Fate has a curious way of determining our destiny. Take Bruce Gordon, for example. Back in the late '70s/early '80s, Bruce was in the market for his first car, and being an enthusiast, responded to an ad for a 455-powered LeMans. As it turned out, the seller also had a '72 Javelin available, and Bruce fell for it over the Pontiac.
Don't try to fill in the blanks just yet-that Javelin is not the one seen on these pages. However, the first '72 did spark a decades-long interest in Kenosha's finest factory hot rods that's still going strong with Bruce today. In between the two '72 Javelins were three '70 AMXs. Bruce also owned a brand-new '86 Mustang GT for a while, and found its combination of V-8 power, electronic fuel injection, and manual overdrive trans to be a nearly perfect mix of elements for a daily driven street machine.
But Bruce let the Mustang go after nearly a decade of ownership, and family priorities forced the sale of the two-seat AMXs as well, but he was not willing to give up on car crafting just yet. Instead, he began to formulate a plan that would combine all the best features of the cars he'd owned previously, plus maybe a few extras. An AMC foundation was considered mandatory, but it would have to seat the whole family while providing the agility and practicality of the 5.0.
Step One was finding another "big body" Javelin-the '71-'74 body style, and preferably, an AMX. These had swoopy lines but also offered a back seat and a decent trunk. Bruce located a southern car, and while it was clapped out and had no engine, it was rust-free and fairly straight-plus, since it had been a 304 three-speed car, it had the proper pedals and linkage to accommodate Step Two: the five-speed.
Bruce fondly recalled the smooth-shifting Borg Warner T-5 gearbox from his 5.0 Mustang and the fuel economy its big overdrive gear provided, and then craftily recalled that AMC had offered the same transmission behind the Spirits of the early '80s. He procured the Spirit bellhousing and a Mustang T-5 and mated them to a 40,000-mile '70 360 he'd salvaged from a Rebel. Bruce cleaned up the engine, installed a new cam, and topped it off with Step Three: a Holley Pro-Jection electronic fuel-injection kit.
Using skills garnered years ago when he built limousines for a living, Bruce handled all straightening and painting of the AMX. That unusual hue is a factory color from a '94 GMC, selected by Bruce's wife-a concession to his building another car. The stripes are styled after the factory AMX graphics and were custom made in silver by Phoenix Graphix.
Bruce went on to lower the AMX with new springs and fitted it with a set of '95 Mustang Cobra R 17-inch wheels. "They have the same bolt pattern as an AMC, modern dimensions and appearance, and you can't beat the price," offers Gordon, and they do look trick. As with most projects, the AMX isn't actually complete, since future upgrades are in the works, but it serves its purpose of providing vintage American Motors enjoyment and modern reliability and economy, while still managing to be quick and handling well. Sort of a glimpse into what AMC might have produced if it had survived the '80s.
Car Craft Q&A
Car Craft: So what exactly is it about AMC products?
Bruce Gordon: I kinda fell in to it. I saw that first Javelin and thought it was different but cool.
CC: You moved to two-seat AMXs later?
BG: Yes, and I actually still have one that I'm restoring.
CC: Is the '72 done, or do you have more upgrades in the works?
BG: I just ordered a set of the new Edelbrock AMC shorty headers to replace the manifolds, I've got a Ford 9-inch that I'm prepping to replace the stock Model 20, which will also have disc brakes, and down the road I'd like to switch to multipoint fuel injection.