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AMC vehicles


Through its 34-year existence as the last independent American auto manufacturer, AMC created some of the most memorable, inspirational, and exciting cars and Jeeps the world has ever seen. You can read through from the start, or scroll down to any particular year you might be interested in. Please enjoy this chronological history of the Kenosha, WI auto builder.

1954: American Motors is formed from the merge of Hudson Motors and Nash-Kelvinator. The deal was the largest corporate merge up to that point - worth $197,793,366. Hudson and Nash car lines remain unchanged. The Jet, Hudson's slow-selling entry into the compact market, is dropped. The little Nash-Healey sports car was also discontinued after leaving its mark on European sports car racing.

Why was AMC created ? The original plan was for Packard and Studebaker merge while Hudson and Nash merged, then after that was digested, the Studebaker-Packard combine would merge with Nash/Hudson to form a full-line auto maker. The plan was the brain-child of (I think) Mason and Nance (of Packard). Mason died shortly after the first step of the mergers, and with him the second round of consolidation.

The merger of the independents to create a "Big Four" was the brainchild of Mason and according to Patrick Foster's biography "American Motors: The last independent", Mason even founded the name for his company...American Motors. Mason even read the writing on the wall just after World War II and said the independents had to merge now, while they had enough financial resources.

1955: Hudson Wasp and Hornet are moved to the more contemporary Nash platforms, and retain their legendary Twin-power six engines. Nash Rambler and Metropolitan are badged as Hudsons and sold under both marques.

1956: The controversial Pinin-Farina styled Nash "bathtub" body is updated with open front wheelwells. An all-new body with plenty of chrome, wraparound windshield, reverse-slant C-pillar, two-tone paint, and increased wheelbase is introduced. It is named simply, "Rambler." An all-new 250 cid V-8 replaces the previous years V-8s purchased from Packard.

Bill Watson added: Rambler still sold as Hudson or Nash - the emblem on the hood was either a Nash or a Hudson. The AMC 250-cid V8 appeared in the Ambassador Special and Hornet Special. The 121" wheelbase Ambassador V8 and Hornet V8 continued with the Packard V8 for 1956.

1957: The last year for both Nash and Hudson marques. The Rebel was introduced as the first American factory hot-rod. It came in silver, with silver and black upholstery, a new 255 hp 4 bbl 327 cid V-8, four speed or auto, and dual exhaust. It ran the quarter in 17.0 seconds. Rebel rode a 108-inch wheelbase and the luxurious Nash Ambassador was the largest at 121 inches.

Bill Watson added: The Rambler 6 and V8 were on a 108" wheelbase.

1958: All lines are now badged as Ramblers. The original 100-inch wheelbase Nash Rambler is brought back with modern styling and 195.6 cid six, and named the Rambler American (100" wheelbase). The Rebel V8 (108"), Rambler 6 (108"), and Ambassador (117") are restyled as well with quad headlights, toothy chrome grilles, and pointy tailfins.

1959: Cosmetic changes are made to update all lines. Metropolitan continues with various improvements but original, dated styling.


AMC Marlin   (1964)

1960: The next generation of Rambler arrives. Cleaner styling and increased interior room are the main features. The Rebel line is deleted after 1960, but is still available for one final year with the V8. American and Classic are available only with the 195.6 cid six, with single-barrel carb or optional two-barrel "Power Pak." Ambassador is powered by the 327 cid V-8. Metropolitan importing stops, but their stock lasts through the '62 model year, making the late-model Mets very collectible today.

1961: Though mechanically unchanged, the curvy American is completely restyled to become the "breadbox" American, with linear shape and attractive grille. Ambassador receives a memorable, "European" looking front end.

This is the first year for the Rambler Classic name (in both 6 and V8).

AMC Marlin  concept (1966)

1962: The slanted petite tailfins on Classic and Ambassador are eliminated for a rounded back end, much like MoPars of the same period.

The Rambler Classic came as a six only, as the Ambassador was shrunk to the 108" wheelbase, and shared the Classic's front end clip.

1963: The entire Rambler line is named Motor Trend Car of the Year for their unitized construction, (a Nash tradition) modern engines and remarkable value. Classic and Ambassador are completely redesigned with chic, clean styling and the unforgettable "Pac Man" grille. The V-8 is available again in the Classic, and a new 287 cid version is introduced.

