AMC AMX: The First True Sports Car of the 1960s?
After World War II ended, Americans went on a well-deserved spending spree. Newfound prosperity combined with technological advances gave the public a hunger for products with cutting-edge features, and cars were no exception. By the 1950's the rise of youth culture, led by teens and young adults with real spending power, combined with other factors to create one of the first true sports cars of the time.
Competition among existing auto manufacturers was tight, leading the Nash and Hudson companies to embark on a merger beginning in 1954. The first president of the new enterprise, industrialist and Republican politician George Romney, injected his conservative values into his leadership, causing AMC to focus on practical vehicles that emphasized economy and family-friendliness. This approach took a few years to catch on, but by the early 60s AMC was enjoying success with its Rambler line.
By 1965 the country’s tastes had shifted, however. Practicality took a back seat to sportiness and performance. Sensing these changes, AMC made plans to take on the burgeoning muscle car market. It’s from that decision that one of the most capable and memorable automobiles of the 60s and 70s was born: the AMC AMX.
The X stood for “experimental,” and that’s exactly what the ’66 AMX was.
Premiering at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), it had a fiberglass body, rumble seat, rear fold-up seats, and flip-up rear window. What it didn’t have was an engine or drive train. Nonetheless, the design was a hit, except for the rumble seat, which raised safety concerns. A two-seater production model was introduced in 1968, and AMC wasted no time showing what their car could do. In February of that year two of them were tested at a site in Texas. One was equipped with a 380 c.i. engine that was bored out to 397 c.i., and the other with a 290 c.i. engine bored out to 304 c.i.. Modifications also included both engine and rear-end oil coolers, heavy duty springs, hi-rise intake manifolds, and racing camshafts.
The results were impressive. Over 3,380 miles of testing, the AMX broke 77 speed records, showing it had what it took to take on the mighty Corvette. And with a sticker price of $3,245.00, it came in $1,000.00 less than its Chevrolet competitor. It also featured such industry first as a one-piece injection-molded dash and, beginning with the 1970 model, an upgraded form of safety glass that was superior to the laminated types used at the time. Despite these features, the AMX was never a huge seller. Financially it was a successful failure.
While it didn’t produce much income for AMC, it did change the company’s image, attracting younger buyers to its models. This helped to ensure the automaker’s health throughout the 1970s and into the early 80s, before it was sold to Chrysler in 1987.
While the company that built it is no more, the AMX holds an honored place in automotive history.