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The Javelins competed successfully in Trans-Am racing and won the series with AMC sponsorship in 1971, 1972, 1973 and independently in 1975.
The second-generation AMX version was the first pony car to be used as a normal highway patrol police car by any U.S. organization.
In addition to manufacture in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Javelins were also assembled under license in Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, and Australia, as well as sold in other international markets.
American Motors' Javelin served as the company's entrant into the "pony car" market created by the Ford Mustang. The design evolved from two AMX prototypes shown in AMC's "Project IV" concept cars during 1966. One was a fiberglass two-seat "AMX", and the other was a four-seat "AMX II". Both of these offerings reflected the company's strategy to shed its "economy car" image and appeal to a more youthful, performance-oriented market.
Sales of convertibles were dropping and AMC did not have the resources to design separate fastback and notchback hardtops that were available on the Mustang and on the second-generation Plymouth Barracuda, so the AMC designer team under Richard A. Teague penned only one body style, "a smooth semi- fastback roofline that helped set Javelin apart from other pony cars." The Javelin used AMC's "junior" (compact) Rambler American chassis as a two-door hardtop to be a "hip", dashing, affordable pony car, as well as available in muscle car performance versions. "Despite management's insistence on things like good trunk space and rear- seat room, Teague managed to endow the Javelin with what he termed the wet T-shirt look: voluptuous curves with nary a hint offat."
The Javelin was a production version of one of the AMC AMX prototypes shown during the 1966 AMX project nationwide tour. Intended to rival other pony cars such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. American Motor's Javelin debuted on 22 August 1967, for the 1968 model year. Public sale of the new models began on 26 September 1967, with prices starting at US$2,743 (Adjusted only for inflation equal to US$9,234 in 2011 dollars).
The Javelin incorporated several safety innovations including interior windshield posts that were "the first industry use of fiberglass safety padding." The Javelin incorporated flush-mounted paddle-style door handles that become an enduring AMC safety and styling signature. Additional standards set by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) included lighted exterior side marker lights, a two-piece seat belt and shoulder harness for the front seats, no bright interior trim to help reduce glare, and front seat headrests.
Road & Track magazine compared the Javelin favorably to its competitors on its introduction in 1968, describing the "big, heavy, super-powerful engine" as "an asset in such a small vehicle", and the styling as "pleasant." Motor Trend selected the AMC Javelin as top in the "sports-personal" category as part of the annual "Car of the Year" award issue, describing it as "the most significant achievement for an all-new car and is the most notable new entry in (its) class."
Available in one body style, a two-door hardtop, the Javelin came in base and more premium SST models. Standard engines were a 232 cu in (3.8 L) straight-6 or a 290 cu in (4.8 L) 2-barrel carburetor V8. Optional was a 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 in regular gasoline two-barrel, or high-compression, premium-fuel four-barrel versions. Racing driver Gordon Johncock described the Javelin as "a nice, all'-round blend of features ... stacks up as a roomy, comfortable, peppy and handsome example of a so-called "pony car"..." and after his road test "wanted to take it home."
With its standard engine, the Javelin cruised at 80 miles per hour (129 km/h), while the smallest 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 boosted top speed to 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). A three-speed "Shift-Command" automatic transmission was optional with a center console-mounted. Forward settings included "1", "2", and a "D" mode that was fully automatic. The driver could shift manually through all three gears by starting out in "1" for first-gear with no upshift, the "2" setting for second-gear with no upshift, and finally selecting "D" for the top gear.
The optional "Go Package" included a four-barrel carbureted 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8, power front disc brakes, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhausts with chromed rear ends, wide body-side stripes, and E70x14 red-line tires mounted on chrome-plated "Magnum 500" styled road wheels. A 343 Go Pac Javelin delivered the 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) dash in eight seconds and a top speed approaching 120 miles per hour (193 km/h), as well as taking 15.4 seconds for a quarter-mile dragstrip. The largest engine in the first few months of 1968 production was "a 5.6 litre V-8 that delivered 284 SAE bhp, which made the car dangerously fast."In mid-1968, the new AMX 390 cu in (6.4 L) engine was offered on the Javelin as a "Go-package" option with a floor mounted automatic or manual 4-speed transmission. "Its impressive 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) and 425 pound-feet (576 N·m) of torque could send the Javelin from zero to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in the seven-second range."
