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Top 16 Muscle Cars Produced By AMC

Vukasin HerbezMay 14, 2019

The American Motors Corporation began in 1954 when the Hudson and Nash car companies merged. From the start, AMC concentrated on the economy car field. For a few decades, this company was a tough competitor to the Big Three, offering numerous small, budget models that sold well and were common on America’s roads. However, they were constantly trying to invent something new to stay relevant in the market and be profitable.

In fact, AMC presented many memorable models like the AMC Gremlin, the Hornet, the Pacer and the infamous muscle duo, the Javelin and AMX. Despite the fact they were much smaller than the Big Three, AMC was innovative. When the muscle car craze was at its peak in the late ’60s, the company was active with a line of unique and respectable models. So here is a list of the forgotten and rare AMC muscle cars they produced from the late ’50s until the late ’70s.

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16. Rambler Rebel V8

This one is an interesting early AMC muscle car that was born by chance. Squeezing a 327 V8 engine from a Nash Ambassador into the small, compact and light Rambler body created one seriously fast yet unassuming muscle machine. The 327 V8 delivered 255 HP, which wasn’t that much, but in the small Rambler body, it was enough for a 0 to 60 mph time of just seven seconds.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

To make things even more interesting, only the expensive fuel injected Chevrolet Corvette could beat the small Rambler in 1957. However, the powerful engine option raised the price of an affordable Rambler. So only a few buyers were ready to pay extra for the privilege of outrunning anything else on the road. As a result, they only built 1,500 of them.

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15. AMC Marlin 343

Back in the mid-60s, AMC was famous for its lineup of economy cars and small sedans. This was the time before the AMC Javelin and AMX entered the mainstream muscle car class. However, the company management wanted an exciting sporty car, so they turned to their Marlin model. As a result, the Marlin was a cool looking mid-size fastback with a design that suggested it was fast and powerful. But the truth was that the car delivered only mediocre performance. So, for the 1967 model year, AMC decided to introduce a 343 V8 version of the Marlin with 280 HP on tap.

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Although it wasn’t much, it was still enough to provide the Marlin with a decent performance and driving dynamics. Today, those 343 V8 powered Marlins are rare, but there were even rarer options. One consisted of a factory tuned 343 V8 engine providing 320 HP, which gave the Marlin some real power. It was unclear how many of those special order cars they made. But today, people have forgotten about them and they are impossible to find.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

14. AMC Javelin

AMC wanted to get into the muscle car game so for 1968 they prepared two interesting models. One was the Javelin and the other was the AMX. Those two models shared drivetrains and engines. The Javelin was modern-looking and was a four-seat, two-door muscle/pony car ready to fight the Mustang and Camaro.

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It came with a long list of optional extras and featured several V8 engines. But the top engine configuration was the 390 V8 producing 310 HP, which had respectable performance. In fact, it was the first AMC model that got some street cred from muscle car enthusiasts.

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13. AMC AMX

The main difference between the 1968 AMC Javelin and AMC AMX was that the AMX was a two-seater model. Interestingly, it was the only two-seater on the U.S. car market other than the Corvette. With a shorter wheelbase, 390 V8 engine with 360 HP, lots of go-fast options and a reasonable price, the AMC AMX was a capable muscle car.

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The Javelin proved to be a sales success but the AMX was tough to sell. People wanted more room in their muscle cars, so a two-seater AMX was rather obsolete. It lasted on the market for two years. But although it was successful in many drag racing championships, the AMX is a forgotten, obscure muscle car.

Photo Credit: Street Muscle Mag

12. AMC AMX 390 SS

AMC was active in the NHRA drag racing championship, but they needed a proper car for the Super Stock class. So, the company produced the AMX 390 SS. They built this car in cooperation with Hurst, a famous mod company from the era. It featured lots of modifications and the biggest AMC engine, the 390 V8 with 340 HP.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The horsepower was not as much as other muscle cars of the period. But the AMX SS 390 was light and compact, making it brutally fast. AMC only made 52 of them. However, most of those were red, white, and blue machines that went to drag strips where they beat much more powerful cars with ease.

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11. AMC SC/Rambler

The Rambler was an economy model with no performance options but the light body and somebody in AMC thought it would be a good idea to put a big engine in it and create a proper factory hot rod. This cool-looking and rare AMC was built in cooperation with transmission manufacturer Hurst.

Photo Credit: Mecum

It was basically a budget Rambler model but with a powerful 390 engine and lots of “go fast” options from Hurst. Since it was light and small, it was fast and eye-catching because it was painted only in the white, red and blue color scheme. AMC made only around 1500 of these great cars in 1969.

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10. AMC Rebel Machine

The modest success of the 1969 AMC SC/Rambler encouraged the company to produce another special, one-year-only muscle car in the form of the Rebel Machine. AMC presented the Machine in 1970 with the same mechanics.

Photo Credit: Mecum

But this time, they gave it more power at 345 HP and performance-oriented options. It had a cool name and a patriotic color scheme. Also, it had a Ram Air induction hood with a 0 to 60 time of fewer than six seconds. And all that made it a reasonable choice for any street racer.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

9. AMC Javelin SST

Besides drag racing, AMC realized most muscle car buyers were into road racing championships, especially the legendary Trans Am series. So, in the late ’60s, the company started sponsoring Mark Donahue, a famous racer, and his team. Also, AMC presented the Javelin SST.