AMC Ambassador  concept (1966)

1964: American gets its first redesign, with neat, trim lines, tunneled headlights, and a plain horizontal bar grille. A special edition of the Classic, in Solar Yellow with a black roof is the first AMC to be powered by the "Typhoon" 232 cid six. This block spawned the "Great 258" 4.2l and the Jeep "Power-Tech Six" 4.0l, which is still used today.

1965: Ambassador was lengthened and given a v-shaped front end with stacked headlights. Classic was restyled as well. Midway through the model year, a new midsize sport fastback was introduced on the Classic chassis. Named Marlin, it was the luxury alternative to Mustang and Barracuda fastbacks. A 2-door coupe derivative of the Classic was introduced, named Rebel. It too had the 4 bbl 327 V-8 four speed, and dual exhaust as optional equipment.

1966: American was restyled, now wearing the face that is most widely recognized. Minor cosmetic changes were given to the rest of the lineup. This was the last year that Ramblers utilized the "torque tube" drive system. Conventional driveshafts would be employed from '67 on. Marlin was no longer a Rambler, registered instead as just "Marlin."

AMC Ambassador convertible concept (1966)

1967: The Classic was discontinued and replaced by the all-new Rebel. Rebel, Marlin and the new, larger Ambassador wore sleek "Coke bottle" styling that was all the fad at the time. An all-new design V-8 was also introduced in 200 hp 290 cid and 280 hp 343 cid versions. A sporty Rogue version of the American was added, available with 232 or 290 engines. The American Motors script was now the marque that the new Marlin and Ambassador wore. American and Rebel are the only Ramblers left. Ambassador and Rebel could be ordered in upscale DPL and sporty SST trim levels.

1968: Arrived at last! The beautifully styled, legendary Javelin sports car rumbled onto showroom floors. It was originally available with the 232, 290, or 343. It entered SCCA Trans-Am competition and finished every race it entered, a record that none of the other factory teams were able to achieve. Craig Breedlove, legendary racer, piloted the 2-seat Javelin derivative AMX to 100 land speed records before it was even introduced for sale. When the AMX finally was available, it shook the sports car world to its knees. The AMX was available with leather seats, 140 mph speedo, A/C or "tic-tac" gauge package, hi-po "go pak," 4 bbl 290 or the new 315 hp 390 V-8.

This was the last year any convertibles were available from American Motors. American was the only model that still wore the Rambler nameplate. All AMCs except American adopted their trademark flush-mounted paddle door handles.

AMC Javelin ,SST concept (1968)

1969: Ambassador grew again, now with a 122-inch wheelbase. It had graceful, swoopy lines and a distinctive "guppy mouth" grille. Most models were now available with any engine including 232, 290, 343, and 390. Javelin SST and AMX now came in optional eye-catching Big Bad colors: BBOrange, BBGreen, and BBBlue. Hurst was now coordinating with AMC, helping to create the dragstrip terror SS/AMX and the ram-air 390-powered Hurst SC/Rambler. The American"Scrambler" or "Super Car/Rambler" wore two different red/white/blue paint schemes, had r/w/b headrests, a Sun tach strapped to the steering column, and the T10 4-speed with Hurst linkage, and rear torque links from the AMX. The hood and mailbox-type air scoop were painted "AIR , 390," with an arrow into the air duct. The only option was an AM radio. Only 1512 were built, most employed to massacre the competition on the strip. Two were equipped with 4WD and ran in the Baja 500. One took first place in its class. By 1970, Mark Donohue and the Sunoco Racing Team dumped their Camaros to race Javelins instead. AMXs, Javelins and Americans had the dealer "Group 19" heavy-duty performance option. The V-8s heads were refined to make it good for 340 hp and 430ft/lb torque. This was the last year that there would be any new Ramblers.