American Motors also supported the AMX and Javelin muscle-models with a range of factory-approved "Group 19" dealer-installed performance accessories. These included among others, dual four-barrel cross-ram intake manifolds, high performance camshaft kits, needle-bearing roller rocker arms, and dual-point ignition.
The Javelin was on target for younger market segment. The average age of the "first 1,000 Javelin buyers was 29 — a full ten years under the median for all AMC customers." The Javelin's marketing campaign was created by Mary Wells Lawrence of Wells, Rich, and Greene Inc. was innovative and daring in its approach. Print and TV advertements violated the traditional convention of not attacking the competition, and some ads compared the AMC Javelin to the Ford Mustang side by side, as well as showing the Mustang being beaten to pieces with sledgehammers.
The car was longer and roomier than its competition (Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Plymouth Barracuda), and the Javelin's styling was arguably the cleanest of the lot. With its exciting and beautiful shape, the Javelin sold like "hotcakes" with a total production of 55,125 for the 1968 model year.
The Javelin's second model year saw only slight changes, featuring revised side striping, an altered grille with a bull's eye emblem, and trim upgrades. An optional side stripes consisted of a C-shape that started behind the front wheel openings. The optional (standard with the "Go-Package") five-spoke Magnum 500 steel road wheels now came with a stainless steel trim ring. The interior received new door panels and upgraded carpeting. Instrumentation featured a 0–8000 rpm tachometer that now matched the speedometer. Late model year production received a hood over the instrument panel directly in front of the driver.
The “Mod Javelin” Package was also introduced mid-year in 1969 and included an unusual "Craig Breedlove" roof mounted spoiler, simulated "exhaust" rocker trim, and twin blacked-out simulated air scoops on the hood. A “Big Bad” paint (neon brilliant blue, orange, and green) option was also made available on Javelins starting in mid-1969 that included matching front and rear painted bumpers, as well as two painted vertical rubber-faced painted bumper guards for the rear and a special slim bright lower grille moulding for the front bumper. These optional colors continued to be available as an option on all Javelins through 1970.
The Go-package option was available with the four-barrel 343 or 390 engines, and continued to include disk brakes, "Twin-Grip" (limited slip) differential, red-stripe performance E70-14 tires on "Magnum 500" styled wheels, heavy-duty suspension with thicker sway-bars, and other enhancements. Starting January 1969, four-speed manual transmissions came with a Hurst floor shifter.
Production: 40,675 units.
The 1970 Javelins featured a new front end design with a wide "twin-venturi" front grille incorporating the headlamps and a longer hood, as well as a new rear end with full-width taillamps and a single center mounted backup light. This was a one-year only design. Side marker lights were now shared with several other AMC models. The exterior rear view mirror featured a new "aero" design and in some cases matched the car's body color. The three "Big Bad" exterior paints continued to be optional on the 1970 Javelins, but they now came with regular chrome bumpers. Underneath the restyle was a new front suspension featuring ball joints, upper and lower control arms, coil springs, and shock absorbers above the upper control arms, as well as trailing struts on the lower control arms.
The 1970 AMC Javelins also introduced Corning's new safer glass that was also thinner and lighter than standard laminated windshields. This special glass featured a chemically hardened outer layer. It was produced in a refitted Blacksburg, Virginia that included tempering, ion exchange, and "fusion process" in new furnaces that Corning developed to be a supplier to the big automakers.
The engine lineup for 1970 was changed with the introduction of two new V8 engines: a base 304 cu in (5.0 L) and an optional 360 cu in (5.9 L) to replace the 290 and the 343 versions. The top optional 390 cu in (6.4 L) continued, but it was upgraded to new heads with 51 cc combustion chambers increasing power to 325 hp (242 kW). The code remained "X" for the engine on the vehicle identification number (VIN). Also new was the “power blister” hood with two large openings that were a functional cold ram-air induction system that was included with the "Go Package" option.
