Sunday, February 20, 2011

Take That, Car Geek: 1969 AMC Javelin SST 290

One of the other interesting blogs I like to read is Just A Car Geek. Of all the intriguing cars that he features, one stuck out in my mind: a beige late-model AMC Javelin survivor car that was listed some months ago. I guess it says alot about our kindred mental conditions that we both like bland-colored Kenosha orphans. Now I have upped the anty with our own beige Barnfinder Javelin:

This particular first series car claims only two owners from new and shows 98,000 miles. It uses the AMC 290 "Typhoon" (love that name) motor hooked to an automatic transmission. It boasts a rust-free Southern provenance, original paint, vinyl top and all receipts and documents- right down to the original window sticker. And I have wanted one since college.

Given hindsight, this Javelin might have been the prettiest of the American pony cars. Designed by AMC's futurist designer Dick Teague, it boasted clean, modern European lines in and out. And the modest displacement V-8 engines in the range made for better balanced cars than similar nose-heavy big block Cudas an Challengers from Chrysler.

What I really find interesting about this car (and AMC in general) is the incredible audacity with which it was produced. Right alongside the Javelin in AMC's pony portfolio was the even more extreme AMX- of which little to no sheetmetal is interchangeable. Given the badge engineered world we live in now, how did a fourth position carmaker justify tooling up two completely different models to compete in the same market segment- and on the same showroom floor?

Being the underdog American manufacturer, AMC had to take chances to gain market share. Therefore their designs were edgier, more forward thinking. Think about all the interesting, emotive designs to come from Kenosha over the years...the Marlin, the Gremlin, the Pacer....whether you love 'em or hate 'em, they helped to shape the automotive world we live in now.

Time capsule cars like this are getting tougher to find. This is a neat example of a time when emotion still reigned in American auto design. History may or may not reward AMC for it's innovations...but you could grab a little piece of it for yourself to enjoy.