800px-1973 AMC American Motors hornet 258 2 door hatchback fastback Beast.jpg
AMC Hornet
Production: 1970-1977
Class: Compact
Body Style: 2-Door Coupe
3-Door Hatchback
4-Door Sedan
5-Door Wagon
Length: 174.9-180.9"
Width: 72.3"
Height: 51.6"
Wheelbase: 109.3"
Weight: 3100-3300 lbs
Transmissions: 3-Speed Manual
4-Speed Manual
3-Speed Automatic
Engines: 3.3L (199 cid) I6 (1970)
3.8L (232 cid) I6 (1970-1977)
4.2L (258 cid) I6 (1973-1977)
5.0L (304 cid) V8 (1970-1977)
5.9L (360 cid) V8 (1971-1977)
Power: 110-245 hp

Using a name that was once a legendary Hudson model back in the early 1950s, AMC revived the Hornet name on a new compact model in 1970 that effectively replaced the former Rambler American. The new Hornet arrived just in time to compete in the American compact car market, which was really starting to heat up by this time with the arrival of the all-new Ford Maverick and restyled Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant, as well as the Chevrolet Nova and its subsequent clones. The Hornet would last until the end of 1977 - in 1978, it was given a facelift and renamed Concord.

Here's a quick rundown:


The Hornet debuts in 1970 as AMC's lone compact model. It was a much more refined and stylish car than the boxy humdrum Rambler American that it replaced. It sported a long hood/short deck design found in sporty cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and AMC's own Javelin. A 2-door and 4-door sedan would initially be the only bodystyles available, in base and SST trim. Standard engine for the base model would be the 3.3L (199 cid) I6, with the 3.8L (232 cid) I6 as optional (standard on the SST) in 1- or 2-bbl guises. A 5.0L (304 cid) V8 was also optional. The Hornet would also be the basis for AMC's new subcompact, the Gremlin, which also debuted this year.

The 1970 Hornet was a sales hit with the buying public. Motor Trend magazine even named it their Car of the Year for 1970.

Changes for 1971 included a new 5-door semi-fastback station wagon model, named Sportabout. Interestingly, AMC would be the only carmaker that would offer a station wagon model in the compact market during this time period - Chrysler wouldn't offer one until the 1976 Dodge Aspen//Plymouth Volare, while Ford and GM both declined to offer one at all. The new wagon offered a hatch opening instead of the more commonly used tailgate door - the idea was to make the wagon feel less like a station wagon and more like a sport sedan. The 199 cid I6 was dropped this year, making the 232 cid I6 standard on all models. Attempting to compete more directly with cars like the Chevrolet Nova SS and Ford Maverick Grabber, AMC debuted the SC/360 Hornet on the 2-door model with the hope of recapturing the previous success of the SC/Rambler of 1969, and had a ram-air 5.9L (360 cid) V-8 (2- or 4-bbl), and trimmed with styled wheels and side stripes. While the SC/360 lacked the outrageous red-white-and-blue paint scheme of the former "Scrambler", a blacked-out grille, unique hood mounted air scoop and a rear panel blackout between tail lamps were included with the deal. The base 2- and 4-door sedans remained otherwise unchanged.

1972 models remained visually unchanged for the most part from 1971. The SC/360 model was unfortunately a sales dud and dropped after only a mere 784 examples were sold. It was replaced (more or less) by a new X sport package. A Hornet Rallye was another new model package with sporting pretensions. Also, there were no more base models - all other Hornets were SSTs this year. The 360 cid V8 was no longer available with a 4-bbl carburetor, it was now a 2-bbl only. All other drivetrain options carried over from last year.

Another interesting new option package for the Sportabout wagon was the Gucci interior package, which sported the signature red and green Gucci colors and Gucci emblems on the door panels. Having famous name-brand interior designers would soon be a common theme with AMC models.

In 1973, a 3-door hatchback model debuted, becoming the only compact besides the Chevrolet Nova and its clones to offer such a model (which also incidentally debuted this year as well). The SST designation was dropped, and the 4.2L (258 cid) I6 was added to the options list. The short-lived Rallye package was dropped also, but the sport-oriented X model carried on, available on both the hatchback and Sportabout. A new luxury-oriented D/L package debuted on the Sportabout, which came complete with woodgrain panels on the outside of the doors, roof rack with air deflector, and other interior niceties.

A new Levi's denim interior package became available on all bodystyles, replacing the previous Gucci option. There were also a few styling changes this year, featuring a new grille, hood and front fenders as well as larger, energy-absorbing bumpers, which ended up adding 6" to the car's total length.

1974 Hornets had new black rubber "bumperettes" added to the front and rear bumpers in line with the new federal bumper regulations. All models and option packages carried over from 1973. For 1975, a new grille with vertical bars and oval parking lights (replacing the previous round ones) was about the only styling change. 1976s were virtual reruns of 1975, save for a few interior detail changes and striping changes for the sporty X models. A catalytic converter became standard on some models, depending on where it was sold.

In order to inject a little more excitement to the Hornet line, AMC resurrected the legendary AMX initials to signify a new sport package for the Hornet's last year. Unlike the AMX of yore, the AMX was now relegated to a mere dress-up option package which added wheel flares, rear window louvers, sport wheels, a brushed aluminum "targa" band on the it's window pillar, and an oversized hood decal. Other Hornet models, including the X, continued with very little change. All drivetrain options also continued. While the Hornet remained AMC's most popular car, by this time AMC itself was in deep financial trouble, and as such, sales began to slide precipitously. All of AMC's other products were showing severe sales declines also.

The Hornet would be discontinued after 1977, but the car itself would be restyled and renamed Concord in 1978 and be continued until the end of 1983. The Sportabout wagon bodystyle would remain in production all the way to the beginning of the 1988 model year under the Eagle name, which had become a 4-wheel-drive Concord model in 1980.


See also

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American Motors Corporation

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Rambler: Ambassador by Rambler · American · Classic · Marlin · Rambler Six · Rambler Rebel

AMC: Ambassador · AMX · Concord · Eagle · Gremlin · Hornet · Javelin · Marlin · Matador · Mighty Mite · Metropolitan · Pacer · Rebel · Spirit · Machine

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