Poor old AMC. These are the most comforting words most of us can probably say about the American Motor Corporation. Competition with the “Big Three” was always going to be an uphill battle for a smaller carmaker like the AMC. Yearly model updates meant they needed to spend much more money percentage-wise than their bigger domestic competitors. This, and changes in car industry, are what’s eventually lead to AMC’s downfall. The more they struggled to attract new buyers, the more favor they lost with their regulars. At one point in time, AMC simply entered this vicious circle from which there was no way out.
George W. Mason and George W. Romney knew this, but future AMC executives couldn’t cope with the new market trends. AMC’s “get out of the vicious circle card” came in an unlikely alliance with Renault, in 1980, but that was only temporary. When Renault pulled out from the US market entirely in 1987, AMC was already a shadow of its former self. Chrysler used the opportunity not only to acquire French stake in the company, but to buy out AMC completely. 1988 would be the last year AMC badge was used. Eagle Sports Wagon was the last model adorned by it in 1988, and AMC division was transformed into Chrysler’s Jeep/Eagle division, which in turn would be phased out a decade later.
But there was a time when AMC used to deliver some rare and obscured special edition models. They even powered James Bond’s shenanigans like it was the case in 1974 The Man with the Golden Gun. Here we reminisce some of the rarest, coolest and most obscure special edition and limited run models and packages that came from AMC.
Related read: extremely rare and cool special edition packages and limited run models – Mopar-Chrysler Edition, Ford Edition Part I, Ford Edition Part II
Check Out These Super Rare AMC Car Models
Rebel Wagon 1967 and 1/2 Regional Models
There were three regional Rebel Wagon spring editions which still count as some of the most distinctive special edition AMC cars today. All were offered with either standard 290ci V8 or optional 343ci V8. Moreover, all had the automatic transmission, power steering, power drum brakes, and heavy-duty suspension.
Rebel Wagon Briarcliff
Briarcliff was country and hunt club-themed version of the Rebel Wagon offered in Matador Red paint with black camera grain side panels. It was marketed in various eastern and southern states. Apart from special paint treatment, Briarcliff also offered black antelope grain vinyl on seats and door panels. Only 400 of them were produced.
Rebel Wagon Westerner
As its name suggests, Westerner was marketed in Midwest and Southwest areas. Painted Frost White with complementing natural tan leather grain panels, Westerner was as compelling on the outside as it was on the inside, where it got Stallion Brown vinyl with richly tooled leather treatment. There were 500 of them made.
Rebel Wagon Mariner
Finally, there was the Rebel Mariner produced in 600 units and marketed in West Coast, and the Atlantic and Golf Coasts of Florida. It was arguably the most striking of all three thanks to Barbados Blue paint job and side panels of simulated bleached teak wood planking. Inside, it had dark blue suede and vinyl upholstery with white piping.
AMC Rebel Raider was another regional special edition model that had followed in above mentioned Wagon’s trio. There were only 300 Rebel Raiders built for the New York – New Jersey area. Apart from having the V8 mill, all Raiders also came with “Big Bad” paint jobs. These special new AMC colors included Electric Green, Tangerine, and Blue You’ve Never Seen. Furthermore, Rebel Raider came with standard power steering, and power brakes, and featured black upholstery and carpeting on the inside, and black front grille and vinyl roof on the outside.
Rebel “The Machine”
AMC Rebel “The Machine” is probably the best known of all the AMC Rebels we’ve covered up until now, mostly due to its high power output. “The Machine” was only offered during the 1970, and it came exclusively with 390ci V8 conservatively rated at 340 horses. It had special heads, valve train, cam, intake and exhaust, and 690-cfm Motorcraft 4-barrel carburetor.
Even though it came with 10.7 pounds per horsepower ratio, it wasn’t considered one of the greatest muscle cars without additional upgrades. Luckily, this is where “The Machine” excelled the most. There were myriad of options offered by AMC under the counter which could turn already powerful AMC Rebel into a quarter-mile beast. Such were the “pistol grip” automatic transmission for $188 or 5.00:1 gearing for the most avid of drag racers. There was even an optional “service kit” for $500 which raised the horsepower ratings high above the 400 hp mark. As far as we know, a whole of 2,326 of them have been produced.
