of the beleaguered  company did no better.
American Motors Corporation did not go out with a bang, but faded gently into the night, the last vestiges of the brand dropping one by one as Chrsyler killed off Eagle, like candles sputtering out. Today, even Jeep bears more the mark of the pentastar than of AMC, and we have but a spattering of used iron by which to remember the company that used to employ thousands of American workers, and provide us with an eclectic option to the mainstream car maker’s choices. One of those individualistic options must stand out to you, to rise above all the others. Which one would that be?
Image sources: [lov2xlr8.com, amceaglenest.com]

0 Comments

  1. Muthalovin's AMX pic is my favorite year (make mine blue please) but I would do all sorts of terrible things for a '67 Marlin, especially a red and black two tone one. Black and white Metropolitans also tend to make me loose track of what I'm doing. Apparently everyone else sees them as portents of doom though. Every time we pass a Marlin or Met, for some reason all my passengers end up screaming "OMG WATCH THE ROAD! AAAUUUGGGH WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!" I guess they're all Camaro fans.

  2. My 83 J-10 is my favorite, but I might be biased. I was a little bummed that with the JK, Jeep decided to drop the flush pullout door handles. That was truly the last remnant of AMC in the Jeep:(

  3. Well the Eagle Talon of course. Badge engineered rides probably don’t count but I had to throw the DSM hat in the ring if only to see if it a article of clothing could manage to magically crank walk or leak a little oil.
    Actually, I shamefully know little about this brand but the Eagle Wagon always stuck out in my mind as unique and confusingly awesome. AMX FTW though.

    1. i don't really consider the eagle brand to be AMC anymore… i've owned two modern eagles (a '95 vision & (currently) '94 summit coupe).. and they've really been nothing but a very well equipped intrepid/concorde/LHS/new yorker.. and a very very low level mitsubishi mirage
      the vision had a 3.5L v6 and moderate tuning… sportier feeling suspension… and all the options… the summit has a 1.5L i4… 3 speed auto w/no overdrive.. stereo & glove box deletes… only "luxury option" on it is self changing oil…

  4. The popular choices will be the AMX, the Javelin Mark Donohue, etc. These are all wrong. The correct answer is the 1978 Pacer D/L Wagon. Specifically, MY 1978 Pacer D/L Wagon.
    The Pacer was my first car, carrying me through my sophomore and junior years in high school. The Pacer was legendary, a vehicle that was simultaneously a steaming pile of crap AND a magnificent, indestructable steed. Endearingly, flamboyantly dorky, it was my automotive soulmate, and I hooned the hell out of it. Through the magic of brake-torquing, I laid waste unto many an unsuspecting four-banger in stoplight drag races across Saginaw Township. I took my first tentative steps toward learning to get the most from a poor-handling car in The Pacer; I drove it in my very first autocross, a masterstroke of comedy that earned me a photograph in the local SCCA newsletter.
    For some reason relating to misguided teenaged pride, I ditched The Pacer the summer before my senior year and replaced it with the world’s most boring Mustang. Now, almost twenty years later, former classmates still ask/tease me about The Pacer, and I play along with the joke, knowing in my heart that I will never own a car more meaningful than that wonderful, terrible AMC.

  5. Unfortunately, many of AMC's finest products (assorted Jeeps and Eagles) came during the Malaise Era, meaning that while they were great for the time, they're hard to recommend for actual purchase…at least with their original emissions equipment intact.
    All of that said, history's greatest AMC is the AMC straight-6, which lived from '64 to '06:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMC_Straight-6_engin
    I'd love to see Chrysler revive that sucker with a modern top-end: aluminum head, direct injection, maybe even cylinder deactivation…

    1. Chrysler's Mopar announced a 4.7L I6 crate motor for 2010, but it has yet to make a debut to buy it.

  6. If not that ^, than this. if only for shear patriotism:
    <img src=http://www.cartype.com/pics/7634/full/item_22-a-1_1969_sc_rambler_b-scheme_red_walls_copy.jpg>
    I actually saw one driving the other day! I was out for a run and it sounded pretty nice to hear the first summer-car of the season 😉

