AMC needed to create a 'cult' car, something
to give the company prestige and win back customers that
were deserting it for the ever growing popularity of the
Ford Mustang. Also in AMC's sights was the Chevy Camaro
and Plymouth Barracuda.
The big sweetner for potential customers was AMC's warranty
on the Javelin, which can be considered generous even
by todays standards.
Each car came with a 5-year/50,000-mile
warranty on engine, drive train, suspension and steering,
plus a 2-year/24,000-mile warranty on the entire car.
The Javelin offered three different motors in 1968
base 232 straight six, the 290 V8 and the even larger
343 V8 - for those seeking performance.
Horsepower ranged from 145/155 for the 6 cylinder,
200/225 for the 290 V8 and 235/280 for the 343. The
base transmission was a simple (Borg-Warner) 3 on the
tree, with the "Shift-Command"
automatic an option which could be either column or
Shift Command With Flaws
The Shift-Command selector had positive-click stop movements, the lever having a button set into its knob which had to be pressed to move between any positions from D to 2 and back. A feature of this gearbox was that with the lever in the 2 or 1 positions, the transmission was held in these ratio's and would not change up or down.
With so much power available the auto Javelin's had a rare feature, a part-throttle kick down. At below 25 mph the transmission would change down when the throttle is opened to the kick down switch, but not through it. The result was a fairly gental surge of power, however with full kick-down there was a lot more throttle opening allowing the power to rush in when required.
Yet for all the all the good intentions of the engineers, the changes proved to be a little clumsy. The gearbox would tend to "hang" for a second or two before thumping upwards. Automatic changes were made at 42 and 73 mph on full throttle, and by holding the gears you could achieve 57 and 94 mph respectively.
Naturally AMC offered a 4 Speed on V8
Javelins, Borg-Warner transmissions being used for both
their automatics and manuals.
The most collectable Javelin's are those that were
ordered with the "Go Package", consisting of the 343, 280hp V8
(4-barrel version), dual exhaust, power disc brakes, heavy
duty springs, shocks, and sway bar, E70x14 wide red-line
tires on 5½
" rims and a wide stripe down the side,
the latter no doubt adding to the cars performance.
Great Handling For A US Muscle Car
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the Javelin SST was its size. The more compact (by US standards) dimensions gave the car better than expected handling characteristics. The spring and damper rates were firm, and this was in turn accentuated by the huge Goodyear Red Line E70 Cross Ply SP41 tubed radial ply (205 x 14") tires, although these tires gave enormous amounts of grip for the time. The down side was that considerable road noise came into the cabin, and that was not helped by the frameless windows that added wind roar at pretty much any speed over 80mph.
The steering was typical of American cars of the day, meaning it was totally devoid of road feel. This lack of contact with the road disguised what was actually quite good handling, the understeer so well disguised that the driver really needed to check the mirrors and look for tell-tale smoke to learn just how much work the front wheels are doing. The same could not be said of the brakes. The servo assistance was very strong, and a full 1g of retardation could be brought up with only 50lb load, and a further 5lb would bring the car to a screeching, slewing halt. Under test conditions, motoring journalists noted that there was plenty of brake fade evident, it feeling as though the front discs were distorting badly.
After 10 stops the pedal load rose from 30lb to 40lb, and in one test the car simply shuddered and continued on, smoke billowing from the front discs.
The 5.6 liter V8
The 5.6 liter V8 developed 280+ bhp at 4800 rpm, however with hydraulic tappets being used the rev limit was held down to a little under 5000 rpm. US buyers could fix this by optioning solid tappets, special manifolds and cylinder heads. But the best part was this muscle car served up respectable fuel consumption figures of around 15 miles per gallon, which would rise to over 17 on the highway cycle.
Inside the Javelin had one of the best interiors on offer from a US maker in the 1960's. Black upholstery was complimented by a black fascia, black carpet and black crushable glassfibre headlining. This was set off to good effect by the use of discreet chrome accents, a timber steering wheel and small wood-grained panels on the door trims. The fascia was a very deep moulding, with instruments (speedometer and combined fuel and temperature gauges) buried in deep tunnels so that they would cause little reflection. In the centre was a third blank hole for the optional rev counter.
To keep the Javelin's lines free from scoops or vents, the extractor system for the interior air was incorporated in the doors. Small flaps under the large arm rests controlled the amount of air leaving, and louvres on the trailing edges of the doors outboard of the seals allowed the air to escape.
Although the seats looked comfortable, they were still rather hard and offered little lateral support. These tilted forward to allow access to the three rear seats which were small, upright and even less comfortable.
Yet despite its few drawbacks, the AMC Rambler Javelin Hardtop SST had performance, looks and power. It had a purity of line that was in many respects more European than American. Fix the brakes and you had a muscle car without the gregarious looks - something you would be forever thankful for each time you passed the local constabulary.