1976 AMC Hornet Sportabout wagon
|Manufacturer||American Motors Corporation (AMC)|
|Body and chassis|
|Platform||AMC's "junior cars"|
|Wheelbase||108 in (2,743 mm)|
|Width||70.6 in (1,793 mm)|
The AMC Hornet is a compact automobile, manufactured and marketed by American Motors Corporation (AMC) in a single generation from model years 1970 through 1977 — in sedan, wagon, and hatchback coupe configurations. The Hornet replaced the compact Rambler American marking the end of the Rambler marque in the American and Canadian markets.
Hornets were marketed in foreign markets and were assembled under license agreements between AMC — for example, with Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM), Australian Motor Industries (AMI), and by Toyota S.A. Ltd. in South Africa.
The Hornet became an important vehicle and platform for AMC, serving the company in one form or another for eighteen years, until the 1988 model year. It would outlast other compact platforms from the competition, including the Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick, and Plymouth Valiant. The Hornet was also the basis for AMC's Gremlin, Concord, Spirit, and all-wheel drive AMC Eagle.
The AMC Hornet served as an experimental platform for alternative fuel and other automotive technologies. Hornets were campaigned in various motorsports events with some corporate support. A hatchback model also starred in an exceptional stunt jump in the 1974 James Bond film: The Man with the Golden Gun.
Origins of the "Hornet" name
The Hornet nameplate goes back to the mid-1950s. The name originated from the merger of Hudson Motor Company and Nash-Kelvinator Corporation in 1954. Hudson introduced the first Hudson Hornet in 1951. The automaker formed a stock car racing team centered on the car, and the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" soon became famous for its wins and stock-car title sweeps between 1951 and 1954. American Motors, the resulting corporation formed by the merger of Nash Motors and Hudson, continued to produce Nash-based Hornets, which were sold under the Hudson marque from 1955 to 1957. The automaker retained rights to the name while it was dormant from 1958 to 1969. The rights to the "Hornet" nameplate then passed to Chrysler with that company's acquisition of AMC in 1987.
The Hornet's styling was based on the AMC Cavalier and Vixen show cars. The Hornet, as well as the Ford Maverick, were considered a response by the domestic automakers to battle with the imports.
Development of the new model took AMC three years, a million man-hours, and US$40 million. The Hornet was an all-new design sharing no major body components, but utilizing some of the Rambler American's chassis and drivetrain. An all-new front suspension with anti-brake dive was developed for AMC's large-sized "senior" 1970 models, and instead of developing lighter components for the new compact-size platform, the same parts were incorporated into the Hornet.
Introduced in 1969 for the 1970 model year, the Hornet was the first car in a line of new models that AMC would introduce over the following three years, and it set the tone for what designer Dick Teague and chief executive officer Roy D. Chapin, Jr., had in mind for the company for the 1970s. The Hornet marked the return of AMC to its original role as a "niche" marketer specializing in small cars. It also became one of AMCs best sellers.
With its manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) of US$1,994 for the base model, the Hornet was an economical small family car. However, it took design cues from the popular Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, and the company's own Javelin with a long hood, short rear deck, and sporty looks. The Hornet's 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase platform (two inches or 5.08 centimeters longer than its predecessor, the Rambler American) evolved into a number of other models (including the four-wheel-drive Eagle) and was produced through 1988. The Hornet was initially available in a choice of two thrifty straight-six engines or a 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8.
The Hornet was offered as a two-door and four-door notchback sedan in its introductory year. The hardtop (no "B" pillar) coupe body style was not continued from the 1969 Rambler American. A four-door station wagon variant named the "Sportabout" was added to the 1971 lineup. Also for 1971, the SC/360 was added. This was a 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 powered compact muscle car that was available only as a two-door sedan. (The tire pressure sticker on the first 1970 models hinted at the SC/360). For 1973, a semi-fastback hatchback coupe with fold-down rear seats was added to the lineup.
AMC used the Hornet as the basis for its AMC Gremlin, which consisted of the front half of the two-door Hornet's body and a truncated rear section with a window hatchback.
In 1973 a Levi's Jeans trim package – based on the world-famous jeans manufacturer – was added. The Levi's trim package was popular and was available for several years. The Hornet station wagon version was offered for two model years with a luxury trim package designed by Italian fashion designer Dr. Aldo Gucci. It is notable for being one of the first American cars to offer an upscale fashion "designer" trim level. The AMC Hornet was also the first U.S. made automobile to feature guardrail beam doors to protect occupants in the event of a side impact.
The Hornet was phased out after 1977 and transformed into a new "luxury compact" line of automobiles, the AMC Concord. It also served as the basis of an innovative "crossover" all-wheel drive vehicle, the AMC Eagle that was introduced in 1979.
Introduced in September 1969, the first year Hornets came in "base" and higher trim SST models, and in 2 and 4-door sedans. The 199 cu in (3.3 L) straight-6 engine was standard on the base models with the 232 cu in (3.8 L) standard on the SST. The 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was optional.
The annual new car issue of Popular Science introduced the 1970 model by entitling its article: "Rambler is dead – long live the Hornet!" The authors not only compared the new Hornet with the outgoing Rambler American, but also with its primary competition, the Ford Maverick and finding the Hornet better to Ford's new model in several factors that are significant to consumers, as well as "certainly superior among economy cars" in ride-and-handling and "way ahead" in performance.
Popular Mechanics road test of a SST model with V8 engine and automatic transmission summarized the findings in the article's sub-title: "it has a lot of good things in a not-too-small package."
Popular Science conducted a road test of four of the lowest-priced U.S. cars (AMC Hornet, Ford Maverick, Plymouth Duster, and Chevrolet Nova) describing the 1970 Hornet offering more interior and trunk room, excellent visibility in all directions, achieved the highest fuel economy, needed the optional disk brakes, and the authors concluded that it was the "practical family car ... better value than any of the others".
- 1970 production:
- 2-door base: 43,610
- 4-door base: 17,948
- 2-door SST: 19,748
- 4-door SST: 19,786
The 1971 model year was the introduction of the Sportabout, a 4-door wagon using a steeply sloped back design with a single liftgate-type hatch. The styling was well-executed to appear muscular and purposeful while the liftgate-type station wagon appeared revolutionary in an era of traditional and upright rear tailgates. All featured a "Sportabout" emblem at the rear of the bodysides.
The 2- and 4-door sedans were carryovers. The 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 engine was now standard across the range.
A marketing promotion in the Spring made available a new fabric folding sunroof on specially equipped Hornets, as well as on the Gremlin. The opening roof feature was included with the purchase of whitewall tires, custom wheel covers, pinstripes or rally stripes, a light group, and a special visibility group.
A notable addition was the SC360 version, a compact 2-door muscle car that was intended as a follow-up to the 1969 SC Rambler. Powered by the AMC's 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8, the SC was distinguished by styled wheels, body striping, individual fully reclining front seats as well as other performance and appearance upgrades. In standard form, with two-barrel carburetor, the 360 produced 245 hp (183 kW; 248 PS) (gross) and was priced at just US$2,663 (about $40 below the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340). This combination was offered by AMC to achieve a 12.5:1 weight to horsepower ratio for insurance rate calculations.
With the addition of the $199 "Go" package's four-barrel carburetor and ram-air induction, the SC's power increased to 285 hp (213 kW; 289 PS). Optional in place of the standard three-speed was a Hurst-shifted GM Borg-Warner Super T10 four-speed, or an automatic transmission. Goodyear Polyglas D70x14 blackwall tires were standard, with upgrades including white lettered tires, a heavy-duty suspension package, and the Spicer "Twin-Grip" limited slip differential with 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 gears.
Although the SC/360 could not compete with the holdover big-engined muscle cars, the SC combined respectable quickness (0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and the quarter mile (1320 feet, 402 m) dragstrip in 14.9 at 95 mph (153 km/h) with a taut suspension, big tires, and modest size; thus Motor Trend magazine described it as "just a plain gas to drive ... it handles like a dream." Hot Rod magazine ran the 1/4 mile an SC360 with automatic transmission weighing 3,200 lb (1,451 kg) in 14.80 seconds at 94.63 mph in "bone-stock form" and predicted that high 13s could be achieved "with little more than a rejet and recurve of the carb and distributor." The authors also praised the car's handling and braking by summarizing: "Unbelievable. I think it's some great little car!" Car Craft magazine testers bolted on better tires, headers, and traction bars to run the 1/4 mile in 13.78 seconds at 101.92 mph (164.02 km/h).
