AMC Hornet

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AMC Hornet
AMC Hornet station wagon
ManufacturerAmerican Motors Corporation
Production1970 – 1977
AssemblyKenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Mexico City, Mexico (VAM)
PredecessorRambler American
SuccessorAMC Concord
Body style(s)2-door coupe
3-door hatchback
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
LayoutFR layout
PlatformAMC’s “junior cars”
Engine(s)199 cu in (3.3 L) I6
232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
304 cu in (5 L) V8
360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
Transmission(s)3-speed automatic
3-speed manual
4-speed manual
Wheelbase108 inches (2,743 mm)
Length179.3 inches (4,554 mm)
Width70.6 inches (1,793 mm)
Fuel capacity22 US gallons (Template:Convert/l impgal)
RelatedAMC Gremlin
DesignerRichard A. Teague
ManualsService Manual

The AMC Hornet is a compact automobile made by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) beginning with the 1970 model year and continuing through the 1977 model year. The Hornet replaced the compact Rambler American marking the end of the Rambler marque in the American and Canadian markets.

The new Hornet became an important vehicle and platform for AMC. It served the company in one form or another for eighteen years, until the 1988 model year. It would outlast all other compact platforms from the competition that included the Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick, and Plymouth Valiant. The Hornet was also the basis for AMC's Gremlin, Concord, and the innovative all-wheel drive AMC Eagle.

Origins of the "Hornet" name

The Hornet name within AMC originated from the merger of Hudson Motor Company and Nash-Kelvinator Corporation in 1954. Hudson introduced the first Hudson Hornet in 1951. The automaker formed a stock car racing team centered on the car, and the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" soon became famous for its wins and stock-car title sweeps between 1951 and 1954. American Motors, the resulting corporation formed by the merger of Nash Motors and Hudson, continued to produce Nash-based Hornets, which were sold under the Hudson marque from 1955 to 1957. The company retained rights to the name while it was dormant from 1958 to 1969.


The Hornet's styling was based on the AMC Cavalier show car. Development of the new model took three years, a million man-hours, and US$40 million.[1] The Hornet marked the return of AMC to its original role as a "niche" marketer specializing in small cars.[1] Introduced in 1969 for the 1970 model year, the Hornet was the first car in a line of new models that AMC would introduce over the following three years, and it set the tone for what designer Richard A. Teague and chief executive officer Roy D. Chapin, Jr., had in mind for the company for the 1970s.[2]

With its suggested retail price (MSRP) of $1,994 for the base model, the Hornet was an economical small family car. However, it took design cues from the immensely popular Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, and even the company's own Javelin with a long hood, short rear deck and sporty looks.[2] The Hornet's 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase platform (two inches or 5.08 centimeters longer than its predecessor the Rambler American) evolved into a number of other models (including the four-wheel-drive Eagle) and was produced through 1988. The Hornet was available in a choice of two thrifty straight six engines or a 304 cu in (5 L) V8.

The Hornet was offered as a two-door and four-door notchback sedan in its introductory year. A four-door station wagon variant named the "Sportabout" was added to the 1971 lineup. Also for 1971, the SC/360 was added, an 360 cu in (5.9 L) 8-cylinder performance vehicle available only as a two-door coupe (The tire pressure sticker on the first 1970 models hinted at the SC/360). In 1973, a hatchback coupe was added to the lineup.

AMC used the Hornet as the basis for its AMC Gremlin, which consisted of the front half of the two-door Hornet's body and a truncated rear section with a window hatchback.

In 1973 a Levi's Jeans trim package - based on the world-famous jeans manufacturer - was offered. The Levi's trim package was popular and was offered throughout the mid-1970s.

Year-by-year changes


Introduced in September 1969, the first year Hornets came in base and higher trim SST models and in 2 and 4-door sedans. The 199 cu in (3.3 L) straight-6 engine was standard on the base models with the 232 cu in (3.8 L) standard on the SST. The 304 cu in (5 L) V8 engine was optional.

1970 production:
2-door base: 43,610
4-door base: 17,948
2-door SST: 19,748
4-door SST: 19,786


1971 Hornet "base" model

1971 saw the addition of the Sportabout, a 4-door wagon using a single hatch design in place of the traditional tailgate. The 2 and 4-door sedans were carryovers. The 232 engine was now standard across the range.