    1. You know I love road racing, and the Trans-Am Javelin is well known to have raced on road circuits, so clearly I cannot pick the SC/Rambler.
      But the Rambler is one of my favorite muscle cars, while Javelin is not the Trans-Am car I would pick, so clearly I cannot pick the Javelin.
      <img src="http://i615.photobucket.com/albums/tt237/jskitter/hooniverse/1980AMCEagletow-doorsedan.jpg&quot; width="500">
      ^^What in the world can that be?^^
      /takes both sets of keys

  7. Scaramanga's flying Matador – taking an oddly styled AMC, giving it wings, have it piloted by Saruman, and Tattoo riding shotgun? That's the thing internet memes are made of.

  8. OK, that didn't work. It's an interesting site, but the pic I wanted was the 1967 Ambassador Convertible. That thing is sweet.

  9. While there are a lot of really good choices here, I'm sort of surprised that nobody mentioned the fact that AMC beat Pontiac to the invention of the muscle car by a full seven years with the radical new 1957 Rambler Rebel!
    <img src="http://www.amcrc.com/sturb05/N2-2.JPG&quot; style="width: 640px; height: 480px; border: 0" alt="imgTag" />
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambler_Rebel
    (And you guys all assumed I was gonna say "Eagle"…)

    1. It is my understanding that these share a fair amount of drivetrain parts with Spridgets. There are all sorts of race/hop up parts for Spridgets….
      There was a really really rough one of these for sale near me a year or so ago for about $300, now I regret not getting it. I would love to do a Resto-mod Met without using a V-8. Maybe an S14 or a rotary or a turbo Ecotec or….

  10. Seeing all these road racers makes me wonder if the Chevey Cruze in the BTCC is gonna be as cool as these are down the road.
    Hey NASCAR your sticker cars suck. Let the cars be different shapes and stuff.
    Oh and I vote for the Javelin.

    1. Whoawhoawhoa! I've never seen that before! [runs to Google]
      Holy shit! WHY did I not know about this car??? From Wiki:
      The AMC AMX/3 concept car
      Widely considered as the best AMC design of all time,[citation needed] a third generation AMX concept car, the AMX/3, debuted at the 1970 Chicago Auto Show. Engine-less and fashioned in fiberglass, the original AMC/3 prototype was a show car only.
      In order to get a small fleet of operational models the AMX/3 body mold was sent to Italian GT maker Giotto Bizzarrini, whose Turin facility hand made drivable mid-engined, steel bodied cars. Built on a 105.3-inch (2,675 mm) wheelbase, the Bizzarrini prototypes used the AMC 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 and an Italian OTO Melara four-speed transaxle. Road testing was done by BMW, which declared the AMX/3's chassis one of the stiffest and most neutral handling they had ever tested.[citation needed]
      The steel Italian cars differed from the original AMC design in having fewer but functional rear decklid louvers, louvered hoods, and, in some cases, hood scoops to direct fresh air into the heating-A/C system. Just five completed cars were sent to AMC before the US$2,000,000 program was cancelled. Five more partially complete vehicles remained behind, one later finished by Bizzarrini's business partner, Salvator Diamonte.

      1. Just think, if they had followed through AMC could have become an American niche supercar maker with more than hopes and dreams to make it viable. Unlike, say, Vector.
        That is a damn good looking car, and I really dig the AMC door handles on something with Bizzarrini design. It's like it's high class, but keeps in touch with its roots.

