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Car of the Week: 1970 AMC AMX

AMC said the 1970 AMX was made tougher because 1970 was a tough year. Unfortunately, the high-powered little two-seat muscle car had tough sledding in showrooms, which makes it hard to find and very collectible today.
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“We made the AMX look tougher this year because it’s tougher this year,” heralded advertisements for the 1970 edition of American Motors’ two-seat sports car. It came with a new 360-cid V-8 as standard equipment. This engine developed 290 hp — 65 more than last season’s 343-cid base engine. Other standard features included courtesy lights, a heavy-duty 60-amp. battery, rear torque links (traction bars), a tachometer, a 140-mph speedometer, 14 x 6-inch styled steel wheels, fiberglass-belted Polyglas wide profile tires, an energy-absorbing anti-theft steering column, a Space-Saver spare tire, heavy-duty shocks and springs, an Autolite Model 4300 four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts.

Base-priced at $3,395 (and advertised as “the only American sports car that costs less than $4,000”) the new AMX had a production run of 4,116 units, which made it the rarest of the three two-seat editions—1968, 1969,1970—that AMC offered. The height of the fastback coupe was reduced about one inch. While the wheelbase remained at 97 inches, the car’s overall length grew about 2 inches to 179 inches. The increase gave it a longer nose and made it look more like its Mustang-Camaro-Firebird-Cougar-Barracuda-Challenger competitors, which should have helped sales, but didn’t. It sold better when it was a totally distinct car. At 3,126 lbs., it was the heaviest AMX yet, but only by 29 lbs., so with the bigger engine the effect on performance was negligible.

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Appearance-wise, the AMX got new rear lamps and a completely restyled front end that was shared with Javelin performance models. The frontal treatment featured a grille that was flush with the hood and a redesigned bumper that housed the “mutant square” parking lamps. A horizontally divided, crosshatched grille insert with four very prominent, bright horizontal moldings was used. AMX lettering filled a gap at the center of the second and third moldings. The grille also incorporated circular rally lights and the bumper included an air scoop system to cool the front brakes. The restyled hood had a large ram-induction scoop that took in cold air for the engine.
Inside the AMX cockpit were new contoured high-back bucket seats with integral head restraints and a completely redesigned instrument panel. An exclusive Corning safety windshield was also available.

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An all-synchromesh “four-on-the-floor” transmission with a Hurst shifter was standard. Performance options included the AMX 390-cid V-8 with 325 hp and a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission. Very desirable today is the code 391-392 “Go-Package,” that was available on 360-powered AMXs for $299 and on 390-powered AMXs for $384. It included power front disc brakes, F70-14 raised white-letter tires, a handling package, a heavy-duty cooling system and a functional Ram-Air hood scoop.

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The metal dashboard plates affixed to 1970 models were numbered 014469 to 18584. This was the final year for the original type AMX. Although the nameplate was to be used again on Javelin- and Hornet-based models, the two-seater AMX was the true sports car and the real high-performance edition.

Eric Dahlquist wrote up the ‘70 AMX in the December 1969 edition of Motor Trend and summed it up as “one of the better constructed cars around.” The test car had the optional 390-cid V-8 that produced 325 hp at 5000 rpm and 420 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3000 rpm. It drove through the Borg-Warner four-speed gearbox to a 3.54:1 rear axle. Zero-to-60 mph took 6.56 seconds and Dahlquist did the standing-start quarter-mile in 14.68 seconds at 92 mph. Top speed in fourth gear was recorded as 109 mph.


Series Body/Style Body Type Factory Shipping Production
Number Number & Seating Price Weight Total
AMX — SERIES 30 — V-8

30 7039-7 2d HT-2P $3,395 3,126 lbs. 4,116

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Base V-8: Overhead valves. Cast-iron block. Displacement: 360 cid. Bore and stroke: 4.08 x 3.44 inches. Compression ratio: 10.0:1. Advertised hp: 290 at 4800 rpm. Advertised torque: 395 at 3200 rpm. Five main bearings. Hydraulic valve lifters. Carburetor: Motorcraft 4300 Series four-barrel. Exhaust system: Single standard, duals optional, duals standard on AMX.

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Optional V-8: Overhead valves. Cast-iron block. Displacement: 390 cid. Bore and stroke: 4.17 x 3.57 inches. Compression ratio: 10.0:1. Advertised hp: 325 at 5000 rpm. Advertised torque: 420 at 3200 rpm. Five main bearings. Forged crank and rods. Hydraulic valve lifters. Carburetor: Motorcraft 4300 Series four-barrel. Exhaust system: Duals standard on all models with 390 engine.

Shift-Command automatic transmission. Close-ratio four-speed manual transmission with floor shift. AMX V-8 390-cid/325-hp four-barrel engine ($11). Heavy-duty 70-amp battery ($13). Axle ratios, all optional ($10). Heavy-duty cooling, standard with air ($16). Dual exhaust, as separate option ($31). Twin-Grip positive traction rear axle ($43). Power brakes ($43). Power steering ($102). Air con¬ditioning ($380). Rear bumper guards ($13). Command Air ventilation system, without air ($41). Tinted glass. Two-tone finish with “black shadow” treatment ($52). Rally side stripes, solid color ($32). Power front disc brakes ($84). Eight-track stereo tape with manual radio/twin rear speakers ($195). Leather-trimmed bucket seats ($34). Quick-ratio manual steering, for racing ($16). Tachometer and 140 mph speedometer with V-8 ($50). Shift-Command, floor control AMX with “390” V-8 ($118). The Code 39 1/2 Go-Package retailed for $298.85 on the “360” AMX and $383.90 on the “390” AMX. It included one of these engines, power front disc brakes, F70-14 blackwall tires with raised white letters, Handling Package, heavy-duty cooling system, and functional Ram-Air induction scoop.


By the heyday of the muscle car era, the landscape of domestic automakers had thinned to the "Big Three" and American Motors Corp. (AMC). Often defined as the "David" going up against the multiple "Goliaths" in Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., and General Motors, AMC nonetheless distinguished itself with a series of performance cars that had appealing design. One of its stand-out performers was the two-seater fastback AMX that, in 1970, was in its final year of production in that configuration. The AMX name would live on affixed to future versions of the Javelin and Hornet.

Survivors of the 4,116 AMX fastbacks produced in '70 are coveted among muscle car fans, especially the AMC enthusiasts, a loyal group of devotees who take pride in ownership of a product from the "underdog" manufacturer. While the '70 AMX might not rank in value with the more famous two-seater models in the Chevy Corvette and first-generation Ford Thunderbird, it's just as powerful and as much of a thrill ride while being far more affordable at $37,000 to $45,000 in prime condition. 

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