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Muscle Car Review magazine, February 1989

One For The Road

Barbara Hillick.

American Motors went racing with the 1970 Trans-Am Javelin.

In the mid-sixties, the auto industry started changing. The performance youth market was being hit by the Mustang, Camaro, GTO and other cars, but where was American Motors?

The image that American Motors had during this period was one of roadability and economy, with AMC publicly disavowing any interest in automobile competition. The then-current president, Roy Abernathy, declared, "The only race we care about is the human race." The only problem with this statement was millions of young people with money to spend and a strong interest in performance cars weren't interested in economy.

The introducing of the AMX and the Javelin in 1968 was a major step for AMC. Not only did the AMX and Javelin quickly gain public acceptance, but AMC decided to bost the car's image by racing. The motorsports program began by entering the Javelin in NHRA drag racing and in the recently formed Trans-American road racing seres of the Sports Car Club of America.

It wasn't long before AMC management saw the advantages of concentrating on the Trans-Am series. All cars were required by SCCA rules to race with equipment available from dealers or from factory-authorized speed equipment manufacturers. AMC began their first racing season armed with a car untested on the race circuit, no background in racing, and a lot of optimism.

The 1968 Javelin Racing Team, Inc., was established with Jim Jeffords as president and Ron Kaplan as vice president. Peter Revson and George Follmer were hired to drive the red, white and blue Kaplan-engineered cars. On March 23, the Javelin Racing Team made its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring. For a new team and a new car, AMC finished a surprising 5th in their class! In their second race at War Bonnet Park Raceway in Oklahoma on May 12, the Javelin racing team finished second. This finish led to the famous AMC ad which stated, "In our second race, we almost came in first!"

By Md-season, American Motors was becoming a force to be reckoned with. Although Chevrolet had a lock on first place, second place was hotly contested all season between AMC and Ford. The AMC team managed six second-place finishes, two thirds, one fourth, and three fifths in 12 of the 13 races completed. AMC fielded the only team to finish every race entered and finished a very close third just behind Ford in manufacturer's points. The future looked bright for American Motors.

In 1969, AMC decided to expand their efforts into the NASCAR circuit.Warren Prout built the cars and Jim Paschal was scheduled to drive. With the expanded effort and a reputation for the 1968 racing season to live up to, a jinx hit the AMC racing team. Everything that could go wrong did and the season ended less than successfully.

After the bad '69 season, AMC wanted to win in '70. The big news was the announcement Roger Penske and Mark Donahue had signed with American Motors for three years to campaign in the Trans-Am series. While it was hoped that the Penske/Donohue magic that had worked so well for Chevrolet would rub off on AMC, the beginning of the season wasn't so auspicious. The '70 Javelin was a brand new car and early in the season the car was plagued with breakdowns. Gradually, the p roblems were corrected and the race to catch up with Ford began. The 1970 season ended with AMC a close second to Ford. The team of Donohue and Penske gave AMC their Trans-Am championship in 1971.

Trans-Am Javelin Production

In order to race in the SCCA Trans-Am Series, the manufacturer had to meet homolagation requirements. In addition to size, engine and weight specifications, SCCA required that a particular amount of cars be built and sold for public consumption.

To qualify for the 1970 season, AMC introduced a special street version of the red, white and blue Trans-Am Javelin. Because of the 1969 racing rules then in effect, only 100 of these Javelins were available and sold. It is believed that 10-25 of these original cars were sold to Trans Am and NASCAR racers. The other cars went to a few select dealers around the country. The street version of the Trans-Am Javelin was introduced to the public in September 1969 with a two-page ad entitled "A Javelin for the Track, A Javelin for the Road," comparing the race car with the replica. This limted-production street version of the race car didn't appeal to everyone, but with about 75 cars available for sale to the public, not everyone who wanted a Trans-Am Javelin could find one.

Today, the Trans-Am Javelin is a high demand ponycar, and the first step in verifying a legitimate Trans-Am is through the serial number. All Trans-Ams were equipped with 390 cubic inch engines and four-speed gearboxes. The first seven digits of the serial number should be A0M797X. The cars were not numbered sequentially, so the serial number cannot provide additional information. The next step is to inspect the tag on the driver's door. The tag should read as follows: Model 7079-7; Trim 061F; and Paint Code 00. The "00" denoted special factory paint. If exterior paint scheme continues under the car, under the carpet and behind the door panels, it's probably a Trans- Am. The sticker above the door tag must show an assembly date in September, October or November 1969.

The car was painted Matador red (P39) in front, Frost White (P72) in the center, and Commodore Blue (P84) in the rear and was simply a Javelin SST with the rocker panel and wheel opening moldings deleted. All of the cars came with the full underbody fiberglass spoiler and the adjustable rear wing spoiler. The "Go Package" was also included, consisting of the ram air hood, dual exhaust system, power disc front brakes, and handling package. The tires were F70x14 GoodYear Polyglas tires mounted on six-inch "mag style" wheels. The four-speed was a full synchromesh BorgWarner T-10 with a Hurst floor shifter. The Twin-Grip rear end offered 3.91:1 axle ratio. The only other options were power steering, AM radio, heavy-duty engine cooling, tach and l40-mph speedometer, visibility group, light group, rim blow horn, vinyl interior, center armrest. The factory informed dealers that 'no other optional equipment items will be included or permitted to be ordered on these custom-built cars.' If a Trans-Am has any other options, they were added by the dealer or the owner. Full sticker price was a whopping $3,995 in 1970.

Our feature car is owned by Brad and Barbara Hillick of Atlanta, Georgia. Because of the number of two-seater AMXS they had in their collection, the Hillicks almost dicided not to go look at the Trans-Am Javelin advertised in the local car trader several years ago. Finally, the pull just got too strong and the next thing they knew a Trans-Am Javelin was on the way home with them.

The car had been found in an Atlanta area junkyard by another AMC enthusiast. He had planned to get just the 390 engine but was able to buy the whole car for abut the cost of the engine. The restoration was more than he wanted to undertake and put the car up for sale. When the Hillicks saw the car, it was missing the front and rear spoilers, and needed a complete front to back restoration.

Without the spoilers, the restoration ground to a halt. A set of reproduction spoilers purchased from a vendor were totally incorrect and the project was put on hold. At the first meeting of the Georgia chapter of the American Motors Owners Association, one of the people who showed up had the spoilers that the Hillicks had been looking for.While he didn't want to sell the spoilers, he would volunteer to let them use the spoilers to take a mold from. This turned out to be the real beginning of their business, "The Source" which specializes in AMC reproductions and parts.

Since then, the Trans-Am Javelin has gone from junkyard stripper to a Gold Level Senior Stock winner at the American Motors Owners Association nationals. All of the restoration was performed by Brad and Barbara except for the paint. Brad plans to strip the car and repaint it himself again in the near future.

A Trans-Am Registry was started several years ago by AMO member, Bruce Lamont, and was taken over by Brad Hillick when Bruce sold his car. There have been 15 complete and one destroyed Trans-Am Javelins found through the years. If anyone knows of any Trans-Ams, contact Brad or Barbara Hillick through "The Source," P.O. Box 49366, Atlanta, Georgia 30359, (404) 325-1522 or contact American Motors Owners Association, 517 New Hampshire, Portage, Michigan 49081.