Thursday, December 5, 2013

1977 AMC Hornet AMX - A Great Name On A Not So Great Car

I love the original AMX. I love the later AMX option for the Javelin. (I've probably fawned over them and defended them way too many times on this blog.) But this? It may be a cool car, but it's not an AMX.

The late 1970s were an awful time for muscle car fans. The original muscle cars were gone; victims of high fuel costs along with EPA and, to a lesser extent, DOT regulations.

Sadly, the names didn't always disappear with the cars...

US car manufacturers have have a nasty habit of taking once great names and slapping them on less than great cars. (Ford Thunderbird, anyone?) These cars may not be horrible cars, but more often than not (way more often than not) they come nowhere near the greatness of the cars that originally wore the badge. Such is the case of the AMC Hornet AMX.

In theory, AMC could have used the Hornet platform to create a halfway decent muscle car. They could have stuffed their 360 V8 in the nose with no real problem at all. They could have attached that engine to a 4 speed manual with a Hurst shifter. But, that was all in theory. By the late 1970s the EPA had to approve any engine / transmission combos before they could be used. AMC hadn't submitted the 360 / 4 speed combo for approval. The Hornet AMX engine choices were AMC's incredibly durable, but incredibly bland, 114 HP I6 mated to a 4 speed manual or 3 speed automatic, or their 120 HP 304ci V8 mated to a 3 speed automatic. These are not exactly the drivetrains that muscle car dreams are made of.

To give it a bit of a sporty character, AMC added a front anti-roll bar and bigger wheels and tires than those found on the standard Hornet. Car & Driver, when testing the car in 1977, had good things to say about its handling. (They liked the car in general.)

Depending on your point of view, this is a "decal GT" in the very best or the very worst sense of the term. The Hornet AMX came in four colors; white, red, yellow and lime-green. A front spoiler, window louvers, fender flares, graphics and a curious "targa band" were added to the body. "Subtle" was never a word used to describe the Hornet AMX.

Amusingly, no one seems to know how many of these cars were built. I've seen estimates of between less than 700 to over 5200. That's quite a discrepancy. AMC never published production figures for this car.

This Hornet / AMX has 97,000 miles on it. The V8 was rebuilt around 20,000 miles ago. The seller says it has no rust. (If you can, always check under the "targa band" for rust. From what I've read, it's not a matter of whether there is rust under it, it's a matter of how much rust is under it.)

AMC was not the only car company to take a great muscle car name and slap it on something less than a muscle car. Plymouth called a Volare a Roadrunner, Pontiac put the revered GTO name on its Chevy Nova clone, the Ventura.

I don't hate this car (or the other cars like this). AMC did the best they could under difficult circumstances. I just think it should have been called a Hornet Sport, or Hornet GT, whatever. It just shouldn't have been called an AMX. It was a disservice to a great name.

Located in Charlotte, NC, click here to see the Craigslist ad.


steve in podunk said...

I had a 71 AMX 30 years ago,so yeah I'm a huge fan of them. The Hornet AMX was a pretty sharp car when it was new; at least I thought so. It was certainly a lot nicer to look at then a Concord or an Eagle.

Max Power said...

I know I'm nuts, but I love these things. For that matter, I also love the later Concord AMX and the Spirit AMX's as well. Yep, these are absolutely a shadow of the original AMX however all the auto manufacturers were going through some very challenging times for performance and who knew that some thirty years later 8.0 0-60 time would be considered slow and that any econobox could match that.