AMC’s Mid-Engine Muscle Car had a Faultless Pedigree, but Missed the Party
American Motors (AMC) was a late and unlikely entrant in the ’60s muscle car wars. Known for what it called “sensible spectaculars,” the company’s 1966 lineup included the bizarre Marlin fastback and concluded with a loss of $12,648,170. AMC lost $75.8 million in 1967, and then the Javelin broke the run of bad luck, selling 56,462 units in 1968 and putting the company $11.8 million in the black.
The Javelin’s origins went back to the two-seater Vignale AMX concept (American Motors eXperimental), which featured a ramble seat wherein the back window swung up and the trunk lid became the seat back. That feature was “Nader-ized,” but the AMX sold 19,134 copies between from 1968-70, before being devalued into a Javelin package.
However, an exciting mid-engined AMX successor was planned in 1968, and six cars were reportedly completed, one of which surfaced on eBay in February. Requiring restoration, it attracted 93 bidders, but the high bid of $239,899 did not meet the reserve.
The mid-engined AMX was green-lighted by AMC CEO Gerry Meyers, who commissioned Giorgio Giugiaro to compete with AMC designer Dick Teague’s team. Giugiaro’s concept arrived sculpted in Styrofoam, but Teague’s AMX/2 was painted and with lights, and displayed at the 1969 Chicago Auto Show. Teague’s engineering group was led by Joe Bishop, working with Giotto Bizzarrini in Italy, and consulting with BMW in Germany. Meanwhile, Teague had already produced the AMX/3 concept, which had a flatter nose, smoother rear deck and larger side windows.
By 1970, the plan was to have Karmann in Osnabruck build 1,000 cars, to be called the AMX/K, but the team couldn’t get down to the budgeted $10,000 price. Furthermore, impending 5-mph bumper regulations couldn’t be applied to the design. The project was scaled down to 30 cars by Karmann, but only five were reportedly completed. A sixth was assembled from spares in 1981 and discovered by Teague only 10 miles from Turin, according to contemporary accounts.
The eBay car was offered by its first owner, who declared that only four cars were built. This is the fourth, with significant upgrades from the first three, which were extensively tested at Monza. The car on offer appeared to be the original AMX/3 design. The AMX/K that was shown at the Turin Auto Show had a cleaner nose treatment and flying buttress C-pillars. The eBay car was returned to the U.S. and driven 1,000 miles before being stored. It was offered complete but disassembled, stripped to bare metal and with complete documentation.
The eBay car was identified as VIN #3634, and the seller reported that the third car, VIN #3632, had been sold for “more than $750,000” and misidentified as this car. No wonder he was disappointed by the high bid.