The muscle car market segment reached the height of popularity in 1970, but the combination of rising fuel and insurance prices along with emerging emissions reductions meant the end of an era. American Motors originally planned to build as many as 10,000 of the cars, but high insurance premiums killed the SC/360 after a single year's production of just 784 examples. A total of 304 were built with the now-preferred combination of a 4-speed manual transmission and a 4-barrel carburetor.
The Sportabout, on the other hand, was the most popular model by far, outselling all other Hornet models combined in its debut year. For most of its production, it was the only American-made station wagon in its size class.
- 1971 production:
- 2-door base: 19,395
- 4-door base: 10,403
- 2-door SST: 8,600
- 4-door SST: 10,651
- Wagon SST: 73,471
- SC360: 784
American Motors established a new focus on quality with the 1972 model year. The "Buyer Protection Plan", was the industry's first 12-month or 12,000 miles (19,000 km) comprehensive, bumper-to-bumper warranty. This innovative AMC Buyer Protection Plan included numerous mechanical upgrades to increase durability, as well as a focus on quality in sourcing and production.
The 1972 Hornet was promoted by AMC as "a Tough Little Car". American Motors promised to repair anything wrong with the car (except for the tires), owners were provided with a toll-free telephone number to the company and a free loaner car if a warranty repair took overnight.
To consolidate AMC's product offering, reduce production costs, and offer more value to consumers, the base models were dropped in 1972 and all models were designated as "SST". The SST offered more items standard than the previous year's base model at about the same price. Hornets now came with comfort and convenience items that most consumers expected, and these items were typically standard on imported cars. For the first time, an AM/FM monaural radio was added to the options list.
Other changes included dropping the SC/360 compact muscle car, but the two-barrel version of the 360 cu in (5.9 L) remained optional in addition to the 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine. For those desiring more performance, a four-barrel carburetor was a dealer-installed option on the 360 V8. Automatic transmissions were now the TorqueFlites sourced from Chrysler, and AMC called it the "Torque-Command".
New for 1972 was the "X" package that attempted to replicate the success AMC had had with this trim option on the 1971 Gremlin. The Hornet X trim package was available on the two-door sedan and the new Sportabout. It could be ordered with any of the available I6 and V8 engines and included rally stripes, "X" emblems, a three-spoke sports steering wheel, and 14 x 6-inch slot-style steel road wheels with C78 x 14 Polyglas blackwall tires. A performance-oriented "Rallye" package was also introduced. It included among other items: special lower body stripes, full-synchromesh three-speed manual gearbox with floor shift, bucket seats, handling package, front disc brakes, 20.1 quick-ratio manual steering, and a sports steering wheel. It was possible to order both the Rallye and the X-package.
Motor Trend magazine tested a 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 Hornet in 1972, measuring performance from 0 to 60 mph in 9 seconds flat and the 1/4-mile dragstrip in 16.8 seconds at 82 mph (132 km/h). These were virtually equal to the 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 Chevrolet Nova that was tested in the same issue.
- 1972 production:
- 2-door SST: 27,122
- 4-door SST: 24,254
- Wagon SST: 34,065 (Gucci version: 2,583)
The 1972 Hornet was notable for being one of the first American cars to offer a special luxury trim package created by a fashion designer. Named for Italian fashion designer Dr. Aldo Gucci, the Gucci package was offered only on the Sportabout, the four-door wagon with a single sloping hatch replacing the then traditional window/tailgate door. The option included special beige-colored upholstery fabrics on thickly padded seats and inside door panels (with red and green striping) along with Gucci logo emblems and a choice of four exterior colors: Snow White; Hunter Green; Grasshopper Green, and Yuca Tan. The Gucci model proved to be a success, with 2,583 produced in 1972 (and 2,252 more for 1973) Sportabouts so equipped.
AMC also produced a one-off Sportabout for Gucci's personal use. The car was powered by a 5-litre V8 engine and had a three-speed automatic transmission. The interior featured leather was door panels, cargo area as well as the front and rear center armrests. The doors and custom-designed bucket seats received red and green striped inserts. The instrument panel was given a centrally located, pull-out writing desk, graced with a scribbler and a sterling silver bamboo pen. A map light at the end of a flexible arm extended from the right side of the desk, the left carried a vanity mirror, also on a flex stem. The back of the front seats popped open. The one on the passenger's side served as a snack table or provided a flat surface for playing games. The compartment behind the driver concealed a miniature liquor cabinet, complete with four sterling silver tumbles and two decanters—all decorated with red and green enamel stripes.
American Motors followed this designer influence in successive years with the Cardin Javelin in 1973 and the Cassini Matador in 1974, but there were no new signature designer versions after those. This trim package concept inspired other automakers – including Ford's luxury marque, Lincoln in 1976 – to offer packages styled by other famous fashion designers.
In 1972 the Canadian AMC plant produced a Canada-only 2-door Hornet marketed as the "Green Hornet." In addition to being green, the model was built with a "Baja" grain vinyl top and came standard with sport-styled wheel covers and whitewall tires. The engine was the 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 with three-speed Torque-Command automatic transmission. Options included bucket seats, side stripes, and engines including AMC's 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8.
The biggest visible changes among all AMC automobiles for the 1973 model year were to the Hornet line and its new model, a two-door hatchback. Car and Driver magazine called it "the styling coup of 1973". Other changes included a new front-end design and bodywork with a V-shaped grille, a slightly recessed and longer hood, and longer peaked front fenders. The facelift incorporated a new stronger and larger energy-absorbing recoverable front bumper system with a horizontal rubber strip that met the new no-damage at 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h) NHTSA safety legislation. The rear also received a new 2.5 miles per hour (4.0 km/h) bumper with twin vertical rubber guards, but the 5 mph unit (matching the front) was optional. The overall length of the Hornet increased 6 inches (152 mm).
For the 1973 model year, the SST designation was dropped from the Hornet line, and all were simply called Hornet. The newly introduced two-door hatchback incorporated a fold-down rear seat for increased cargo volume from 9.5 to 30.5 cubic feet (269 to 864 l). An optional hinged floor made a hidden storage space that housed a temporary use "space-saver" spare tire, and created a flat load area totaling 23 cu ft (650 l).
The new hatchback was available with a Levi's bucket seat interior trim option that was actually made of spun nylon fabric, rather than real cotton denim, to comply with flammability standards as well as offer greater wear and stain resistance. The interior included copper Levi's rivets, traditional contrasting stitching, and the Levi's tab on both the front seatbacks, as well as unique door panels with Levis trim with removable map pockets and "Levi's" decals on the front fenders.
An optional dealer accessory was available to convert the open hatchback area into a recreational vehicle or camper with mosquito net windows. The Mini-Camper Kit converted an open hatchback into a camping compartment and enough room for sleeping with the rear seat folded down. The “Mini-Camper” was a weatherproof covering that fitted over the roof section from the B-pillar back to the rear bumper that was easy to set up.
The two- and four-door sedan models were carried over while the Sportabout wagon received a new optional upscale "D/L" package. This trim package included exterior woodgrain bodyside decal panels, a roof rack with a rear air deflector, and individual reclining seats upholstered in plush cloth. The Gucci edition wagon was continued for one more year with five exterior color choices. The "X" package was now available only for the Sportabout and hatchback. It included color-coordinated "rally" side stripes, 14 x 6-inch slot-style steel wheels with C78 x 14 Goodyear Polyglas tires, an "X" emblem, and a sports steering wheel.
Engines incorporated new emissions controls and the choices on all Hornet models included two I6s, the standard 232 cu in (3.8 L) or a 258 cu in (4.2 L) version, as well as two V8s, the base 304 cu in (5.0 L) or the 175 hp (130 kW; 177 PS) 360 cu in (5.9 L). Any Hornet model could be ordered with the two-barrel 360 engine and automatic transmission. Demand for classic muscle car cars had disappeared by 1973, but the Hornet was a relatively light car and was a "mildly spirited performer" in stock form with the new emissions gear. A Hornet hatchback with the 360 V8 was tested by Car and Driver. The 0-60 time was 8.4 seconds with a 3.15 rear axle ratio and the magazine noted that the Hornet hatchback was "...so good that AMC is sure to finally lose its underdog status."
Research sponsored by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve front and side crashworthiness was first applied into production compact vehicles starting with the 1973 Hornet, which included stronger doors designed to withstand 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg) penetration in the first 6 inches (152 mm) of crush.