A notable addition was the SC360 version, a compact 2-door muscle car that was intended as a follow-up to the 1969 SC Rambler. Powered by the Javelin AMX's 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8, the SC was distinguished by styled wheels, hood scoop, body striping, and other performance and appearance upgrades.[3] In standard form, with two-barrel carburetor, the 360 produced 245 horsepower (183 kW) (gross) and was priced at just US$2,663 (about $40 below the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340). With the addition of the $199 "Go" package's four-barrel carburetor and ram-air induction, the SC's power increased to 285 horsepower (213 kW). Optional in place of the standard three-speed was a Hurst-shifted four-speed or an automatic transmission. Goodyear Polyglas D70X14 tires were standard, with upgrades running to the handling package and the "Twin-Grip" limited slip differential with 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 gears.[4]

Although the SC/360 could not compete with the holdover big-engined muscle cars, the SC combined respectable quickness (0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and the 1/4 mile dragstrip in 14.9 at 95 mph (153 km/h) with a taut suspension, big tires, and modest size; thus Motor Trend magazine described it as "just a plain gas to handles like a dream."[4]

American Motors originally planned to build as many as 10,000 of the cars, but high insurance premiums killed the SC/360 after a single year's production of just 784 examples.[5]

The Sportabout's production numbers, on the other hand, was the most popular model by far. For most of its life it was the only American-made wagon in its size class.

1971 2-door sedan (clone SC stripe) and 1972 Hornet Sportabout
1971 production:
2-door base: 19,395
4-door base: 10,403
2-door SST: 8,600
4-door SST: 10,651
Wagon SST: 73,471
SC360: 784


1972 Hornet Sportabout

The base Hornet was dropped in 1972 and all models were designated as "SST". The SST offered more items standard than the previous year's base model at about the same price. Hornets now came with comfort and convenience items that most consumers expected and these items were typically standard on imported cars. American Motors established a new focus on quality and introduced "The Buyer Protection Plan" in 1972 models. The 1972 Hornet was promoted by AMC as "a Tough Little Car".

Other changes included dropping the SC/360 compact muscle car, but the two-barrel version of the 360 cu in (5.9 L) remained optional in addition to the 304 cu in (5 L) V8. New for 1972 were the "X" package that tried to repeat the success AMC had with this trim option on the 1971 Gremlin. A performance oriented "Rallye" package was also introduced. It included among other items: special lower body stripes, bucket seats, handling package, front disc brakes, quick-ratio manual steering, and a sports steering wheel.

Hornet Sportabout Gucci Edition

The 1972 Hornet was notable for being one of the first American cars to offer a special luxury trim package created by a fashion designer. The model was called the Gucci series, named for Italian fashion designer Dr. Aldo Gucci. The car offered special beige-colored upholstery fabrics on the thickly padded seats and inside door panels (with red and green pinstriping), along with nameplates and a choice of four colors. The Gucci model proved to be a success, with 2,583 1972 and 2,252 1973 Hornet Sportabouts so equipped, and would inspire other automakers – including Ford's luxury brand, Lincoln – to offer trim packages styled by fashion designers. The Gucci package was offered only on the Sportabout, a four door wagon with a single sloping hatch replacing the then traditional window/tailgate.

1972 production:
2-door SST: 27,122
4-door SST: 24,254
Wagon SST: 34,065 (Gucci version: 2,584)


1973 AMC Hornet X

The SST model was dropped and all models were now simply named "Hornet". Front-end bodywork was restyled to accommodate a new larger energy-absorbing recoverable front bumper system that met the new "no-damage at 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h)" legislation. As a result, overall length was increased 6 inches (152 mm).

A two-door hatchback was introduced that Car and Driver magazine called "the styling coup of 1973". A fold-down rear seat increased cargo volume from 9.5 to 23 cubic feet (269-651 L) with an almost flat floor. A dealer accessory was available to convert the open hatchback area into a tent camper. The sedan models were carried over while the wagons received an optional "D/L" package. This trim package included exterior woodgrain body side decal panels, a roof rack with rear air deflector, and individual reclining seats upholstered in plush cloth. The Gucci wagon continued for one more year, while the hatchback was available with a Levis interior option. The "X" package was now available only for the Sportabout and hatchback.

1973 production:
2-door: 23,187
4-door: 25,452
Wagon: 44,719 (Gucci version: 2,251)
Hatchback: 40,110


All four versions of the Hornet were mostly carryovers in 1974, with minimal trim changes. The car's front bumper lost its full-width vinyl rub strip, but gained two rubber-faced bumper guards. A larger rear bumper was added to meet new 5 mph legislation, and the license plate was moved up to a position between the taillights.