AMC Hornet  concept (1970)

1970: AMX and Javelin received a mild styling update, and added an optional "Power Blister" ram air hood that boosted the 390s horsepower to 345. A special "Mark Donohue Edition" Javelin had all the performance options plus a spoiler designed by Donohue himself. A special Rebel called "The Machine" was introduced. It had a fiberglass hood scoop with the tach built into the back, 390, dual exhaust, auto or stick, slotted wheels, and plush interior. Though there were various colors available, most Machines were white with reflective r/w/b stripes. The 343 V-8 was increased to 360ci, and the 290 became the 304. The compact Hornet made its debut in 2 or 4-door sedan models. On April 1, the first American subcompact, Gremlin was introduced. It had the 199ci base, with the 232ci optional. Ambassador and Rebel received updated styling with new quarter panels and taillights. Now in solid financial shape, AMC bought Jeep from Kaiser Corp. Jeeps were already using AMC engines, and their lineup included Gladiator pickup, Wagoneer, Jeepster Commando, and CJ-5. A super-rare Hurst version of the Commando was available in white with red and blue T stripes and hood scoop, again with built-in tach. AMC officially adopted the "A-mark" logo and discontinued the "AM" script. AMX/3 was a hot concept project utilizing a hand-made Italian fiberglass body and mid-mounted 390. Seven were built.

1971: With a new grille, Rebel became Matador, and the Machine package continued, without the scoop. The beefed-up 390 from '70 was bored to 401ci, and was rated at 330 hp. The 2-door Hornet had an optional SC/360 package with hood scoop, special upholstery and wheels, and a stripe that ran along the fender and door tops and around the rear window. The 2-seat AMX departed, and Javelin was redesigned with hump fenders, increased size, and an optional cowl induction hood. SST trim continued, and AMX was the top-of-the-line. New Javelin's interior had a "cockpit" feel, and had many upholstery options. Hornet had up to 360ci optional, and sporty "X" and "Rallye" packages that could be combined to make it one competitive compact. Also new was the Hornet "Sportabout" wagon with 57cu. ft. of cargo room. Javelin was the champion of SCCA Trans-Am racing.

1972: Gremlin was also available in '71 with the "X" package, but this year got the 304 V-8 as an option. Jeep Gladiator pickups became the J-thousand series. CJ-5 now had the 304 optional as well. The trusted 199ci six base engine was phased out, and the 115 hp 4.2l 258ci six was phased in. All lines disposed of the old Borg Warner auto (which dated back to the 1950s) and took on the B-W T10 4-speed with the Chrysler 727 "Torque Command" 3-speed auto or, for six cylinder engines, the 904 TorqueFlite (some 304s may have received 998 transmissions). Javelin again killed the competition in Trans-Am. So much for Firebird and Mustang!

AMC Gremlin  concept (1970)

The Chrysler-built Torque-Command replaced the Borg-Warner Flash-o-Matic that was based on the Borg-Warner built Ford-o-Matic/Merc-o-Matic of 1951. Studebaker also used the Ford-o-Matic derivative from 1957 to 1966, and called it Flightomatic. The Studebaker automatic of 1950-1956 was shipped overseas to Great Britain, where it was used in Jaguars, Austins, etc..

1973: The Hornet Hatchback was named the "Styling Coupe of '73," by Car & Driver magazine. Hornet and Gremlin now had an optional Levi's interior package, with copper buttons, jean door pockets, and red tabs. Sportabout wagons got an optional plush red and green Adolfo Gucci interior, and Javelins got an optional Pierre Cardin interior package featuring silky black seats with white, purple and red stripes flowing across them, up the door panels and around the headliner. Another Javelin option was the "Trans-Am Victory" package to celebrate their back-to-back SCCA championships, after only five years of racing. Javelin also received new pod taillights, Hornet got a friendlier veed front end, and the Renegade package became very popular on CJs.

1974: It would be the last year for the Javelin, which still offered a 401. The 2-door Matador was replaced by the flamboyant Matador Coupe. It had an extremely long hood, deeply tunneled headlamps, bulbous curves, and four round taillights. It was a sight indeed. Ordered with the 401 X package, it could beat any new sport sedan. The styling was intended to help Donohue, Bobby Allison and the other AMC racers get more aerodynamic advantage on the track, which it did. It was the only all-new American midsize car, and had an optional interior styled by Oleg Cassinni. Also new was the Jeep Cherokee. Made by carving the back doors out of the Wagoneer, Cherokee was perfect for that growing market niche. Matador and Ambassador 4-door and wagon got a controversial front end restyling that some called the "coffin nose" or "Jimmy Durante Snout." These are best known as late '70s police cruisers, and were used in the "Police Academy" movies. The police 401 had heavy duty components and was brutally powerful. It was the Ambassador's last year.