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It was a top-of-the-line model featuring more power, a better handling package and exterior details. The 360 and 390 V8 engines were the only choices, both with a 325 HP rating. Also, the SST models had hood scoops, side pipes and a rear spoiler, which was a big deal back in 1969 and 1970.

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8. 1971 AMC AMX

For 1971, AMC fully redesigned its pony/muscle lineup, combining the Javelin and AMX into one model. Gone was the two-seater version. Now, the AMX was the top of the line package for their Javelin model. As you probably know, if you wanted to run with the big boys in the early ’70s, you needed a big engine.

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So for the Javelin AMX, AMC provided its biggest motor, the 401 V8. This mighty powerplant produced 335 HP which was a respectable number. However, the sales started to decline, although the 1971 Javelin AMX was one of the prettiest cars on the road in those days.

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7. AMC Hornet 360

AMC based the Hornet on a regular economy car, but they equipped it with a better suspension and sharper steering. They added a graphics package and a 360 V8, to transform this hot Hornet from an ordinary compact into a proper muscle car. The power was not that big at 245 HP. But in a lightweight body, those horses could really make the Hornet fly.

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The rest of the muscle car offerings in 1971 all had problems with their big size and weight, as well as engines that didn’t make power anymore. But the Hornet 360 was one of the fastest cars on sale. Unfortunately, the buyers didn’t understand the forward-thinking of AMC, so they sold less than 800 Hornets in 1971. That made them quite rare, obscure muscle cars. In an era when bigger was always better, the Hornet 360 was unusual for its compact size and strong engine. Sadly, people failed to realize how genial was the idea behind it.

Photo Credit: The Amc Forum

6. AMC Matador Machine

Even though they discontinued the famous AMC Rebel Machine for 1971, but the package lived on in the Matador coupe. However, there was no signature red, white, and blue color scheme. Instead, the Machine package included steel wheels with performance rubber, a heavy-duty suspension, and dual exhaust.

Photo Credit: The Amc Forum

Then, they installed a 360 or 401 V8 engine producing up to 330 HP. Technically, you could order the Machine package as a station wagon, but there are no records anybody did that. The Matador Machine was a rare car because AMC only built 50 of them.

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5. 1974 AMC Javelin AMX

The last year for the legendary Javelin AMX was 1974. But despite the effort from AMC engineers, the power output was down by 20 HP to 235 HP from its optional 401 V8 engine. Even with the performance goodies, sport suspension, and manual transmission, the 0 to 60 mph times were just over eight seconds.

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That just isn’t fast, especially for a muscle car. The Javelin did enjoy some success on the Trans-Am circuits, but it didn’t win many street races.

Photo Credit: Old Cars Weekly

4. AMC Matador X

When AMC discontinued the Javelin AMX, they were left without a muscle car in their lineup. So, they quickly decided to introduce the Matador X. AMC redesigned the Matador for 1974 featuring the signature coupe body style that was fairly aerodynamic.

Photo Credit: Old Cars Weekly

Soon the company presented the “X” package, which buyers could get with a 360 V8 or optional 401 V8 delivering 235 HP. Regardless of the dress-up kit, big V8 and all performance goodies, the Matador X wasn’t any faster than the Javelin. So, AMC killed the option after only one year.

Photo Credit: 3d Tuning

3. AMC Pacer X

In a desperate attempt to draw the performance-oriented crowd, AMC introduced the Pacer X. It was a high-performance version of their legendary compact car. They equipped it with the VAM package for 1979. The Pacer X featured a 4.6-liter straight-six engine with a raised compression ratio and more power.

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The output was around 150 HP. Despite the fact it sounds funny today, this was a serious performing car by late ’70s standards. Of course, with the added power, AMC provided their customers with a special appearance package to make the X stand out from regular Pacers.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

2. AMC Spirit AMX

Debuting in 1978, the AMC Spirit AMX was a true compact muscle car. It had an optional 304 V8 engine and rear-wheel drive, and buyers could opt for a manual transmission. Also, AMC designed it as the performance version of the Spirit compact car.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

For sale for just two years, the Spirit AMX had some success because it was inexpensive yet cool looking. The AMX package included a body kit, special livery, and wide wheels. Unfortunately, AMC decided to kill the model, so the Spirit AMX didn’t return for the 1980 model year.

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1. AMC Gremlin GT

In 1977, AMC decided to turn the Gremlin into a muscle car, installing a 304 V8 engine producing 120 HP. The ridiculously low power resulted in a terrible performance. But the Gremlin GT was quite a looker with a fresh graphics package, sporty wheels, and interior equipment. Realizing that the performance was painfully slow even for a wannabe muscle car, AMC installed a 4.2-liter inline-six engine.

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It didn’t produce much more power, but it produced more torque, which was enough for some improvement. However, even this and heavy discounts by AMC dealers didn’t help. So, the production was low at around 3,000 copies and they discontinued the GT option for the 1978 model year. These are the muscle cars from AMC. Which one do you like the best? Surprisingly, some of these are still on the roads, but you’ll see most of them at car shows in America.

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