1968 AMC AMX “Steakmaker”
Original price: $3,245.00 (In 1968, average cost: car, $2,822; average household income, $ 7,850; average home, $14,950; gallon of gas, 34 cents)
On loan from: Steve Mercer. It is the original “Pete’s Patriot”.
Number made: 6,725 in 1968
Engine, etc.: Standard was a 290 cu. in.; 97 in. wheelbase; 3,100 lbs.
Originally a two-seat show car that could have been forgotten, the car caught the eye of Robert Evans, chairman of the AMC board, in June 1966. The AMX first appeared as a version of the Javelin in 1966 and was the first car to feature a molded dash which improved safety. The Corvette was the only other American built two-seater car in production at that time.
To create the AMX (American Motors Xperimental), AMC engineers removed 12 inches from the Javelin wheelbase and eliminating the back seat. The 290 cu. in. (4.7L) V-8 was standard, rather than the Javelin’s six, as was a four-speed manual transmission, which cost $184.85 extra on the Javelin.
Other engine choices included a 343, 360, and 390 cu. in., all with a 4-speed manual transmissions.
Compared to the Javelin, the AMX was 112 pounds lighter, comparably equipped, and had somewhat stiffer rear springs, with trailing links to better control the axle. The hood and grille were also distinct, but everything else was almost pure Javelin. It couldn’t stay with the Corvette in curves but otherwise was one of the best handling cars of its era. Bad linkage in the 4-speed transmission made an automatic the preferred choice.
The AMX was, as AMC ads proclaimed, not merely a sporty car, but a sports car. Even more boldly, they intended to race it. In September 1968, new CEO Roy Chapin, Jr. told Car and Driver that the racing program was a public statement that things were changing at AMC.
In 1968, Craig and Lee Breedlove used two slightly modified AMXs to set 106 different speed and endurance records. In 1969, AMC organized a team to race the AMX in SCCA B Production, earning five wins and the Central Division championship. Shirley Shahan, the popular “Drag-On Lady,” took a blueprinted AMX to the drags and set a couple of records in NHRA Super Stock/D.
Despite all this, the original two-seat AMX lasted only through 1970. Racing aspirations were all well and good, but AMC still had to sell cars. With dealers that were accustomed to marketing to dowagers, reinventing AMC as a Pontiac-style performance car was not an easy task. Around 55,000 Javelins were sold in its first year and sales averaged around 30,000 a year after that, a fraction of Mustang or Camaro sales.
The AMX, meanwhile, managed only a total of 19,134 sales in three seasons. In 1969, its best year, only 8,293 were sold. The AMX was never intended to be a volume car, but AMC finally decided that sales didn’t justify the production complexity of producing it. Few other automobiles had even attempted to blend American-style power with European-style handling and do it at family car prices.