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The enduring appeal of the AMC Javelin

Billed as American Motor Company’s (AMC) first entry into the ongoing pony car wars of the late 1960s, AMC unveiled its late addition to this pack of popular cars – the Javelin – in 1968 with an ad campaign that poked fun at its new “reputation for building hot sporty cars.”

But, while the ads took a more laughable tone, car owners didn’t find the Javelin to be a joke. With the ability to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 8 seconds, the early 60s Javelins soon proved to be an able competitor in the pony car class, even though the Mustangs, Barracudas and Camaros have arguably had more enduring legacies.

In fact, the success of the Javelin may have been helped by the growing pains of its competitors’ early models. For instance, because the market was already well established by 1968, some experts say the automaker had a relatively clear idea of how to appeal to auto enthusiast of the day.

Even the name Javelin fits right alongside the other models. However, the Javelin may have not fared as well had history proved different. AMC reportedly went through several name changes on the model according to Hot Rod Magazine, with early names including the Sceptre, Vixen or Tarpon.

“Can you imagine trying to come up with a compelling story title using those suggested names?” Steve Magnante quipped in a 2004 article for the magazine.

For many car collectors, however, the early 70s Javelins were the line at its best. In particular, the ’71 Javelin is notable for being longer, lower and wider than earlier versions, and its inclusion of a 401ci V-8 engine, which added more power – 330 hp and 5,000 rpm – for a small price increase.

And while the Javelin may not be the defining car of the era, certain models stand among the generation’s best attempts at auto perfection. But, for all its mechanical prowess, the Javelin may have been more influential in other, unexpected areas.

A New York Times article even went so far as to suggest that the early ad campaigns may have inspired one of cinema’s best car-related movie scenes, the infamous valet joy ride in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and who could live without that?

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