Back in 1966, while AMC still had the Rambler as their main automobile line, the company was looking ahead to the future and image changing automobiles. When you’re #4 in the auto business, you need a game changer of some type and AMC wanted to flirt with the notion of building a sports car to compete with GM’s Corvette. AMC likely knew that any sports car model wouldn’t sell in great numbers, however if the car could be produced in a cost effective manner, then the company might see more buyer interest in their entire car line. One image changer could give the company a real sales jolt and do wonders for more foot traffic at the dealerships. So in 1966, from some artist renderings, a 1966 AMC AMX prototype model was built to send to car shows to get the little company some positive press that the company was interested in much more than just building Ramblers, as good of cars as they actually were.
The 1966 AMX showcar had some impressive body lines such as the sweeping fastback on the two seater sports car body and pointed front nose. It was a sharp looking car that AMC wanted to build, but production costs were always an issue with AMC. AMC was also closely watching the success of the first pony car, the Mustang, from Ford and also wanted to get into the pony car business as well with some sort of sporty coupe for that market. AMC knew that something to compete in this sports coupe market could be a big seller for the company. Eventually, the company decided to work on a project that became the 1968 Javelin.
The 1968 Javelin was a relatively good seller for AMC and did some wonders for the company creating more traffic at the showrooms by bringing younger customers. And the car did give AMC a basis where the AMX project could be revived if AMC could use much of the existing Javelin frame and bodywork and build the AMX on a budget. So in 1968 both the new Javelin and AMX models hit the showrooms at AMC, giving the company two sports oriented models to excite the public. Previous AMC founder and CEO George Romney once said that “The only race that AMC was interested in was the human race”. But, both the Javelin and AMX models excited high performance auto fans, and the Javelin models proved good enough to beat both Camaro and Mustang models at Trans Am races with Mark Donahue as the top Team AMC driver. And the AMX models with the fearsome 390V8, a high performance version of the old AMC “Typhoon 290”, were an impressive high performance car, considered by many to be the best AMC car ever built. Business was relatively good at AMC for the years of 1968 to 1974. The company had cars that were competing with the big three in many classes. But, by 1975, the little car company was forced to scale back their car line where the Javelin and Javelin AMX models were both dropped along with AMC’s answer to the Cadillac, their full size Ambassador models. AMC did replace their big car with a swoopy fastback full size car, the Matador, built that was to be the last big AMC car ever produced, where high auto insurance for high performance cars, high gas prices as well as gas lines ended AMC’s flirtations with high performance cars and the company concentrated on smaller more fuel efficient automobiles. Even the little V8 powered Gremlins eventually dropped that V8 option.
The two seater AMX models only were produced for three model years, between 1968 and 1970. From 1971 to 1974, the AMX came back as the high performance version of the Javelin, but as a four passenger car. The AMX model once again disappeared until 1977, when it appeared as a sporty version of the Hornet compact. In 1978, the care emerged again, but as a model based off the Concord body, but with a more separate identity. In 1979 and 1980, the AMX came back again as the smaller Spirit fastback with custom bodywork such as fiberglass fender cutouts and side louvers and war paint that looked much like a baby version of the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am models. But, 1979 was the last year for a V8 engine in any AMX, and the old two seater cars were now just a distant memory. At one point, AMC even had hoped to build a few Italian-built bodied mid-engine sports cars that would sell for high prices to help the company. AMX/2 and AMX/3 projects came close to actual production.
The AMX nameplate gave AMC a car brand to do high performance experiments with. In fact, the name stood for AM Experimental. But, the original two seater AMX models with a 390 are by far the most collectible of any of the AMX models, and as close to a pure sports car as AMC had ever come before the reality of cash flow problems, high fuel prices and gas lines ruined AMC’s entry into the sports car market.