1974 production:
2-door: 29,950
4-door: 29,754
Wagon: 71,413
Hatchback: 55,158


Focusing on the new Pacer, AMC kept the Hornet mostly unchanged. A new grille with vertical grating was the primary change.

1975 production:
2-door: 12,392
4-door: 20,565
Wagon: 39,593
Hatchback: 13,441


In its sixth year as a carryover, AMC priced the sedan and hatchback at the same identically, with the Sportabout slightly higher. That year, the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare were introduced; the line included a station wagon, ending AMC's monopoly on 6-cylinder domestic compact wagons.

1976 production:
Total: 71,577


After over seven years, the Hornet design seemed dated. A new sports oriented model, the AMX, was available only as a hatchback. This marked the return of a famous name that evoked AMC's original AMX two-seat sports car. The rest of the Hornet line was unchanged.

1977 production:
2-door: 6,076
4-door: 31,331
Wagon: 28,891
Hatchback: 11,545

In Fall 1977, the Hornet was restyled to become the 1978 Concord and helped establish the "luxury compact" market segment. With its upgraded design, components, and more standard features, the new Concord was more upscale than the economy-focused Hornet, as well as being more comfortable and more desirable to customers.

James Bond movie

As part of a significant product placement movie appearance by AMC, a 1974 Hornet X Hatchback is featured in the James Bond film: The Man with the Golden Gun. In the movie, 007 commandeers the car from a makeshift Bangkok, Thailand AMC dealership in a car chase. In the film, a special Hornet was used to perform a spiral jump, just as the Astro Spiral Javelin stunt cars performed that same jump in AMC sponsored thrill shows in the Houston Astrodome, wherein Gremlins and Hornets also were used to drive around in circles on their side two wheels in the arena. The stunt car is significantly modified with a visible lower stance and larger wheel wells compared to the stock Hornet X used in all other shots. The actual Bond Hornet is preserved in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK together with other famous items owned by the Ian Fleming Foundation and used in the 007 films.[6]

Experimental Hornets

The Hornet served as an vehicle for alternative power sources.

  • In 1971, a long-term test was conducted to evaluate actual road experience with a turbine powered passenger car.[7] An AMC Hornet was converted to a WR-26 regenerative gas turbine power made by Williams International.[8][9]
  • In 1971, the Electric Fuel Propulsion Company began marketing the "Electrosport" based on the Hornet Sportabout wagon.[10] It was designed to be a supplementary electric vehicle for commuting or daily chores, and to be recharged at home using household current or "Charge Stations away from home to replenish power in 45 minutes, while you shop or have lunch."[11]

2008 Hornet by Dodge

A front wheel drive, concept car called Hornet was designed and developed by Dodge in 2006 for possible production in 2008.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "How AMC Cars Work" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, undated, retrieved on [[2008]-07-07]].
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fitzgerald, Craig. "Feature Article: 1975 AMC Hornet X Sportabout" Hemmings Classic Car, September 1, 2005, retrieved on 2008-07-07.
  3. SC/360 Hornet Registry, retrieved on 2008-06-15.
  4. 4.0 4.1 How stuff works "1971 AMC Hornet SC/360" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide. Retrieved on 2008-06-15.
  5. Strohl, Daniel. "Feature Article: 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360" Hemmings Muscle Machines, January 1, 2008, retrieved on 2008-06-15.
  6. James Bond's AMC Hornet Located! The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK., retrieved on September 24, 2007.
  7. Verrelli, L. D.; Andary, C. J. (May 1972), "Exhaust Emission Analysis of the Williams Research Gas Turbine AMC Hornet", National Technical Information Service, PB218687, 
  8. "Williams Turbine Takes the Road", Motor Trend, November 1971 
  9. The car is visible in the background of this picture
  10. 1971 Electrosport sales brochure, Electric Fuel Propulsion Company of Detroit, Michigan.
  11. Packard, Chris (August 1971), "The Next Sound You Hear Will Your Electric Car B-Z-Z-Z-Z", Motor Trend 
  12. Christian, Jeffrey M. (1980). World Guide to Battery-powered Road Transportation. McGraw-Hill Education. p. 53. ISBN 978-0070107908. 
  • Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3. 

External links