Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to shine a little light onto vehicles that certainly deserve a second look. At the beginning of the 70′s, when muscle cars were at their pinnacle, the signs were there for those who chose to look. Federal safety watchdogs, state and national emissions regulators, insurance companies, and even a changing social climate took aim at the high-performance car. For ’71, the shots began to hit the target. Compression ratios retreated to accommodate regular-grade fuel, gross horsepower ratings reverted to net figures, and public relations-conscious automakers backpedaled. Into these turbulent times stepped the 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360.
The 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360 was a muscle car that reflected the changing times. “Introducing a sensible alternative to the money-squeezing, insurance-strangling muscle cars of America,” said its advertisement. “The Hornet SC/360.” Hornet was the company’s newest compact, and the two-door sedan was a reasonable basis for a low-profile muscle car. Original plans called for both an SC/360 and an SC/401, but when AMC discovered that a 401-cid Hornet probably wouldn’t provide much of an insurance edge, the 360-cid V-8 alone was borrowed from the Javelin AMX.
In standard form, it had a two-barrel carb and a modest 245 bhp. The $199 “Go” package included a four-barrel and a ram air setup for a more satisfying 285 bhp. These were gross ratings. Optional in place of the standard three-speed was a Hurst-shifted four-speed or an automatic. Polyglas D70Xl4s were standard, with upgrades running to the handling package and the Twin-Grip diff with 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 gears. Hot Rod Magazine tested this hot Hornet with a 1/4 mile time of 14.80, at 94.63 mph.
An SC/360 couldn’t stay with the big-cube holdovers, but it did combine respectable quickness with a taut suspension, big tires, and modest size for a package praised by Motor Trend as “just a plain gas to drive…it handles like a dream.” It was more than competitive with the other “compact” muscle offered at that time, including the Duster 340 (and its twin, the Dodge Demon 340), and the Chevy Nova SS 350. The Ford Maverick Grabber with the 302 just started production, with only 210HP.
The SC/360 didn’t set any sales records. Even with a base price of just $2,663 (about $40 below the ’71 Duster 340), it made up only a fraction of the 75,000 Hornets built for ’71. The SC/360 died after just one year as one of the muscle car era’s better-kept secrets. Only 784 were ever produced.
Well, what do you think of this very rare, and very obscure AMC? Is is a Muscle Car, and does it belong on the garage? Remember, this was the most potent of the “compact” muscle cars, unless you compare it to a Nova SS 396, which wasn’t offered after 1970. It also has rarity going for it, with fewer than 800 produced. And you’ve got to hand it to AMC for offering something that was just this side of quirky.
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