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AMC's Crowning Glory: The Javelin

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  AMC Javelin

AMC's Crowning Glory: The Javelin

Ronnie Tanner
March 4, 2009

American Motor Company had its beginnings in the early 1950’s when the independent companies Nash and Hudson merged in order to present a formidable challenge to the “Big 3”, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. At the time, the Nash-Hudson merger was the largest in American history.

While Ford, GM and Chrysler were building ever bigger and heavier vehicles, AMC decided to try a different tact and began to develop the United States first compact cars. When a recession hit the car industry in the late 1950’s, AMC flourished as sales of its smaller more economical cars hit a zenith. However it didn’t take the other automakers long to play catch up and Ford soon had its own smaller car the Falcon out on the market.

Because AMC lacked the capitol the larger car manufacturers had access to, AMC had to be more clever in its design and development. This was not a huge success as the AMC Marlin proved. The Marlin was developed by AMC to compete with Ford’s Mustang but never quite pulled it off; partly because there was no clear delineation of what exactly the Marlin was supposed to be. It was large and heavy and had the look of a 6 seater sports car with a tiny trunk lid opening. Whatever the reason, the public response was less than lukewarm forcing AMC back to the drawing board.

It was at this point that the chief designer for AMC, Richard A. Teague began to develop what would prove to be the shining star of the AMC line, the Javelin. Teague actually had two sporty concept cars on the drawing board, one being the Javelin, the other a speedy little two seater called the AMX.

Although launching two sports cars at the same time was a risk for any car company of the day, it was especially so for AMC given its small size and limited resource pool. However the gamble paid off and people loved the Javelin. While in some ways it did resemble the mustang, the similarities ended with the looks. The Javelin had the clean unfettered lines that the early Mustang lacked. Classic and elegant were some of the terms used to describe the Javelin and this carried over to the interior as well. AMC had sunk the gauge package deep into the dash and given it a seamless look that had a decidedly refined feel.

Many buyers jumped at the chance to get the then futuristic bundle of features that AMC referred to as the “go” package. This included power font disc brakes, wide oval tires and front anti-sway bar. Also offered were three V-8 engine options the biggest engine offered with the Javelin was the 390 which had 315 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 425 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.

From the first day it rolled onto the showroom floor, consumers were taken with the Javelin and in its first model year sold 55,000. Unfortunately the late sixties gave way to the early seventies and with that came the energy crisis which hit all the pony cars hard. With fuel running in short supply, no longer could someone justify purchasing a vehicle that simply guzzled down the gas.

While the fuel crisis of the seventies may have sounded the death knell for the Javelin, no could dispute that this car had had its glory days and was AMC’s crowning achievement.

Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at http://www.swengines.com. He writes about used AMC engines and choosing this as an alternative to costly car purchases.

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