History and Information

Welcome to the 1977 Hornet AMX Registry

 

A Little History

American Motors’ 1977 Hornet AMX launched the third generation of AMC’s top performance

model. It followed the 2-seat 1968-70 AMX sports car and the restyled, four passenger 1971-74

Javelin AMX. There was no AMX model sold in the United States for the 1975 or 1976 model

years.

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Based on the successful AMC Hornet Hatchback, regarded by some as one of the best

automotive designs of the 1970s, the 1977 AMX was a limited production specialty model initially

conceived by Jim Wangers at Motortown Corporation of Detroit, Michigan. Motortown also

developed and built, or more accurately converted, the 1976 Mustang Cobra II and 1977 Pontiac

Can Am. They also created the Plymouth Volare Road Runner and Dodge Aspen R/T models,

many of which included a front spoiler and ground effects nearly identical to those of the Hornet

AMX.

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               Dodge Aspen R/T and Hornet AMX ground effects comparison

 

According to Wangers, “Although the idea for the car originated at Motortown it was actually

built on the AMC assembly line in Kenosha, WI.  Unfortunately, while the car itself was exciting

and a “pretty good” performer the apparent prostitution of the name AMX upset the owners of

earlier models and caused some critical backlash. Motortown Corp. did a lot of work for AMC,

as did Hurst Special Vehicles.  I was fortunate enough to be with Hurst when they created the

SC/Rambler in 1969 and the Rebel Machine in 1970.  After leaving Hurst I formed Motortown and

we continued to serve AMC with cars like the Hornet AMX and a really exciting package called

the SPacer which was a delightful mini-van.  Unfortunately this one never made it in to

production.”

alt    Jim Wangers of Motortown Corp.

 

He continues, “Motortown conceived the idea for the Hornet AMX and presented it to the

American Motors marketing folks, they can’t take full credit for the finished product.  The “idea”

for the car to be built off the Hornet Fastback, came from Motortown but many of the final

styling changes were contributed by AMC Styling. I don’t feel comfortable representing myself as

the only creator of the car.  While the original plan to build this effort off the Hornet were mine,

most of the contributions to the actual car were not mine.  I do want you to understand that.

Motortown had a good styling group too and they worked very closely with the AMC guys.”

 

The Package

A 1977 Hornet AMX resulted from selecting a $799.00 option package which added the visual

appeal of lower fender flares, a front spoiler, brushed aluminum targa roof band and body color

rear window louvers. Also part of the package were bumpers painted the body color, not

urethane coated as some reported at the time. Much of the car’s exterior trim was blacked out

including the grille (except for a thin silver border), side window frames, dual side sport mirrors

and rear body tail light panel.

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Unique outward identification consisted of large in-motion “AMX” graphics on both lower

quarter panels. Beginning around December 1976 a huge Trans-Am inspired flaming hornet decal

was available for the hood, with a smaller version for the rear hatch. Cars equipped with these

optional decals included a special bullseye emblem for the hood, replacing the standard hornet

badge common to other 1973-77 Hornets. Larger bullseyes were also found on either end of the

targa roof band on every Hornet AMX, an apparent reference to the model’s distant Javelin

heritage. Also unique were thick, solid black bodyside moldings which were standard equipment.

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At the 2011 Kenosha show I met up with “Angel”, a former AMC employee whose job at the plant included installing the Hornet AMX hood decals. This task was assigned to her as she was petite and able to climb up on the cars without doing any damage. Angel reports that as a Hornet AMX came along which needed the decals, it would be pulled aside to a waiting area so she could outfit 3 or 4 cars at a time. If your Hornet AMX still has a factory original hood decal Angel is the one who put it there!

 

Hornet AMX exterior colors were limited to just four non-metallic choices. They were Firecracker

Red (easily the best seller), Sunshine Yellow, Alpine White, and Lime Green (the rarest color).

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To prevent damage new Hornet AMX models were delivered to dealerships without the front

spoiler installed. Interesting is that this part, along with the fender flares, were molded in plastic

which approximated the outer body paint color. It must have been known that the flares ahead of

both rear wheels would be stripped in time by stones and road debris. Some white cars shared

ground effects molded in yellow. Note also that the Hornet AMX spoiler and fender flares were

never factory installed on another AMC model.

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Highlighting the rear view was the aluminum body color backlight louver which is hinged at the top

for fairly easy window cleaning. Tamper proof, the louver is secured at the bottom by two small

pins which pass through nylon bushings. Small clips resembling tiny hood pins pass through

these posts and are secured to the hatch by a short cable on each side. The louver contacts the

hatch lid and rear glass with perimeter and dual vertical rubber insulators making for a rattle-free

installation.

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Wheel choices included optional 14×6″ polished aluminum 5-spokes which used the familiar

AMC “volcano” center cap. Standard were stamped steel wheels with a hard plastic cover

simulating the earlier bonded urethane road wheels. Early cars may have the actual bonded

wheels. Both steel wheels use a thin, rather fragile stainless beauty ring and volcano cap.

Goodyear Polysteel Radial tires were standard with white letters being optional.

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1977 AMX interior trimming was upgraded over most previous Hornets. Interior colors were

brown, black, or black with white vinyl seats. There was also a small run of 100 cars with blue Levi’s

denim cloth interiors. The instrument panel featured “engine turned” overlays and a matching “AMX”

emblem for the glove box door. A thick soft-feel sport steering wheel was standard. Cars with brown

or blue interiors used a black painted steering column with black steering wheel. Also standard was

a 6000 RPM tachometer (with 4500 RPM redline for six cylinder cars or 5000 RPM redline for V8’s).

Four smaller gauges were mounted in a pod just ahead of the floor shifter. These were a clock, amp,

temperature and oil pressure gauges. The temperature gauge located in the main instrument cluster

was blocked off to avoid duplication, although a few cars may have been built in error with dual

temperature gauges.

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Interior side panels were upgraded with additional foam rubber padding, plus a narrow accent

band which simulates the engine turned effect of the dash. Grab handles were added to both

doors and a center console included an ash tray and locking storage compartment with carpet

inside. The rear seat was a bench type with a one-piece back which folded forward to greatly

increase the car’s load carrying capability. Behind this was a cargo floor which sloped to the rear

unless equipped with the optional hidden compartment which leveled the rear floor. This option

required a Space Saver spare tire. Cars with full size spares used a matching vinyl tire cover.

Back outside, where the targa band passed over the side glass, black decals were applied to the

outside of the windows. These concealed the black, foam rubber fillers behind the targa band

which still allowed normal operation of the flip-open quarter windows.

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Mechanically the 1977 AMX was pure Hornet, not a bad thing, and represented AMC’s

“Economy Experts” tagline from a few years earlier. Standard was the thrifty 258 cid straight six

with Carter 2-bbl carburetor, although Canadian and high altitude cars received a 1-bbl carb. The

258 could be mated to a 4-speed stick or optional automatic with floor shift. The optional 304 cid

V8 with 2-bbl was only available with a Chrysler-built automatic. There was no exterior

identification or badging for either engine choice.

 

Levi’s Hornet AMX

A small run of 100 Hornet AMXs were assembled with AMC’s unique Levi’s interior. These

cars differed from other Hornet AMXs with their blue denim seats, matching denim trimmed door

panels and a special plate for the glove box door which reads “Limited Edition AMX 1 of 100”. The

cars also have “Levi’s” logo stickers for the front fenders. Since the Levi’s interior was a regular

option on AMC Gremlins, Hornet Hatchbacks, Jeeps and even the Pacer for 1977, it is not known

why only a preplanned number of Levi’s Hornet AMXs were built. These cars may have been

part of a corporate or regional promotion. So far only four of the 100 Levi’s Hornet AMXs have

surfaced, and all are Alpine White.

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California Edition

One regional special edition is the C.E. or California Edition Hornet AMX. Built for the Southern

California AMC Dealers Association, this model can be identified by unique “C.E.” decals on both

front fenders. There is speculation that a special Audiovox stereo was also included. Although the

C.E. decals look like they could have been sourced from the local hardware store, they do appear in

the AMC parts catalog with part number 371 5286. Other California-bound 1977 AMC models were

available with the C.E. package as well.

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Hornet AMX VIN Decoder

   A   American Motors Corporation

   7   1977 Model Year

   C   Automatic floor shift       M   4-speed floor shift

   0   Hornet

   3   2 door hatchback

   7   Model Group (Pacer/Hornet/Matador)

   E    232/1 bbl*     A   258/1 bbl       C   258/2 bbl       H   304/2 bbl

   123456   Serial number sample, Kenosha built cars

* Not officially offered with the AMX package, only two such cars known to exist.

 

The Hornet AMX Door Tag

Attached to the trailing edge of the left door is an aluminum tag which contains the model, body,

build sequence, paint and interior trim codes. For 1977 this tag is printed in black and has slotted

holes for the rosette (star) rivets. A Hornet AMX door tag is difficult to reproduce as it is

stamped using three distinctly different types of numbers. This tag, combined with the VIN, is the

DNA of a Hornet AMX, so a door tag which is lost because of door replacement or damaged from

careless disassembly devalues the car from a collector’s standpoint.

 

   MODEL    7703-7   Decodes:  77 Year    03 Hornet    7 Standard Appointment Group

   TRIM     Black 711Q    Black/White 71AQ    Brown 716Q    Blue (Levi’s) 713R

   PAINT    Firecracker Red 6P    Sunshine Yellow 6V    Alpine White G7    Lime Green 7P

 

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Firecracker Red with Black Interior                     Lime Green with Brown Interior

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      Sunshine Yellow with Black Interior                  Alpine White with Black & White Interior

 

Pre-production

There is a report of a 1976 Hornet which may have been built as an AMX prototype. Painted

Lime Green and powered by a 304 with column-shifted automatic, this car was reportedly

purchased directly from AMC by an International Harvester employee working out of Rock

Island, Illinois. Apparently this car deteriorated and was eventually sold. It remains unaccounted

for today. With the amount of time required to develop automotive components, the possibility of

one or more AMC or Motortown-built 1976 AMX test cars is likely. Pre-production cars are

commonly used for promotional and photography purposes as well.