Spurred by AMC's success in its strategy of improving product quality, and an advertising campaign focusing on "we back them better because we build them better", the automaker achieved record profits. American Motors' comprehensive "Buyer Protection Plan" warranty was expanded for the 1973 models to cover lodging expenses should a car require overnight repairs when the owner is away from home.
Suggested prices began at $2,298 for the base model two-door sedan with the more popular new hatchback going for $2,449.
- 1973 production:
- 2-door: 23,187
- 4-door: 25,452
- Wagon: 44,719 (Gucci version: 2,251)
- Hatchback: 40,110
All four versions of the Hornet were mostly carryovers in 1974, with minimal trim changes. The front bumper lost its full-width vinyl rub strip but gained two rubber-faced bumper guards. A larger, energy-absorbing rear bumper was added to meet new 5 mph safety standards, and the license plate was moved up to a position between the taillights. All Hornet body styles saw sales gains compared to the previous year.
New inertial-reel seat/shoulder belts were standard, along with a new electronic system requiring front-seat passengers to buckle up before the engine would start.
Focusing on the new Pacer, AMC kept the Hornet mostly the same. A new grille with vertical grating was the primary change. A new "Touring Package" included special upholstery and luxury features. In a return to its philosophy of economical compact cars, AMC emphasized its comprehensive "Buyer Protection Plan" warranty in marketing the Hornets.
Six-cylinder Hornets could be ordered with a new British supplied Laycock de Normanville "J-type" overdrive. Optional on cars with a manual three-speed transmission, the unit was controlled by a pushbutton at the end of the turn signal stalk. The overdrive unit engages automatically at speeds above 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) and drops out at 32 mph (51 km/h). It also included an accelerator pedal kickdown switch for faster passing.
All U.S. market Hornets featured catalytic converters and now required gasoline without tetraethyl lead. "Unleaded Fuel Only" warnings were displayed on both the fuel gauge and on a decal by the fuel filler. Consumers complained loudly about the 1974 "mandatory seat belt" system, and it was replaced in 1975 with a simple reminder buzzer and light.
The U.S. economy was experiencing inflation, and new car sales fell for all the automakers. The industry sold 8.2 million units, a drop of more than 2.5 million from the record pace in 1973. Sales of the Hornet also suffered.
In its sixth year as a carryover, AMC priced the sedan and hatchback at the same identically, with the Sportabout slightly higher. That year, the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare were introduced; the line included a station wagon, ending AMC's monopoly on 6-cylinder domestic compact wagons.
The Hornet line was mostly unchanged for 1977 with improvements made to engines and transmissions for increased fuel efficiency and the effects of new nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission standards. All 3-speed manual transmissions were now on the floor. A new "AMX" model also appeared.
In fall 1977, the Hornet was re-engineered and restyled to become the 1978 Concord and helped establish the "luxury compact" market segment. With its upgraded design, components, and more standard features, the new Concord was moved upscale from the economy-focused Hornet. Changes to the AMC's "junior" platform made the new Concord more comfortable and desirable to buyers seeking an image of luxury, as well as greater value.
A new sports-oriented model, the AMX, was introduced to appeal to young, performance-oriented car buyers. The AMX was available only as a hatchback with the six or the V8 engine (automatic only) featuring a floor-shifted four-speed manual or automatic transmission. Standard was an upgraded black or tan interior with a floor console, "rally" instrumentation with tachometer, and "soft-feel" sports steering wheel. The special "Hornet AMX" was only available in four exterior colors that included matching painted bumpers with a wraparound rubber guard strip, bodyside rubber guard strip, and contrasting AMX model identification bodyside decals ahead of the rear wheels. The exterior included a front spoiler integrated into the front lower fender extensions, rear lower fender flares, sport-styled road wheels, brushed aluminum "Targa top" band over the B-pillars and roof, black left and right outside mirrors, and louvers for the rear hatch window. Options included bright aluminum road wheels and large Hornet-graphic decals on the hood and on the decklid. This model marked the return of a famous name that evoked AMC's original AMX two-seat sports car.
The AMC Hornet was exported to international markets, as well as assembled under license from Complete knock down (CKD) kits that were shipped from AMC's U.S. or Canadian plants. The foreign-built cars incorporated numerous components and parts that were produced by local manufacturers to gain tax or tariff preferences.
Between 1970 and 1975, a total of 1,825 Hornets were built in right-hand-drive at the Australian Motor Industries (AMI) factory at Port Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. The initial engineering to right hand drive and interior design was achieved firstly with South African-built Hornets and then used as the blueprint for Australian assembly. The Hornet was sold in Australia as the "Rambler Hornet", only in four-door sedan body style. It was fitted with either a 232 cu in (3.8 L) or 258 cu in (4.2 L) six-cylinder engine and with an automatic transmission.
Australian Hornets were always a model behind the U.S models, i.e the 1972 Australian model was really a U.S 1971 model, etc. AMI never received the U.S 1973 model and therefore no Hornets were assembled in 1974. AMI assembled the U.S 1972 model again in 1975 using whatever 1973 parts had arrived in the interim that could be fitted to a 1972 model.
While the Hornet was the least expensive compact model in the United States, the Hornet in Australia was a luxury model, with high levels of trim, carpet, tires, and accessories. These included high-back seats, fully lined boot and covered spare wheel. The Hornet used a PBR fully assisted dual braking system, and front disc brakes from the Javelin Trans Am. The Hornet sold for $3,999 in 1970, with 407 cars being sold in Australia in that year. Sales peaked in 1971 with 597 sold. Sales dropped to 355 in 1972 and to 212 in 1973. 1974 saw 118 sales (of cars assembled in 1973.) 1975 was the Hornet's final year in Australia, with 136 sales.
Purdy Motor, which had been established in 1959 to import Toyota and AMC vehicles into Costa Rica built an assembly plant in San Jose in 1965 to assemble Toyota and AMC vehicles for the local market. They would go on to assemble the Rambler American, Classic, Ambassador, Rebel, and Javelin during this time. Assembly of the Hornet began in 1970 and was marketed as the "Rambler SST."
In 1974 a new local vehicle manufacturer, Motorizada de Costa Rica, purchased the rights of Rambler distributorship from Purdy Motors. Motorizada continued to assemble AMC and Jeep vehicles as well as other brands. New for Costa Rica in 1974 was the AMC Hornet Sportabout sold locally as the AMC “Unisex.”
Motorizada was liquidated in 1979 allegedly for not paying taxes thereby ending the AMC brand in Costa Rica.
American Motors has partial ownership of Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) and produced Hornets in Mexico from 1970 through 1977. The VAM built cars continued to be called VAM Rambler following the tradition of the VAM-built Rambler American models up to 1974. The Mexican models included:
- VAM Rambler American (up to 1974) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet
- VAM Rambler American Rally – U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet X sedan instead of hatchback
- VAM American (after 1975) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet base model
- VAM American Rally – U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet X sedan instead of hatchback
- VAM American ECD (1975–1977) U.S. equivalent – AMC Hornet DL two- and four-door sedans
- VAM American GFS (1977) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet DL two-door sedan, replaces two-door ECD
- VAM Camioneta American automática (1977) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet DL wagon with automatic transmission
The VAM cars came with different trims and interiors than the equivalent AMC-made models. The models also combined different front clips, such as the 1977 VAM American came with the shorter U.S. and Canadian market 1977 Gremlin front end, while its interior trim featured premium seats and upholstery. The engines in VAM models were based on AMC designs, but modified and built by VAM. Unique to Mexico included the 252 cu in (4.1 L) and 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 engines. These were designed to cope with the high altitudes encountered in Mexico.
VAM Rambler American
The initial VAM Rambler Americans were available in a single nameless trim level (equivalent to the U.S. SST models), with only an optional performance-minded "Rally" package for the two-door sedans that was carried over from 1969. The model was not available with the 199 cu in inline six-cylinder or the 304 and 360 cu in V8s. Editions like the performance-oriented Hornet SC/360 and Hornet AMX plus the special package versions Levis and Gucci Hornet Sportabout were also not produced. The hatchback was also missing as the line already had three body styles in production, which was the top allowed by legislation at the time. For this reason, all VAM sporty versions of the Hornet were made using the two-door sedan as the base, like its 1971–1972 AMC counterparts. Unlike the Hornet, the now fourth-generation VAM Rambler American kept the same economy focus of its predecessor models despite its long list of standard equipment.
