The Chicken or the Egg?
One argument that has raged for years among AMC enthusiasts is the ‘chicken or the egg’ battle over which came first- the Javelin or the AMX. And the answer changes based on what you believe IS a ‘Javelin’ and/or an ‘AMX’. It all gets very confusing when so many sources tell seemingly conflicting stories, and others just make things up to support their preferred version of false-history. Even respected authors and historians have made errors in their books. But, by dissecting the various compilations of information, I’ve found that few facts are really in dispute, and a solid timeline exists that tells the true story very clearly. For what I believe is the first time, I will present the story of these cars in chronological order. Several photos are presented to clarify and illuminate the facts presented here.
In 1959, AMC saw that a big change was needed. They chose to get away from the ‘Rambler’-type of car and move toward becoming more like the Big Three. To do this, they would need more exciting, modern-looking vehicles. Dick Teague came aboard and spearheaded the new way of styling. For Javelin and AMX, the first evidence of things to come was-
The Spectre fastback prototype that was first displayed January, 1964. It was from the design team at Bob Nixon’s in-house ‘American Design Studio’ under Teague’s direction. Essentially just a Rambler American with a highly-styled rear fastback section, it was intended to give a sporty flair to a compact, 4-seat arrangement- essentially a Pony Car before the Mustang came along. The prototype was then renamed Tarpon with few alterations. To Chairman Roy Abernathy, this design, while beautiful, was too small, and while Teague was out of the country on vacation, Abernathy re-directed the wild fastback to the production 1965 Rambler Classic platform to become the production 1965 Marlin. It is said this was a forced-decision as the Tarpon had the looks, but no room for a V8, and what V8s AMC had were underpowered and out-dated. If produced, the Tarpon might have simply been gift wrap on a turd, as it were.
But Teague and Nixon, with Eric Kugler and Fred Hudson hadn’t just pursued this one ‘Pony Car’ idea. They were also working on, among others, the idea of a two-seat sports car. While not exactly ‘secret’ work, it had been kept low-key, as Abernathy had no desire to build an even smaller car. But together these men toiled on numerous ‘experimental concepts’. And while Teague was a ‘big idea’ man, Nixon worked to get them built.
A point here: It can be argued that while the Javelin’s concept (a four-seat performance car akin to Mustang) was green-lit early for development into a viable production vehicle, Teague’s original vision might have been to get a *true* 2-seat sports car built. By ‘true’, I mean something more pure, like a Porsche or Ferrari…and like the AMX/3 of years later. Now, Teague has gone on record to say the Javelin concept came first ‘absolutely’, but his predisposal to sports cars suggests he’d have preferred a two-seater all along. But as AMC wasn’t in a position for a truly all-new, dedicated sports car program, Teague would have realized this and the idea got shelved- potentially for good.
By August 1964, Nixon’s crew had come up with the ‘Rebel II’ prototype which was then followed in-
November, 1964 by the ‘American Rogue’ prototype (which is not be confused with the production Rambler Rogue of 1966) and that led to-
A swift-looking notchback prototype they called simply ‘Rogue’ in July 1965. This car looked much like the Buick Riviera of the era. This style didn’t survive either, and was put aside.
At this point, the family tree branches off.
In Mid-1965, the ‘Project IV’ project began. Another team of designers was given the task of creating four ultra-cool prototypes to show off to the public…to announce that AMC was advancing fast. The job was assigned a Chuck Mashigan and his crew at the ‘Advanced Styling Studios’, again working under Teague.
Now, it is possible this is the opening Teague needs to break out the old 2-seat ideas he has and show them off. This isn’t a ‘production car’ project- it’s pure whimsy and he knows it, so why not go all out?
Notice the difference in studio names- Nixon’s is a DESIGN crew while Mashigan’s is a STYLING crew. One plans for production cars while the other proposes concepts. This is an important distinction as the Mashigan crew isn’t working on anything destined for production. The two crews are separate entities, operating nearly independent of each other, but both under the authority of Teague.
In November, 1965, at Nixon’s Design Studio, the ‘Rogue’ got the features that would later define the Javelin’s look- the clean, sweeping fastback and smooth, crisp fenders and doors. [For clarity, I’ll call this one ‘Rogue 2’] It was finally beginning to gel.
Meanwhile, the ‘Advanced Styling’ crew works on what will become the ‘AMX’ (often referred to as ‘AMX I’), which was a radical 2+2 design made into a non-operational full-size mock-up, or ‘push-mobile’.
It must be noted here that the moniker ‘AMX’ has two distinctly different meanings based on its usage. First, it was just a way to mark experimental prototypes, such as AMX, AMX II and so on. It simply meant this is an ‘eXperimental’ concept from American Motors. ‘AMX’ was not a car...it was a group of concept studies from Teague and Mashigan’s crew. ‘AMX’ was not used by Nixon’s crew to mark their prototypes as they weren’t ‘experimental’-they were based on existing platforms and technology, and intended for production.
