10 AMCs That Defined The Muscle Car Era

Shirley Beal

AMC is one of the most forgotten brands in automotive history, which is an absolute shame. AMC has produced some legendary muscle cars and powerful trucks throughout the 1960s and 1970s, 10 of which absolutely defined the muscle car era. Fans of classic cars and hot rodders looking for their next project should seriously consider AMC. They’re one of a kind muscle cars without the massive price tags attached to favorites from Dodge, Ford, and Chevrolet.

So if you’re a fan of AMC muscle cars or want to catch up on your American muscle car trivia, you’re in the right place. Here are 10 AMCs that defined the muscle car era.



10 1971 AMC Gremlin X

1972 AMC Gremlin X
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The AMC Gremlin X was introduced in 1970 to combat the new American compact market, with cars like the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega leading the segment. Buyers still wanted a taste of muscle car performance, though, so what was AMC to do?

The X package was released in 1971, giving buyers a sportier paint-job and a 150 horsepower 304 cubic-inch V8 (often called the 5L). The 0-60 mph time is nothing to write home about at 7.7 seconds, but the Gremlin X defined a segment and is arguably the first American hot hatch.

9 1971 AMC Matador “Go Machine”

1971 AMC Matador Go Machine (Rich Truesdell-AutomotiveTraveler)
Street Machine Magazine

The AMC Matador was released in 1970 to compete with cars like the Dodge Coronet and Ford Torino on the NASCAR oval and the police market. The Matador had a lukewarm reception, but the high-performance Go Machine package was one of a kind.

Only 50 are known to exist, featuring slot-mag style wheels, bright paint work, and a 330 horsepower 401 cubic-inch V8. And its 0-60 mph is quick – just 6 seconds! We wish only more of these were made to counter the malaise era.

Related: Here’s Why The AMC Matador Was An Underrated Muscle Car

8 1971 AMC Hornet SC360

Blue 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360 on the road
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The AMC Hornet is another car built by AMC with the goal of sniping cars built by the Big Three, this time compact muscle cars like the Plymouth Duster and Chevrolet Nova.

AMC couldn’t resist cramming a high-horsepower small-block under the hood, making the SC360 a performance legend, with a 245-horsepower 360 cubic-inch V8, good for a 0-60 mph time of just 6.6 seconds. Bright paint work, hood scoop, and a loud exhaust make the SC360 a classic muscle car only true AMC nerds know about.

7 1968 AMC AMX Go Package

1968 AMC AMX 390 4-Speed 2-Door Muscle Car For Collectors 2023
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The Chevrolet Corvette isn’t the only American sports car, and we aren’t talking about the successful Dodge Viper, but the classic AMC AMX, a muscle car with sport car pedigree and performance. The AMC AMX wasn’t just a performance beast, but an engineering maverick, featuring industry firsts like flexible glass and a one piece dash.

The AMX shared its chassis and drivetrain with the AMC Javelin, meaning it packed a four-speed transmission and a 315-horsepower 390 cubic-inch V8. The AMX Go Machine is quick, hitting 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. Who knew a classic muscle car could pack safety, tight handling, and straight line performance?

Related: Here’s Why The AMC AMX Is A True American Muscle Car Bargain

6 1967 AMC Marlin 343

Blue 1967 AMC Marlin 343 V8 on the road
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The luxury muscle car market was in full swing in the late 1960s, with cars like the 1966 Dodge Charger and 1968 Mercury Cougar selling well. AMC spearheaded the luxury-muscle car market with the Marlin, first hitting the sales floor in 1965.

The 1967 Marlin shared all of its mechanical and most of its cosmetic components with the AMC Ambassador. With a 343 cubic-inch V8, good for 280 horsepower, the Marlin isn’t quick by any means, hitting 60 mph in 7 seconds, but it birthed an automotive segment. You can thank this forgotten AMC for some of your favorite GM, Ford, and Mopar muscle cars.

5 1970 AMC Javelin Trans Am

1970 AMC Javelin SST Trans-Am 2 Cropped
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Trans Am racing was all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s, with pony cars like the Dodge Challenger T/A, Plymouth Cuda AAR, Ford Mustang Boss 302, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, and of course, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am battling it out on America’s hardest road courses.

You might be shocked to learn that the AMC Javelin dominated the series, winning three titles for AMC. The road-going AMC Javelin Trans Am makes 325 horsepower from a 390 cubic-inch V8, allowing it to hit 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. We wouldn’t dare mess with this AMC muscle car.

Related: Here’s What Gearheads Should Know About The 1970 AMC Javelin Mark Donohue Edition

4 1969 AMC AMX 390 SS

1969 AMC AMX 390 SS
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NHRA drag racing was at it’s peak in the 1960s, thanks in large part to the Super Stock class; regular cars with modified engines and chassis for drag racing. Dodge and Plymouth might have dominated the field thanks to the 426 Hemi, but AMC put up a worthy fight with the AMC AMX 390 SS.

The AMX 390 SS featured AMC’s now iconic red, white, and blue paint scheme and a 420 horsepower 390 cubic-inch V8. The NHRA reported a best pass of 10.7 seconds at 128 mph, on par with modern muscle cars.

3 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler

1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler
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The AMC Hurst SC/Rambler follows one of the most classic formulas for building a badass muscle car; low weight with a high-displacement V8. The SC/Rambler is completed with a Patriotic paint scheme, magnum wheels, and massive hood scoop to let bigger muscle cars know this little beast is the real deal.

The 0-60 mph time is reached in just 5.7 seconds thanks to the 315 horsepower 390 cubic-inch V8, and manual four-speed. Only 1,512 SC/Ramblers are known to exist, making them one of the rarest muscle cars to be produced by AMC, thanks to help from Hurst.

Related: The Forgotten Muscle Car: The 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler In Focus

2 1970 AMC Rebel “Machine”

AMC Rebel Machine

The AMC Rebel Machine is a classic muscle car with plenty of attitude and performance to dish out to rivals like the Chevrolet Chevelle SS and Dodge Super Bee. Massive hood scoops, coke bottle styling, and a red, white, and blue paint scheme make this legendary AMC an absolute looker, but how does it fair under the hood?

Again, the 390 cubic-inch V8 makes an appearance, this time making 340 horsepower. Its 0-60 mph time is brisk, at just 6.3 seconds. Only 2,326 AMC Rebel Machines were ever produced, making these one of the hardest classic muscle cars to find and restore.

1 1971 AMC Javelin AMX

1971 AMC Javelin AMX
Mecum Auctions

The 1971 AMC Javelin AMX is the pinnacle for AMC, packing serious muscle and timeless looks in a pony-car package. Long hood, short deck, magnum style wheels, extended front grille, and a 401 cubic-inch V8 are some of the key features that make the AMC Javelin AMX so special.

The 401 cubic-inch V8 makes an impressive 335 horsepower, and accelerates the Javelin AMX to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds if equipped with the four-speed manual transmission. This AMC beast is a muscle car for the record books, and plows Mustangs and ‘Cudas out of the way with ease.

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