The Hornet-based 1970 VAM Rambler American was restricted to a sedan in two- or four-door versions as under AMC, both featured a standard a 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 producing 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) with a 244 degree camshaft, 8.5:1 compression ratio, and a single-barrel Carter RBS or YF carburetor. A fully synchronized three-speed manual transmission with column-mounted shifter, heavy-duty clutch, and a 3.54:1 rear differential gear ratio were standard. The cars came with regular suspension, four-wheel drum brakes, manual steering, four-rigid-bladed engine fan, and regular-duty cooling system.
Standard convenience equipment included a two-tone padded dashboard with a three-pod instrument cluster, electric windshield wipers and washers, a 200 km/h speedometer, side marker lights, four-way hazard lights, antitheft steering column locking mechanism, base steering wheel, brake system warning light, AM radio with a single in-dash speaker, front ashtray, cigarette lighter, locking glove box with "RAMBLER" emblem on the door, padded sunvisors, day/night rearview mirror, cardboard-type sound-absorbing and heat-isolating headliner, round dome light, dual coat hooks, flip-open rear side vents, full carpeting, driver's side rubber floor mat sewed to the carpet, front bench seat with split folding backs on two-door sedan or with a fixed back on the four-door, bench rear seat, two-point front seatbelts, dual rear ashtrays, front and rear side armrests, vinyl-cloth upholstery on seats and side door panels, aluminum grille, backup lights, steel wheels with center hubcaps, dual "232 SIX" rear quarter panel emblems, dual "bulleye" emblems on the lower corner of the rear side vents, script "American" emblems on both front fenders, capital-lettered "RAMBLER" rectangular emblem between the right taillight and the gas filler, non-locking gas cap, manual driver's side remote mirror, and radio antenna.
Factory options consisted of a heating system with windshield defroster, power drum brakes, power steering, bright molding package, protective side moldings, parcel shelf, courtesy lights (separate or in-shelf), luxury wheel covers, sports steering wheel, custom steering wheel, passenger's side remote mirror, remote-controlled driver's side remote mirror, bright panel between taillights, and metal bumper guards with rubber edges. Dealership options included a universal 6000 RPM VDO tachometer with dual hands, full vinyl roof with additional bright moldings, heavy-duty suspension (front sway bar and stiffer adjustable shock absorbers), floor-mounted shifter for the three-speed transmission, front disk brakes, locking gas cap, license plate frames, mud flaps, trunk cover luggage rack, universal air conditioning system, among others.
The VAM Rambler American sedans for 1971 were carried over from 1970. Among the changes was the incorporation of VAM's 266-degree camshaft to the 232 engine replacing AMC's 244-degree unit. Despite power increase, the official announced output of the engine was still 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) at 4,400 rpm. New interior colors, side armrest, and door panel designs were available. The AM radio was updated to a newer model. The new year introduced the Hornet Sportabout-based Camioneta Rambler American. The station wagon version included the same equipment as the two sedan models with several additional features. The Camioneta Rambler American included the parcel shelf with courtesy lights as standard equipment and was the only Mexican Hornet version to be available with a three-speed automatic transmission as optional equipment. Wagons with the automatic transmission included the one-barrel 145 hp 232 six, while those with manual transmission had the 155 hp (116 kW; 157 PS) 232 six with Carter WCD carburetor.
The 1972 model year VAM models incorporated the same engineering revisions and upgrades of the U.S. market AMC-built counterparts. Engines were the same as the year before with a one-barrel 145 hp 232 as standard on the sedans and automatic wagon and the two-barrel 155 hp version for the manual wagon. All featured a front sway bar as standard equipment. The 1972 models also included a new plastic grille with a revised hood latch, along with a new taillight design with larger backup lights, a new optional wheel cover design, a third AM radio model (shared with the VAM Javelin), and new interior door panels with a wood imitation rectangular portion. This was also the first year of the seatbelt warning buzzer located above the light and wiper knobs. The Camioneta Rambler American featured the Chrysler-built TorqueFlite A904 automatic transmission, replacing the previous Borg-Warner "Shift-Command" units.
The 1973 model year VAM Hornets were redesigned and incorporated a new front end design with larger horizontal rectangular side marker lights, semi-square headlight bezels, and a "V"-shaped grille and hood edge. The front bumper included AMC's five-mile-per-hour design, but without the recovering shocks; in their place were regular rigid bumper mounts as in previous years. The automobile product standards in Mexico were less restrictive than in the U.S.; thus, VAMs mounted the bumpers placed closer to the body than their AMC counterparts. The 232 engine was replaced by the AMC 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 rated at 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS) gross with Carter RBS/YF one-barrel carburetor, 266 degree camshaft, and an 8.5:1 compression ratio. The three-speed automatic transmission for the first time became available in the sedan models as an option and the rear differential gear ratio changed to 3.31:1 in all units. Other features included new door panels, longer narrower inside door latches, controls for the cigarette lighter, wiper/washer, and lights knobs had rubber knobs, modified taillight lenses, the deletion of the rectangular "RAMBLER" emblem in favor of "American" script on the rear panel, "258" emblems replacing the "232 SIX" rectangular ones and the removal of the bullseye emblems on the C-pillar base.
The 1974 Rambler American was a carryover. The only difference was the presence of the rear five-mile-per-hour bumper and the rear license plate was relocated to the center of the rear panel over the gas filler. The standard wheels for the year were VAM's new 14x6-inch five-spoke design with volcano hubcaps. The 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 included an evaporative canister to reduce emissions, and a slightly lower 8.3:1 compression ratio. However, during the mid-year, the compression ratio was lowered even more to 7.6:1. In both cases, the engines were still advertised as having an output of 170 hp. The seat and door panel designs were revised. The parking brake pedal received a new smaller rubber pad.
The introduction of the Gremlin line by VAM in 1974, which became the company's smallest and most affordable model, created a gap between the lower end Rambler American line and the larger, top Classic (Matador) line; the situation was also applicable to the performance Javelin line despite being discontinued in 1973. The difference in size and engine series between the Rambler American and the Gremlin was not enough for VAM to create the impression of a more solid and more importantly a diverse product line since both cars were perceived as belonging to the same economy level, which would also mean the creation of internal competition. The VAM Rambler American was restricted to the economy segment since its introduction to the Mexican market, the only exceptions to this being the luxury limited edition Rambler American Hardtop (Rambler American 440H in the US) for 1963 and 1965, as well as the sporty Rambler American Rally (Rambler American Rogue and Hornet Rallye X/Hornet X in the US) from 1969 through 1974. The model was shifted from the economy to the mid-segment, as an all-new generation introduced for 1975. This didn't just readjust the company's full product line, but was also an opportunity to rejuvenate the compact line itself. By this time, the Hornet-based Rambler American had been on the market for five years and saw continued sales and positive image. The name was simplified from Rambler American to just American, marking the discontinuation of the Rambler brand in Mexico. The greatest change was the creation of the new luxury American ECD trim level followed by a revised and improved American Rally and American base models, which helped to distance the line further from the Gremlin. The cars in all versions obtained substantial updates and upgrades.
The American base model in its first year was characterized by incorporating all-new rectangular amber parking lights, grille divided into six squared portions, and more hexagonal-lined headlight bezels. Manual front disk brakes were standard and the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 engine featured Prestolite electronic ignition. This engine was carried over with a 7.6:1 compression ratio, 266 degree camshaft, 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS), and a single-barrel Carter YF or RBS carburetor. Interiors included new door panels available in either a solid color or two-tone alongside new seat patterns. The two-tone dashboard was replaced by a color-keyed unit with a new "American" emblem on the glove box door and a standard fuel economy gauge. Cars equipped with automatic transmission included a heater and power steering at no extra cost.
The 1976 models were almost the same as their immediate predecessors; their differences were limited to a compression ratio increase for the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 from 7.6:1 to 8.0:1. New gauges appeared in the form of a 160 km/h speedometer and revised warning lights, sun visors were redesigned to larger more rectangular units with side bending portions, a new more-ornate dome light lens, new seat and door panel designs, while a rear defroster was added to the options. The separate seatbelts warning buzzer between the wipers and lights knobs was discontinued. New full-rubber bumper guards became available alongside the already existing metal ones with rubber strips.