AMC Rebel “The Machine” wasn’t marketed without the role model of its own. Needless to say, the role model was none other than the 1969 SC/Rambler, a fruit of AMC/Hurst Performance collaboration. 390ci V8 making 315 ponies, Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed manual tranny with a Hurst shifter and a 3.54:1 axle ratio were its motivating factors. Heavy-duty brakes with front discs, and racing suspension bolstered by heavy-duty shocks, anti-sway bar, and anti-hop rear links were what has kept it in balance. Only 1,512 of them were made – 1,012 in “A-trim” and 500 in “B-trim” scheme. Former featured much wider red side stripe and blue one that spanned the entire car from bow to stern. Latter one was much simpler, being painted white and only having blue and red stripes below the waist.
Eagle Series 50 Kammback
While the compact Series 30 Eagle was based on AMC Concord, Series 50 Eagles were subcompact cars. SX-4 based on AMC Spirit Liftback was produced in more than 30,000 units so we can’t consider it rare. Kammback based on AMC Spirit and sporting AMC Gremlin rear, however, ran for couple of years. ’81 production was rather successful with 5,603 units coming out of Kenosha, Wisconsin plant. ’82, however, wasn’t, as production halted at only 520 models since Kenosha plant was adapted for the Renault Alliance.
Kammback Eagle came with standard 151ci Iron Duke four-cylinder making only 82 ponies. Optional engine was 258ci in-line six producing 100 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. Base 4-speed manual and optional 3-speed automatic were available during ’81, while 5-speed manual was introduced for ’82. Furthermore, ’82 also brought the optional all-wheel drive option while rear-wheel drive remained standard. Although it may not look like that, AMC Eagle Kammback was practically the predecessor of modern-day crossovers. Atop of that, it was an affordable option throughout its short run, even with all the upgrades.
Eagle Sundancer Convertible
Unlike all the other AMC Eagles, Sundancer Convertible’s production numbers remain a mystery even today. Around 200 of them have reportedly been built, but we’ll likely never know for sure. The reason for that is the fact it was assembled by a third-party manufacturer. To be more precise, they were built by the Griffith Company who initially made sports cars based on the TVR.
After leaving Kenosha, future Eagle Sundancer Convertibles were shipped to Griffith’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where they would be converted. Sundancer Convertible received a steel targa roll bar which was welded to the door pillars, a removable lightweight fiberglass hatch at the front of the roof, and polyvinyl rear section with foldable rear window at the back. They were quite an expensive affair since they warranted a sticker of $3,750 atop the initial price. Another reason why there were so few of them back in the day, end even fewer survivors today.
AMC Fashion Designer Specials
Beginning in early seventies, AMC realized that people put much emphasis on fancy interior trims, so they made their move. Although all of their designer special edition models were gone by 1975, there were a few of them which worked great and, today look like seamlessly unimaginable combination of extreme refinement and affordable cars.
Gucci Hornet Sportabout
Before you start laughing at Gucci stripes in a humble AMC station wagon, do bear in mind the fact that Gucci was only starting to get popular in the states at that time. $141.80 would get you a unique green interior complemented by ivory seats with red and green striping. Models without the sunroof would also get the green/ivory headliner. Exterior too was limited to a handful of choices including the Snow White, Hunter Green, Grasshopper Green and Yuca Tan. 4,835 of these packages were sold during those two years.
Pierre Cardin Javelin
AMC’s answer to the pony car scene call – the Javelin – was arguably one of manufacturers’ better cars. Furbished in $84.95 worth of Pierre Cardin upholstery and door panels, both regular and performance AMX Javelins were even better. Much like the red, purple, white and silver nylon stripes over the black upholstery defined the interior, so did red, white, silver, blue and purple grace the exterior. Although 4,152 Pierre Cardin interior orders isn’t that small of a number, that was still only a fraction of Javelin’s population.
Levi’s Hornet and Gremlin
Levi’s interior treatment was somewhat more successful earning the five-year long lifespan in two different AMC models. Furthermore, Jeep CJ-5 could have been graced with nylon and copper $134.95 package as well. Maybe denim couldn’t have passed the flammability standards, but imagine those dark nylon seats and copper buttons on a hot day! Exact numbers of these special edition models are unknown, but they must have been greater than that of the other designer edition AMC’s given their production longevity and appearance in more than one model.
Oleg Cassini Matador
Last but not the least was the AMC Matador furbished by Oleg Cassini. Although Matador ended up being a bust, Oleg Cassini interior has managed to redeem it to some extent. At least those 6,165 Matadors from ’74 and 1,817 of them from the following year. In order to get it, one needed to order both the Brougham and $299 Cassini packages. White, copper and black were the only exterior choices of color available, while accents were either copper or black. On the inside, black knit nylon upholstery with copper accents complemented the exterior theme.
