AMC Javelin - Classic Muscle Car Review 2020 - Muscle Car

AMC Javelin – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020

Car Models


Written by Elise

12th November 2020

AMC Javelin – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020
Blog   >    Car Models   >   AMC Javelin – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020

AMC Javelin – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020

By Niamh Smith

‘And They’re Off!’

The AMC Javelin was one of the last pony cars to leave the stable. They had already been pipped to the post by the big three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) and had already “been there, done that, got the t-shirt!”. 

But for AMC, being late to the party wasn’t the disaster you would think. In fact, it saved them by the skin of their teeth. In this classic muscle car review, we’ll attempt to demonstrate how the Javelin turned the fortunes of AMC around, accompanied by the soundtrack of a roaring V8 engine. 

The AMC Javelin’s Wet T-shirt Look

The American Motors Corporation was a merger of the Hudson Motor Car Company and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, over a decade before the Javelin was even thought of back in 1954. By 1967 they were in trouble. 

The AMC Rambler had made relatively good sales figures, however, it was seen as a dull compact car, and AMC’s finances were in dire straits. By this point, they were still the underdog in the American car manufacturer’s scene, although really only had themselves to blame for the ‘boring car’ reputation, as they had announced to the public that they were “firmly against the promotion of excessive speed and horsepower.”

Enter Dick Teague. Teague designed the AMX Vignale concept car; a fibreglass semi-fastback car powered by a 343ci V8 engine. After a cracking reception at its debut in 1966, the AMX Vignale was toned down for mass appeal and competitive pricing. This resulted in the Javelin; a step away from AMC’s economic grocery getters: featuring the long hood, short deck profile that defined the muscle car sector at the time. 

The Javelin was described by Teague as being ‘endowed with the wet t-shirt look’, having ‘voluptuous curves with nary a hint of fat’. You can’t get much sexier than that, can you? This was exactly what AMC needed. 

Javelin First Gen: 1968-1970

The first generation Javelin was debuted in August 1967 for the 1968 model year. It only came as a two-door hardtop, but the premium SSR model was a tempting option for muscle car fans. The standard base engine was an in-line six 232ci, but AMC now offered V8 options from the 290ci to the 343ci (5.6L) V8s on their Go Package models. These Go Pac editions featured front disc brakes, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhausts and go-faster body-stripes. The 343ci did 0-60 in 7.86 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds. 

That doesn’t sound particularly fast when compared to its counterparts of the time like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, but it put AMC on the market for performance enthusiasts. With a base price of $2,743, it was a cheaper option than a base model ‘68 Mustang fastback ($2,818) and a ‘68 Camaro ($2,881). The Javelin was also longer and roomier than the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, making it a more practical option.

The 390ci was introduced mid-1968 for the SST models, including the Go Pac trim level. The 390ci had 315hp and 425lb ft of torque, so certainly packed a punch. The Mod Javelin package was introduced in 1969, featuring sporty parts like a roof-mounted spoiler, blacked-out twin simulated hood scoops, and ‘big bad’ neon paint options were optional.

1970 AMC Javelins got a new front end and a new rear end with full-width taillights. It also got new engine options; the base option was now a 304ci (5L) and there was also the 360ci (5.9L). The old 390ci was tuned and received new cylinder heads and a 4 barrel carb. On the inside, the Javelin now featured a new centre console, clamshell bucket seats and integral headrests. The Go Pac models gained twin scoops as part of a functional ram air induction system. 

Javelin Second Gen: 1971-1974

For the Javelin’s second generation, it became lower, wider and heavier

For 1971 the 401ci was an option, with a 4 barrel carb, a high compression ratio of 9.5:1, 330hp and 430lb ft of torque. The 4-speed manual transmission options came with an iconic Hurst Performance floor-mounted shifter. Also in ‘71, AMC ended the production of the AMX as a separate model, and it became a trim level for premium higher performance Javelins. These AMX variants had a fibreglass cowl induction hood, and front and rear spoilers. The Rally Pac option featured instruments for improved handling and suspension, including AMC’s Twin-Grip LSD (limited-slip differential) and power-assisted disc brakes. 

In 1972, to reduce production costs and offer better value for their customers, Javelins were equipped with more comfort and convenience parts. AMC used Chrysler’s revolutionary TorqueFlite transmission units for their automatic cars, dubbed Torque-Command by AMC.

The Javelin reached its record sales in 1972 by focusing on quality, as well as offering a ‘Buyer Protection Plan’ warranty, the first of its kind. In 1973, AMC promoted their improved product quality by bragging “we back them better because we build them better.”