The 1977 models had numerous changes. Most noticeable was a new front end that AMC intended to make exclusive for the Gremlin line, consisting of independent squared headlight bezels with rounded corners and an egg-crate smile-shaped grille carrying over the rectangular parking lights of the previous two years and a new front bumper. A second "American" emblem was applied over the front edge of the hood on the right corner. The two-point seatbelts were replaced by fixed three-point units on both sedan models. Wagons included three-point retractable units as factory issue. The Carter RBS carburetor was discontinued leaving only the YF model on the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6. Two-door sedans with the manual transmissions now featured a floor-mounted gearshift with low-back fold-down individual seats, while models with automatic transmissions retained the bench seat with split-folding backs and a column-mounted shifter. This also meant manual units incorporated a safety lock lever in their steering column ignition switch shared with the American Rally model. The seats and door panels were slightly modified from the last year. A new "American" emblem with different typography was applied to the glove box door. The "258" rear quarter panel emblems were replaced by new "4.2" units.
Rambler American Rally
The sporty Rambler American Rally package was originally introduced in 1969 for the third-generation Rambler American two-door sedan as a more economical sporty alternative to the muscular VAM Javelin and personal luxury VAM Rambler Classic SST (Rebel SST hardtop). With the arrival of the new Hornet-based models for 1970, the package was continued and improved, containing not just more regular production accessories but also all-new exclusive ones. The Rambler American Rally model was available a full year ahead of AMC's Hornet SC/360 and two years ahead of the Hornet X and Hornet Rallye-X models, making it the first-ever performance product based on the Hornet.
The package started with an exclusive engine version, the high-performance 160 hp (119 kW; 162 PS) 9.8:1 compression ratio 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 with Carter WCD carburetor and 266 degree camshaft designed by VAM's own engineering department. Other features included a black two-spoke sports steering wheel with a central bullseye emblem, wide reclining individual front seats, floor-mounted Hurst Performance shifter 150-T three-speed manual transmission with a locking mechanism connected to the steering wheel ignition switch, full bright molding package including rear panel overlay between the taillights and two courtesy lights. Unlike the 1969 version, power drum brakes were no longer included, but available as optional equipment.
The Rambler American Rally for 1971 was almost equal to the previous year's counterpart. Changes and novelties were limited to the script "American" fender emblems being replaced by new script "Rally" units, which are the only way to tell differentiate 1971 from 1970 models from the outside. The front seat controls were revised with a new knob placed to the outer side of each seatback, new "mushroom"-shaped armrests with a central horizontal bright molding, new side panels with simulated stitches, and a steering wheel design similar to the previous one but incorporating three false spokes per arm instead of the smooth soft surface. A new AM monaural radio model replaced the previous unit dated back to 1966 Rambler American and Classic models.
The success of the Rally package made VAM ascend it to a trim level for 1972 and with that several improvements followed. The safety mechanism connecting the shifter to the ignition switch was discontinued, which meant the incorporation of a small safety lever on the side of the column to keep the ignition switch from accidentally turning into lock position with the vehicle in motion. The previously optional 8000 RPM tachometer became standard equipment along with AMC's new three-arm three-spoke sports steering wheel with a central cylindrical button. Low-back, smaller more bucket-like front reclining seats replaced the wide units of the previous two years, which meant a free space between both units over the transmission tunnel. The round floor shift base shared with 1968–1969 Javelins departed in favor of a new squared design. The bright rear panel got an aluminum turned appearance and the taillight lenses featured a new larger backup light and side stripes. The grille was changed from aluminum to plastic and an updated hood latch appeared. Mechanically, the front sway bar was passed on to the standard equipment list, but the biggest change of the year was present under the hood. The 1972 Rally engine was the VAM 252 cu in (4.1 L) I6 producing 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS) at 4,600 rpm, 9.5:1 compression ratio, with a high-flow Carter RBS-PV1 single-barrel carburetor and the 266 degree camshaft, which was originally used in 1969–1970 VAM Javelins. The "232 SIX" emblems were replaced in favor of new "252" units.
For 1973, VAM sought to standardize and consolidate as many parts and components to cut costs. The company discontinued both the 232 and 252 engine series in favor of the new 170 gross HP, 8.5:1 compression ratio AMC 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 with VAM's inhouse 266-degree camshaft and single-barrel Carter RBS or YF carburetor, which became the powerhouse of the Rambler American Rally of the year. This new engine shared the same crankshaft as VAM's also new 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 introduced two years before in the VAM Javelin model, allowing VAM to optimize resources and reduce costs. With the engine came a change in the rear differential gear ratio from 3.54:1 to 3.31:1. Aside from the revised taillights, the first set of high-back bucket seats became present, which were shared with the second-generation VAM Javelin. Strangely, unlike all previous models, they were not available with a reclining mechanism. New side panel designs accompanied a now standard parcel shelf incorporating both courtesy lights. The front end was completely updated as in the standard Rambler American models except for the unique characteristic of the blackout grille. The engine displacement emblems got their last digit changed into number eight keeping the same design as last year's units. The rectangular "Rambler" rear emblem was removed and its place taken by the manuscript "Rally" unit that was no longer present on the front fenders.
The 1974 Rallys were mostly unchanged from the 1973s. Just like on the Rambler American, their largest difference was the new rear five-mile-per-hour bumper and relocated rear license plate. These models incorporated the first set of VAM's original five-spoke wheels, which carried full volcano-shaped hubcaps and trim rings. Due to this, wheel covers were removed as available accessories for this model. For the first time, a set of factory side stripes decorated the exterior of the model including a stylish manuscript "Rally" emblem over the rear quarter panel, creating a two-tone appearance. Front seats were mostly the same as the year before, now shared with the brand-new Classic AMX (Matador X) model. The discontinuation of the original VAM logo during 1973 in favor of the new arrow-type one meant its removal from the dial of the tachometer. The shifter was changed into a T-shaped Hurst unit. A new AMC logo over a black background replaced the American Motors legend over the transparent acrylic cap in the steering wheel's horn button. The 258 six engines received a drop in compression ratio from 8.5:1 to 8.3:1.
The new marketing concept for VAM's compact model was also included for its sporty version. This started with the change in name from Rambler American Rally to American Rally. For the first time, VAM sought to move model the higher from the economical sporty model status it pioneered. This meant a higher focus not just on sportiness but also on luxury.
The 1975 American Rally alongside its new name obtained its first redesign of identity emblems in the form of an all-new "RALLY" nameplate in printing letters connected by a background line. Like the former one, it was located on the rear panel between the right taillight and rear license plate. A new grille, headlight bezels, and parking lights shared with the American and Gremlin lines were now in blackout form. New side decals were discreet lines running the full length of the car without changing proportions and incorporating Rally emblems on the front fenders. The interior for the first time was different from that of the American model other than the front seats. Rally emblems appeared etched on the front high corners of the side panels. All previously exposed metal parts like the top of the doors, rear sides, and B pillar were now upholstered in vinyl. The "RAMBLER" emblem on the glove box was replaced by a "RALLY" one of the same design. Unlike all of its predecessors, a considerable amount of 1975 American Rally units were equipped with the heater as standard. The aspect that made the American Rally the most different from the last generation was the mechanicals. The 258 six-cylinder obtained an all-new electronic ignition system sourced by Prestolite. Manual front disk brakes replaced the previous drums. A new TREMEC 170-F four-speed manual transmission with Hurst linkage came from the factory, although VAM was not able to fully standardize it and several Hurst-linked three-speed 1975 American Rally versions were built.
Unfortunately, the model was not free from shortcomings. Since 1973, the growing problem of air pollution (especially in Mexico City) forced the Mexican government to schedule the beginning of emission certification to all engines produced in the country, which would take effect in 1974. This would affect all high compression engines of all marques. For this reason, the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 had dropped from 8.5:1 to 8.3:1 compression ratio in the change between 1973 and 1974. However, this change was not enough to comply with the government standards and VAM was forced to decrease compression even more in mid-1974. This meant a final 7.6:1 compression ratio for the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 for the second half of the year production of the 1974 Rambler American Rally. For this reason, the aforementioned model along with the 1975 American Rally became the lowest-performing examples of VAM's original compact sporty model, ending even below the stock 155 hp 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 of the 1969 Rambler American Rally and the stock 232 1970–1972 Rambler American two-door sedans. The improvements in the form of the four-speed transmission and electronic ignition were insufficient to overcome the problem.