Barcelona Matador Sedan
X, Barcelona and Barcelona II were option packages available exclusively with the second generation AMC Matador Coupe. At least for the first three production years. For 1978, Barcelona package could have been ordered with the sedan as well. It was late for it by then, however. Very few Matadors were outfitted as Barcelona special edition cars for that year, especially as a sedan. On the outside, Barcelona package brought with itself the vinyl roof, color-keyed slot wheels, and two-tone metallic paint (either Golden Ginger with Sand Tan, or Autumn Red with Claret). On the inside, however, Barcelona Matador Sedan offered plushy velveteen crush fabric with woven accent stripes for upholstery. Coupled with unique headliner, and corresponding door panels, Barcelona Matador Sedan looked kitschy beyond its time.
AMX Special Editions
Given its status of one of the most unique American muscle cars, it’s no wonder how AMX managed to spawn as many special edition options as it did. Since it was only produced for three model years, on the other hand, it actually is a wonder it had managed to achieve that.
The Playmate AMX
There was and still is only one Playmate AMX, and it’s luckily fully restored for our enjoyment. Commissioned in ’68 by Playboy, The Playmate was painted pink and awarded to Angela Dorian (real name Victoria Vetri) who was then Playmate Of The Year. Sadly, while her AMX rose from the ashes like a phoenix, Angela Dorian herself is currently serving a nine year sentence for attempted voluntary manslaughter as of 2011.
When AMC employed five-time world land speed record holder Craig and his wife Lee Breedlove for their endurance and speed record testings, everyone knew they’re gonna be set with some special cars. And they were. Red-nose No. 1 Craig Breedlove Car sported 390ci V8 and 3-speed automatic trans, but went out of the Texas Takeover shortly after skidding off the bumpy track which hammered its transmission. Blue-nose No. 2 Lee Breedlove car with 290ci V8 (bored to 304ci) and 4-speed manual tranny managed to average 140.79 mph over 24 hours while being driven by both Craig and Lee. There was also the third Breedlove AMX dubbed AMX600 or Aero AMX #1. It was a prototype car used for the first Breedlove Aerodynamic body kit, and it’s currently fully restored.
Pikes Peak AMX
As their name suggests, between 10 and 12 Pikes Peak AMX’s were commissioned in ’69 with the sole purpose of hitting the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. They were actually used for practicing purposes prior to the event and didn’t compete. All AMX Pikes Peak Hill Climb Pace Cars had the 390 Go-Pak option, and were painted Frost White and finished with red stripes, decals and interiors. Only one of them has survived to date.
Super Stock AMX was arguably the baddest AMX of them all. 52 of them were created with the mission to rule the drag strips, and remarkably, 39 of them have been accounted for. 390ci mill, T-10 4-speed transmission, 70-amp battery, 4.44:1 rearend gears, and manual drum brakes were factory installed in Kenosha, but then Hurst and Crane took over.
At Hurst shop in Ferndale, Illinois, S/S AMX lost its front anti-roll bar, but was given entirely new suspension. Cure Ride drag shocks, stiff Rockwell springs, forged axles from Henry’s Axles of California, and drop-out crossmembers were installed. Crane, on the other hand, remodeled the engine. Dual 650cfm Holley 4-barrel carburetors, Edelbrock aluminum cross-ram intake manifold, Mallory distributor, and Doug’s headers and exhaust took their place under the hood. 12.3:1 compression ratio, ported JE pistons and heads, and changed valves were also part of the new setup. In the end, Super Stock AMC AMX delivered 420 horses even though AMC wanted to pass it as a 340-horsepower affair. They went on sale for $5,994, while regular AMX’s costed around $3,500.
Ambassador Station Wagon 1st Gen
First generation AMC Ambassador Station Wagon wasn’t exactly a special edition model, but it was as rare as any special edition car. Only 578 of these hardtop wagons have been produced during 1959, and some of them came without the B-pillar. 327ci 5.4L V8 was the only engine that could have been ordered with it, but then again, that was the only Ambassador engine until the fifth generation. It was mated to a 3-speed automatic transmission, but otherwise, nothing differed much compared to the other Ambassador models.
