Of course, there are more than 3 AMC cars worth remembering. However, as time passes these cars are fading from memory. This is a sad chain of events that we’re going to attempt to undo right here. Before we get into the three AMC cars that will make you say, “oh yeah, I remember that car” let’s talk about the American Motors Corporation.
A lot of people wonder where AMC came from and when. In 1954 an epic coming together of Hudson, Nash and Kelvinator formed the American Motors Corporation. Nash had been building cars since 1916 and Hudson had large manufacturing facilities located in North America. The two struggling companies banded together with plans to make a run at the big three car makers.
With a strong sense of patriotism in the United States, in the 50s, utilizing the name American Motors would surely give this company an advantage. The company hit the ground running by building small, midsize and full-size automobiles. By 1965, with several models on the top 10 bestsellers list, the debt-free company seemed poised to give Chevy and Ford a run for its money. Although this didn’t turn out to be true, the company produced some AMC cars worth remembering in the 60s and early 70s.
Why did AMC go under? The company faced major challenges with an increase in government intervention in the form of mandatory automotive regulations. Then the gas crunch crashed onto the shores of the United States in the early 1970s. With AMC cars producing some of the worst gas mileage numbers, the uphill battle to remain competitive turned into a slippery slope. Nevertheless, the American motors Corporation didn’t give up without a fight. They launched the Eagle series of automobiles featuring some unique four-wheel-drive cars. Unfortunately, in the mid-80s the debt ridden company accepted an offer from the Chrysler Corporation for a complete buyout.
The American Motors Rambler
It seems only fitting to start with the AMC Rambler as the automobile sold a total of 4 million units. The little Nash Rambler had been around for a decade, but the AMC version launched in 1958 with a new look. They built the car for more than 10 years and it went through three different redesigns.
They built the first version of AMC Rambler American for three years from 1958 through 1960. The company touted the two door sedan as an economical workhorse built for hard-working Americans. The car received rave reviews from automotive magazines who called these AMC cars a best buy for under $2000.
The American motors Corporation built the second-generation Rambler from the 1961 model year through September of 1963. Although these AMC cars remained unchanged under the hood from the previous years, the exterior received a heavy restyling. They moved this workhorse into the fun category in 1961 when they offered a convertible version. Sidebar: A sharp looking 1962 Rambler American convertible wearing fire engine red paint starred in the hit sitcom series The Third Rock from the Sun.
Speaking of third, the final and third generation of the Rambler went through some changes in the mid-60s. Thanks to abundant fuel and the need for speed, automotive consumers started moving away from economy cars. In 1966 the American Motors Corporation responded with the launch of a 225 HP V-8 powered Rambler in an attempt to turn the grocery getter into a muscle car. By 1970, with slumping sales, they decided to move the platform back to its roots of the family car and renamed it the Hornet.
The Javelin gives AMC Cars some Muscle
With the Rambler’s failed attempt at trying to work its way into the muscle car market the American Motors Corporation launched a two door fastback model to compete with the pony cars offered by its major competitors. AMC through big money at the car and even formed a race team run by Penske. Mark Donahue piloted a Javelin to victory in several Trans Am series races. However, competing with the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang would prove to be more than challenging.
With that said, in mid-1968 American Motors launched a special version of their AMC Javelin designated as the AMX. The acronym stood for American Motors Experimental. This car packed the all-new 6.4 liter 390 cubic inch big block engine. In its original version it produced about 320 HP. However, the factory started installing high performance exhaust manifolds, an aggressive camshaft and a high flow performance intake manifold. With horsepower reported in the 350 range these cars fell just short of taking down the Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger.
The Gremlin an Unforgettable AMC Car
When you mention AMC cars many think about the Gremlin first. In 1970 the company wanted to think outside of the box by making a car that looked like a box. Its overall look, with a long front end and a boxy rear end received mixed reviews. What many don’t realize is the car remains only a few inches longer than the Volkswagen Beetle. In fact, they built the car with the intention to take a bite out of the Volkswagen Beetle’s market share. However, sales figures disappointed the AMC executives.
In 1973 the company once again struggled to meet stricter government standards for both emissions and impact protection. These upgrades pushed the Gremlin price tag over $2000 for the first time. Despite the higher price tag sales increased to over 122,000 units that year. In 1974 American Motors struggled with the design and installation of catalytic converters to meet tightening government emission requirements. Nevertheless, in 1974 and 1975 the company posted its best sales figures with around 175,000 cars sold in each of these years. They gave up on the Gremlin in 1978, yet it remains one of the classic AMC cars worth remembering.