Although the American muscle car was pretty much clearly defined by the mid-Sixties, automakers were quick to adapt the formula to different budgets, styles, and – in some cases – homologation rules. In other words, you didn’t have to have 400-plus cubes under the hood to go fast. In our latest edition of This or That, we’re celebrating a series of muscle cars that may have been small in terms of displacement, but offered big power and ample fun. Let’s take a closer look at four examples from 1968-’71 for you to ponder, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.
The AMX immediately came to mind for the simple reason that AMC was the one company that was quick to offer a small displacement engine that offered spritely power at a reasonable price in racy trim. First released in 1969, the base-trim, two-seat AMX included a 225-hp 290, and cost $3,245 (or $24,933 today), helping push first-year sales to 6,725 units. The 1969 base price rose to $3,297, but that didn’t hold back sales, which rose to 8,293, one of which was this example, from the Hemmings Auctions Premium Classifieds.
The 290 was one of three available engines, the upgrade being a 280-hp 343. Of course, the top engine option was the 390, which is far more prevalent in the contemporary enthusiast market (see the link below). According to the original listing of this AMX:
This 1969 AMC AMX projects all the panache of the brand’s bold experiment, with a restoration that includes some aftermarket enhancements that amplify the AMX’s uniqueness. The seller says it was an original, rust-free California car, until he brought it to Florida in 2019, and that a rotisserie-type restoration on it was completed in 2013. It wears a custom Candy Apple Red finish and is driven by a punched-out 290 engine that now displaces 308 cubic inches
By the time 1970 rolled around, manufacturers had already found ways to pull more power out of true small-block engines rather efficiently. Arguably, one of Chevrolet’s best examples was its LT1 engine, as seen in this mid-year 1970 Camaro Z28 RS. In base trim, a 307-cu.in. V-8 powered Camaro cost $3,172; however the Z28 package delivered the LT1 engine – a 350-cu.in. small-block rated for 360 hp – for the small fee of $572.95 (or $3,959 today), which bumped the sticker price to $3,744.95 (or $25,874 today). Per our published resources, Chevrolet built 8,733 Camaros in Z28 trim. According to the seller of this example:
Front sub-frame off rotisserie restoration one year ago; everything new; numbers matching engine, tranny, differential; Mulsanne blue paint; M22 rock crusher four-speed manual transmission with 4:11 gears; LT1 V-8 engine, 360 hp.