AMC Rebel Machine  concept (1970)

1975: The car that best defined the "AMC Philosophy of Difference" made its debut. The Pacer rode a 100-inch wheelbase but measured 80" across. It was designed by placing four people in seats and designing the car around them to best accommodate their comfort and safety. The body was refined in a wind tunnel to give it superior aerodynamics. The passenger door was 4" longer than the driver's to let back seat passengers in more easily. The dash was beautiful and ergonomically designed. Though originally designed to use the Wankel Rotary engine, the oil market and development problems left Pacer to use the 232, with the 258 optional. Sales almost doubled expectations the first year. The rest of the lineup got cosmetic changes, and the 401 V-8 was no longer available in passenger cars. CJs and pickups got the Levi's package as an option, and the pickups were now called J-10 and J-20.

1976: The elongated CJ-6 was dropped from the domestic market. Cherokee now had the optional "Chief" package which gave it wide wheels, fender flares from the pickups, and other sporty stuff. CJ-7 was almost entirely different than CJ-5, being 10" longer, wider, more stable, and available with a TH400 automatic from GM. "Honcho" package was available on pickups, and gave them more sport appeal. AMC's heavy division, AM General was busy filling orders for transit buses, M915 military trucks, and postal jeeps. The Matador Coupe got a luxurious "Barcelona" package with crush velour seats.

1977: Cherokee, J-10, and CJs had the "Golden Eagle" trim package. Wagoneer got the luxurious "Limited" package, which made it the leather-clad Cadillac (or Imperial) of SUVs Pacer sales were slumping, but were boosted somewhat by a new wagon model that increased cargo room and reduced the "raindrop in overalls" look. Gremlins wore a new, classy looking slanted front end, and for the first time had a 4-cylinder option from VW. The Hornet Hatchback was dolled up as the new AMX, with 258 or 304, stainless "targa" roof band, wheel flares, and color-keyed rear window louvres.

AMC Matador  concept (1971)

1978: With major refinements to suspension, trim, body and interior, the Hornet was transformed into the Concord. Though well-appointed in base trim, the Concord could be ordered with all the goodies, and had an optional "Silver Anniversary Package" to commemorate 25 years of AMC. The 2-door sedan was brought back and led the assortment of Concord body styles. AMX hatchback became a Concord also, and had new stripes. To boost Gremlin sales, the rear was restyled with a larger window, and a fancied up GT package was offered with rallye wheels, graphics, and fender flares. Though given a new "Barcelona II" package, Matador coupe, sedan, and wagon were gone before the end of the model year. The 232 engine was dropped from production. Pacer got a taller grille, 304 V-8 option, and luxurious "Limited" package.

1979: With a new grille, quad square headlights and a clever restyling of the back end, the Gremlin became the new Spirit liftback. It could be ordered as a $3999 economy car. Spirit also had a "Limited" package that included power windows and locks and leather buckets, and an AMX package with fender flares, graphics, front and rear spoilers, turbocast wheels, suspension package, full gauges, 5-speed, sport wheel, and a 258 or 304. With the V-8, it was a class Mustang GT killer. Along with a wraparound taillight treatment, Concord and Eagle would receive the new front end as well by 1980. The GM "Iron Duke" 2.5 replaced the VW 2.0 four and was used in economy model CJs as well as Spirit and Concord. The Spirit no longer was available with the V8.

Plans were moving ahead at AM General for a new, larger all-purpose military vehicle. The AMC engineers worked in the Jeep tradition to create a vehicle that could not be stopped. The name of it was as yet undetermined...


AMC Alliance  concept (1983)

1980: Though Subaru claims to have the "first sport utility wagon," the AMC Eagle pre-dated it by 17 years. It employed the revolutionary NP119 transfer case that transferred power to the wheels with the most traction via a 42-disc viscous coupling transfer case. It wore the same body as Concord, with different exterior trim. Pacer was dropped part way through the model year. To aid the unhealthy financial situation, Renault purchased 25% of AMC and began selling their 18i sedan, Fuego sports car, and LeCar mini at AMC dealers. Renault struck a similar deal with VAM autos of Mexico, which used many AMC products in creating its own. The V-8 option was deleted from all vehicles, leaving the 2.5 four and 4.2 six as the only engine choices.

1981: The Gremlin bodystyle was brought back to life with larger quarter windows and named Spirit Liftback. The two Spirit body styles were adapted to Eagle 4WD, and became the Eagle SX/4 hatchback and Eagle "Kammback." AMX was no longer available. A new Jeep, the CJ-8 Scrambler became the only convertible pickup on the market. The Hummer concept was in the testing stages. The Griffith Company made a limited number of Eagle and Concord "Sundancer" convertibles, with fixed targa band, removable T-tops, and droppable canvas rear top.

