Many of you my age or older will remember AMC, or American Motors. Formed out a merger between independent car makers Nash and Hudson in 1954, AMC first became know for manufacturing the Rambler make in the 50’s and 60’s. By the early 70’s however, AMC was having increasing difficulty competing with the Big Three (GM, Ford, and Chrysler). They tried some innovative things that worked, like the Javelin, Hornet, Concord, Spirit, Eagle and Gremlin (yes, they sold hundreds of thousands of them during the entire production run;1970-1978!), and some things that did not work at all, like the Pacer & Matador. However, the most stunning thing they came up with did not go into production. Here it is…
This is the AMX III. Designed by AMC’s Dick Teague, and built by Italian specialty car builder, Giotto Bizzarrini, the AMX III was to be a mid-engined, low production, high cost, halo car to make some money, but even more importantly, enhance AMC’s image as a car builder. The car was also meant to have been a competitor for the DeTomaso Pantera, which Ford was planning (and eventually produced), as well as a variety of mid engined Corvette concepts (none of which reached production)
Unfortunately, the car never came to fruition. First, cash-strapped AMC couldn’t deal with cost over-runs for the AMX III program. A labor dispute at that time cost even more. The death blow came when AMC would have to see the car for $12,000 a copy, when Ford was going to be able to sell the Pantera for just under $10,000, with increased production.
Here’s some additional information regarding the AMX III from Kit Car Mag.
Reportedly six of these prototypes were built by Bizzarrini, with further development work by BMW, and were powered by AMC’s tough 390 V8 backed to a transaxle. That set-up ultimately yielded 0-60 times in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of over 145 mph. However the AMX/3 design was never tested in a wind tunnel, and the front end got a little light at the higher speeds.
I’m sure those teething problems would have been sorted out before a production car would had ever come off the line, but the cash-strapped American Motors just couldn’t justify the numbers for this limited-production supercar and the continued problems and cost overruns closed the AMX/3 project before too long. The final blow came in the form of Ford’s new DeTomaso Pantera, with looks that were as sleek as the AMX, bigger production volume, and a more reasonable price tag ($10,000 versus the $12,000 for the AMX).
Six cars were built. Five are currently know to exist. They escaped the destruction ordered by AMC’s management largely due to Dick Teague himself, who bought two of the cars, as well as the remaining transaxles, which were designed and manufactured solely for the AMX III. The sixth car is assumed to be somewhere in Europe.
I like this car, not only because it is a beautiful example of design and engineering, but also a company that was barely hanging on to life created it. It shows what the free market is capable of, if left to it’s own devises. That, and AMC was the perpetual underdog, and managed to survive until it’s purchase by Chrysler in 1987. It’s one of those little treasures of automotive history that more people should know about, and be able to appreciate.