A dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s house, a cruise with Jerry Seinfeld, a private meeting with the Queen–there are certain opportunities you don’t refuse. Us automotive obsessives have these moments too, usually in the form of some personal time spent with a rare car or meeting a motorsports superhero. So, when I was asked if I wanted some short seat time in Ringbrothers’ new AMC Javelin, it was a matter of when and where, not if.
Since the Wisconsin-based fabrication shop put the finishing touches on its first creation more than 20 years ago, Ringbrothers has become a big name in big-money muscle car builds. Look, I get it–restomodded Detroit iron is a prosaic as it comes. It’s hard to stand out amongst the fleets of 1,000 hp coupes wearing acres of chrome and gallons of candy paint. The sleek, buttoned-down builds coming out of the Ringbrothers shop are consistently disruptive, usually shaping the donor muscle car into something entirely different, a massaged design lifted straight from a design student’s fever dreams.
If you’re a SEMA regular, you’ve likely seen a Ringbrothers car in the flesh. The shop’s portfolio is diverse, ranging from straightforward projects like a 1970 Camaro to the incredible, like the Prestone DeTomaso Pantera or the 1948 Cadillac that was essentially a classic body stretched over the chassis, interior, and powertrain of a new ATS-V.
The Defiant is somewhere in the middle. Choosing a Javelin donor car in the first place is fascinating decision, considering the relative obscurity of the American Motor Corporation’s flagship boulevard bruiser. The Javelin does not enjoy a fraction of the Mustang and Camaro’s popularity, keeping market prices low and discouraging collectors and enthusiasts from dumping massive sums into bumper-to-bumper builds. When a Javelin does hit the restoration rotisserie, poor parts availability can be frustrating, considering AMC is long defunct, its corpse scavenged by Chrysler more than thirty years ago.
For all these reasons, Ringbrothers picked the Javelin as their next canvas. Before I go further, take a look at the car in the photos – check out all the angles, and really digest what you’re seeing. In keeping with form, this build is well beyond a simple engine swap and respray. Every facet, every nook and cranny of the Defiant was examined and reimagined. It’s impossible to single out every special touch here, but there are a few big things to focus on.
Compared to a bone-stock Javelin, the Defiant is six-and-a-half inches longer, thanks to radically different panels from the A-pillar forward. Ringbrothers scanned a stock Javelin into a 3D model to create the swollen carbon fiber bodywork. This drastically cuts weight and swallows the substantial 20-inch HRE S204 wheels that measure 11-inches wide in the front, and 13.2-inches in the rear. The paint color is Jalop Gold, reminiscent of a controversial BMW color most commonly associated with the F80 M3 and M4. Everything from the headlights to the hood hinges are modified, creating a final product that appears more rendering than reality.
Inside, it’s a strange blend of originality and modernist design. Ringbrothers considered the design of the dash and gauge cluster odd enough, so a rebuilt and refreshed unit sits in front of the driver. The rear seats were pulled in favor of an elegant storage area that incorporates two hidden compartments. Like the exterior, Ringbrothers picked over everything, from the custom seats to the knob-style key in the lower portion of the center console that cranks the engine.
Hiding behind these spiffy new threads is an all new heart. Regardless of the end result, Ringbrothers likes to keep the heat transplants from within the family. The biggest, baddest V-8 available from AMC was the 401 (6.6-liter), and while boosting that old workhorse to 1,000 hp was possible, with wasn’t realistic. For streetability, reliability, and cost, a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 from an SRT Hellcat was shoehorned in, giving a nod to AMC’s later connection to Chrysler. The stock 707 hp apparently wasn’t nearly enough, so a new 4.5-liter Whipple blower was wedged on top to force feed its way up to right around 1,100 hp. Although the eight-speed in the SRT Hellcat is an excellent transmission, a GM 4LE four-speed auto manages the power for reliability reasons.
All this go isn’t just for show, thanks to a full custom chassis from Detroit Speed and RideTech. Out on the road, it’s excellent, handling noticeably better than the donor Hellcat. It’s long, low, and wide, so maneuvering in and out of fuel stations can be a bit of a pain, but when you look this good, let them stare.
That 6.2-liter sounds absolutely ferocious, retaining much of the Hellcat’s anxious, frenetic roar—and amplifies it to a sustained explosion. Surprise, surprise–it’s fast as hell. The throttle is a hair trigger, requiring simply resting a foot on the pedal to accelerate at a normal, law-abiding rate. Go anywhere beyond 1/8 throttle and the rear begins to skitter. At half it’s vaporizing the rear end, spewing out white cotton candy clouds of smoke.
From front to back, it’s an assault on comprehension. It’s a garage jewel of the highest karat, packing concours clout with a liquefying 1,100 hp one-two hook. I didn’t drive it much at all, but that’s fine. Any time spent around a Ringbrothers car is an experience.