(Some photo-links may be dead.....I will add those pics shortly)
I indicated to everyone that would listen that I was looking for a car for under $1000 and it had to be of the muscle- car variety- it need not be ACTUALLY fast, just had to have the right look and stance. I looked at about a dozen ‘leads’ but all were rusty hulks or 4-doors, which, by my standards, meant ‘family’ car.
In mid-September, a co-worker named Vinnie mentioned his neighbor was selling a car I might like, called a ‘Javelin’, and was asking $1000 even. He lived about 20 minutes away and offered to run me out to see it. I’d never heard of such a car, but since he assured me it was a ‘muscle’ car (and I had nothing better to do), I went along...dragging another co-worker with us, Jose, who I felt knew something about cars.
As we pulled up to the driveway, the car was facing out... it was a 1973 Javelin, Dark Brown with a Pale Tan vinyl interior and Black vinyl top. A thin Tan pinstripe traced the side crease of the body from nose to tail, Cragar SS mags, rusting, but salvagable, wearing nearly-wasted Dunlop GT Qualifiers. This picture of it is the first I took as I stepped out of Vinnie’s car that day. You’re seeing it just as I did that first moment. I grinned so wide, my head flipped back like a Pez dispenser!
We walked around the car, looking the body over. The passenger side quarter, near the bottom, just behind the wheel well, was torn open....a parking disagreement with a fire hydrant....but it was very repairable- about a 6inch rip that followed the edge of the well. Otherwise, the body was flawless.
The interior had the standard split-seams on the driver seat, but the balance was perfect. I burst out laughing when I saw ‘Desert Only’ on the A/C control. And, boy, was that dash weird! Why did it wrap around you like that? (Fast forward to 1996...what car dash doesn’t nowadays?) Where the hell is the glove box.........OOhhhhhhh! WEIRD!!!! My habit of always being non-conformist was pushing me into buying this thing without knowing if it ran!
Jose suggested we look under the hood (suggesting something important to the car might be in there). Behold, all the trappings of the muscle car engine: Offenhauser finned aluminum valve covers stood out most, then the yellow Accel wires and Edelbrock intake. Mallory ignition, Carter four barrel...all the buzz terms that made me giddy!
After pumping the pedal just a bit.... VaaROOOMM! The Turbo mufflers rumbled to life and vibrated, but could still be spoken over.....the sound I’ve come to demand from every V8 since. Not loud, just a ‘presence’ like Darth Vader standing behind you, breathing... (chills).
The built 304 idled smoothly..perhaps just a bit less smoothly than stock (based on my experiences since).
Upon my arrival home with it, I ran upstairs and told the folks to look out the window. I was quite dejected when they looked outside and didn’t look at my car any longer than they did the others that were scattered up and down the block.
The first couple of months were heaven. My 28 year old girl- friend (yeah, so?) loved the car at first sight. A co-worker asked what body shop had added the Vette flares to my ‘Cuda’...duh! I was loving the confused looks on people’s faces that had never seen a Javelin before.
One day, I was driving around with my permanent sidekick brother in a light rain, when a group of teens ran out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, but the wasted Dunlops just surfed along, so I released the brake and (cover your eyes) turned into a row of parked cars. I went to the front of the car. I had hit the front fender of a Regal and the rear of a Monza (GMs, big deal) and tore off my passenger side fender, the front end of which now hung about a foot away from the hood’s edge. The headlight faced straight up, the bumper was mangled. The grille cracked at the end, but with the lamp bezel back in place, would still be usable. Those are the facts. The feeling was that of having run over your own dog.
Soon after, my parts hunting paid off and I found a good YELLOW fender, which I spray-painted a similar brown. About a year later, I picked up a ‘74 Javelin, 258/Auto that I planned to drive while I fixed up the ‘73. But the magic was gone, and over the course of the next two years I pounded the ‘73 to within a inch of the junkyard. It was eventually impounded for being unsafe to drive, and the ‘74 was sold to a neighbor needing parts for a black ‘73 Pierre Cardin Javelin. My brother rescued the ‘73 from the impound and stripped the drivetrain from it, expecting to put it in a '73 Javelin he had found. That car turned out to be badly rusted below and he wound up selling the motor to a freind who had a ‘72 AMX with a dead 360. We stripped the ‘73 for parts to sell later.
I next got a ‘79 Camaro (a thousand apologies) to tool around in. Feeling the withdrawal, I found a blue ‘74 Javelin in the want ads somewhere in 1984. The guy was asking $150! Not expecting much, I went down to see it, again with my younger brother. It needed a hood, driver side fender and bumper, all of which we had at home. Also, it wouldn’t run right...but it did run..spitting and popping. I bought it, forced it home and asked my neighbor with the Cardin to check the firing order. Sure enough, two wires were switched during the last tuneup. Now it ran like an animal!