  11. While I absolutely LOVE the AMX/3 concept dustin_driver schooled me on today, I came here to say "AMX" (of the Javelin sort). I've always liked that car but have come to appreciate it even more after becoming friends with one of my colleagues. a couple years ago on my first day with my employer I pulled into the lot and saw a pristine red '69 AMX that had obviously been completely restored. The owner does not drive it to work everyday (maybe once a week. maybe), so I only saw it three times in my first few weeks. I started asking around and found out to whom it belonged. I introduced myself to the guy and informed him that he was my new hero.
    We've since done a lot of business travel together and only after sharing time and beers together did the story of the car come out of my friend. Since we're on the AMC topic, I wanted to share the story with you guys because I'm sure you'll appreciate it as much as I did.
    My friend's dad had been a body man for many, many years. He also did a slew of mechanical work and had a salvage yard. He was an old-school German immigrant with that easy common sense that is so lacking today. From what Lil'Willie has shared about his dad, I imagine that they're cut from the same glorious cloth. Anyway, one night he was awoken by a call from his alarm company informing him that the alarm at his shop had gone off. He went down to investigate and was murdered by the bastard thugs that had broken in. My friend's dad had this project that he was meaning to get to for years in the back of the salvage yard: a complete AMX that was in hundreds of pieces. Naturally, being in the business he was, he never quite got to it before his untimely death. When the family had gathered after the funeral services, they quickly decided that the car must go to my friend.
    He spent the next two years of weekends, etc doing the whole resto job solo in his garage. Being a former body man himself, he still had all his tools/refinish equipment. He was extremely close to his dad and he once told me that the project saved his sanity. I'm quite sure it was the most therapeutic thing he could have done. I honestly teared-up after I heard the story. I even get a little misty writing this.
    Knowing this story, the car graduated from being simply "gorgeous" to "one of the most beautiful cars I've ever seen." Proving the point that some cars are so much more than the sum of their parts. I also came to understand why his personalized license plates read "DADSAMX."

  12. Gremlin. Not only was one my first car, it also served as my first house! Funny looking in an endearing way (when you stare at it long enough), available with the jeep 258/4.2L six, or even the 304 V8. Tougher than nails, and unmistakable for anything else on the road. Helped teach many a poor kid how NOT to treat a car, while forgiving of even the most egregious sins. What a great horrible little car. Go Gremlins!

  13. The first car I got to drive on a regular basis was the family Matador wagon, so that AMC will always have a place in my heart (i'm sure there is a certain ex-girlfriend that remembers it well, also. Nudge, nudge), but the AMC I always lusted after was the Javelin from '71 to '74. That was the model with all the bulges over the tire wells. Aaargh.

  14. In a way, the greatest AMC (taken as the greatest form of American Motors Corporation) is the Chrysler Corporation of the '90's. Chrysler carried over AMC's engineering team practically intact and kept Francois Castaing as chief engineer. He reorganized their development processes and had AMC people run key projects like the Ram, Neon and LH cars, ending about a decade of Chrysler being mainly a producer of K-car derivatives. The benefits have been diluted by the Daimler rape and pillage but I doubt there would have been enough of Chrysler left for DaimlerChrysler to have ever made any sense if it hadn't been for the Chrysler/AMC merger.

  15. when subaru came out with outbacks I wanted an eagle wagon just so I could put outback on the plates. I like those amc’s that were red white and blue in the late 60’s. trans am style.

  16. An old roommate of mine long ago had a titty-pink 1960 Rambler two door station wagon. It was just plain weird. It looked like an upside-down bathtub, had a flathead straight six that ran great, and three on the dashboard. It didn't really have a steering column, the wheel came out of the dashboard and the shift lever was next to it. You couldn't drive or ride in that car with a straight face. It was so silly and ridiculous that it was legendary. I remember one time while borrowing it, I pulled up at a stoplight next to some dick in a Camaro (or a Mustang, can't remember which), put on my mission-face, and revved the flathead. The other guy smoked the Rambler, of course, I wasn't even about to race it. At the next stoplight, you could tell he was furious about being played by a bunch of smartasses laughing their asses off at him in a pink '60 Rambler American. Oh, and it was a big hit when we took it skiing, too. Looked great in the Alta parking lot. Yeah, it may not have been the best AMC ever, but it was probably the most hilarious. We had fun in that car, and when my buddy moved away after graduating from the University of Utah, we missed the car probably more than we missed him.

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