AMC’s se­cret (maybe too se­cret) rac­ing pro­gram

Muscle Car Review - - Contents - By Chris Cowx Pho­tos: Dar­ren Moor­house

Stock is a word with many mean­ings in the au­to­mo­tive hobby. There are the stock restora­tion guys for whom if it was not in­stalled at the fac­tory be­fore first cof­fee, it does not count. Then there are the dealer cars: Yenko, Bald­win Mo­tion, Dana, Tasca Ford, Grand Spauld­ing Dodge, and Dick Har­rell Rac­ing, to name a few. These guys pro­duced the cars that the fac­tory could not, mod­i­fy­ing cars at the dealer be­fore they were sold new to the pub­lic. Then you have out­fits like Shelby Amer­i­can that ran what were ef­fec­tively ex­ten­sions of the fac­tory, pro­duc­ing street cars and rac­ers for en­thu­si­asts, with full fac­tory sup­port.

How did lit­tle Amer­i­can Mo­tors fit in? Sur­pris­ingly, quite well. In 1966 it in­tro­duced a mod­ern V-8, newly de­signed with a solid bot­tom end and heads that breathed well. Start­ing at 290 cubes, it did not take long to punch it out to 401. AMC had sporty body styles to put it in, with the Javelin, AMX, Ram­bler Rebel, and later on the Hor­net and Grem­lin. AMC even had a core group of per­for­mance-minded peo­ple in po­si­tions of in­flu­ence at the head of­fice.

What AMC did not have were the en­gi­neer­ing and pro­duc­tion re­sources to de­velop, man­u­fac­ture, and stock­pile mul­ti­ple vari­a­tions of its V-8. What that meant was that the en­gine that went into your rip-roarin’ AMX was iden­ti­cal to the en­gine that went into the Am­bas­sador owned by the old cou­ple down the block.

So what’s a small, strug­gling in­de­pen­dent to do? Tak­ing a page from what was hap­pen­ing else­where, it had the deal­ers pro­vide the sup­port. They found the af­ter­mar­ket parts that suited their needs, ei­ther on the street or the track, and made them dealer-in­stalled op­tions. Noth­ing new

re­ally; deal­ers of all brands had been in­stalling lights, mir­rors, tis­sue dis­pensers, and so on since cars were new. Cer­tainly by the 1960s dealer-in­stalled per­for­mance pack­ages were well es­tab­lished. What was dif­fer­ent was the level of fac­tory par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Sup­port­ing these op­er­a­tions was the Group 19 pro­gram. Named for the sec­tion in the AMC parts list­ings that in­cluded high per­for­mance, this was AMC’s ex­ten­sive per­for­mance parts list with avail­able dealer in­stal­la­tion. It was in ef­fect from 1966 to 1971, though parts may have been avail­able for some time after that.

This was not a pro­gram at one deal­er­ship or even a par­tic­u­lar dealer net­work. This was part of the reg­u­lar prod­uct line, and it was avail­able at any deal­er­ship across the coun­try. Most of the items were listed in the AMA specs for the cars.

AMC also had deal­ers like Grant Ram­bler in Ari­zona that were sim­i­lar in con­cept to Dick Har­rell or Bald­win Mo­tion, pro­duc­ing the likes of 401 Grem­lins for the truly sport­ing Ram­bler driver. Var­i­ous other deal­ers and dealer groups were do­ing things like the Rebel Raider, Von Pi­ranha, and var­i­ous SS/AMX and other rac­ing ef­forts that were op­er­at­ing in zones across the coun­try.

The Parts

What, ex­actly, could you have in­stalled on your Ram­bler for that first cruise? Here are the com­monly in­stalled items for street en­thu­si­asts.

In­take Man­i­fold: Edel­brock pro­vided the R4B dual-plane high-rise sin­gle-four­bar­rel man­i­fold with an rpm range of

2,500 to 5,500. The bolt pat­tern was for a Hol­ley or Carter carb, and it had a notch in the plenum divider to al­low use of the Hol­ley three-bar­rel. AMC sold and in­stalled man­i­folds to match 1969 and ear­lier en­gines or 1970 and up ver­sions.

Heat-Block­ing In­take Gas­ket: A sim­ple me­tal pan gas­ket that did not have the heat crossover pas­sages punched out.

Car­bu­re­tors: This in­for­ma­tion is sub­ject to de­bate, as some doc­u­men­ta­tion has been lost, but there were sev­eral known choices, all Hol­ley. The parts book listed the R4B in­take man­i­fold as a set with the Hol­ley 3916 950-cfm three-bar­rel carb. It had one large oval vac­uum sec­ondary with one ac­cel­er­a­tor pump. It worked, but was not an ideal street carb.

Sev­eral other Hol­leys were given AMC ser­vice part num­bers and in­stalled un­der the pol­icy of lo­cal pro­cure­ment. These were the 600-cfm 1850, 780-cfm 3310, or 850-cfm dou­ble-pumper 4781.

Camshaft: Crane sup­plied the camshaft kit AMC sold through its deal­er­ships. The kit con­sisted of the camshaft, anti-pumpup lifters, valve springs and dampers,

“AMC dropped the ball when it came to pro­mot­ing the pro­gram”

n Clearly meant for pub­lic con­sump­tion and in­tended as an à la carte per­for­mance wish list, this brochure was placed in the glove­box of 1970 AMC mod­els. The part num­bers all cor­re­spond to the Group 19 parts list­ing, leav­ing no doubt as to what you were re­ceiv­ing.

n This ratty box con­tains a nearly com­plete camshaft kit, in­clud­ing lifters, dou­ble springs, ad­justable studs, hard­ened pushrods, and so on. This trans­formed your docile “Tow­ing Pack­age” 390 into a nasty-sound­ing, high-wind­ing, street-rac­ing mill.

n These are orig­i­nal N.O.S. Doug Thor­ley head­ers still in their fac­tory satin-black spray paint. Qual­ity was medi­ocre, but they worked!

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