Dave Immel Automotive Consultant
Posted Friday, April 13, 2018
1971 American Motors AMX/3
Growing up in Wisconsin, most of us are familiar
with American Motors. The Company congers up
memories of its roots; Nash, Hudson and of
course later Rambler. Cars like the Hornet,
Pacer and Gremlin come to mind. AMC had its
best years with the Rambler and from the 1960s
forward, the company saw a steady decline until
a merger with Chrysler in 1987.
However, there were some flashes of design
competence with the Javelin and the shorter
wheelbase version AMX in an attempt to
compete in Trans Am Racing. The AMX would
become AMC’s defining sports car.
AMX production ceased in 1970, and AMC
quickly began looking for sophisticated European
alternatives to its bulky engineering. Cars like
the Gremlin and Pacer were headed in the right
direction, but it was the AMX design prototypes which provided more drastic alternatives. As early as 1965,
AMC started work on experimental concepts, and used European talent, including Vignale, an Italian
coachbuilder, for their first prototype.
Subsequent AMX design concepts were very producible and offered a glimpse at AMC’s future design. The
AMX/2, completed in 1969, was a radical design. It was completed in house and was little more than a
fiberglass ornament, having no engine or interior.
Giotto Bizzarrini, of ex-Ferrari fame, was
specifically responsible for making a production
worthy AMX/3 out of the show queen AMX/2.
What would have been a challenging build for
AMC, was easily handled by Bizzarrini who was
very familiar with race car design and
construction, particularly on a tight budget.
Bizzarrini’s final AMC/3 featured the hallmark of
sports engineering, a mid-mounted engine and
rear transaxle. The Italian firm Melara developed the new gearbox while BMW completed final testing on the
It seemed AMC was serious about production. From a design standpoint, the AMC/3 was remarkably similar to
Ford’s DeTomaso Pantera which debuted just one day after the AMC/3. Such timely releases made it unclear
exactly who copied who, but in any case, the casual observer can easily mistake the AMC/3 with a Pantera.
Due to the successful launch, and low price of the Pantera, AMC scrapped the AMX/3 project. Bizzarrini was
ordered to destroy all six AMX/3 cars, which he, of course, did not. Instead several cars were finished, some
lost, found, sold and lost again. It remains unclear today just how many survive.
Photos by Dirk de Jager
282 E. Wolf Run, Mukwonago WI 53149