Saturday, April 11, 2009

Relics- Fresh Rides...AMC's Javelin & AMX

With this beautiful Spring weather... it's time for Atlantans (and people everywhere!) to start rollin' out their fresh whips. And, as kid who grew up in a muscle car loving family, this time of year gets me a bit giddy and excited! I fondly recall the times when the snow was finally gone, there were buds on the trees, the tunes on the radio subtly switched over to that summer jam vibe, trips to the store were made for grillables, and people could finally cruise main street in the ill cars they kept hidden in garages through the snowy/salty season. No joke, I used to cruise main street with my friends for fun and hang out in the DC Xpress parking lot- but lucky for me, sometimes I got to do this in a very ill ride.

My dad had many cars that many people would kill to own these days...a 68 Chevy Camaro, a 70 Dodge Charger RT (in plum crazy purple I might add), a 70 Duster etc etc...but this was all before my existence. What really stuck with me, and with my whole family really, were two cars made by a somewhat forgotten, underdog car manufacturer: AMC, the American Motor Company- often considered the last independent car manufacturer in America. So in this time of fucked up auto manufacturer bail outs, ugly ass plastic scions, global warming and oil war bullshittery- lets just take a moment to sigh, wish it away, and remember a time when a 16 year old could afford to buy a Big Bad Green AMX, smoke a cig, and drag race without a care in the world...

The story starts like 1954 AMC formed from a merger of Hudson Motors and Nash-Kelvinator. The deal was the largest corporate merger up to that point- worth $197,793,366. The goal with this merger was to cover all segments of the market, dominate through their size, and be able to share manufacturing and engineering under one big umbrella. Hudson, the weaker point of the merger, closed down its Detroit plant which allowed for plant consolidation in none other than Kenosha, Wisconsin!

In the beginning, AMC carried over some of the Hudson models, keeping the Wasp and the Hornet in production, later introducing the
Rambler in March of 1950 (pictured below). This is considered the first successful compact car of the postwar era.

In the 60's AMC advertised that the only race it cared about was the human race- and this mirrored their car production which focused on practicality and functionality. This proved to not be so effective for the company as the rest of the industry was focusing on the performance end: aesthetics and speeeed. AMC couldn't keep up. So, the dropped the Nash and Hudson lines focused on the Rambler, and created three new lines- the American, the Classic, and the Ambassador.
(1964 Rambler below)

Things were good for a while but started to fall apart once more as visionary leader, George Romeny, resigned to become governor of Michigan, while his successor backpedled and tried to recreate a company that copied the Big 3 auto makers of the time- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Their cars got larger- while the company grew less distinct. Once again they couldn't compete. They were making weird cars like the Marlin. Which was a 6 seater family sport car with a fast back- that just didn't go over well with the general public they were trying to please. My mom's brother had a Marlin though, which I never saw, but heard it was pretty fresh- especially for a high school kid- party mobile like whoa!

In 1968 AMC's sales had declined to less than half of their early 60s peak, and the company was desperate. So, they redefined their image once again and released the fast and sporty Javelin and followed by the AMX just months later. These were there new cars in many years and people really dug them! How could you not!? Sales rebounded, while the press raved and young dudes like my dad reveled in the sleek simple roar that they could get for just $2,500 bucks.

AMC's late sixties/early seventies production seemed so exciting...very top of the world, very it's kind of sad that
production of these beauties didn't last very long. In 1974 people starting to become more concerned with safety, insurance liabilities, and the gas crisis- which inevitably killed the not so efficient pony car scene. One perk though is that they are quite rare to come upon, and fans of them today are usually rabid, very AMC educated, savvy collectors. Some interesting things to note...1969 and 70 saw the production of the "big bad" editions which featured blaringly vivid, Big Bad Brite Blue, Orange, and Jade Green (which was a $34 dollar add on option). Also, Mark Donohue- successful Trans-Am circuit racer/engineer- endorsed a signature SST Javelin Model in 1970, which had a personally designed spoiler and a ram air hood horsepower boost. There is a Big Bad Orange Mark Donohue cruising the streets of Atlanta'll often see it on North Highland parked in front of Bill Hallman (because he owns that shit!).

My dad, Jeff, got hung up on AMC with the 1970 Javelin. We don't own his first one anymore, but we do have a 1970 Javelin SST. My earliest memories of riding in a car were in a Bittersweet Orange baby similar to this one:

An ad for a 1971 Javelin said: "
If you want to intimidate someone, this is the car to do it in."

But truly, I think the AMX is by far the baddest, meanest ride AMC made...this thing is just built to speed in. It's more stripped down and serious- with two bucket seats, and no backseat. Basically an AMX is a Javlin body, with 12 inches chopped off the nose, but it seems so much more thick, and just looks faster. Its smooth, clean, simple interior mirrored it's viciously sleek, contemporary exterior. Later on in life, I think I was 12 or so, my dad picked up a 1970 AMX from a dude of Auto Trader I believe. It looks a lot like this (babe unfortunately not included):

Cars used to be so unique, so eloquent and so thoughtfully crafted. Though I often curse traffic and bitch about driving, and while I do believe our American auto culture has attributed to a sundry of social, political, and environmental problems...I can't help but be mesmerized by these metallic beasts. Though in stripped down simplicity, they are mere inanimate hunks, I admire the way these cars speak significantly of an era and an entire culture subset. These cars invoke working class America- a time when producers, manufacturers, and laborers thrived. And for what it's worth, these remaining drivable relics provide a chance for some to escape...back in time...before the rust and the vines took over.


articlescollective said...

this is the tightest thing ive seen or read on the internets in a long time. daymn.

68 camaro is my dream car. black with white stripes. mad jealous.

that green machine is legendary

heated mammal said...

I am going to have to play the part most often played by Witchyard on this one. I too come from a car-loving family, and if I wanted to I could go get myself greasy right now working on two 57 Chevy's and a 64 Chevelle (stock 396 y'all) among other classic cars which are considered to be members of the family. I, on the other hand, hate cars. People may, and probably will, think this is dumb, but I see cars as being responsible for a slew of problems with America, most notably the proliferation of suburbs which are anti-cultural and breed ignorance.
I could go on about this for days, but I think this quote sort of sums it up:
"The automobile began as a toy and has remained so. It is mesmerizing the toy maker and the toy user, us. It is mesmerizing the inner and the outer. A toy to do business with has become the obstacle to the business of survival. The automobile is not a mixed blessing. It is an apocalyptic example of mindless logistics and technological savagery"- Paolo Soleri

PS: trains,motorcycles,and planes are the way to travel

the xarlacc said...

WOOT WOOT ! shawty can i get a ride ?! let young xarlakk ride! my hair is long so i meet the qualifications to go fast in it.

Lord Sabbat said...

i agree. the car is a toy. so is the motorcycle. however, the problem lies not in the fact that it IS a toy but in the fact that we have lost track of that.

just like any hobby, if you show it love it will show you affection. when cars become a necessity, which they have because weve neglected trains, planes, and bicycles it puts an unfair burden on society.

cars like these though? pure toys. pure hobby. beautifully designed road ragers.