Article and photography by Richard Butschi
American Motors Corporation produced safe, economic cars, but always placed a distant 4th to the Big 3 of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler Corp. This was very apparent when it came to the muscle cars of the mid-'60s and early '70s. Their first shot at it was the less-than-stellar “Marlin”, but it led to the more dynamic “Javelin” which debuted in 1968. In 1965, when the Javelin was still in the planning stages, designer Charles Mashigan was thinking way ahead to a 2-seater that would compete with the Corvette. The project was called “American Motors Experimental” and involved sectioning about 2' from the rear of the Javelin while adding power and style. The result was the AMX, debuting in the middle of the '68 sales year.
Your basic 1968 Corvette sold for about $4,275. The basic AMX ran about $3,300 with a 290ci engine making 225hp. Other engine options included a 343/280hp version and a 390/315hp with a forged crank making 415 lb-ft of torque. It came with a Borg-Warner 4-speed, limited-slip rearend, trailing arms, 11” front disc brakes and 10” rears. The 0-60 time was under 7 seconds. With heavy duty suspension and excellent weight distribution, it was rated as one of the best handling cars that year.
In 1969, the AMX was voted “Best Engineered Car of the Year”, but what excited AMC fans was the mid-year offering of the “Big Bad” models of the AMX, which came in 3 color options – orange, green and blue, with optional white or black striping. AMC really got into the muscle car market that year teaming with Hurst Shifters and offered an “S/S AMX” model to compete in NHRA Super Stock drag racing. 50 units needed to be built to qualify. 52 were produced with 390 engines, 4-speed trannies, 12.3:1 compression, Edelbrock X-Ram intake, dual carbs and headers. Horsepower was rated at 340, but was actually closer to 420hp, turning 10.73 second times in the quarter mile at 128mph!
The 1970 model had a longer hood with functional ram-air scoops that fed the base 360/290hp engine. There was still the optional 390/325hp engine with upgraded suspension, a center console, 2-spoke steering wheel and interesting chrome rocker panels, simulating side exhaust. The taillights spanned the width of the AMX in 5 panels with the center one housing backup lights. In spite of the great engineering and upgrades, sales numbers were disappointing that final year and the AMX model was dropped, but the nameplate was used on 4-seater Javelins in '71 through '74.
Tim and Cheri Schultz, of Atkins, are big fans of AMC cars and finally found a 1970 Big Bad Blue AMX on-line in Ohio in 2009. It had been in an accident, but was driveable – in fact, the a/c worked. It had the 360ci engine with the optional automatic tranny, but Tim likes to manually shift his cars and opted for a T-10 4-speed, original to the car. Mefferd's Auto worked on the tranny while D&R, of Marion, rebuilt the engine. The leather seats were redone by Bob's Auto Interiors, Center Point, with door panels by Legendary Interiors. The body was placed on a rotisserie and blasted by Advanced Blasting, of CR. Tim, who is the shop manager at Truck Builders in Marion, has his own body shop at home along with a paint booth and uses both on a regular basis. This blue beauty came with the optional “Shadow” black hood and side trim, all redone by Schultz, finishing the build in late 2016.
The AMX has picked up many trophies along the way, but its best moment came this past year at the Cordova/AMC Nationals where it topped the AMX class. Cheri attends most of the shows with Tim and many times they take two cars. Sometimes they make two shows in a day, stopping at the “ranch” and picking up a fresh horse or two. Cheri easily handles the 4-speed trannies, but admits to not fully mastering the “3 on the tree” column shifter of their '65 Marlin yet.