For 1976, VAM introduced the Gremlin X for the first time in Mexico, retaking the economical sporty concept originally held by the Rally model. The company's engineers started to find solutions to the problem of lack of power without rising gas emission, and the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 obtained a higher 8.0:1 compression ratio this year. Due to this improvement along with the subcompact's lighter body and shorter exhaust, the 1976 Gremlin X outperformed the low-compression 1975 American Rally, despite that it was not offered with the new four-speed transmission. To avoid internal competition once again in both performance models as well as further pushing of the line's concept change, VAM proceeded to upgrade the American Rally to distance it from the new subcompact version. The 1976 models switched to the 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) 7.7:1 compression ratio VAM 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 with Holley 2300 two-barrel carburetor and 266 degree camshaft, shared with the VAM Pacer and all Classic models. This marked for the first time the presence of VAM's largest engine in the Hornet-based compact line. The works on solving the shortage of power on the 258 six were still in process in the 282, thus the existing version was installed under the hood. The 1976 American Rally in the performance department fared much better with its higher displacement, large-diameter valves, larger intake manifold and larger carburetor, but was still falling short on compression ratio. The model outperformed all of its predecessors. However, there was an exception in the form of the 1972 Rambler American Rally with its 9.5:1 compression ratio 252 cu in six, which was still half a second faster despite its high-flow one-barrel carburetor, small intake manifold, three-speed transmission, the higher rear gear ratio, and lower displacement. Aside from the engine, the 1976 American Rally was accompanied by noticeable improvements consisting of power front disk brakes, power steering, and tinted windshield, all as standard equipment. The four-speed transmission and heater were fully standardized this year. New seat patterns and side panel designs (without the etched Rally emblem) were used, while gauges were changed to a 160 km/h speedometer and 6,000 RPM tachometer. New dome light lens design and longer sun visors were shared with the American and Gremlin. The new engine and standard equipment coupled with the mid-year discontinuation of the 1976 Classic AMX (Matador X) ascended the American Rally into the top of the line performance model of the company. The sportiness and concept were fairly close to that of the 1972–1976 VAM Javelins and aforementioned Classic AMXs. With the engine change, the rear quarter panel emblems morphed into "4.6" units. After only one year, the model name "Rally" emblem on the rear panel was once again redesigned.
As the 1977 models arrived, the engineering upgrades seen on the 258 six the year before finally saw the light on the 282. All-new head design with Quench-type combustion chambers took compression ratio from 7.7:1 to 8.0:1. It was accompanied by a totally new aluminum intake manifold with improved flow keeping the Holley 2300 two-barrel carburetor. These improvements made the 1977 American Rally the best-performing model of its series, even surpassing the high compression 1972 model. Despite this, advertised horsepower and torque ratings were the same as the year before. The power increase allowed the use of a new 3.07:1 rear differential gear ratio for better economy and top speed without losing acceleration and towing capacity. The front high-back bucket seats obtained new patterns and for the first time since the 1972 reclining mechanism (as standard equipment), three-point front seatbelts with double retractable mechanisms were added, a new VAM-designed digital tachometer took the place of the conventional analog unit in the midyear. In the exterior, the largest novelty of the year was the application of the new Gremlin front clip. New decals covering only the front fenders in their top sides started near the doors all the way to the marker lights, between the lights and stripe was a "Rally 4.6" sticker. Like the three luxury versions of the line for the year, the 1977 American Rally was the first unit of its series to offer the original factory air conditioning system as an option. The hood and trunk lights as well as the glove box unit were added to the standard equipment list.
The Rally included D70x14 radial tires in all years and rear gear ratios of 3.54:1 (1970–1972), 3.31:1 (1973–1976), and 3.07:1 (1977). The American Rally was discontinued in 1977 along with all other Hornet-based VAM Americans. It would find a successor in the 1978 American Rally AMX model (VAM's version of the 1978 AMC Concord AMX), meaning the production in Mexico for the first time of AMC's hatchback coupe body style. Unlike the AMC Hornet X models, both the Hornet-based Rambler American Rally and American Rally were never available with V8 engines, automatic transmissions, or column-mounted shifters. The Rally model was more than just an appearance package, but also not as strong as a muscle car finds its closest American equivalent in the form of the 1972 Hornet Rallye-X model. It is regarded as one of VAM's most collectible and sought-after models.
As part of the shift in market strategy for VAM's Hornet-based compacts for 1975 that included advancements in the American base model and American Rally was the introduction of the new American ECD or Edición Cantos Dorados (Golden Edges Edition). It represented for the first time a VAM four-door compact was not an economy base model. The American ECD was VAM's first regular production luxury compact, before it was only the two-door hardtop 1963 and 1965 Rambler American Hardtop (Rambler American 440H in the US and Canada) limited editions. The ECD was restricted to the four-door sedan while the 1975 American Rally took the role of the high trim two-door sedan. The station wagon remained a single-edition model. The American ECD was equivalent in the US as the 1975 four-door Hornet DL model.
The 1975 American ECD came standard with a 170 gross hp 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 engine with a single-barrel Carter carburetor, electronic ignition, 266-degree camshaft, and 7.6:1 compression ratio with regular cooling system. Included were manual front disk brakes with rear drums, power steering, heavy-duty suspension with front sway bar, Chrysler TorqueFlite A904 three-speed automatic transmission, and 3.31:1 rear gear ratio. The exterior of the model incorporated a full vinyl roof with bright moldings, regular bright molding package (wheel lip, rocker panels, drip rails, and between taillights molding), luxury wheel covers, "American" and "Automático" emblems on the rear panel, "258" emblems on rear quarter panels, and golden "ECD" emblems over the base of the C-pillars. Standard equipment also consisted of front and rear bench seats, front two-point seatbelts, front and rear armrests, luxury upholstery, custom steering wheel, column-mounted shifter, color-keyed padded dashboard, gasoline and water temperature gauges, warning lights (brakes, oil and electrical system), 200 km/h speedometer, vacuum gauge, front ashtray, cigarette lighter, heater with front defroster, AM monaural radio with a single speaker and antenna, locking glove box, parcel shelf, courtesy lights, padded sun visors, day/night rearview mirror, heat and sound insulating cardboard-type headliner, round dome light, dual coat hooks, rear ashtray mounted on the front seat back and driver's side remote mirror. Optional equipment included among others a passenger's side mirror, remote-controlled driver's side mirror, power brakes, bumper guards, tinted windshield, and light group.
The 1976 American ECD included the same upgrades as the rest of the American line. These were longer sun visors, a 160 km/h speedometer, a new dome light lens, and a higher 8.0:1 compression ratio on the 258 six. A rear defroster was added to the options list while the tinted windshield became standard. The luxury seat patterns and wheel covers were redesigned. An electric analog clock appeared to the right of the speedometer, although several models kept the vacuum gauge. A new model for the year was the two-door American ECD. This model was a limited edition luxury American two-door sedan, comparable to the Rambler American Hardtop of the 1960s. The equipment was the same as the four-door American ECD with some differences. The engine on this model was the 200 gross hp 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 with a Holley 2300 two-barrel carburetor, 7.7:1 compression ratio, 266-degree camshaft, and electronic ignition. The automatic transmission was a floor-mounted shift design, a first in a VAM Hornet-based American. The front seats were upgraded to high-back individual non-reclining units instead of the four-door bench.
The American ECD was once again restricted to the four-door sedan only for 1977. The model incorporated the new Gremlin front clip like the rest of the American line of the year. The "258" engine displacement emblems were replaced by new "4.2" units and the bumper guards were included free of extra charge. Power brakes were moved to the standard equipment list. Most of the light group was also installed as standard equipment; aside from the already existing courtesy lights came the hood light, trunk light, and glove box light. The electric clock was fully standardized in all units. Front seat belts were upgraded into three-point retractable units. The rear seatback got a concealed fold-down armrest. AMC's original factory air conditioning system for the first time became available as optional equipment. The Carter RBS one-barrel carburetor was discontinued leaving only the Carter YF model.
American GFS and Camioneta Automática
VAM executives and engineers sought to move the two-door 1976 American ECD from the limited edition status into a regular production model, and also change its concept from a general luxury into a personal luxury vehicle, which VAM no longer offered since the mid-1976 discontinuation of the Classic Brougham (Matador Brougham coupe) model. Taking advantage of this upcoming new model was a plan of this group of employees to make a homage to VAM's general manager Gabriel Fernández Sáyago, one of the most respected men in the Mexican auto industry at the time and leader of the company since 1946. The new personal luxury compact was named after him using his initials as a designation. The model was presented to him as a surprise in late 1976, which he appreciated highly but opting for a more humble stance, he requested the model not to carry his name. The group of VAM employees respected his decision, but managed an indirect way to keep their original plan. The general manager's initials were retained, but the meaning was changed into Grand Formula Sport. The model was introduced along with VAM's 1977 lineup as a two-door alternative to the American ECD and a luxury one to the sporty American Rally.
