Produced from 1968 through 1974, the AMC Javelin was inserted into American Motors’ lineup as their ‘pony car’ answer to the competition put forth by Detroit’s Big Three: GM, Ford and Chrysler. To fit into a wide variety of budgets, AMC offered the Javelin with a variety of engines that included everything from the ‘stately’ 232 cubic-inch inline-six variant all the way up to the mightiest of AMC’s eight-cylinder powerplants. At Javelin’s introduction, the 343 cubic-inch four-barrel V-8 was a serious performance machine that offered with 280 horsepower and 365 foot-pounds of torque on tap, while the cars were made available with optional disc brakes and wide tires that helped keep the power under control.
AMC’s previous attempt at a Mustang beater had been in the form of the erstwhile Rambler Marlin for 1965. The Mustang handily outsold the Marlin (as it did Plymouth’s very similar Barracuda and Dodge’s Charger) partly due to the Marlins large 112-inch wheelbase. The Marlin, however, did not leave roomy interior accommodations in the dust, however, for there was seating for six with plenty of trunk space. The thing AMC could not capitalize upon was the sporty image that the Ford found in their Mustang.
Undaunted, AMC’s chief designer (and Packard/Studebaker veteran) Richard A. Teague quickly revised the design that resulted in the AMX concept cars that dawned late in the 1960’s. Pressured by AMC’s upper management as well as by those with serious financial interests in the company, the Javelin production car that resulted from these prototypes was sent to market. Javelin borrowed heavily from the AMX concept’s design and was considered by many to be sporty, modern and attractive in one package. The design was uncluttered and smooth with its split front grille and semi-fastback roofline while the interior featured opulently-appointed front bucket seats and rear bench for a mid-range car of its caliber. The standard suspension was comprised of coil springs and unequal-length wishbones in the front and semi-elliptic leaf springs and sold axle in the rear. The optional fast-ratio steering and handling package greatly improved the handling during aggressive driving.
Javelin was a proven success; during its introductory year, over 55,000 examples were produced. Prior to this time, AMC had not been known as a company that could produce a truly performance-oriented machine. However, Javelin, along with the help of Mark Donohue and Roger Penske, set a new reputation for American Motors on the fledgling Trans Am racing circuit. Over the course of nine races, the duo of Penske and Donohue scored seven wins and handily captured that year’s Championship in Trans Am, going on to repeat its success in the following two years much to the chagrin of the Big Three.
For 1969, AMC upped the ante when their new 390 cubic-inch V-8 engine became available. Its impressive 315 horsepower and 425 foot-pounds of torque could send the Javelin from zero-to-sixty in the seven-second range. The ‘Go’ package, checked off on the order sheet by many a buyer, featured front disc brakes, tuned suspension with anti-sway bar, upgraded tires, and a choice of three potent V-8 engines; in the end far more appealing than the pedestrian six-cylinder offerings. 1970 saw a repeat of the high-performance ‘Go’ package-equipped Javelin, but it was also at this time that a ‘halo’ edition of the Javelin SST became available with its biggest proponent’s name on the corner of the rear decklid spoiler.