Icons such as the Porsche 911, the Shelby Cobra, and the Ford GT40 earned their fame in the 1960s largely because of their impressive racing records. The American Motors Corporation's oft-forgotten Javelin--along with its shorter-wheelbase, two-seat derivative, the AMX--also boasted an impressive rsum around that time, achieving success from the Trans-Am tracks to the Bonneville Salt Flats at the hands of drivers such as Mark Donohue, Bob Tullius, and Craig Breedlove.
AMC thrust its Javelin into competition in an attempt to market the coupe against the herd of pony cars that were battling the Ford Mustang by the 1968 model year. And, in addition to helping AMC turn a profit in '68 and '69, the Javelin turned out to be a worthy competitor to the usual pony car suspects.
The Javelin offered comfortable packaging with more interior and luggage space than most of its rivals. In top-level SST trim, it was lauded for its involving handling and good performance. With the available 280-hp, 343-cubic-inch small-block V-8, the SST's relatively light weight allowed for quick acceleration (0 to 60 mph in about eight seconds) at a starting price of less than $2900. Straight-line performance slipped with the standard 232-cubic-inch six-cylinder or the 290 V-8 in the engine bay, but things got extra hot starting in mid-1968, when the 315-hp, 390 V-8 premiered.
The optional Go Package made the car especially desirable, with its power front disc brakes, dual exhaust, wide tires, and other handling upgrades, and it adds about 10 percent to collector values today. Tack on another 25 percent for a 1969 and '70 option: the supercool Big Bad package, which slathered AMC's pony in one of three attention-getting colors (Big Bad blue, green, or orange) that also covered the bumpers and a roof-mounted spoiler.
For 1970, the Javelin grew slightly longer and lower and gained an updated interior and suspension. Also, the 290 and 343 V-8s were stroked to create the 304 and the 360.
That same year, AMC built two special-edition Javelin SSTs to homologate its Trans-Am participation--the Trans Am and the Mark Donohue. The Trans Am's equipment included the 390 V-8, a four-speed Hurst-shifted gearbox, a Ram-Air hood, and red, white, and blue paint. Just 100 copies were made. A subsequent update to the SCCA rules required more production versions, so 2501 Donohue Javelins were sold with a one-piece "autographed" spoiler, the Go Package, and the Trans Am's hood. Regular options, including the Big Bad packages, were available.
The Javelin underwent a redesign in 1971, but its bulbous lines weren't as classy, and the AMX was reduced to a trim level. By 1975, the Javelin line was gone.
The early Javelin is a fun and affordable American classic with a rich racing pedigree and style that will always stand out from the omnipresent packs of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars.
WHAT TO PAYV-8-powered cruisers can be nabbed for as low as $7500. With certain options, a pristine car can crest $30,000. You'll pay extra for a nice Donohue or Trans Am edition.
BODY STYLETwo-door coupe.
PRODUCTION124,009, including 100 Trans Am and 2501 Mark Donohue examples.
WATCH OUT FORRust in the undercarriage, wheel arches, and under vinyl tops; also, cloned Donohue cars.
AMX & Javelin Muscle Portfolio 1968-1974by R.M. Clarke, Brooklands, $35.www.amazon.com
American Motors: The Last Independantby Patrick R. Foster, Krause, $85.www.amazon.com
Trans-Am: The Pony Car Wars, 1966-1971by Dave Friedman, Motorbooks, $36.www.motorbooks.com
SPARES AND DEALERS
American Parts Depot937-678-7249www.americanpartsdepot.com
American Performance Products321-632-8299www.oldcarparts.com
International American Motors Owners Associationwww.amonational.com
Call us Kermit in our 1970 Big Bad Green Mark Donohue edition with a Hurst four-speed and a small-block 360.