Vintage R&T Road Test: 1968 American Motors AMX – The Gremlin’s Predecessor

The AMX was a product of the same thinking that created the Gremlin: a bit of body surgery will allow us to create a vehicle to compete in a totally different category. In the case of the Gemlin, it gave AMC a subcompact to compete with the Vega and Pinto. The ambitions for the AMX were a bit more lofty: chop out a 12″ section of the Javelin’s mid-body and we’ll have a a genuine two-seat seat sports car to compete with the Corvette.

It’s not quite as simple as that…

I’m a bit surprised that R&T was convinced that the AMX was the leading edge of a new trend, of sporty two-seaters. It sure didn’t turn out that way. Turns out that folks would rather have a back seat, even if it wasn’t all that comfy. But it sure came in handy when needed.

And it’s not like taking out 12″ from a Javelin was going to magically turn the AMX into a real Corvette competitor, or taking out 12″ from the Hornet’s wheelbase was going to make a real Corolla competitor. You think it’s a coincidence that both the AMX and Gremlin had exactly 12″ inches cut from their donors’ wheelbase? And that they essentially have the same wheelbase and platform? Yes, I know that nominally the Javelin had a 109″ wb and the AMX 97″, and the Hornet 108″ and the Gremlin 96″. But that 1″ was well within the margin of error that was commonly employed by Detroit. These are cut from the same cloth.

R&T noted that its proportions were a bit off: “the section aft of the windshield looks stubby compared to the long hood”.  True that. There’s no denying the fact that the AMX looks like what it is: a shortened Javelin. And as such, its proportions are pretty seriously compromised. No professional designer would ever draw this from scratch. But hey, this is AMC, and we’re scrappy and desperate and willing to cut up our cars and pretend they’re suddenly sports cars or subcompacts.

Yes, I’m being a bit harsh on the poor AMX, which was a bit of a bright spot when it appeared in 1968. And as R&T’s test showed, it was a quite capable (shortened) pony car,


R&T leveled some more critiques of the AMX’ styling, including the horrendously dorky wheel covers. As to what it’s like to drive: “Well, pretty much the same as all the domestic Ponycars, give or take a microhair here and there. The car has a tremendously heavy feel about it, as it should—it is heavy. Steering is slow and numb… it understeers a lot but with the big engine it has enough torque on hand to bring the tail out faster than you can catch it.”

The 325 hp 390 V8 , which had a healthy torque curve but was done at 5,000 rpm, was teamed with a four speed manual with ratios deemed to be far too close together, with the result being that—once again—the four speeds were quite unnecessary, and an automatic would have been a much better match.

The position of the steering wheel was off-center to the driver, requiring an unpleasant cocked position, and the shifter was poorly located.

Despite the many quibbles, R&T predicted the AMX would sell well. It didn’t.