Many buyers selected the "Go Package" available with the 360 and 390 four-barrel V8 engines and it included front disk brakes, dual exhaust system, heavy-duty suspension with anti-sway bar, heavy-duty cooling, as well as wide Goodyear white-lettered performance tires on styled road wheels.
The interiors were also a one-year design featuring a broad dashboard (wood grained on SST models), new center console, revised interior door panel trim, and tall bucket seats with "clamshell" with integral headrests available in vinyl, corduroy, or optional leather upholstery. A new two-spoke steering wheel was available with a "Rim Blow" horn.
A comparison road test of four 1970 pony cars by Popular Science described the Javelin's interior as the roomiest with good visibility except for a small blind spot in the right rear quarter and the hood scoop, while also offering the biggest trunk with 10.2 cubic feet (289 l) of room. It was a close second to the Camaro in ride comfort, while the 360 cu in (5.9 L) engine offered "terrific torque" and the 4-speed manual Javelin was the quickest of the cars tested, reaching 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in 6.8 seconds.
The AMC Javelin was restyled for the 1971 model year. The "1980 looking Javelin" design was purposely made to give the sporty car "individuality" and make it look, even at "the risk of scaring some people off." The second generation became longer, lower, wider, and heavier than its predecessor. The engine power changes from 1971 to 1972-74. Actual power output remained the same, but the U.S. automobile industry followed theSAE horsepower rating method that changed from "gross" in 1971 and prior years to "net" in 1972 and later years.
The new design incorporated an integral roof spoiler and sculpted fender bulges. The new body departed from the gentle, tucked-in look of the original. The media noted the revised front fenders (originally designed to accommodate oversized racing tires) that "bulge up as well as out on this personal sporty car, borrowing lines from the much more expensive Corvette." The new design also featured an "intricate injection moulded grille."The car's dashboard was asymmetrical, with "functional instrument gauges that wrap around you with cockpit efficiency". This driver oriented design contrasted with the symmetrical interior of the economy-focused 1966 Hornet (Cavalier) prototype.
AMC offered a choice of engines and transmissions. Engines included a 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 and a four-barrel 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 with high compression ratio, forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods engineered for 8000 rpm. The Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual transmission came with a Hurst floor shifter.
From 1971 the AMX was no longer available as a two-seater. It evolved into a premium High-Performance edition of the Javelin. The new Javelin-AMX incorporated several racing modifications and AMC advertised it as “the closest thing you can buy to a Trans-Am champion.” The car had a stainless steel mesh screen over the grille opening, a fiberglass full width cowl induction hood, and spoilers front and rear for high-speed traction.
The performance-upgrade "Go Package" included the choice of a 360 or 401 4-barrel engine; also "Rally-Pac" instruments, handling package for the suspension, limited-slip “Twin-Grip” differential, heavy-duty cooling, power disk brakes, white-letter E60x15 Goodyear Polyglas tires on 15x7-inch styled slotted steel wheels) used on the Rebel Machine, T-stripe hood decal, and a blacked-out rear taillight panel. The 3,244-pound (1,471 kg) 1971 Javelin AMX with a 401 cu in (6.6 L) was able to run the quarter-mile in the credible mid-14s at around 93 miles per hour (150 km/h) on low-lead, low-octane gas.
Honoring the 1971 and 1972 Javelin Trans-Am victories, a special "Trans-Am winner" decal for the front fenders was available for any trim level.
The 1972 model year Javelins featured a new "egg crate" front grille design with a similar pattern repeated on the chrome overlay over the full-width taillights. The AMX version continued with the flush grille. A total of 15 exterior colors were offered with optional side stripes.
To consolidate the product offering, reduce production costs, and offer more value to consumers, the 1972 AMC Javelins came with more standard comfort and convenience items. Engine power ratings were downgraded to the more accurate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) net hp figures. Automatic transmissions were now the TorqueFlite units sourced from Chrysler, called "Torque-Command" by AMC.
American Motors achieved record sales in 1972 by focusing on quality and including an innovative Buyer Protection Plan to back its products. This was the first time an automaker promised to repair anything wrong with the car (except for tires) for one year or 12,000 miles (19,000 km). Owners were provided with a toll-free telephone to AMC, as well as a free loaner car if a repair to their car took overnight.