The 1977 American GFS incorporated the same appearance and equipment novelties as the American ECD of the same year. Like the two-door 1976 American ECD, the model kept the individual front seat and floor-mounted automatic transmission configuration, with the notable difference of incorporating reclining mechanisms as standard equipment. From this model, the 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 was also retained, but incorporating the new head and intake manifold designs as well as the 3.07:1 rear gear ratio from the American Rally model of the year. The most unique aspect of the 1977 American GFS was its design of rear side windows and roof. VAM designers created a half Landau-type vinyl top carrying the roof Targa band AMC used for the 1977 Hornet AMX models and shortened flip-open rear side windows creating a thicker B-pillar. AMC really liked this styling touch and adopted it for its 1978–1979 Concord DL/Limited two-door models (except for the use of the Targa band).
Also new for 1977 was VAM's first station wagon that was not an economy base model, the first in 17 years. This model was not a new trim level but a package included with the order of the automatic transmission. Like the American GFS, the engine changed from the 258 six to the 282 cu in (4.6 L) and the 3.07:1 rear differential gear ratio. Like the American ECD, it shared the column-mounted gearshift and high-trim-upholstered bench seats (fold-down rear unit) and special side panels. Accessories shared with both luxury sedans included power brakes, power steering, heavy-duty suspension, bumper guards, full bright molding package, luxury wheel covers, "4.6" emblems (GFS only), tinted windshield, luxury steering wheel, electric analog clock, parcel shelf, full light group (except reading dome light) as well as all the general line novelties of the year. This created a luxury wagon for the first time in VAM's line up. The downside was that the economy base wagon would no longer be available with the option of an automatic transmission. VAM wagons with this package did not obtain a specific name since it was not a trim level, it was known within VAM and in printed materials as "Camioneta Automática" (automatic wagon). It would be until 1979 that it would officially obtain a designation, now based on the Concord-wagon, making "American DL" its full name.
South Africa was the first international market that AMC invested in for right-hand drive production of the Hornet. The Rambler American was assembled in South Africa firstly by National Motor Assemblers Limited (NMA) in Durban and for 1968 at the Datsun assembly plant Rosslyn Motor Assemblers. In 1969 Rambler production was moved to the former GM plant, Motor Assemblies Limited (MA) in Durban which had come under the control of Toyota South Africa in 1964.
MA assembled the American for its final year and the AMC Hornet 4-door sedan was assembled as its replacement in 1970. The initial design and engineering work to convert the car to right-hand drive for South Africa became the blueprint for the right-hand drive Hornets assembled in Australia.
As with all AMC's export markets, the Hornet was marketed in South Africa as "Rambler."
The Hornet was advertised as being "built and marketed in South Africa by Toyota South Africa Ltd, wholly owned and controlled by South Africans ... sold and serviced country-wide by 220 Toyota dealers." The Hornet was marketed through 1971.
American Motors South Africa (Proprietary) Limited was the official license holder for production of the Rambler Hornet at the Motor Assemblies plant. However, latter production was hampered by problems arising from regulations. The nation's tariff structure considered only the weight of parts or materials made in South Africa would be calculated toward local content requirements. The objective was to increase indigenous production. As a result, the last of the South African-built Rambler Hornets had 4.1 L (250 cu in) Chevrolet straight-6 engines. The objective was to standardize the manufacture of vehicle components within South Africa. In this case, a large component, the Hornet's original AMC engine was eliminated from the marketplace, while the switch also provided greater local production volume to the General Motors engine. A total of 840 Hornets were built at the Motor Assemblies plant.
AMC Hornets were campaigned in various motorsports events. Some technical and financial support was provided by the automaker in the early years.
Stock Car Racing
Bobby Allison was AMC's factory-backed NASCAR driver, racing #12 Matadors fielded by Roger Penske. Bobby also did a lot of short-track racing, often using a modified stock car he rebodied using Hornet sheet metal, painted red/white/blue in the AMC scheme, and numbered 12.
Hornets were campaigned on dragstrips from 1972 and became well known by their bold red, white, and blue graphics. Dave Street was an early Hornet racer in Northeast Pro Stock events. Drivers on the Pro Stock circuit included Wally Booth (backed by AMC until 1974), as well as Rich Maskin and Dave Kanners captured top awards. Booth drove a Hornet to the top qualifying spot at the 1975 NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Some drivers converted from AMC Gremlins when tests with identical engines in 1973 showed that the hatchback Hornet had an advantage with higher speeds and lower times. The 1974 Gatornationals, as well as the 1976 NHRA U.S. Nationals and the World Finals were won by Wally Booth driving an AMC Hornet. The Hornets would do the quarter-mile in 8 seconds reaching 150 mph (240 km/h).
In 1970, Lou Haratz drove an AMC Hornet over 14,000 miles (22,531 km) to set a new Trans-Americas record by going from Ushuaia, Argentina to Fairbanks, Alaska in 30 days and 45 minutes. He also went on to be the first to drive completely around the widest practical perimeter of the North, Central, and South American continents for a distance of 38,472 miles (61,915 km) in 143 days. The Hornet received a tune-up service in Caracas as well as in Lima, and the endurance record was promoted in various popular magazine advertisements for Champion spark plugs that were standard equipment in AMC engines.
From 1971 the AMC Hornet was campaigned in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) races. Hornets ran in GTO class (Grand Touring type with engines of 2.5 L or more) and American Challenge (AC) class. American Motors provided only limited support in the form of technical help. The cars were gutted and powered by highly modified AMC 232 straight-six engines.
In 1973, AMC cars very nearly placed 1-2-3, in a BF Goodrich Radial Challenge Series race, but Bob Hennig driving an AMC Hornet went out while in third place with only six laps to go. BMW driver Nick Craw and AMC Hornet driver Amos Johnson ended the IMSA series as co-champions in Class B.
On 6 February 1977, out of 57 cars that started the 24 Hours of Daytona, Championship of Makes, at Daytona International Speedway, an AMC Hornet driven by Tom Waugh, John Rulon-Miller, and Bob Punch drove car #15 to 22nd place overall and 12th in the GTO class by completing 394 laps in 1,582 miles (2,546 km).
Amos Johnson drove car #7, an AC Class Hornet, in the 100 mile Road Atlanta race on 17 April 1977, as well as with co-driver Dennis Shaw to finish 11th in the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit on 24 July 1977.
A 1977 Hornet AMX was prepared by "Team Highball" from North Carolina and driven by Amos Johnson and Dennis Shaw. Car #77 finished in 34th place in the GTO class out of the 68 that started the race by completing 475 laps, 1,824 miles (2,935 km) in the 17th Annual 24 Hours of Daytona Camel GT Challenge.
The AMC cars "were killers at places like Daytona. Despite being about as aerodynamic as a brick they had those nice, big, reliable straight sixes ..."
SCCA Trans Am
Two Hot Rod staffers, John Fuchs and Clyde Baker, entered a 1972 AMC Hornet in the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. This was an unofficial automobile race from New York City and Darien, CT, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to Redondo Beach, a Los Angeles suburb on the Pacific coast during the time of the newly imposed 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit set by the National Maximum Speed Law. The Hornet X hatchback was modified with a 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 and auxiliary racing fuel cells to increase gasoline capacity. They finished in 13th place after driving for 41 hours and 15 minutes at an average speed of 70.4 mph (113 km/h).
James Bond movie
As part of a significant product placement movie appearance by AMC, a 1974 Hornet X Hatchback is featured in the James Bond film: The Man with the Golden Gun, where Roger Moore made his second appearance as the British secret agent.
The film's "most outrageous sequence" begins with Sheriff J.W. Pepper, who, on holiday in Thailand with his wife, is admiring a new, red AMC Hornet in a Bangkok showroom. He is about to test drive the car. The action begins as James Bond commandeers the Hornet from the dealership with Pepper in it for a car chase. The Hornet performs an "airborne pirouette as it makes a hold-your-breath jump across a broken bridge".
