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How AMC Took a Gamble with the 1971 AMC Javelin

1971 AMC JavelinThe AMC Javelin was introduced in 1968 as American Motors’ answer to the Ford Mustang. The brawny Javelin was a hit with most critics and a success on the race track, and its superb selection of options and trim levels appealed to a range of buyers. In 1971, the second-generation Javelin proved to be an even bigger hit thanks to a substantial restyling and even more powerful engine options. Despite struggling sales that couldn’t compete with its more famous muscle car brethren, the 1971 AMC Javelin remains a popular and beloved muscle car among enthusiasts and collectors.


Second-Generation Changes of the AMC Javelin

In keeping with the muscle car trend of the times, the 1971 model year saw the AMC Javelin grow bigger, faster and more aggressive. The dimensions expanded with a wider stance and a larger wheelbase, and the body lines took several cues from competitors such as the Corvette. AMC flared the front fenders in order to accommodate larger tires and reworked the fastback design into a sharper, more angular look. The interior received a uniquely asymmetrical layout intended to imitate a cockpit. Other changes included the introduction of powerful new engine options, including a beefy 401-cubic inch V-8 rated at 330 horsepower.


Rewarding Risk

The retooling of the 1971 Javelin was not without its risks, and that fact was not lost on the design and marketing teams at AMC. Rather than continue with the subdued, conservative look that had been its trademark, AMC ramped up the aesthetics with a design that earned the nickname “The Humpster” because of its bulging fender flares and ostentatious curves. The love-it-or-hate-it style was an acknowledged risk for the auto maker, thrilling drivers and turning them away in equal measure, but the gamble paid off by helping the Javelin carve out a well-earned place in muscle car history.


Racing Success

With a choice of several high-powered engines and performance options as well as a relatively light, responsive chassis, the AMC Javelin became a popular choice among race car teams and drivers. Despite AMC’s limited budget, the Javelin managed to achieve success in various racing series even against the likes of Ford and Chevrolet. AMC’s greatest success came following a surprising partnership with Penske Racing in the SCCA Trans-Am Series, which led to back-to-back championships in 1971 and 1972. Driver Mark Donohue also contributed several suggestions to AMC, which were incorporated in the performance-oriented AMX trim, including a cowl induction hood, front and rear spoilers and airflow modifications to the front grille.

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