Although Gremlin was nearing the end of its 8-year long production run, AMC decided to give their “ugly duckling” a worthy farewell. Gremlin GT was a mid-year special edition package eventually ordered in less than 3,000 units. It had 258ci in-line six under its hood, and spoiler and flared wheel arches on the outside. Gremlin X was more powerful by offering V8 (in a subcompact), but GT was the one with the looks. If you can credit AMC Gremlin with good looks, that is.
Gremlin Randall 401-XR
As their name suggests, some 20 Randall 401-XR Gremlins were actually dealer specials coming out of Randall dealership in Mesa, Arizona. They weren’t any prettier than their siblings, but they were the fastest Gremlins ever made. A feat they owe to 401ci V8 mill stuck under their hoods. Moreover, their quarter-mile time of 13.9 seconds at 106 mph isn’t something to be trifled with. Much more illustrious cars would fail to achieve these figures later on.
Back in 1971, AMC Hornet SC360 was one of the best options muscle car enthusiast could have gotten its hands on. It was inexpensive and not plagued by sky-high insurance costs, but it also delivered ample power to compete with the best of them. Standard Motorcraft 2100 2-barrel carburetor 360ci V8 developed 245 horses, but optional Motorcraft 4300 4-barrel carb which was part of the optional $199 “Go” package, raised the output to 285 horsepower. Moreover, there were three transmission choices. 2-barrel options were available with either Borg-Warner T-15 3-speed manual or Borg-Warner M-12 3-speed automatics. 4-barrel carb, however, allowed the ordering of Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed manual tranny. Only 784 Hornet SC360s have been ordered as Dodge Dart and Plymouth Duster 340s practically mopped the floor with them. Those that did order it, however, never regretted that decision.
Trans Am Victory Edition Javelin
Back then, Javelin competed in the SCCA Trans Am series, and not only that – it also won the trophy in back-to-back ’71 and ’72 seasons. That was a good enough reason for AMC to launch the Trans Am Victory Edition Javelin. Any Javelin SST built between October and November 15, 1972 could have been ordered with the package. They were heavily optioned from the get-go and included unique “Javelin Winner Trans Am Championship 1971-1972 SCCA” fender decal, and 8-slot rally styled steel wheels. Sadly, their VIN plates didn’t hold any recognition of the cars being the Trans Am Victory Editions. That duty fell on the window sticker, and as you can imagine, most of them are gone by now.
AMX Revival Special Editions
Although AMC AMX was gone by 1970 as a separate model (and AMX disappeared altogether by 1974), American Motors wasn’t ready to let the AMX name fall into obscurity just yet. Instead, they revived it, and offered it as optional package in some of their late seventies models.
One of such AMX special edition cars was the Hornet hatchback. AMX package in a Hornet costed $799, and supposedly delivered some much-needed performance. Well, maybe for 1977 standards. AMC Hornet AMX was available with either 258ci in-line six or 304ci V8 making 114 hp and 120 hp respectively. As you can see, their performance wasn’t exactly top of the line. What Hornet AMX had in abundance, however, were the exterior upgrades. Rear window louvers, blacked-out grille and trim, brushed aluminum targa band, and body color bumpers were some of them. There were also optional aluminum road wheels, and hood and decklid hornet graphics. Not enough to justify the hefty price tag, but around 5,300 of them were still ordered.
Since Hornet didn’t survive the cut for 1978, AMC needed a new nameplate for their AMX special edition package. The choice fell on Concord which was nothing more than a revised Hornet anyway. Price remained the same, and so have the engines. Colors too were limited, but at least there was the black and gold Trans Am copy combo available this year. Although AMC didn’t do much to distinguish Hornet from Concord AMX, they at least completely separated the regular and AMX Concords in their brochures, which wasn’t the case with the Hornet. Some 2,500 AMX Concords were ordered.
Finally, there was the subcompact Spirit with the AMX package. Cosmetically, it was almost identical to its larger siblings the Hornet and the Concord. 304ci V8 made its last appearance in an AMC car in 1979, and it would also be the last factory installed V8 in any AMC vehicle. 258ci in-line six remained for 1980, but AMX special edition didn’t survive beyond that. 3,657 Spirit AMX’s were ordered in 1979, while 1980 numbers are unknown. Apart from being sexier than its siblings, Spirit AMX offered rally-tuned suspension with Gabriel shock absorbers. For all of its beauty, it simply couldn’t compete with the new Fox body Mustang, however.