American Motors. the Kenosha, Wisconsin-based company got little respect from most performance fans. Truth be told, AMC was a little late getting into the musclecar marketplace, but they made real inroads when they finally did.
Take drag racing, for instance. The factory hired veteran driver Hayden Proffitt to race a wild, nitro-burning Rebel to introduce the SST model back in 1967. With no big-inch motor in the lineup, it probably didn't do a lot for the Monday sales, but at least the company was on the map. The AMX showed up in 1968, and then, in 1969, they got truly radical with the new SS/D package cars and the SC/Rambler, both built by the retrofit arm of Hurst.
In 1970, the company moved into road racing and picked up Roger Penske, Mark Donahue, George Follmer, and a couple of world titles in the early half of the decade. While Penske was handling that and the new NASCAR program, Wally Booth was flogging the deal for AMC in the Pro Stock ranks and eventually came close to winning a world championship with his efforts. So, yes, AMC may have been late to the party, but they made a splash once they got going.
The year 1970 is still considered the benchmark for boulevard beasts, and that was the year AMC dropped the performance SC/Rambler and introduced a new Rebel SST. Bold and brash was the order of the day in the early '70s, so they called it "The Machine." The Machine was, in most aspects, a true Detroit musclecar, even though it gave up 50 ci to some of its Detroit competitors. For Mopar fans who are a bit open minded, this car bore some solid similarities to the '66-'67 B-bodies. And despite the anti-war/anti-nationalistic feelings among the youth, AMC had no problems painting it up in a special red-white-and-blue scheme that had originated with the Scrambler the previous year.
Under the hood went the hottest street engine the company ever offered: a 340-horse 390; the later 401s were not as performance oriented. Super Stock & Drag Illustrated got one late in 1969 for testing, and Jim McCraw wrote the article that appeared in the January 1970 issue. According to him, this model debuted just after AMC had purchased the Jeep line from what remained of Kaiser, and it was the second of six new vehicles AMC had promised to deliver (the Hornet was already in planning). The four cars available ran solid mid-14s in bone-stock trim during a press day at the now-defunct Dallas International Motor Speedway.
The 340-horse number had come about because of the new cold-air hoodscoop, which contained an integrated electronic tachometer (like most such units, it was actually pretty inaccurate). The engine used a 10.0:1 compression ratio, a Carter 600-cfm four-barrel carburetor, hydraulic lifters, and a performance-enhancing, open-exhaust system. The hoodscoop forced air to the engine through a rubber seal/trapdoor outfit.
Driveline standard equipment was a Hurst-stirred Borg-Warner T10 four-speed, with an optional B-W automatic transmission available as well. Standard gearing was a 3.54 ratio (with a 3.91 factory optional), but AMC dealers offered ratio all the way to 5.00 for the Machine. Tires were E60-15 Polyglas Goodyears (the same as the Hemi 'cudas got up front and a tough find today) with optional AMC 15x7 road wheels, and the car had 11.2-inch front disk brakes to boot. A rear sway bar gave good road feel. The curb weight was 3,650 pounds, which McCraw figured would fit into G/S class racing under an unfactored NHRA rating.
But by far the most stunning thing for a car with this level of performance and standard equipment was the sticker of just $3,475. But in an era of Six Pack Road Runners, 429 Torinos, and 454- and 455-inch GM intermediates, AMC found the car was not quite what the market wanted. By the end of the year, only 2,400 units had moved off the dealership lots. With the Feds in emissions-stopping action, insurance companies circling the wagons, and a changing marketplace, the Machine was gone for 1971 (and so was the Rebel, replaced by the Matador).
Tony Branson of Abingdon, Virginia, owns the car seen here. "I've always loved musclecars, and I have owned mostly Mopars since getting out of high school. What makes this car special is that it almost looks like a Mopar, but so few people have seen an actual Rebel Machine that it draws a lot of attention when I have it out."
Indeed, it has the Mopar look of muscle from its crisp lines, big tires, and scoop (the 390 logos on the scoop are add-ons). The paint is original; the early Rebels got this scheme, while later examples came with standard colors and a flat-black hood. Like all Machines, the interior is black and an additional tachometer on the steering column is used in place of the factory version. A few minor underhood changes have occurred, and the air cleaner seal has, unfortunately, disappeared into time.
As it sits, this car would probably be considered a "semi-survivor." It is basically close to how it looked when Tony bought it in 2005, and he has only done some minor work on it. For a car that had less than 3,000 units built, he figures he is into it for under $20,000-a pretty rare occurrence in these days of super car inflation.
The hoodscoop opened by engine...
The hoodscoop opened by engine vacuum, similar to Mopar's Air Grabber. A rubber seal connected it to the open-element air cleaner. A new Carter carb has replaced the original version on Tony's car.
Super Stock& Drag Illustrated...
Super Stock& Drag Illustrated gave two thumbs up to the interior comfort level, though the dash layout was rather sparse and the speedometer only went to 120, a number that a 3.54 cog could hit with little trouble.
The hoodscoop was a unique...
The hoodscoop was a unique design that featured a raised left side to house an electronic tachometer. The front openings were activated via engine vacuum demand under hard acceleration.
'70 American Motors Rebel Machine
Mopar (and AMC) Power
Engine: Though it was more mild than the cross-ram-equipped '69 S/S AMX package, the 390 Rebel Machine engine was rated at 340 hp. This was also the top power number to ever appear in the AMC lineup. This was done by using a 10.0:1 compression, cold air from the hoodscoop, a loping cam, and a free-flowing exhaust system. This engine has not been rebuilt, but a replacement Carter 750 carb resides in place of the original 600-cfm version. and those chrome valve covers are OEM.
Transmission: The standard issue for The Machine was a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed, with an optional automatic available if you wanted to add the console. A Hurst T-handle did gear duty, especially needed since gear changes in the B-W got tougher at the top of the rpm band in drag testing.
Differential: The differential was an AMC unit that featured a 3.54 ring with a Sure Grip unit, reportedly by Dana. If it wasn't enough, the friendly parts guys at the dealership could get you a ring as tight as 5.00, though that move might not have helped any warranty claims.
Horsepower & Performance: The 340 at 5,100 hp and 430 at 3,600 torque numbers were probably pretty honest for this car, which tipped the scales at under 3,700 pounds and ran 14.5 in bone-stock trim.
Suspension: The Machine got kudos for its handling due to rear sway and heavy springs. However, the fast steering power ratio (16.5:1) had Jim McCraw stating the manual version was a better choice.
Brakes: Front discs were standard, with 10-inch drums in the rear and a power-assist unit on the firewall.
Wheels: American Motors supplied fat, trimmed-out 15x7 road rims for the Machine as part of the package.
Rubber: Goodyear Polyglas E60x15s were standard. Due to their scarcity, this one has a set of F60-15 shoes instead.
Body: The body was a tribute to AMC creativity and may actually be one of the epitomizing designs of the musclecar era. Scoop, graphics, crisp styling, and an inset grille all led to give the Machine a look of performance, and no styling cues that lent itself to exact comparison with one brand or another.
Paint: Three cheers for the red, white, and blue, though in the era of the SDS and war protesters, it might not have been the best way to get girls, brochure advertising notwithstanding. It is believed the first 1,000 examples got this paint and its custom stripes; "The Machine" decals were part of every one of them.
Interior: Black was the color; the steering wheel shown in testing and the brochures ended up being optional. The aftermarket tachometer is in place due to the inaccuracy of the scoop-mounted version.
Best Performance: Street cruiser.