I used it for a year or so, but couldn’t fall in love like I had with the first. I put it up for sale, and it was bought by a woman that had owned a 72 AMX years ago, and now missed it. I found out her car was the very one that now had my Javelin’s 304 in it! Small world! She passed away sometime after that in a car accident (not in the Javelin) and her husband still has her car stored away to this day, awaiting the day their son will have it!
I soon spotted a ‘72 SST, 304/3spd on a roadside. I knocked on the door of the home, and was told by an old man that it was his son’s car. I could have it for $150. The son had moved away and couldn’t drive anymore. He explained that his son had driven the SST thru a red light. He decided not to stop as a cop approached and wound up leading half a dozen police cars, one of which blew an engine, on a 100mph chase for 50 miles until a commandeered tractor trailer blocked his path. The police had beaten him senseless, and he now panicked whenever he saw a police car or got behind the wheel. WOW! Gotta have a car with THAT kind of history! Handed over $150.
I bought two AMXs, a 72 360 and a 74 304, as parts cars... both had bad drivetrains, but lots of good parts (one had the functional cowl induction air cleaner with a MINT seal on it...I gave it away!!!!). The SST became a fake AMX with a flawless interior (black with white 74 seats) and a straight, primed body. Suddenly, I lost my job at the factory. Money got tight, and off she went for $1000. I found out later that the buyer stripped it for all it’s parts....so much for all my work! Also, around this time, my neighbor passed away from a heart attack while shoveling snow. Afraid to inquire too early about the Cardin car, I waited a few weeks. I came home to find the car was junked and crushed.
After that, I stayed away from Javelins for a while... although a I had a 65 Rambler Classic 770 for a bit....but before long, I went looking and found what I thought was the ultimate: a final year, every available option, Snow White 1974 AMX, 401/Auto with the black Domino interior, GO package, etc, etc... needing lots of work, though. I found a ‘71 SST 232/3spd for parts, and started work. Not far into the project, money woes hit again, and off she went for $800.
In 1991, I got the idea to build a race only Javelin and stick to brand-X cars for road use. I found a ‘71 SST 304/Auto with a 4-barrel intake and carb, missing grille area, and horrific interior. I emptied it out, trashed all non-essentials, and readied it for paint. The drivetrain would come next. Now the money woes hit my mom (long since splitup from dad) and she was losing the house. We all moved, but I had no space for this car. It sat there, awaiting rescue until the bank foreclosed the property and arranged a tow to the boneyard for the SST.
Then, April, 1995 comes and Javelin fever is in full bloom. I hear a rumor that the ‘72 AMX that houses my first Javelin's 304 motor is for sale. It hasn’t been used in 6 years, but the interior, redone in 1987, is flawless, the body good, and my motor all there. $500 towed it home, and I discovered the weeds have helped eat the bottom out of the car. The seat belts rip out by hand from the crunchy rockers, the floor boards ‘move’ under your feet. CRAP! I need another shell for this motor and interior.
May, 1995, at a swap meet, I hear of a Javelin about an hour from home. I check it out. It’s what I now call ‘Lizzy’- a 1974 AMX 304/Auto, PS, PB, AC, AM radio still in the dash! The interior is covered in a custom-carpet motif (YUCK), but the body is straight and less rusted than the ‘72 (which is saying a LOT when you see the floors of this car!), and the 304 motor is complete (but not running). Here are another front view and rear view. $700 and this one is home. The door tag on this car tells it is an original AMX with 'Plum Metallic' paint.
I stripped the ‘72 clean and off the junkyard she went.
11/97: I found a way to make some quick cash- a local auto body shop had an '89 Cherokee sitting outside with a for sale sign asking $1500 firm. Yes, it needed lots of work. I grabbed it and re-sold it a week later for $2800- without even cleaning it!
I took $2500 of that cash and made an offer to buy a '74 Javelin with a 401/Auto for which the owner was asking $3200. Happily, he accepted and I now have an awesome Javelin to work with.
Then, I found a '73 Javelin 401/4-speed for sale for $1600, but it was rustier than my Plum ’74. When an interested buyer decided it was too battered to repair (it had been fiberglassed in the roof and floor pans, bottomed-out at high speed, wrecking the headers, etc), he decided to pull the engine and trans for use in another car and sold me the balance for parts. For me, this car yielded a 3.54 Posi rear axle including brakes, tilt-steering column, functional cowled hood and air cleaner, rally guages, and lots of smaller stuff. After being stripped of every good part I could save, this car was junked on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1997. A Moment of silence, please....
My Plum '74 AMX is now being parted out, and I'll probably junk it (arrgh!) spring of '98.
At one point I counted 15 Javelins passing thru my hands. Only 13 are listed here, so I’ve forgotten a pair someplace, probably more parts cars. Somehow, tho, I’m sure there will be more.