Car of the Week: 1974 AMC Javelin

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By Dickie Towers

This is a brief recap of how my family became a part of the “AMC Family” and how my wife’s love for one particular automobile inspired her to hold onto the car for nearly 40 years.

The story of my wife, Linda, and her 1974 Javelin actually began in April 1974, when my parents bought my younger sister, Debbie, a brand new 1974 Javelin for her 16th birthday from Hooker AMC in Sherman, Texas, which is about 75 miles from our home in Paris, Texas. Hooker AMC was co-owned by brothers A. R. Hooker and Howard C. Hooker.

Linda soon fell in love with my sister’s Javelin and wanted one for herself.

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On May 24, 1974, Linda and my mother visited Hooker AMC, and Linda special ordered her new Javelin with the same options as my sister’s Javelin, except my wife wanted G-4 Plum exterior paint. My wife loves anything related to the color purple.

The Javelin arrived at Hooker AMC on July 11, 1974, and we bought it on July 16. The odometer had 6 miles on it when Linda drove it off the sales lot. At the time, Linda was 21 and I was 22, and we had just returned from West Germany, where I had been serving in the U.S. Army.

The Javelin was the first new automobile that we had ever purchased. From 1974 until 1998, my wife put 118,000 miles on the Javelin as a daily driver.

In 1982, a massive tornado had struck Paris, Texas, with little warning. The Javelin was parked in our driveway at the time and was severely damaged on the top and passenger rear quarter. The insurance company considered the car a total loss and wanted to scrap it, but Linda refused to concede, and instead had the Javelin repaired and drove it for several more years. In early 1998, we put the Javelin in storage, with the goal of having it restored someday.

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In May, 2010, we decided it was time to get the Javelin out of storage, to assess what shape it was in, and drive it a little. After sitting idle for about 12 years, the automatic transmission needed new fluid and the screen cleaned before it worked properly.

Linda drove the Javelin on a limited basis for the next two years. In July 2012, we decided it was time to get the Javelin restored, but we had no idea what was involved. Linda was not interested in making the Javelin a concours level show car, she just wanted it restored so she could drive it and enjoy it, as she had in the past.

Like most folks, we got a few bids on the restoration work, and took the lowest bid.

Big, big mistake.

The agreement with the initial body shop was that they would work on the Javelin part time at night, and on weekends. Initially, this body shop did a few repairs on the body, but after a couple of months, they basically quit working on the Javelin.

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Every time we would visit the body shop and inquire about the car, they would give an excuse as to why they had not been working on it, but promised to start again on it “next week.” For several months, we believed them, but finally, in June 2013, after the Javelin had been at this body shop about 11 months, and no work was being done, we knew we had to take the car somewhere else. Fortunately, we found another local man that agreed to restore the Javelin.

When we picked up the car from the initial body shop, it was in 1,000 pieces, like a jig-saw puzzle, with nothing labeled or categorized, parts thrown everywhere, bolts/nuts just piled on the floorboards, chrome trim pieces and various parts thrown in the trunk. Even the radiator was laying in the back seat, still with antifreeze in it. The body shop owners had let their kids play in the Javelin and they broke several items: front windshield, steering wheel, dome light lens, sail panel, turn signal lever, etc.

To top it off, the shop even had large dogs in the shop at night, and they urinated on the Javelin’s wheels, causing them to rust. Linda actually started to cry when she saw how her baby had been treated. Overall, the experience with the initial body shop was a nightmare, and a valuable lesson learned. Some restorers would have walked away from the project, considering the mess and disarray the Javelin was in, but Gary Armstrong, of Reno, Texas, agreed to complete the restoration.

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Armstrong had previously owned and operated a Corvette restoration business in Wylie, Texas, for many years. Our car was his first experience in restoring a Javelin, or any AMC vehicle, so he was unfamiliar with sources for parts, etc. I agreed to supply all parts as needed and I bought a complete Technical Service Manual (TSM) for him to use.

In mid-July 2013, work again was started on the Javelin at Armstrong’s shop. Along the way there were several bumps in the road, one being that the initial body shop was supposed to have rebuilt the engine, and we took them at their word, but after Gary installed the engine and primed everything, there was no oil pressure and a very loud noise coming from the bottom end. Gary had to remove the engine and tear it completely down. He discovered that the initial body shop had rebuilt the engine, but did not order the correct size main and rod bearings, and there was excessive slack in the rods. This was the reason the engine would not pump up any oil pressure. A new crankshaft and matching bearing kit had to be ordered. The the engine was the rebuilt, installed, and the oil pressure was correct.

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The Javelin was basically put back as originally equipped from the factory, using original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and new old stock (NOS) parts. Linda did want a few items on the engine chromed (air cleaner and valve covers) and she also wanted the wheels painted to match the color of the body. Also, the exhaust was changed from a single pipe to a dual exhaust system, still utilizing the factory free-flow manifolds. The original Motorola Multiplex AM radio w/8-track stereo player was refurbished. The original 40-year-old Goodyear F70-14 RWL Polyglas spare tire is still in the trunk and has never been used. All original data plates/tags on components are still attached. Linda has all original dealership provided documentation, window sticker, car build order, warranty card, and service pamphlets.

The restoration has taken nearly two years, and overall we spent about three times what our initial budget had intended for the project. But, that tear that I saw in my wife’s eye’s when she was handed the keys to her restored Javelin by Gary Armstrong was priceless.

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My wife plans to enjoy the Javelin for many more years, then keep it in the family by passing it on to our daughter. This restoration of a piece of AMC history would have never occurred without Linda’s persistence and dedication, and her sentimental love for this car. Hopefully, her story, and her Javelin, can provide inspiration to others interested in keeping the AMC name alive.

 

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