American Motors built only 745 Javelin AMX cars in 1971, making it one of the rarest muscle cars of its generation. There were many reasons for this. But, the number one reason for the lack of sales was the bad press coverage regarding the car. According to Joe Oldham, an automotive reviewer at Hi-Performance Cars magazine and Magnum publications, this is a car that was one of the worst built cars he had ever encountered with.
His editorial manager at the time had the honor of driving the car back to where he lived, and on the way to his place, the car broke down with a loud clank. Soon he found out that the tire wheel brake drum assembly roll was on the road underneath the car while the entire assembly had sheared off the right rear axle of the javelin. A photo of the Javelin sitting on its right rear brake shoes along with the initial encounter was published in the hi-performance Cars magazine.
They further noticed that the decal strips on its body were already peeling off, loose knobs on the dashboard, a barely attached front grill, errant wheel assembly, and loose carpeting that pulled up regularly. The errant wheel assembly could be a fatal issue at high speeds.
They were a magazine with a limited audience and never had the prestige of the heavy hitters like the Car and Driver nor Motor Trend. Three months later the issue came out and the president of American Motors, C Meyers personally rang the publication office and berated Joe Oldham for eight minutes straight. And he concluded with a ban on the magazine staff from attending all American Motors press events.
Joe Oldham and his comrades found this too funny because a CEO of a Billion-dollar automotive company on its last legs took time to berate a low-level journalist on an article he didn’t like rather than figuring out a way to improve product quality or brand image.
AMC discounted the two-seater AMX in 1971 due to faltering sales and made it a top-of-line performance option on the Javelin four-seater pony car. The 1971 AMC Javelin AMX made a bold statement on the street with the looks to kill. The new 401 cubic-inch V8 engine was mated with a single Carter four-barrel carburetor to deliver 330 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 430 lb-ft of torque at 3400rpm. This engine was mated with a Hurst four-speed manual transmission and a stiff 3.91 rear axle gear. Some optional features were a console, front lip spoiler, rear spoiler, Goodyear Polyglass GT tires (E60-15), and styled wheels along with creature comforts.
The rear suspension was a leaf spring system, making it not that suitable to handle the traction provided by the rear wheels when the engine is revved up to 3000 rpm or more. This made the wheel hop. So, to run the quarter-mile properly, it was necessary to just roll out the first few feet and pressing the gas paddle to the ground. This issue was mainly due to the poorly designed suspension that kept the wheel hopping under acceleration. This problem ultimately resulted in causing the rear wheel assembly to break off completely.
The Javelin was capable of running the quarter-mile in mid 14 seconds with a top speed of 98 mph. Though the suspension wasn’t that well-designed, the car was a well-handling one on the racetrack. The stiff suspension kept it well-balanced through the corners.