The pony car market segment continued to decline in popularity. One commentator has said that “[d]espite the Javelin's “great lines and commendable road performance, it never quite matched the competition in the sales arena ... primarily because the small independent auto maker did not have the reputation and/or clout to compete with GM, Ford, and Chrysler.”
The 1973 Javelin was updated slightly. Most noticeable changes were to the taillights and grille, though the AMX grille remained the same. All other AMC models used "recoverable" bumpers with telescoping shock absorbers; however, the Javelin and AMX came with a non-dynamic design with two rigid rubber guards. A further invisible change came with new standards mandating stronger doors capable of withstanding 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg) of impact for the first 6 inches (152 mm) of crush. A new roof stamping this year gave the Javelin a completely flat roof without "twin-cove" indentations, meaning a full vinyl top was now available. Also, front seat design was changed. Gone were the "Turtle Back" seats of 1970-72 in favor of a more slim design that was not only lighter than the previous seat, but also more comfortable and gave more rear passenger leg room.
Spurred by the success of improving product quality supported by an advertising campaign focusing on "we back them better because we build them better", AMC continued its comprehensive extended warranty on all the 1973 models while achieving record profits.
By 1974, the automobile marketplace had changed. Chrysler abandoned the pony car market. Whereas Ford replaced its original Mustang with a smaller four-cylinder version, and other pony car manufacturers also downsized engines, the Javelin's big engine option continued until the production of the model ended in October/November 1974 amidst the Arab oil embargo and overall declining interest in high performance vehicles.
A new a seatbelt interlock system prevented the car from being started if the driver and a front passenger were unbuckled. The functional cowl-induction fiberglass hood was no longer available for 1974, and the output to the 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 dropped by 20 hp (15 kW; 20 PS). Some late-production cars came with hoods made from steel.
Unlike General Motors' Camaro and Firebird, the 1974 Javelin models were not exempt from new stricter front and rear bumper standards. The engineering and design changes needed to meet the new legal standards for Javelin bumpers after the 1974 models were estimated by AMC to cost approximately $12 million (US$59,305,785 in 2011 dollars)
American Motors also needed a manufacturing line to build its all-new AMC Pacer. Nevertheless, the 1974 Javelin production reached its highest point among the second-generation models with 27,696 units, of which 4,980 (about 15 percent) were Javelin AMX models.
The Javelin is among the "highly prized" models among AMC fans.
The Chicago Sun-Times auto editor Dan Jedlicka wrote that the Javelin, which he describes as "beautifully sculpted" and "one of the best-looking cars of the 1960s", is "finally gaining the respect of collectors, along with higher prices." The first generation Javelin has also been described as a "fun and affordable American classic with a rich racing pedigree and style that will always stand out from the omnipresent packs of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars."
The AMC Javelin does not command the high prices of some other muscle cars and pony cars, but offers the same kind of style and spirit for collectors. However, in its day the car sold in respectable numbers, regularly outselling both the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger that are popular with collectors today.
The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) divides the "muscle" AMC Javelins into two categories: Class 36-e for 1968-69 Javelin base and SST models equipped from the factory with 343 cu in (5.6 L) 4-barrel or larger V8 engines; and Class 36-j for 1970-74 Javelin, SST, and AMX models equipped from the factory with 360 cu in (5.9 L) 4-barrel or larger V8 engines. Javelins built with smaller engines compete in the regular AMC classes according to their respective decade of production.
According to estimates from the 2006 Collector Car Price Guide some of the desirable extras include the V8 engines, particularly the 390 and 401 versions, as well as the "Go" package, and special models including the "Big Bad" color versions. The 1971 through 1974 AMX versions also command higher prices, according to several collector price guides.
Some owners use the second-generation Javelins to build custom cars.
There are many active AMC automobile clubs, including for owners interested in racing in vintage events. The Javelin shared numerous mechanical, body, and trim parts with other AMC models, and there are vendors specializing in new old stock (NOS) as well as reproduction components