Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1977–79 AMX by American Motors

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Welcome to another installment of the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the definition of what a muscle car is, and to get readers to exclaim “WTF” in the process. American Motors was once again in the middle of a financial meltdown, desperately trying to find the right product, while at the same time cutting development costs to stay afloat. One way of bringing in the showroom traffic the dealers so desperately needed was to offer a performance model built from an existing model. However, by the late 70′s, most of these performance models were merely tape stripe and wheel additions, and without any real enhancements to the engine, or to the handling. AMC did manage to offer a pretty good V8 option for the Hornet, and the hatchback two-door Hornet body style was only three years old, and still looked sharp. But because of AMC’s financial situation, the enhanced “Sporty” offering was actually based on three different models for the years highlighted. Let’s take a look at the 1977 through 1979 AMC AMX.

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For the 1977 model year, the AMC Hornet line was highlighted by a limited edition AMX hatchback package. Bringing back a name that many remember as the pinnacle of American Motors performance. The AMX nameplate was retired only a couple of years earlier, attached to a version of the Javelin. However, under this version, the AMX package included specific “AMX” Graphics, a front air dam, color keyed bumpers, blacked out grill, color coordinated rear window louvers, fender spats, and a curious brushed aluminum “Targa” band that was placed over the roof. Inside, there was a standard floor console, a full set of instrument gauges, a soft feel three spoke steering wheel, and aluminum accents on the dash. The form fitting AMC bucket seats were among the best in the industry at this time.

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Performance was also optional in this version of the AMX. The Hornet standard 258 CID Six Cylinder Engine was coupled to a Four Speed Stick. The Optional 304 CID V8 could only be ordered with a 3 speed Automatic. Power from the V8 was at best anemic, with 121 HP available through the two barrel Holley, but there was enough torque to spin the DR78 X 14 rear tires with 219 lbs – ft. Of course, with a little work, this bullet proof engine could be tuned to produce significant numbers in both Horsepower and Torque. Production of these curious cars are unavailable, but there were only a little over 4,000 V8 equipped Hatchback Hornets produced in 1977. An educated guess would peg at least 1/2 of these as having the AMX Package.

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For 1978, the AMX Package moved onto the Concord platform, which in reality was nothing but a restyled Hornet. The front end featured a new wedge shaped grill, which itself was borrowed from the restyled Gremlin. Instead of fender spats (Take a look at a 70′s era Pontiac Trans Am, and you will know what I’m describing) they were substituted for full fender flares in black, but the rest of the AMX trim package, from the tape stripes, to the fake “Targa” roof band returned. Along with the “Concord” transformation, the interior stayed pretty much the same as the year before. The only other notable change was the all new tail piece, which included separate amber turn signals. The same engines were available, (The 258 Cu In Six, and the 304 Cu In V-8) only the V8 Horsepower Figures were improved, from 121 to 130, and torque improved from 219 to 238 lbs.-ft. A Black-Gold version of the AMX was newly available. Production figures were again dismal, with 2,500 produced. These figures include both the 6 and V8 versions.

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The 1979 model year dawned at American Motors, and a new AMX made it’s debut. It was shorter (Built on the 96 inch wheelbase of the AMC Spirit, instead of the 108 inch wheelbase of the Hornet/Concord) and was closer to the essence of the 1968 to 1970 AMX in size. “Expect to be noticed” exclaimed the factory advertising, and it was bolder in appearance than it’s predecessors. The front end was again different, this time with quad rectangular headlamps, a front air dam, a new rear spoiler, with new “Turbocast” wheels sporting larger performance rated tires. The instrument panel was unchanged from the previous years, and the rest of the interior had very little in the way of upgrades. However, it was smaller, lighter, and performed better, and now the 304 Cu In V8 could now be ordered with a four speed stick, greatly enhancing it’s performance. There was even a “Performance Tuned” exhaust system available for the V8.

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There was a 1980 AMX produced, but it only came equipped with the six cylinder engine. AMC gave up producing V8 passenger cars after the 1979 model year. Only 2,902 1979 AMX models were produced, a number which included both engines.

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There you have it. A performance nameplate from the last American independent car company struggling to survive. Is it an Obscure Muscle Car, or is it just a tape stripe and wheel appearance package? It was V8 Powered, 2 Door Styled, and rear wheel drive. So what do you think, does it deserve a place in the Garage? Let me know.

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

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