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AMC Javelin History

Article by Mark Trotta

Debuting in August of 1967 for the 1968 model year, the AMC Javelin was a stylish alternative to other pony cars of the day. Throughout it's seven-year production run, it was offered with colorful paint and graphics, special edition models, and powerful V8 performance packages.

history of the Javelin pony car

Built on a unit-construction chassis, the Javelin's front suspension, rear axle and leaf springs were shared with the Rambler American. Richard Teague, head of AMC design, developed the exterior body design, which followed the same long hood/short deck design of the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro.

The Javelin was offered as a two-door hardtop only, in base and premium SST models.

Javelin and AMX

Also debuting from American Motors in 1968 was the two-seat AMX muscle car. Designers and engineers built the shorter AMX by sectioning nearly two feet from the unibody of the Javelin. The two cars shared many components and options.

AMC Javelin and AMX

Engine Choices

Base engine for the 1968 Javelin was a six-cylinder 232ci motor, backed by either a three-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. Initially, V8 options were a 2-barrel 290ci motor and a four-barrel 343ci motor. Either V8 could be matched to a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed manual gearbox or a three-speed automatic with console or column shifter.

Go Package Option

A popular performance upgrade was the Go Package, which gave the buyer the 343ci V-8, dual exhausts, upgraded suspension, power front disc brakes, and wider wheels and tires.

history of the Javelin pony car

AMC 390 V8

In mid-1968, the AMX 390 V8 was offered in the "Go-package" option. This was AMC's largest and most powerful engine to date, featuring a forged-steel crankshaft and connecting rods, 10.2:1 compression, and 4-barrel carburetor. Power output was 315-horsepower and 415 lb/ft of torque.

1968 Javelin interior

The Javelin did not have side vent windows. Flow-through ventilation was achieved through apertures in the doors, which were controlled by adjustable valves in the bottom of the armrests.

Interior features included reclining front seat backs and full carpeting. Dashboard instruments and controls were recessed in a padded panel.

1968 Javelin Production

First year production totaled slightly more than 55,000 cars sold. By comparison, the 1968 Ford Mustang sold over 317,000 that year.

1969 Javelin

A mild restyle for 1969 saw an updated front grille and trim pieces. Engine options remained the same as the prior year, plus an exciting new exterior option.

history of the Javelin pony car

Big Bad Javelin

The special-edition "Big Bad" option was available on both AMX and Javelin models. The cars were painted bumper to bumper in either Big Bad Orange, Big Bad Green, or Big Bad Blue, with optional white or black stripes. A Big Bad Javelin or AMX could be ordered with any engine and transmission combination.

Big Bad Javelin and AMX

1970 Javelin

For the 1970 model year, Javelins received a longer hood and new grille. A new rear end with full-width tail lamps featured a single center-mounted backup light. This would be a one-year-only design.

The Big Bad option now included chrome bumpers, not painted like in 1969.

In an effort to keep up with competitor's engines, the 290 V8 saw a displacement increase to 304 cubic-inches, and the 343 V8 was enlarged to 360 cubic-inches.

special edition Mark Donohue Javelin

SCCA Trans-Am Series

After winning the manufacturers championship for Chevrolet in 1968 and 1969, Roger Penske and driver Mark Donohue switched to American Motors. In their first year out (1970), the team scored three wins and four seconds with specially-prepared Javelins. After that, they won back-to-back championships (1971 and 1972). Capitalizing on the Javelin's successes on the race track, AMC began advertising and promoting special models.

Mark Donohue Javelin

To comply with SCCA rules, AMC built 2,501 Mark Donohue "signature edition" Javelins, which prominently featured the large rear spoiler used on the Trans Am race cars. These special edition models could be had with either the 360 or 390 V8.

history of the Javelin pony car

Included with the Mark Donohue edition was dual exhaust, power disc front brakes, upgraded suspension, and a functional ram-air hood scoop borrowed from the two-seat AMX.

Trans-Am Javelin

In addition to the special edition Donohue cars, a limited run of 100 Trans Am Javelins were produced, featuring the 390ci Go Package and red-white-and-blue paint scheme. Also included with the Trans Am Javelin was a Hurst four-speed shifter, Ram-Air hood, heavy-duty suspension, front and rear spoilers, and a 140-mph speedometer.

Javelin 1971-1974

Longer, lower, wider and heavier, the second-generation Javelin was derived from the existing body shell but rode on a 1" longer wheelbase. To save money on the restyle, the doors, trunk lid, door glass and windshield were retained from the previous-generation. A flush, honeycomb grille sat inside outboard-mounted headlamps. Inside, a new "airplane-style" dashboard greeted the driver.

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AMC Javelin history and information

The 390 V8 was enlarged to 401 cubic-inches, AMC's largest engine ever.

Javelin AMX

American Motors discontinued the two-seat AMX after 1970, and carried the AMX badge over to the performance version of the Javelin. The new Javelin AMX proved to be popular, and was available with either the 360 or 401 V-8.

history of the Javelin pony car

1972 Javelin

Minor upgrades for 1972 included a new "egg crate" front grille, although the Javelin AMX retained the 1971 grille. A new tail-lamp strip ran the width of the rear. For 1972 and 1973, a Pierre Cardin designer edition featured a multi-color striped interior.

AMC Javelin history and information

1973 Javelin

With U.S. emission regulations and no-lead gas already bringing about lower compression ratios, performance faded as both emissions standards and safety concerns increased. The 1973 U.S. Oil Crisis made gas-thirsty Pony cars even less popular with consumers.

history of the Javelin pony car

1974 Javelin

For the final model year, front disc brakes became standard equipment. To meet new safety regulations (5 MPH impact standards) rubber bumper overriders were added. Total Javelin sales for 1974 was 27,696 units. Out of that total number, 4,980 were Javelin-AMX models.

After seven years of production, total sales for the Javelin was about 233,000.

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Pictures courtesy: NashNut.com

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Further Reading:

Rambler Marlin 1965-1967

AMC AMX 1968-1970

S/C Rambler 1969

Pony Car History

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