One car you won’t be seeing a CC about this week is the gen1 Javelin, unless someone acts real quick. I have not seen one in the five years I’ve been shooting CCs, and no one else around here seems to either, not even at the Cohort. Where have all the early Javelins gone? We’ll have to just conjure some up, because what would AMC Week be without the Javelin?
For 1968, the Javelin was unusually clean and sparse, lacking the exaggerated features that would soon dominate its class. It also had an unusually long wheelbase, making its proportions a bit odd. It was one of those designs that could look really terrific from one vantage point, and decidedly off from another. Aren’t those classic Dick Teague hallmarks?
I was quite taken by surprise by the arrival of the Javelin; after Rambler’s colossal dud of a dead fish entry into the sporty car field, the Javelin actually had to be taken seriously. What a refreshing break from the past. Its front end was one of its best features, both expressive and yet restrained, and a predictor of things to come, moving rearwards.
But at the time, I struggled with the Javelin’s oddly elongated rear section, with its rear wheels so far back. In the fall of 1969, when the Hornet appeared, it all made seemingly sense to me: these two cars obviously shared the same platform, as their basic dimensions and hard points were so similar. AMC had been too cheap to give the Javelin its unique wheelbase and proportions, just like Chrysler had done (twice) with the Barracuda and Valiant. But when I checked the stats, I was dumfounded to read that the Javelin actually had a one inch longer wheelbase than the Hornet. What?
Well, AMC had a long history of jiggering wheelbases within their unibody family, but the fundamental reality was inescapable: these two were kissing cousins. Their front tracks are within 1/2 inch; the rear track is the same; their height is 3/4″ different, and if you were to look at their undersides, I’m sure you’d be challenged to tell which one is which.
So for a sporty Hornet, the Javelin came out pretty well. Or shall we call the Hornet a low-trim Javelin? Whatever.
When the AMX came out, it was obviously just a shortened two-passenger Javelin with some new side sculpting in the rear, but it did seem to explain the long-wheelbase Javelin. Or did it? Why not just split the difference and get the proportions really right, instead of straddling both sides of the ideal? Any photoshoppers out there want to build us a proper Javelin? In the meantime, we’ll just have to do with what was given us, a typical–but one of the best–Dick Teague-mobiles: imperfect, but very satisfying all the same.