While some classic muscle cars have stuck around past their initial era, like Mustang, Camaro and Charger (even with a little bit of a break), others only saw their glory days for a few short years. Even fewer muscle cars saw their end early on as well as saw the end of their manufacturer in the last few decades. One of these muscle cars is the AMC S/S AMX, a car built by the now extinct American Motors Corporation to rule the quarter mile. Never heard of it? Well, that’s why it’s this month’s Muscle Car You Should Know!
Originally introduced in 1968, the AMC AMX was the only steel-bodied American-built two-seater car of its time. Recognized as a GT-style sports car, the AMX was considered, by some, to be a competitor to the only other American two-seater on the market at the time, the Chevrolet Corvette. But unlike the Corvette, the AMX was also put into the muscle car category, although a unique muscle car at that with a smaller passenger capacity and much shorter wheelbase than most other classic muscle cars.
Unfortunately, the AMX’s odd sports car/muscle car combination didn’t lead to high sales numbers, although the car was initially well received by media and enthusiasts alike. What the car did accomplish for AMC, however, was to bring in younger buyers to the company’s showrooms and start off the trend of a more performance-focused brand.
By the AMX’s second model year, not much had changed on the base car besides a $52 price increase, but AMC did introduce a handful of specialty AMXs, one of which was the Super Stock (S/S) AMX.
While some of the other specialty AMX models, like the California 500 with its brass plaques on the hood and Trendsetter Sidewinder sidepipes, were merely produced for looks, the S/S AMX was built, in correspondence with Hurst, specifically to dominate the quarter mile.
To do this, 1969 S/S AMX models were given a 390ci engine, the same one available in the regular AMX, a T-10 four-speed transmission, 70-amp battery, 4.44:1 rearend gears and manual drum brakes from the factory. The cars also received a heavy-duty cooling system, 14-inch steel wheels and a Frost White exterior/ Charcoal cloth and vinyl interior combination.
Once the S/S AMX models were produced and shipped (52 in all) from the AMC Kenosha, Wisconsin, factory to Hurst in Ferndale, Illinois, the engines were sent off to Crane, where they were equipped with dual 650cfm Holley 4-barrel carburetors, an Edelbrock aluminum cross-ram intake manifold, Mallory distributor, wires and coil, and aftermarket Doug’s headers and exhaust. The S/S was also given a 12.3:1 compression ratio combined with the stock stroke by way of JE pistons and heads, which were ported, polished and received valve changes from Crane.
Thanks to the diligent work of the folks at the Kenosha factory, Hurst didn’t have to rid the cars of much once they got them back together, as the cars came to Ferndale without radios, one of the two horns, clocks, heaters and heater controls, under coating, sound dampening material, grille supports, fender bracing or rocker moldings. What they did come with, however, were special wiring harnesses without connectors or wires for any of this unnecessary equipment.
At Hurst, all the S/S AMX models were shed of their front anti-roll bar, and given a complete suspension overhaul, with revised rear link geometry, forged axles from Henry’s Axles of California, drop-out crossmembers, Cure Ride drag shocks, stiffer Rockwell springs and a relocated right leaf spring pocket.
With all this going for the car, AMC rated the S/S AMX at 340hp but the National Hot Rod Association disagreed, rating the car substantially more powerful, once it saw paperwork on the S/S, at upwards of 420hp. With this much power, the S/S AMX was moved around to various competitive classes to try to find its best, and fairest, fit on the track.
While the S/S AMX had plenty going for it by way of performance, the car also conjured up images of patriotism across its competitive series thanks to its well-known red, white and blue paint scheme given to each car by the local paint shop in Ferndale, IL. However, not every car received the specialty paint job (those that were left Frost White were left to be painted by the dealerships later), just like not all cars received the drop-out crossmembers or wheel well modifications that went with the S/S package.
This was because Hurst supposedly hired extra people virtually off the streets to help them meet their deadline for the cars, according to information shared with Hemmings by George Gudat of SS/AMX, so in the process, some of the SS models’ modifications were inconsistent across the board. Nevertheless, the S/S AMX still made a name for itself on the track.
A Brutal Track Start
While base 1969 AMC AMX models were being sold for around $3,500, the S/S modifications tacked on nearly $2,500, for a price tag of $5,994, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t exactly fly off dealership lots. But once dealerships began taking the S/S models they had sitting on their lots and proving the car’s worth on the track, seasoned racers became more interested. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean that the cars were race-ready when bought.
According to Hemmings, S/S AMX owners were notified in May of 1969 that their cars were the base for a successful drag car and suggested more modifications (like a bigger camshaft and drag-ready wheels and tires) be done by the owners or dealership of their choice to make the car into a viable competitor. AMC also stated that “a ready-to-drag car was never offered of implied.”
Although the S/S models were supposedly not race-ready straight from AMC, they began hitting the track in the spring of 1969. By late in the season and early into 1970, S/S AMX models were breaking records in SS/D and SS/E classes. It is said that nearly all 52 factory cars and the one prototype car held at least one track record at some point that season.
Though this is not a bad way to end one season and start another, AMC decided to up the aunty for the 1970 model year. This time around, instead of creating 50 more “factory” S/S models for competition (as deemed necessary to race in NHRA events), they offered racers a conversion kit to make their cars into 1970 models. These kits included new front sheet metal, a new dashboard and even a new vehicle identification number, but that’s not all.
The whole point of this was to continue on with the S/S models’ competitive edge by running the cars with new AMC dogleg heads. The problem was NHRA wasn’t having it.
Even though a number of racers converted their cars to the 1970 specs, NHRA ruled that in order to compete, all the cars could either be run with 1969 specs or converted to 1970 specs.
Racers were not allowed to choose one version over the other for their own competitive preference.
Needless to say, those that remained competitors were converted back to their 1969 specifications.
Faced with low sales numbers and AMC’s new focus on the four-seater Javelin, the two-seater AMX as we know it, including the S/S went by the wayside in 1971. However, the AMX name and badging was transferred over to the Javelin through 1974.
Now, over 40 years after its reign on the drag strip, only 40 of the original 53 S/S AMX models are accounted for by the official registry, but there is hope that the remaining 12 still exist. Either way, the S/S AMX is certainly a muscle car well worth its spot in the limelight!