Someone paid seriously big bucks for this 1979 AMC AMX

With just 125 lazy horses under a stubby hood, a three-speed TorqueFlite transmission, tacked-on go-fast (but not really) trim pieces, guaranteed future parts headaches, and styling that looks to be from the fine folks at Hot Wheels, this ’79 AMC AMX won’t make many people ooh and ahh. It’s a really good low-mile example, but come on, how much would you say it’s worth? Six grand? 10 grand? 12?

Try $24,200.

That’s how much this tacky but exceptional little piece of mustache muscle sold for at the RM Sotheby’s Auburn Spring auction over the weekend. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about a grand more than it cost new.

American Motors (AMC) had a rocky history. We mostly remember the four-wheeled punchlines like the Pacer and the Gremlin, but there were some bright spots like the Trans Am champion Javelin, the charmingly obnoxious red-white-and-blue SC/Rambler and Rebel Machine, and the forward-thinking Eagle 4×4, which arguably spawned the crossover SUV. The coolest AMC for most, though, is the original AMX.

1979 AMC AMX engine
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's
1979 AMC AMX wheel
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's

1979 AMC AMX profile
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's

The only major American two-seater this side of a Corvette in the late 1960s and early 1970s, based on the Javelin pony car, the AMX was well-priced when new and it was fast, with up to 315 hp on tap from a 390-cubic-inch V-8. Things went downhill from 1971 on, though, as the AMX moved to just a performance package on the four-seater Javelin until 1974 and horsepower dropped year by year. American Motors brought the AMX name (but not the speed) back on the Hornet platform a few years later, then for the Concord, and finally for the little Spirit liftback in 1979-80.

Available with either a 258-cubic-inch straight-six or a 304 V-8 (1979 only), the Spirit AMX may not have been powerful but it was made in the same, ahem, spirit of the original using the classic big-engine, small-car formula. Some mild suspension mods, quicker steering, and better brakes improved handling over the standard Spirit.

An eight-gauge dash, bucket seats, and a sport steering wheel also made it look more serious than it was, but the exterior was what really wrote the check that the rest of the car couldn’t cash. AMC left the Spirit AMX festooned with a front air dam, rear spoiler, fender flares, giant AMX graphics on the body sides, and a hood decal that looks like the worst temporary tattoo in your kid’s sticker book. It may be the only hood decal that could make Pontiac’s screaming chicken blush.

1979 AMC AMX hood
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's
1979 AMC AMX interior
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's

1979 AMC AMX rear 3/4
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's

Surprisingly, two Spirit AMXs finished first and second in their class at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring (25th and 43rd overall). But, contrary to the flames on the AMX’s hood, the car didn’t exactly set the world on fire in terms of sales. Barely 3600 were built in 1979 and even fewer in 1980. Meanwhile, Ford was selling the Fox-body Mustang introduced the same year hand over fist. The AMX quietly disappeared after 1980 and, despite the 1979 AMXs being the last AMCs with a V-8, nobody has really taken them seriously since.

And that’s why we were watching this one closely. There can’t be very many of these still around in any condition and we never, and I mean never, see them pop up for sale. So this car, with its 8346 original miles, factory air conditioning, and original decals has got to be the world’s best.

The Auburn bidders seemed to agree, and at least two of them must have been AMC fanatics, because they pushed this car way beyond RM’s seemingly reasonable $6000 to $10,000 estimate and to exactly 10 grand beyond our current condition #1 (concours) value. We rated the car on-site as being in #2 (a little bit less than excellent) condition, but good luck finding a better one.

1979 AMC AMX front
1979 AMC AMX RM Sotheby's
Click below for more about
Read next Up next: Ian Callum stepping down as Jaguar’s director of design


    What writers often neglect to think about or mention in reviews such as this is that all new sporty American cars built in the U.S. in 1979 were no longer particularly muscular. They were all mere shadows of what they had been in the past. Tacky stick-on kits, flairs and gadgets were the norm. Some of them were kinda cool! Performance levels in ways besides power were greatly improved over our favorite 60’s and early 70’s sporty cars. If a present buyer was enthusiastic about these cars it may be because those were pretty neat new vehicles built when they were in high school and college. There will be fond memories of those built during that time period even more as we older “folks” fade away. Much of the medium aged motor head crowd knew little specifically about AMC’s and how good a car they were. They could simply never compete against the other three mammoth auto companies with the large purses.

    I’ve just watched the YT vid about the two AMC AMX’s that in 79 competed and won their division in the Nürburgring race. I’ve now learned that this model also won numerous track racing competitions during that time too. Such a fascinating car with actual auto racing pedigree. This is a great counter point to many other sports cars that say they are sporty but rarely make the results on the track. I’m a huge fan of it’s fenders, graphics and all round style. Sure, it wont appeal to everyone but who says it has to.

    260 were made for canada & i was one of the owners , biege colour it was my brothers purchased new , it was to quiet SO my backyard mechanic friend & myself 1st removed ALL pollution control added approximately 60 hp YEAH that much then added a 4 barrel intake 650 holley double pumper followed by HOOKER headers & dual exhaust , MANY changes came that summer 1st replacement of holley to a 4barrel 450 quadrajet OOOH what a difference maker then a HALF cam as he called it followed by a SET of 343 heads 😲 that was the HF , was making approximately 270 HP , from 2nd to 3rd the tires SQUACKED NICELY , next change LOOSE the decals repainted coopertone SPECIALLY after not 1 not 2 but 3 RACING charges , i was then beating dodge challengers withh 440 packs & or tunnel rams BY BY 5.0 liter mustangs , the GRAND NATIONAL was my next goal & YES i was ahead but against a IM SCARED driver after 100 mph , it was known as the SLEEPER no one & i mean NO ONE wanted to race me specially after SPENDING 10.000 to 12.000 on a there MUSCLE CAR & this little coopertone AMC so called AMX was beating BIG BLOCKS by a HALF car length , i TRULEY loved that car & i miss it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *