American Motors first appeared unprepared to respond to the performance revolution of the 1960s and even less likely to win the Trans Am championship, which it eventually won in 1971. American Motors had the practical reputation of producing the car for the human race.
The Javelin, a gorgeous tiny coupe created by American Motors’ style team under the direction of Dick Teague and based on the Project IV concept car from 1966, was ready to win over enthusiasts’ hearts and minds by the time AMC joined the pony car party in the fall of 1967.
AMC used their “junior” Rambler American chassis as the foundation for its 109-inch-wheelbase ponycar, which met with critical success in its first year because it lacked the money to create an entirely new platform for the Javelin. Simultaneous to this, AMC entered the racing scene by choosing to compete in the SCCA’s Trans Am series in both drag racing and road racing.
Trans Am racing increased the Javelin’s visibility and AMC’s new coolness. Trans Am was quickly becoming America’s hottest racing series. The exposure was made to encourage people to visit AMC showrooms where they could see their newest performance hardware, which at the time took the form of the Javelin and the nearly comparable two-seat AMX.
The Javelin’s track record was sufficiently enhanced by the end of its third year of manufacture in 1970 for the Javelin to receive a special edition, the Javelin SST Trans Am Edition.
1970 AMC Javelin SST Trans Am Edition Interior
AMC placed more effort into the procedure than the preceding 52-unit SS/AMX drag racing conversions, which were completed by an outside vendor, despite the expense involved in converting the 100 Javelin SSTs into Trans-Am editions.
According to the myth, Kenosha actually lost money despite its high MSRP. Instead, the Trans-Am conversions were carried out internally in groups determined by the amount of available floor space.
Each began as a regular SST painted in Frost White with a bucket seat inside outfitted with black vinyl upholstery and a center cushion and fold-down armrest. The regular wheel-opening paint stripes and rocker panel trim were removed as part of the Trans-Am package, making room for a special tri-tone paint job that matched the factory team color scheme.
The front and back of the automobile were painted Matador Red and Commodore Blue, respectively, with Frost White remaining in the middle. The paint was meticulously placed all over the body, including within egress points and parts of the undercarriage, as opposed to just covering the skin. Door tags had a paint code of “00” stamped on them to identify the color scheme.
1970 AMC Javelin SST Trans Am Edition Engine
As previously established, the 390-cu. In. Engine from AMC was the only one available for the Trans-Am Javelin. The second-generation V-8 from AMC, which debuted for the 1968 model year, was designed with enough to spare for the huge 4.165-inch cylinder bores of the 390. 3.574 inches of piston travel were connected to the forged steel crankshaft by forged steel connecting rods.
The 1970 model, found in each Trans-Am Javelin, received slightly modified cylinder heads and was initially rated for 315 horsepower. Cast iron construction, 2.02/1.625-inch intake/exhaust valves, and small “dog legs” on each of the rectangular exhaust ports improved flow. The 390 was now officially rated at 325 horsepower @ 5,000 RPM and 420 lb.ft of torque at 3,200 RPM, despite the compression ratio being reduced from 10.2 to 10.0:1.
A heavy-duty cooling system and the usually optional but always desirable Go Package were also required as part of the Trans-Am package. The package capped the cast-iron intake manifold with a Motorcraft 4300 four-barrel carburetor and AMC’s Ram induction system, consisting of ducting that sealed the open-element air cleaner assembly against the practical split hood scoop above.
It also included a full dual-exhaust system to improve breathing even more. In a prior interview, Jeff Reeves, technical editor for the American Motors Owners Club, mentioned that the engine’s oiling system was its only flaw since it hindered flow under extreme conditions, like drag racing. However, race engine builders created an oiling adjustment that is now widely known and considerably reduces the issue.
The AMC 390 can be rebuilt quite easily, just like other engines. While aftermarket producers provide camshaft, intake manifold, and even aluminum cylinder-head improvements that can increase power ratings, everything from tune-up kits to pistons is easily accessible.
Although drum brakes were the standard at the time in the industry, the Go Package required front power disc brakes to be installed on the Trans-Am edition. The front brakes had rotors that were a little under 11 inches in diameter and four-piston calipers. The brake system was completed with ordinary 10-inch-diameter drums and a dual-circuit master cylinder, both of which are now commonplace.