1970 American Motors sports car A RARE PERFORMER
IN the late 1960s, a simmering cauldron of performance vehicles was available. The youth market was exploding, and all of the manufacturers were promoting their latest idea of a gofast machine to a generation that embraced speed.
Mid-size muscle car and ponycar advertising was everywhere, and prospective buyers were inundated with performance specifications and optional-equipment lists. American Motors Corp., whose focus had always been to build cars for the average buyer, finally joined the trend in 1968 with the sporty Javelin.
The two-seat AMX performance car followed, with the model designation standing for “American Motors Experimental”. It was the first two-seat, Americanbuilt, steel-bodied, sports model built since the ‘55-’57 Ford Thunderbird.
The AMX was the kid brother to the Javelin, built on a 97-inch wheelbase that was 12 inches shorter. But when it came to performance, the lighter AMX was far more nimble than its big brother, with much-improved handling.
The 1968 and ‘69 models were visually identical but, for 1970, AMC rolled out a moderately face-lifted AMX with some interesting options and performance features. Two inches longer in overall length and about an inch lower in stance, the AMX had a horizontally divided crosshatch-patterned grille, with rally-style park lamps. The re-styled hood had a large and functional Ram-Air induction scoop that funnelled cold air to the engine.
For many, the ‘70 model encapsulates the best that AMC had to offer in a performance vehicle. And today, and with only 4,116 produced, it’s the rarest and most difficult to find.
Gabriel and Linda Dorge’s quest for one of the rare 1970 AMX models ended in 2008 when they found one in Oakbank, Mb. Originally a Manitoba car that spent most of its time in Swan River, it had been traded off in Melville, Sask. for a snowmobile before returning to Manitoba in 2003.
The car had been undergoing a full restoration, with the suspension and running gear rebuild completed prior to the sale, but the body still needed work. A straight and rust-free car with 65,000 original miles on the odometer, it still had some hail damage and minor dents to contend with.
Bill Cookston at Cookie’s Customs in Teulon, Mb. completed the body restoration, getting the AMX back into shape and ready for paint. Ralph at Auto Resurrection laid down a new coat of Golden Lime Green paint and followed it up with the factory-correct matte-black Shadow Mask. A $52 option in 1970, the Shadow Mask cloaks the hood and tops of the fenders, extending back along the top of the doors to the C-pillar of the roof. It gives the illusion of a mask, and 982 cars rolled out of the factory with it.
The Magnum 500 road wheels were also sandblasted and painted per factory specs, now riding on reproduction Goodyear Polyglas raised white letter 14-inch tires.
The car’s bumpers and trim were re-plated, straightened and polished by the Chrome Pit to bring back that showroom look. Another optional feature is the rare factory “Sidewinder” side-pipe exhaust package. Fully functional, it gives the AMX a very aggressive exhaust note that car enthusiasts love.
Inside, the AMX features a mostly original black vinyl bucket seat and center console with floor shift, Rim-Blow steering wheel, AM radio, tachometer and 140 m.p.h. speedometer. Also included are optional power steering, a Twin-Grip positraction rear axle with 3.15:1 gear ratio, Heavy-Duty cooling system and a factory $383.90 “Go Package”, that added power front disc brakes, Ram-Air induction and a 390-cubic-inch V8 engine.
With 10.0:1 compression and Autolite four-barrel carburetor, the V8 produces 325 horsepower at 5,000 r.p.m., turing the 3,126-pound car into a real thrill-ride. Backing the engine is a factory- equipped “Shift-Command” three-speed automatic transmission. One of 901 produced in 1970, that left 1,632 buyers who chose to shift their gears with the four-speed manual gearbox.
The Dorges are members of the American Motors Club of Manitoba, and Gabriel is the club’s current president. The 35-member group has been a mainstay in the province, helping to promote AMC cars and providing a source of technical information since 2004.
Appearing at many shows over the past years, the Dorges’ AMX competes at events in the AMO Heritage Class and has garnered several awards.
“It’s a great hobby that has taken us to many places where we may never have gone and we’ve got to know many wonderful people in our travels,” Gabriel said.
A personal favourite of mine, the Dorges’ AMX really stands out in a crowd and does it in style.
The AMX would return as a trim option only on the restyled Javelin for 1971. But, as a four-seater, it lacked both the performance and sporty feel of the 1968-to-1970 cars. Sales also dropped by more than half from the 1970 model. In this case, more is better didn’t hold water.
Today, the ‘68-to-‘70 AMX models are the AMC leaders in value in the classic-car marketplace.