 

Period magazines and factory publications indicate that at least two early production AMX’s were

used for press duty, one red and one yellow. Both cars are conspicuously missing the rubber

guards from the lower corners of the front bumper. Also strange is a white “AMX” graphic

shown on the left side of the yellow car’s tail light panel. This detail must have been omitted at the

last minute as it’s even mentioned in early printings of the 1977 AMC prestige brochure. Stranger

yet is a dark colored AMX pictured in the 1977 Technical Service Manual (copyright 1976). This

car shows the hood decal and bumper corner guards, but the rear view shows unusual pinstriping

which outlines both sides of the tail light panel, but no “AMX” graphic. Apparently the rear

end treatment was being debated up to the very last minute!

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This same publication shows a light colored car, again without the corner guards, but otherwise

outfitted like a production model except for the tires. Pre-production cars used Firestone 500’s, a

defective tire later recalled by the manufacturer, while production cars wore Goodyear Polysteel

Radials in size DR78-14.

 

Production

Actual production of the 1977 Hornet AMX package remains a mystery. I was informed by

American Motors Public Relations in 1980 that Hornet AMX production was not tallied.

Publications which report only a few hundred built are undoubtedly incorrect, however more than

one source cites a total production of 5,207 units, with 3,196 being six cylinder cars and 2,011

with V8 power. As these numbers are indirectly attributed to AMC, and seem reasonable, they are

the most reliable production figures currently available.

 

How many are left over 35 years later? That’s a good question, and one that is often asked. As

surviving Hornet AMX’s have long outlived the average useful life of a passenger car, I believe

that by now most owners will have joined up with a club for parts and technical assistance.

Although I have monitored the AMC hobby since 1995 less than 200 cars have been documented,

and many of those were parts donors which no longer exist. I’m sure that a few Hornet AMX’s are

still being daily driven in dry climates and have escaped being detected.

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For these reasons, and keeping in mind that many of these cars have been driven by youthful

owners, I would place the number of surviving examples between 250 and 300.

 

Rumors & Oddities

In compiling the registry and speaking with owners some interesting tales have surfaced.

Non-standard paint colors and cars supposedly built without targa roof bands have been

reported. Naturally these deviations from stock could be explained by an owner’s personal tastes.

In years past it was not uncommon for cars to be ordered in a non-standard color or with

equipment deleted or even added from a different car line. However without documentation these

differences can only be attributed to a previous owner customizing their car after taking delivery.

 

Also reported was a Canadian car which was delivered from the factory with bumpers painted

over chrome. This could be the result of AMC workers keeping the assembly line running despite

running out of unplated bumper rails, or possibly a car that was damaged in transit.

 

Performance Activities

As AMC’s “halo” performance car for 1977, some Hornet AMX’s were extensively modified for

automotive competition. This includes cars built for IMSA road racing as well as Pro Stock 1/4

mile drag racing.

Wally Booth’s factory-backed Pro Stock car (shown below) started out as an earlier Hornet Hatchback, but had fender flares and a targa roof band added for the 1977 racing season to make it appear to be a new Hornet AMX. 

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Buyer Guidelines

With over three decades since production, Hornet AMX models are in relatively short supply

today. If you are lucky enough to locate one for sale perhaps the most critical problem area to

watch for is body rust. As with most Hornets front fender top rust-through is common. Rocker

panels can be another problem area, especially the inner portion underneath the car. Other areas to

check are the door frames, lower corners of the doors and rear wheel lips.

 

The Hornet AMX has no serious mechanical concerns and requires no unusual maintenance.

AMC six cylinder and V8 engines are excellent designs good for service far in excess of 100,000

miles when cared for.

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If your potential purchase has damaged or missing AMX exclusive parts or trim, be aware that

these obsolete parts can be difficult to locate and fairly expensive. Although all of the decals and

some other small parts have been reproduced, buying the most complete car that you can find is

highly recommended.

 

As a desirable collector car, expect to pay well over the original sticker price for a 1977 Hornet

AMX in very good to excellent condition. Presentable driver quality cars can occasionally be found

for less than $3,000.

 

1977 Hornet AMX Vehicle Locator

http://www.adhuntr.com/2012/05/all.html?cx=partner-pub-9413604915893153%3Ao8xsd8d7h7s&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&newwindow=1&q=1977+Hornet+AMX&as_qdr=a&safe=active&sa=Search#1046

 

And Finally

If you own or know of an original 1977 Hornet AMX which doesn’t appear in the registry please

contact me! For a car to be included in the registry a complete VIN is required in order to

prevent duplicate listings of the same car by multiple owners. Complete VIN’s, owner names and

locations will not be published or shared.

 

 

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