The 1968-1969 AMC Javelin is a real standout considering America had such a peculiar automotive industry in the 1960s. Although each company was building a car for every market segment, all the cars were surprisingly similar.
The only variations from the ancient front-heavy, beam-rear-axle package were the Corvette, Corvair, and Toronado/ Eldorado, all of which were more or less "specialty cars" -- and one was under fire in the courts and soon to disappear.
If it weren't for these exceptions, one could rightfully say that there was little in the way of technological progress in the 1960s. But of course, why change?
Boom years were at hand, and within the parameters of the time, we were building some sensational cars. Dick Teague's AMC Javelin was one. Conceived in a hurry as American Motors' "ponycar" answer to the Mustang and Camaro, in style and execution it had the legs of both of them.
The Javelin was, first of all, astonishingly beautiful. On a wheelbase only an inch longer than Mustang's, it provided more interior space than any other "ponycar," particularly in the rear compartment, where "ponycars" were notoriously lacking. It was also priced right: At $2,482 base, it was less than a Mustang.
But the Javelin was more than a reply to Mustang; it was a frank attempt by American Motors to change its image -- drastically. Former AMC president George Romney felt that AMC took a turn for the worse after he left because his successors forsook the Rambler and tried to diversify, and that the company couldn't compete on all fronts with the likes of General Motors.
The trouble with being an independent, however, is that no sooner do you develop a good idea than you find yourself, in Rich Taylor's words, "with elephant footprints all over you."
The pioneering, deadly dull Rambler was a success all right -- in the 1950s and early 1960s. But it led every other company, most of them far larger than AMC, to build similar cars. By the mid-1960s, AMC didn't have much choice but to try different products, different avenues.
They continued to pick and choose and they certainly did not try to compete across the board -- but they were ultimately overwhelmed by the sheer size and diversity of their enormous rivals.
Go on to the next page to learn about the 1968-1969 AMC Javelin, the first series models designed by Richard Teague.
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1968-1969 AMC Javelin
The first series 1968-1969 AMC Javelin was perhaps the best from the standpoint of pure design. From every angle it exhibited designer Richard Teague's penchant for clean, flowing edges and corners. There were two models, both hardtops: a standard version, and the more luxurious SST, priced $105 higher.
AMC traditionally suffered from its aging Nash engines, so the Javelin's mechanicals were perhaps not quite up to date. Standard power was the old Nash 232-cid six combined with a three-speed manual transmission -- efficient, but not as powerful or up-to-date as the 1960s-spawned Slant Six of Chrysler, for example.
Still, you could order a good 290 V-8, which was comparable to Mustang's 289, and if that wasn't enough you could get what AMC called the "Go Package": 343 V-8 with 280 horsepower, dual exhausts, E70-14 tires, power front-disc brakes, the "handling" suspension, and special appearance details.
Today the Go-Package SST is more sought-after than the plainer Javelins, but they too have their charm and appeal to some collectors who use them as "daily drivers." They certainly don't look as much like products of 30-plus years ago as the contemporary Mustangs.
The 290 was a sweet little engine, not competitive in Trans Am racing (where it gave away a dozen cubes until they stroked it to 304 in 1970), but perfect for the street.
AMC was more than satisfied with their "ponycar's" first-year performance. They had hoped for 45,000 sales; they enjoyed 56,000. This dropped to around 40,000 for the 1969 models, but the "ponycar" rage had peaked, and Javelin's rivals were tailing off, too.
Uncluttered styling and a relatively commodious interior are the big pluses of the Javelin. One magazine in 1968 called it "nattily handsome, sprightly, tidy, altogether appealing." It is still those things today.
For 1968-1969 AMC Javelin specifications, go on to the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1968-1969 AMC Javelin Specifications
The 1968-1969 AMC Javelin "ponycar" had a sweet little engine and lots of interior space. It was another clean-lined beauty designed by Dick Teague.
Engines: ohv I-6, 232 cid (3.75 × 3.25), 145 bhp; ohv V-8, 290 cid (3.75 × 3.28), 200/225 bhp; 343 cid (4.08 × 3.28), 280 bhp; 390 cid (4.17 × 3.57), 315 bhp
Transmissions: 3/4-speed manual; 3-speed automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: live axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs
Brakes: front discs/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 109.0
Weight (lbs): 2,836
Top speed (mph): 343 V-8: 121
0-60 mph (sec): 343 V-8: 8.6