|Racking legend Mark Donahue checks out the AMX/3.|
American Motors set out to erase its corporate econo-box image in 1966. The Rambler name was downplayed and a classy quartet of concept vehicles hit the show car circuit.
One of the four show cars was the exotic AMX. Designed in-house by Charles (Chuck) Machigan, it was the inspiration for the production pony car Javelin and its beastly brother, the two-seater AMX.
|The 1970 compact Hornet (rear) and the subcompact Gremlin.|
Stockholders and consumers were excited. Javelin and AMX were followed by the stylish new Hornet compact and the adorable Gremlin, America's first domestically built subcompact. VP of Design, Dick Teague was ready to wow the public with the low and sleek AMX/2.
The response to the prototype was overwhelming. President Gerry Meyers gave the go-ahead to modify the sensuously proportioned, two-seater AMX/2 and get it into production.
|Extremely practical but not exciting, the Rambler American targeted West Germany's Volkswagen.|
Morale was high among the stylists as they set out to make this beauty into reality. The guys in the studio joked as they worked that no longer would the company be known for winning the MobilGas Economy run with little Ramblers. For the record, stylist Bob Nixon confirms that the vehicle was referred to as AMX/2, AMX/3 and AMX/K during its development.
Only 43 inches from the ground and laid out on a 105-inch wheelbase, the package was simply breathtaking. Teague designed a new front and rear for the production model. Headlamps were concealed. The windshield was given a 60-degree rake. The counterbalanced engine cover opened from the rear with the aid of gas shocks.
Bizzarrini of Italy handcrafted the bodies; the panels were beaten into shape and bolted onto a semi-monocoque frame. The engine was AMC's own 390 V-8, created by David Potter. Mounted behind the passenger cabin, the mighty 390 was so powerful that no existing transaxle could handle its torque; so one was created by OTO Melara.
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Brakes were vacuum-boosted and internally vented. Tires were different widths, front and rear. Independent suspension, adjustable shocks, anti-sway bars and coil springs made it a thoroughbred on the track. AMX/3 registered 0-60 in 5.5 seconds and did the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at BMW's test tracks at Nurenburgring.
|The AMX/3 is right at home in Rome.|
The public got its first look at the AMX/3 on March 23, 1970 in Rome and on April 4 at the International Auto Show in New York. The automotive press raved about the luxury sports car and many swore that it couldn't have come from American Motors!
|The 1970 Chevrolet Corvette was the AMX/3's domestic competition.|
Production of the hand-built AMX/3 was limited to two vehicles a month but the retail price was still twice that of Chevrolet's Corvette. After five of the dazzling beauties were built, the order came from Detroit to cut up the others. Four were destroyed but Bizzarrini finished the sixth one and kept it for himself.
Copyright James C. Mays 2001 All rights reserved.