Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, those who were interested in buying an American-built performance car had a huge variety of models to choose from. Pretty much all the brands owned by Detroit’s Big Three marketed at least one outrageous muscle car, and smaller manufacturers such as AMC wanted a piece of that pie.
The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine took American Motors into the midsize muscle car field. It wasn’t the quiet entry it might have been. As evidence, there exists in the AMC archives a photo of a different, more sinister-looking midsize muscle proposal.
AMC was late at making an appearance on the muscle car scene, but fought terribly hard to get the attention of enthusiasts with ever more capable versions of the AXM, Javelin or Rambler. These models did prove somewhat popular but never managed to outsell GM, Ford or Chrysler’s offerings.
For the 1970 model year, encouraged by the 1969 Rambler, the struggling carmaker went all in when it revealed the most outrageous high-performance midsize coupe that would ever wear AMC badges; making it more than good enough to keep up with any 2022 hot hatch
The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine: Ready, Set, POWER
The Rebel Machine hid the company’s most powerful engine under its scooped hood, a 6.4 liter V8 that could spit out a mean 340 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 430 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. Some features from AMX’s 390 could be seen on the Rebel, such as the camshaft, connecting rods and crankshaft. With the added extras of a high-flow dual-plane intake, redesigned cylinder heads and larger exhaust manifolds, it managed to add an extra 15 horses.
Mated to a 4-speed Borg-Warner T10 gearbox with a floor-mounted Hurst shifter as standard in a time when other manufacturers offered a manual as an option, the highly potent unit required high-octane gasoline to properly unleash all that brute power. The list of standard features continued with impressive mechanical goodies such as a beefed-up suspension system that received rear coil springs from a Rebel station wagon, anti-roll bars on both axles and power front disc brakes.
Customers could also opt for various factory-installed extras. These extras included an automatic transmission with a center console-mounted, cruise control, an adjustable tilting steering wheel, and even a cool air conditioning system. It certainly added some creature comforts for its driver, which were not always that common with typical muscle cars.
AXM added a range of different paint finishes several months after the release, as it was initially only available in red, white and blue. It came with a unique ram-air intake hood scoop that redirected cold air into the engine and also housed a large tachometer visible to the driver through the windshield.
In terms of performance, the car could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and run the quarter-mile in an impressive 14.4 seconds.
The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine: Hitting The Drag Race Scene
It made its official debut on 25 October 1969, in Dallas, Texas at the National Hot Rod Association’s World Championship Drag Race Finals. The Machine was factory rated at 10.7 pounds per hp, meaning that it qualified for the NHRA F-stock class. Five models with automatic gearboxes and an additional five with four-speed manuals were driven from the factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin to Dallas and four of them were raced at the event in the condition they arrived in. It was reported that all of them achieved solid times in the mid-14-second range during press day practice runs.
Produced for one year only, this marvelous vehicle was put on the market for around $3,500, which would set you back $24,677 in today’s money. This steep price tag was a couple of hundred dollars more than a standard Pontiac GTO, which offered more power. The pricey value was one of the main reasons why the Rebel Machine didn’t manage to outsell its rivals. To add to this, it wasn’t the fastest or the most powerful muscle car money could buy, even though it posted great performance figures; only around 2,000 of them left dealerships that year.
The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine: Reminiscing On AMX’s Great Efforts
It has been speculated that this vehicle would have been much more successful, had it been released a couple of years earlier. It seems that AMC was always a step behind its competitors, which ultimately led to its downfall. AMC’s performance torch was fully passed on to the Javelin and its AMX sibling for the remainder of the automaker’s existence.
Still, as one of the last true muscle cars of the golden era, it was grossly underrated in 1970, as well as in the decades that followed. Things have begun to change in recent times, and it seems that the Machine is finally getting the respect it deserves. On rare occasions, a low-mileage example in excellent shape shows up at auctions demanding between $80,000 and $100,000.
Although the AMX Rebel Machine attempted to sit at the top with its high-flying rivals, it never quite brought home the bacon. Despite this, it will always be remembered as a powerful, robust machine.
Sources: Muscle Car, Motor-Car, Hemmings
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