American Motors Corp. lost a reported $12.6 million in 1966 and saw a 12 percent decline in sales. One has to imagine that the Big Three never looked bigger to Kenosha, Wisconsin’s favorite automotive manufacturer. Holding less than 4 percent market share, AMC was a distant fourth, an inconsequential player to the suits in Detroit and by all accounts well on its way to extinction.
And then, like a Hollywood movie, in walked AMC’s hero, one Robert Beverley Evans, known for buying into sick companies and nursing them back to health. Evans knew it also wouldn’t hurt to get some AMCs racing and have a bit of “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mojo working in Kenosha. The result of this influence was to take the upcoming 1968 Javelin and make a unique two-seat personal sports car from it. If nothing else, it would draw young buyers into AMC showrooms again. The AMX (American Motors eXperimental) project got the green light in September 1966, with styling derived from the 1966 Vignale-designed AMX I show car. The production car was designed by Dick Teague, and it was a stunner
To lose the back seat, 12 inches were sliced from the Javelin, giving it a 97-inch wheelbase. The AMX interior was the same as the Javelin SST’s. Engine choices, unlike in the Javelin, were solely V-8s, with 290-, 343-, and 390-cubic-inch displacements, all paired with either a four-speed stick or an automatic. The AMX had the desired effect; here was a two-seat “sports car,” as was the Corvette, but some $2000 cheaper. It was never designed to be a direct competitor, but the public certainly drew parallels, and AMC wasn’t about to complain.
Every AMX received a serialized dash plaque, a brilliant nod to the “exclusivity” of the AMX. AMC advertised this by saying, “We’re even putting the production number on the dash for collectors …” These plaques inexplicably bore no correlation with the VIN of the car. In any event, the new AMX was the shot in the arm that AMC needed.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The trunnion-style front suspension of the 1968 and ’69 AMX was flawed, the ball joint–style setup that arrived with the facelifted ’70 an improvement. The short wheelbase, combined with diabolically quick power steering and a big V-8, proved challenging for many. And, of course, the AMX wasn’t immune to the traditional 1960s scourges of build quality and propensity to rust. Over the 3 years of two-seat AMX production, just 19,134 were built. The best sales year was ’69, the AMX’s first full year, with 8293 rolling out of showrooms.