Another exciting feature for 1972 and ‘73 model years that made the Javelin unique was an option that only cost $84.95, for which you could have a Pierre Cardin designed interior in your car, with funky 70s style stripes on the seats. 4,152 of these Cardin edition Javelins were produced, likely making them a pretty rare thing nowadays, commanding high value. 

The AMC Javelin Finishes Its Race

By 1974, Chrysler had abandoned the pony car market and Ford had replaced the original Mustang with their smaller Mustang II. Other pony car manufacturers also downsized their engines, due to the ongoing Arab oil embargo. The AMX had struggled with sales, compared to the new Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and the Mustang II, all of which saw an increase in sales.  

Despite the declining interest in high-performance cars, AMC bravely continued with the Javelin’s big V8 engine options until the end of their production, staying true to its newfound muscle car spirit. 

Racing Pedigree

Keen to show off what they had, in 1968 AMC commissioned Craig Breedlove to prepare a trio of Javelin AMXs to compete in high speed and endurance record attempts. Breedlove’s team established 14 USAC and FIA records and set a record of 189mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in an AMX powered by a 390ci. 

In 1969, AMC got serious with drag racing, by producing a series of 52 stripped-down, AMX Superstock race cars. They were equipped with 390ci V8s, 4-speed transmissions and 4.44:1 gears, with Twin-Grip LSDs. The cylinder heads were ported by the legendary Hurst Performance, as well as fitting Doug’s headers, twin Holley 650cfm carbs with velocity stacks and an Edelbrock cross-ram intake manifold. 

The car cost $5,994, and off the forecourt, they ran 11-second quarter miles, but after a bit of tuning, knowledgeable racers had them into the 10s. To check out a badass drag racer who drove for AMC, find our article featuring Shirley Shahan.

The Trans Am championship became a popular way for manufacturers to flex their muscles. In 1968 AMC contracted Kaplan Engineering to campaign two Javelins in the championship. The ‘68 series was a success; while not perforning the best out of all the teams, they were the only factory team to finish every event they entered. 

AMC’s turning point in Trans Am was in 1969-’71 however, when championship winners Roger Penske and Mark Donohue signed a deal with AMC and switched from their Z/28 Camaros to Javelins for the next three seasons. Both GM and Chrysler had pulled out of the ‘71 season, but Ford was still a strong contender in the series. The new 1971 body had improved aerodynamics and re-engineered front suspension geometry. These changes resulted in seven wins, with AMC taking the title for the year. 

AMC Javelin—Thoroughbred or Mule?

The Javelin built itself quite the cult following, despite being quite a rare beast and collector car. Over in the states, they often come up for sale at a decent price and don’t have such a high value compared to other famous muscle cars we’ve featured on this blog. If you’re lucky, you might find one for sale in the UK, where they’re certainly rare; perhaps they’re so rare due to the limited aftermarket support for AMCs, particularly as most have had small-block Chevy engine transplants due to this difficulty in finding parts. 

Not all Javelins have SBCs in them though, like this insane 1,100hp Hellcat-powered 1972 Javelin AMX built by the Ringbrothers in the states, named ‘Defiant’, unveiled at SEMA in 2017. 

Javelin owners say that they like to turn heads as they rumble down their street and leave a lasting impression. They drive them for the driving experience, and to feel those horses under the hood. 

Final Thoughts

You could argue the Javelin wasn’t one of the greats because it didn’t last as long as other latecomers to the muscle car game, such as the Dodge Challenger, created in 1970. The Javelin may have been late to the game, but it turned AMC’s fortunes around, saving the brand. 

Becoming defunct only 14 years later, I for one think the Javelin was AMC’s crowning jewel. The Pacer may be more well known to the masses due to its feature in Wayne’s World (1992), but the Javelin got its spot in the limelight too, starring in Bumblebee (2018). That ‘wet t-shirt look’ certainly made a lasting impression with muscle car fans across the world, and since I started researching them, its ‘voluptuous curves’ have quite won me over too. 

Author: Niamh Smith

Muscle Car UK is the UK’s leading specialist Mustang and Muscle Car dealership. We import American muscle cars from the US, restore them here in the UK, and re-home them with our delighted customers.

For more updates, news and tips, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

All cars on our feeds are available and up for sale. Looking for something specific? We can help.

We also provide service and restoration on any car, classic or otherwise.

Ask for a quote

Liked This Article? More Like This:

Dodge Charger VS Chevy Camaro VS Ford Mustang – Which Is Better?

How to Buy the Right Classic Car For You In the UK

Don't forget to share on social media!

Related Articles