The stunt car is significantly modified with a redesigned chassis to place the steering wheel in the center and a lower stance, as well as larger wheel wells compared to the stock Hornet used in all the other movie shots. The 360-degree mid-air twisting corkscrew was captured in just one filming sequence. Seven tests were performed in advance before the one jump performed by an uncredited British stuntman "Bumps" Williard for the film with six (or eight, depending on the source) cameras simultaneously rolling. Two frogmen were positioned in the water, as well as an emergency vehicle and a crane were ready, but not needed. The Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory (CAL) was used for computer modeling to calculate the stunt. The modeling called for a 1,460.06 kg (3,219 lb) weight of car and driver, the exact angles and the 15.86-metre (52 ft) distance between the ramps, as well as the 64.36-kilometre-per-hour (40 mph) launch speed.
This stunt was adapted from Jay Milligan's Astro Spiral Javelin show cars. These were jumps performed in AMC sponsored thrill shows at fairs around the US, including the Houston Astrodome, where Gremlins and Hornets were also used to drive around in circles on their side two wheels in the arena. Using exactly the same ramp design, movie artists made the ramps convincingly look like a rickety old bridge that was falling apart. The movie's director ruined the continuous spiral effect of the stunt. By cutting camera shots as the car was in mid-air, it looks like trick photography to get the car upside-down instead of one continuous actual jump.
Months of difficult work went into the scene that lasts only fifteen seconds in the movie. The Guinness World Records 2010 book describes this "revolutionary jump" as the "first astro spiral used in a movie" and lists it as third among the top ten James Bond film stunts.
The actual Bond Hornet was preserved in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK together with other famous items owned by the Ian Fleming Foundation and used in the 007 films. In 2017, the car stunt car "in operable and in as-jumped condition" was auctioned by the museum.
The AMC Hornet is one of Hagerty's favorites Bond cars for vintage automobile collectors on a budget. Several scale models of the AMC Hornet are available that include the James Bond hatchback versions made by Corgi Toys and Johnny Lightning.
The AMC Hornet served as a vehicle for several experimental alternative power sources.
In the aftermath of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970, research grants were funded by the government in further developing automotive gas turbine technology. This included conceptual design studies and vehicles for improved passenger-car gas-turbine systems that were conducted by Chrysler, General Motors (through its Detroit Diesel Allison Division), Ford in collaboration with AiResearch, and Williams Research teamed with American Motors. In 1971, a long-term test was conducted to evaluate actual road experience with a turbine powered passenger car. An AMC Hornet was converted to a WR-26 regenerative gas turbine power made by Williams International.
A small-sized Williams gas turbine engine powered 1973 Hornet was used by New York City to evaluate comparable cost efficiency with piston engines and funded by a grant from the National Air Pollution Control Administration, a predecessor of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The city was interested in "solving the air quality problems that New Yorkers were beginning to notice." The Hornet's experimental power source was developed by inventor Sam B. Williams. Weighing in at 250 lb (113 kg) and measuring 26 in (660 mm) by 24 in (610 mm) by 16 in (406 mm), it produced 80 hp (60 kW; 81 PS) at 4450 rpm with a clean exhaust. The engines performed well in theory and ran well, especially during tests on the Michigan International Speedway, but the cars needed more work to be adapted to the turbine engine for city driving and lacked the refinement of the purpose-built Chrysler Turbine Car.
Gasoline direct injection
Research to develop a Straticharge Continuous Fuel-Injection (SCFI) system (an early gasoline direct injection (GDI) design) was conducted with the backing of AMC. The Hornet's conventional spark ignited internal combustion straight-6-cylinder engine was a modified with a redesigned cylinder head, and road testing performed using a 1973 AMC Hornet. This SCFI system was a mechanical device that automatically responded to the engine's airflow and loading conditions with two separate fuel-control pressures supplied to two sets of continuous-flow injectors. It was "a dual-chamber, three-valve, fuel-injected, stratified-charge" engine. Flexibility was designed into the SCFI system for trimming it to a particular engine.
The Consumers Gas Company (now Consumers Energy) operated a fleet of 1970 AMC Hornets converted dual-fuel system with compressed natural gas (CNG). This was an early demonstration project for clean and efficient vehicles.
In 1971, the Electric Fuel Propulsion Company began marketing the Electrosport, a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) based on the Hornet Sportabout wagon. It was designed to be a supplementary battery electric vehicle for commuting or daily chores, and to be recharged at home using household current or at "Charge Stations away from home to replenish power in 45 minutes, while you shop or have lunch."
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted extensive tests of 1974 and 1975 AMC Hornets to evaluate the fuel economy claims made for the LaForce Ventur-E modifications. The LaForce prepared Hornet included a special carburetor that was designed to vary the fuel to air mixture under all operating conditions. Other modifications were made to the camshaft, a smaller combustion area, special "dual" exhaust manifolds, and the installation of solid valve lifters (in place of the standard hydraulic tappets. The manifold was designed to intercept gasoline between the carburetor and engine and "to use even the harder to burn heavy gasoline molecules" – thus, claiming mileage increases of 40 to 57%. However, the EPA tests did not fully support the performance and economy claims that were to be achieved by these modifications in comparison to standard factory tuned vehicles.
The AMC Hornet platform served as the basis for evaluating design and styling ideas by AMC. In the late-2000s, the Hornet name was revived for a Dodge concept car.
In the early 1970s, AMC was planning a compact coupé utility (pickup) based on the Hornet to compete with the increasing sales of Japanese compact pickup models. A prototype called the Cowboy was developed under the leadership of Jim Alexander. The prototype vehicle featured a modified AMC Gremlin front design and a cargo box with a Jeep logo on the tailgate. The standard I6 engine would be more powerful than the 4-cylinders found in the imported pickups. The only surviving prototype was built using a 1971 Hornet SC360 with the 360 V8 and 4-speed manual transmission. It was used by AMC on their proving grounds for several years before being sold to an employee, who later installed a 1973 Hornet updated front end. However, with the increasing sales of the Hornet models, and the 1970 acquisition of Jeep and no 4WD option ready for the Cowboy (at the time all Jeeps were 4WD), AMC's product planners shelved the Cowboy truck program. A 4WD system was developed and later used on the 1980 AMC Eagle, and the "uniframe" construction ("frame" rails under the truck bed made of folded sheet metal and incorporated into the cab structure as one piece) resurfaced for the 1985 Jeep Comanche pickup, based on the unit body XJ Cherokee.
In 1973, the Hornet GT toured auto shows as an asymmetrical styling exercise. The left (or driver's) side featured more glass area and a narrower "C" pillar for better visibility in comparison to the concept car's different design on its right side. Using different designs on each side is common practice within automobile styling studios, especially when money was tight; however, showing such an example to the public was unusual and AMC was not afraid to measure consumer reaction to new ideas. Other design elements and ideas presented on the Hornet GT show car included sealed glass to allowing hollow doors that could house easily accessible components while freeing up space in the dashboard area, as well as a stronger roof and support pillars for additional crash and rollover protection.
Hornet by Dodge
A mini-sized front-wheel-drive, concept car called Hornet was designed and developed by Dodge in 2006 for possible production in 2008 as the brand was entering European markets and attract younger customers. As the price of fuel increased, Chrysler continued work to launch the Hornet in 2010 in Europe, the United States and other markets. This Hornet project may have been cancelled as part of Fiat's partnership with Chrysler; but it was also rumored that the Hornet nameplate would instead be applied to a small Dodge sedan slated for introduction in 2012 based on the same "C-Evo" platform as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
In October 2011, Chrysler trademarked four names: Hornet, Dart, Duster, and Camber. One month later, the head of the Dodge brand, Reid Bigland, stated that Hornet will not be used for the new car. The automaker "surprised industry pundits and insiders" with an announcement that the small sedan for 2013 will be called the Dodge Dart (PF). For a long time, both company insiders and industry experts "had insisted that the compact Dodge would be called the Dodge Hornet, in homage not only to the well-received 2006 concept car that carried the name but also to an ancestry of vehicles stretching back 60 years to the original Hudson Hornet."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to AMC Hornet.|
- AMC Hornet information pages (archived)
- "Information about 1972 Hornets". Archived from the original on 28 July 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
- AMC Rambler Club
- American Motors Owners Association
- AMC Hornet at the Internet Movie Cars Database
- VAM American at the Internet Movie Cars Database
|Compact car||Rambler||Rambler American||Hornet||Concord|
|Mid-size car||Six & V8||Six||Classic||Rebel||Matador||18i/Sportwagon||Medallion|
|Full-size car||Nash Ambassador||Ambassador|
|Crossover utility v.||Eagle|
|SUV||see early timeline of Jeep models||see late timeline of Jeep models|
|Military vehicles||Mighty Mite||AM General|
|Vehicles sold under Renault marque in gold background|