(a.k.a. Red Car Day at Chez la Vache!)
This photo was taken in Wisconsin. American Motors assembled the cars it sold in the U.S. in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
As we have seen in previous Ruby Tuesday posts about Packard, Studebaker and Hudson, American Motors came from the vision of Nash president George Mason who intended to survive the post World War II shakeout of independent auto manufacturers by forming the fourth (after GM, Chrysler and Ford) full-line auto manufacturer. Studebaker was to be the price leader, competing with Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth. Nash and Hudson were to be mid-priced cars competing with Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and to a lesser extent with Mercury and DeSoto. Packard was to abandon its quest to go downmarket toward Buick and once again truly be a luxury marque, taking on Cadillac. The four makes would form American Motors. As a step toward completing Mason's vision, Nash bought Hudson and James Nance at Packard bought Studebaker. These two halves were then to merge to complete the new American Motors. Mason caught pneumonia and died before the merger was completed and his second in command, George Romney took the helm at Nash-Hudson. Romney had a very different vision for American Motors, and that vision did not include Studebaker-Packard. Truth be told, it appears it did not include Hudson either, as Hudsons lost their distinctiveness very quickly once folded into Nash and became little more than badge-engineered Nashes. Romney's vision was the Rambler. It sealed Packard's doom, but Romney certainly made American Motors a contender with the Rambler.
Fast forward to the early 1960s. George Romney retired from American Motors, moved from Wisconsin to Michigan and became a two-term governor of the state. The reins at American Motors were passed to Roy Abernethy. Under Roy Abernethy's leadership, AMC focused on larger car lines. This effort stumbled and in the face of deteriorating financial and market positions, Roy D. Chapin, Jr., son of one of the founders of Hudson, took charge to revitalize the company. Former Packard styling chief Richard Teague had landed at American Motors after a brief stint at Chrysler when Packard closed. Teague economized by developing several vehicles from common stampings. While prices and costs were cut, new and more sporty automobiles were introduced, including the Javelin (which was aimed at the Mustang and Camaro) - and the AMX.
The AMX name originates from the "American Motors eXperimental" code used on a concept vehicle and then on two prototypes shown on the company's "Project IV" automobile show tour in 1966.
The original AMX full-scale models were developed in 1965 by AMC's advanced styling studios under the direction of Charles Mashigan. The two-seat AMX was a big hit on the auto show circuit in 1966. AMC executives saw the opportunity to change the consumers' perception of the automaker from Romney's economy car image, to the realities of the new marketplace interested in sporty, performance oriented vehicles and put the AMX into production quickly.
The AMX was built on a modified Javelin platform, allowing AMC to use its existing technology and unibody manufacturing expertise to make fairly inexpensive modifications to the Javelin approximating the prototype's styling and proportions.
Vic Raviolo, previously responsible for the Lincolns that raced in the Carrera Panamericana during the 1950s was involved with engineering the AMX, which was the first steel-bodied, two-seat American performance car since the 1955-1957 Thunderbirds, Ford's original two-seater having evolved into a four-seat personal luxury car with the 1958 models. The AMX was also the only mass-produced, domestic two-seater to share the market with Chevrolet’s Corvette since the 1957 Thunderbird. With a short 97 inch wheelbase, the AMX's direct competition was the one-inch longer (98 inches) Chevrolet Corvette. The AMX's manufacturer's suggested retail price was $3,245 nearly 25% below the Corvette's price tag. The AMX was introduced to the press at the Daytona International Speedway on 15 February 1968, just over four months after the Javelin went on sale. In the demonstrations on the race track, the new AMXs ran at speeds up to 130 mph (209 km/h). American Motors' Group Vice President, Vic Raviolo, described the AMX as "the Walter Mitty Ferrari." The AMX was designed to "appeal to both muscle car and sports car enthusiasts, two camps that rarely acknowledged each other's existences."The "tire-melting" acceleration of the 2-seater made it "a quick car that handled like a sports car. Automotive journalist Tom McCahill summed up, "the AMX is the hottest thing to ever come out of Wisconsin and ... you can whip through corners and real hard bends better than with many out-and-out sports cars."
Racer Craig Breedlove was hired by AMX to develop racing AMXs, which set several speed records. AMC was making a determined effort to move the company's image away from Romney's Rambler.
The AMX as a two-seater was built for the 1968, 1969 and 1970 model years. Production figures total 6,725 for 1968, 8,293 for 1969 and 4,116 for 1970. Changing economic times both for the country and for American Motors saw to it that the AMX as a 2 seater came to an end at the close of production for 1970.
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