AMC's Javelins

Introduction

American Motors Corporation no longer exists, it having been bought out by Chrysler, which converted AMC into its Jeep/Eagle division. However, I have a very personal connection to the AMC Javelins because my father was the local AMC dealer for many years, and my first two cars were AMC Javelins -- a torquoise 1968 Javelin SST and a forest green 1972 Javelin AMX. (By the way, I'm now driving a "calypso green" 1994 Ford Escort GT. I guess there's something about the color green!)

1968 AMC Javelin SST
My 1968 AMC Javelin SST, . . .
1972 AMC Javelin AMX
. . . 1972 AMC Javelin AMX, . . .

1994 Ford Escort GT
. . . and 1994 Ford Escort GT

Through the late 1960s, AMC maintained a very conservative policy of not becoming involved in racing. But, during the 1960s, owners of AMC cars, primarily the Rambler American, Classic, and Ambassador, began hopping up their engines and taking their AMCs to the tracks, with varying amounts of success. In 1967, Motor Trend magazine reworked a Rambler Rogue and ended up winning over a dozen trophies at West Coast drag races. Little by little, as AMC executives saw the promotional potential of racing, the company changed its anti-racing stance.

The Trans-Am Years

By 1968, AMC was ready to enter the "pony car" market with its Javelin, to compete against the popular Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. The ideal avenue to publicize the Javelin's potential was the SCCA Trans-Am series for sports sedans. For the 1968 and 1969 Trans-Am seasons, Kaplan Engineering prepared and raced two Javelins. In 1968, the drivers were George Folmer and Peter Revson. In its first race at the 12-Hours of Sebring, the Javelin finished 5th in class. The Javelins scored 11 top-5 finishes out of the 12 races run that year, including six 2nd place finishes. The Javelin finished its first year of competition with 3rd place in the Trans-Am Manufacturers Championship, only 12 points behing 2nd place Ford. The team's 1969 drivers were Ron Grable, John Martin, and Lothar Moschenbacher. This year, the team suffered more mechanical problems and scored no better than 4th place. Javelin ended the season in 4th place, behind the Mark Donahue's Camaro, Parnelli Jones's Mustang, and Jerry Titus's Firebird.

1969 Javelin
The 1969 Trans-Am Javelin

For 1970, AMC contracted with Roger Penske (who had dominated the year before with his Mark Donahue-driven Camaro) to run the Javelin Trans-Am team. With Mark Donahue and Peter Revson as drivers, Javelins won three races and scored six more top-3 finishes to end the season in 2nd place behind Ford. Small AMC had beaten Chevrolet, Dodge, and Plymouth in what was one of the most competitive seasons in Trans-Am history.

1970 Javelin
Mark Donahue with the 1970 Javelin

With a completely redesigned Javelin, Mark Donahue won seven of the ten 1971 races, while George Folmer in a Javelin entered by American Racing Associates won another race. In four short years, AMC had come from a firm "no racing" policy to "king of the sports sedan hill!" This feat was repeated in 1972, when George Folmer and Roy Woods took their American Racing Associates Javelins to a second Trans-Am Championship for AMC.

1971 Javelin
The 1971 Trans-Am Champion Javelin AMX

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Last Updated: January 1, 2003