1970 Amer­i­can Mo­tors sports car A RARE PER­FORMER

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - FRONT PAGE - LARRY D’AR­GIS

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.

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