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]