In January, 1966, the ‘AMX’ is shown to industry at the National SAE Convention in Detroit, and is a big hit. Back at the Advanced shop, the Rogue 2 clay form has been borrowed by Mashigan’s crew to study ways to put the AMX I styling onto the future production ‘Rogue’ platform. They carve much of the styling of the AMX I into the driver’s side of the Rogue 2 sculpture, proving the AMX I could easily adapt to production, cheaply. Teague seems to be trying to sneak his ‘sports car’ in under the radar, making the ‘concept’ car outrageous, but allowing a bit of practicality to slip in, just in case the wind shifts a bit more in his favor. He worked to get the basics for it into the pipeline, but added extra seats to keep the bean-counters from flipping out- and that helps explain the jump-seats and ramble seats.
By February, 1966, Nixon’s crew has carved the Rogue 3’s final overall shape. This is clearly the Javelin of the near-future.
By March, 1966, the Rogue 4 is essentially finished, needing just the new door handles and a new name.
That same month, AMC orders a running version of the AMX concept car to be built by the Italian firm, Vignale.
Meanwhile, Mashigan’s crew begins work on their second Project IV car- the ‘AMX II’. Rather than starting with a clean slate, they get a big jump on the project by taking Nixon’s crew’s original Rogue notchback design and tweaking it. Because of this,-
It is finished very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that the Cavalier and Vixen are also ready for the ‘Project IV Tour’ unveiling on June 20, 1966. The tour consists of the just-finished Vignale AMX, and Mashigan’s AMX II, Cavalier and Vixen.
In July, 1966, the Rogue 5 is finished, now with the famous production flap-style door handles. The car is production-ready, and is shortly re-named ‘Javelin’ by Guy Hadsall.
By September, the Javelin design is formally approved for production.
Meanwhile, the Project IV Tour is proving a huge hit, and the decision is made by the new AMC Chairman, Robert Evans, to go ahead and green-light the designing of a production version of the AMX I. This proves fairly easy since Teague and the Mashigan crew had been assuring it would be possible since January by borrowing the Javelin’s ‘Rogue’ clay form and making the ‘AMX’ fit on it. It won’t be that dream sports car he wants, but it’s as close as AMC can afford to come. Heck- they let him skip the back seat, so technically, here was his ‘sports car’…though not really.
At this point, the ‘AMX’ moniker was applied as a model name for the first time to a car intended for production, and built to resemble the most popular prototype thus far, which was also simply called ‘AMX’.
The 1968 Javelin is released to the public on September 26, 1967.
Based on the Javelin’s platform, interior, drivetrain, suspension and most of its sheet metal, the 1968 ½ AMX follows quickly on February 15, 1968. It borrows from the styling of the concept AMXs as much as it can, but is truly a shortened Javelin. Not a ‘pure’ sports car, but a foot in the door.
Later, Teague would get to dive deeper into his sports car desires by bringing the AMX/2, then AMX/3 concepts to light. The mid-engined, two-seat AMX/3 got close enough to production that better than six of the running, driving, finished cars were built. Sadly, the usual AMC ‘business for profit’ issues killed the project at the very edge of full production. The Pantera came along soon after, filling the slot AMX/3 seemed destined for. And after just two and a half years of production, the two-seat AMX was canceled, too, due to slow sales. Teague tried valiantly to save it, to the tune of altering his personal ’69 AMX with an added 1971 Javelin front clip, attempting to show the AMX could, again, be saved by its Javelin lineage. But the hatchet fell, and the AMX melded into the Javelin line as the high-end, hi-performance variation of the hi-style Pony Car- back seat included.
In the end, the Javelin concept came first at AMC, the Javelin design came first, and the car name ‘Javelin’ came first. To suggest ‘AMX’ precedes Javelin in any real way is simply not correct. Teague *might* have always wanted a two-seater in his head, even before joining AMC. But at AMC, his work was for the ‘pony car’ concept long before any effort on a ‘sports car’ began- and even Teague said so. They are both spectacular achievements for AMC and it’s people. And there’s no reason one’s personal preference for either one of them should inspire one to create a false history for them.
This article was created using various books as sources. Several of these books make statements very contrary to the story laid out above, yet, when analyzed carefully, the same books prove themselves to be wrong. Examples-
‘Amazing AMC Muscle’ by Edrie J. Marquez, pg.19-
The AMX II was a revision, by a different team, of the first ‘Rogue’ prototype. The AMX II was created between March and June of 1966, yet the Javelin’s final shape was finished back in February. The author proves this by saying-
“The Javelin took about 18 months from drawing board to final prototype, completed in
That puts Javelin back at October, 1964. Thus, the first quote is completely incorrect.
‘AMC Muscle Cars’ by Larry G. Mitchell, pg.22-
One would have to blind to suggest the Javelin’s final shape shared anything at all with the AMX II. First, physically they share nothing beyond the four round tires and a windshield. They are totally differently styled. Further, the AMX II was started in March of 1966, the month AFTER the Javelin’s fastback shape was finalized. Look at the pictures of each above and in Larry’s book, and see if there’s any resemblance at all. It is the Javelin’s first ‘Rogue’ prototype that became the AMX II- hence, it is Javelin that influenced AMX II, not vice-versa. The photos clearly show this.
This article will be added to and adjusted as more reputable sources are referenced to fill in the gaps in info and photos. It is by no means ‘complete’, but what is here is accurate.