The Javelin is a car that’s not given anything close to the amount of the attention that I feel it should be. Back in the day, it was an able competitor to the Plymouth Barracuda and the Dodge Challenger, and even outsold them frequently. Now, however, if you want one, be prepared for a hunt. Production of the Javelin began in 1967, and instantly appealed to the young. The average age of buyers was 29, 10 years younger than AMCs as a whole, and there are good reasons for that. It looked the part. The front end featured a split and recessed grill, aping a European look, and the windshield featured a dramatic rake backwards of 59 degrees. There were also a pair of hood scoops, but these were purely cosmetic. The car’s engine options ranged from a small straight-six with a cruising speed of just 80 mph, up to the 390 V8. In contrast to the AMX, the Javelin was, as the name would suggest, a long machine, bigger than the Mustang or the Camaro, and it was comfortable inside, to top it all off. The interiors were fully-carpeted and featured racing bucket seats, which could recline on the more expensive SST models.
In the racing circuit, the Javelin performed exceptionally well. Two Javelins raced in the SCCA Trans-Am series, with AMC being the only factory to finish every race, and finished third in the 1968 series. This was a small company with a lot of bite.
Why then, when these cars were innovative and AMC, for the most part, previously demonstrated good business sense, did the company so dramatically fall over the next 14 years? It’s a tale worthy of a novel. You see, AMC were hit hard in the 1970s. From 1975-1977, the company made a loss of $73.8 million, and the stockholders were not happy. To dig themselves out of this truly monstrous hole, in March 1978 the company decided to go international, to do a NATO, and partner with French firm Renault. This wasn’t the first interaction AMC had had with the French giants: in the 1960s, Renault were selling rebuilt versions of the Rambler Classic in Belgium and Argentina. Not even two months later, AMC faced a recall of all their 1976 cars, to repair an emissions control unit. The timing couldn’t have been worse for AMC. The cost of the recall, $3 million, wiped out the company’s earnings from the first quarter.
The deal with Renault began to bear fruit in 1979, with AMC receiving $150 million in cash, $50 million in credit, and the right to manufacture the Renault 5 in the US after 1982. The price was 22.5 percent of the company. For one brief, shining moment, it appeared as though AMC may have been on the rebound. Their profits hit an all-time record of $83.9 million, and their sales increased by 37% despite the terrible economy. The economic situation and high gas prices came back to bite on the Jeep end of AMC however, one of the company’s mainstays, and when that dipped, the whole company was looking straight back down again. What AMC also wasn’t prepared for was the arrival and surge in popularity of Japanese cars in the United States. With high-tech plants and innovative ideas, Japanese manufacturers began to stomp all over AMC and their out-of-date facilities. To save themselves from bankruptcy, AMC’s shareholders overwhelmingly voted to give control of the company to Renault.
It was all just too shaky. In 1985, AMC found themslves once again thrown by the market. Gas prices were falling again, and AMC’s compact models were once again losing favor. In addition to this, AMC faced angry workers at their plants. The workers felt that they were owed thousands of dollars each for contract concessions, but United Automobile Workers had accepted just $300 a head. They took matters into their own hands. In April of that year, four workers at the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, were fired for damaging unfinished Jeep bodies on the production line. Other protests included painting the bodies the wrong color or simply stopping work.
As a result of the killing, Renault attempted to get the labor force back on their side, and as such, divested themselves of their American holdings to focus on the French market. At this point, Renault held over 46 percent of AMC stock, so getting rid of it was going to be no mean feat. Fortunately for Renault, Chrysler had already made an agreement with AMC, who were to build cars for them from 1986-1988. In March 1987, Chrysler bought Renault’s stake for $1.5 billion, where it became the Jeep-Eagle division. In one fell swoop, Chrysler had quashed the small company which had previously been a thorn in the side of the larger marques, and also banished Renault from the United States for eleven years.
Article courtesy of restoMODS.com, written by Joe.