1982: Pretty much carryover from 1981. Eagles could now be switched from 4 to 2WD with "Select Drive," and all models came with about any option you could want. Due to lack of foresight, Renault was allowed to purchase 49% of AMC stock, and French executives began to infiltrate the AMC board. The GM 2.5 was replaced midway through the year by the new, more powerful AMC 2.5 (150 cid) four. The Eagle 2-door sedan and Kammback left production.

AMC Alliance cabriolet concept (1984)

To generate needed cash flow, the AM General division was sold.

1983: Motor Trend again awarded an AMC product the Car of the Year award, though this time it was for the three-box design Renault Alliance. Alliance had a long list of standard equipment and got 37mpg in city driving. It was designed using mostly AMC funds. This would be the last year for Concord, Spirit, and Eagle SX/4.

1984: The most popular sport utility of all time, the SportWagon Cherokee and Wagoneer replaced their larger predecessors. The new Jeep XJ's actually had more passenger room than the old ones, which dated back to 1963. AMC fours and carbureted GM 2.8 V-6's were the engine choices. Selec-Trac and Command-Trac were the two 4WD systems available. Cherokee was offered in 2 or 4 doors, and both retained the same option packages as the previous versions. The only true AMC car left was the Eagle, in 4-door sedan and wagon bodystyles. The old Wagoneer remained, was rebadged as the Grand Wagoneer, and had luxury items such as power windows and locks, leather, A/C, auto, V-8, tilt leather wheel, shag carpet, woodgrain, and more standard. A pioneering deal was met with China to build the new Cherokee at a plant in Beijing. Today, Beijing Jeep is still going strong.

AMC Encore  concept (1984)

1985: A little sister to the Alliance, Encore was born, though some were available in '84. It was basically the same, with the trunk replaced by an odd, French-looking hatch window. Other models were basically carryover, with the addition of a Renault turbo-diesel for Cherokee and Wagoneer.

1986: The Jeep Comanche pickup and Wrangler debuted. Comanche was a classy mini-truck, and could be ordered in any trim for any buyer. Wrangler wore controversial square headlights, and shared almost none of the components of the CJ-7 that it replaced. It was far more stable and had a more car-like interior. It was powered by the AMC 2.5 and 4.2l engines. Stagnant production lines in the Kenosha plant were put to use building the Omni/Horizon.

1987: The Encore was rebadged as Alliance Hatchback, and a new hi-po version of the Alliance was offered, called GTA. It was very peppy and available in 2-door sedan and convertible bodystyles. The 258 was refined and equipped with fuel injection to become the Jeep "Power-Tech Six" 4.0l High Output. It was no fib, as it produced 173 hp and 220ft/lb torque. It replaced the poopy GM 2.8 V-6 in Cherokee, Comanche and Wagoneer. The updated 2.5 and 4.2 were available in Wrangler. Comanche Eliminator models with the new six could run 0-60 in 9.5 seconds. A new 5-speed manual and 4-speed auto accompanied the new SUV efficiency leader. A new Renault, which was heavily based on the 18i and derivative Sportwagon, came across the border midyear. The first Medallions sold well and full of options because they were just what the market wanted at the time. About that time, Lee Iacoca was making an under-the-table deal with Renault to purchase their stake in AMC. At the beginning of August, the deal was finalized, and 2% more was purchased on the open market to give Chrysler controlling interest in AMC. The payments totaled $1.1 billion in all.

AMC Medallion  concept (1987)

1988: Renault Premier was introduced in late '87. It too, fit a hungry market niche of larger, well-appointed FWD cars. They, and '88 Medallions were rebadged "Eagle," as Chrysler agreed to build the new Premiers in AMC's new high-tech Bramalea, Ont. plant for five years. AMC Eagle was trimmed to the wagon bodystyle only. Less than 2500 were built. Jeep J-series pickup production was halted; and the Kenosha, WI assembly plant, which had been manufacturing cars since the first Rambler in 1897, was torn down. The spirit of AMC lives on, though, as many AMC employees were absorbed by Chrysler. Former-AMC engineers, stylists, and other personnel are helping to create the incredible MoPar machines of today.

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