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The History of American Motors Factory Super Stock Drag Racing Program.
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All-American Race Revival
by  Story and photos by Geoff Stunkard
D rag racing was the proving ground of the 1960s. There may have been factories
who acted like they had nothing to do with it, but thundering to victory on the quarter
-mile was a fast way to get young lions into the showroom the following Monday. 

Lou Downing gets some air under the front wheels of the historic race car  during
eliminations at Beaver Springs Raceway.

    As the sport of acceleration evolved during that turbulent decade, regardless of
what official statements said, every American auto manufacturer had a dog in this
hunt. The restoration you see here is of the most infamous AMC race car from that era.

    By 1969, American Motors Corp. had come a long way since the days its Ramblers
were just utilitarian family cars. By 1967, the company hired noted funny car racer
Hayden Proffitt to campaign a fiberglass replica of the company’s new Rebel SST. And,
there was a new two-door, two-seat sports car called the AMX on the drawing boards.

There were some changes for racing, like this shifter and aftermarket gauges.

    Built around the Javelin body, the AMX was reduced to a very small 97-inch
wheelbase, which was an inch shorter than the Corvette. This first-ever AMC sports car came standard with a 290-cubic-inch, 225-hp V-8 engine, but could be optioned with the 343-cubic-inch, 280-hp or 390-cubic-inch, 315-hp engines. Both engines had a single four-barrel, were backed by either a Borg-Warner Torque Command automatic or Borg-Warner four-speed and a 3.54 ring and pinion. 

    The success of the AMX prompted AMC to look a little deeper into where it might
compete the following year. The company had Hurst Industries put together a package that could run with the big dogs in Super Stock drag racing. Like the Chrysler Hemi A-
bodies Hurst had built the year before, these AMXs came with disclaimers stating they
were not for highway or passenger-car use. The cars received four-speed transmissions complete with a Hurst shifter and linkage. Inside, they were Spartan; everything that was not necessary was deleted, and lightweight race seats replaced the factory versions. However, the race-only AMXs were built without any lightweight sheet-metal body panels.

Looking the part of the bad boy it was, the short-wheelbase Super Stock AMX was a benchmark
car of the muscle car era. Less than 60 were built.

Under the scooped hood, the hand-fitted 390-cid engine received 12.2:1 compression forged
pistons, larger valves, special head castings, a mechanical camshaft and a cross-ram intake with two Holley four-barrels bolted on. The official horsepower rating was a mere 340 hp by AMC, at 4,800 rpm. AMC released official paperwork to the NHRA stating the cars were delivered in semi-finished form, and the eventual owner/racer would be expected to do the blueprinting and final race prep on their own. The careful selection of parts allowed them to place the cars solidly into the SS/D-SS/E division. 

Lou Downing and Mike Pearce stand by the door of the historic car after Lou went six rounds at
the York US30 Reunion. Lou had not driven for almost 30 years!

    Loren “Lou” Downing, a Division V racer from Kearney, Neb., first campaigned AMXs
under the Pete’s Patriot banner (named for sponsor and car owner Peterson Motor Co.)in Stock Eliminator. Downing had proven his salt by taking the Division V crown in 1969in one of the new SS cars. The Pete’s Patriot AMX became feared in nationalcompetition, taking Downing to a national record in the SS/D class and the finals at Indy. Quite an achievement, since SS/D was where all the new four-speed 1970 Hemi ’Cudas and Challengers raced, as well.

    Like so many other race cars, after its glory days, the car was eventually turned into a bracket car and ended up in a somewhat dilapidated form. The then-owner of the car decided to bring it out to Cecil County Dragway in Maryland for a special AMX reunion in 2001. There,  longtime AMC fan Mike Pearce got a chance to see it and eventually own it.

    “That car was, in a word, sad,” admits Pearce. “These guys knew what it was, but it had been gutted for bracket use; there may have even been a big-block Chevy under
the hood at one time. But it was Lou Downing’s car, which I consider to be the ultimate Super Stock AMX, and I was able to buy it.”

This was a lot of engine from any manufacturer; twin Holleys on a cross-ram intake
ensured the engine always had enough fuel.

    An eight-month thrash to restore it back to glory ensued. Since the original 1969
engine was long gone, a fresh powerplant was built by Dennis Long for the car,
created to run Nostalgia Super Stock competition. From the start, Mike had plans to see the AMX return to action. Ken Kier did the safety upgrades to the suspension while maintaining the car’s historical integrity. The engine is backed by an automatic now,
with Keystone wheels back on all four corners. It has recaptured the flavor of the era
with great success.

    We first saw the car at the York US30 reunion in York, Pa., in 2003. The following
year, Downing came out to the event and personally drove his old car for the first time
after decades at the one-day race held at Beaver Springs Dragway each year as part
of the early July event. Downing eventually went six rounds, all the way to the finals,
after not having driven since the 1970s.

Keystone mags, reissued by Cragar, are on all four corners.

    The York Reunion and Nostalgia Nationals is a combined effort of Darwin Doll, former NHRA division director and Beaver Bob McCardle of Beaver Springs Dragway. Both are
dedicated to the preservation of our performance heritage. This year’s event will be
held July 13-14 at the York County Fairgrounds and July 15 at Beaver Springs Dragway.

Popular Hot Rodding Aug. 93

Musclecar Review Annual 2004

The following are from misc magazines:

Car Craft Oct. 73

Here are some pictures taken Sept. 2009 at the Chilson AMC Show

in Lawrenceville, PA.  
I sure hope you don't think there are too many

of these cars left in their original as-delivered 
condition. They are

race cars, and constantly modified for the times. For instance, one of

biggest curses of the drags in the 60's was "Point Bounce" or

Float. In 1972 Chrysler introduced
an electronic ignition for all their

cars. A driver would have been crazy to keep the points after 

break-through, so most of the Mallory distributors were replaced.

Appreciate the cars for 
what they are and what they represented.

The owners are not trying to restore the cars as new,
but to preserve

them as raced. We are all better off for this effort.
Hurst SS/AMX Car #17 McCorkle Brothers-original owners Randy and

Robert McCorkle

Hurst SS/AMX Car #26-Sheriff of Nottingham with a Breedlove Aero
AMX kit. Original owner Bruce Nottingham.




Hurst SS/AMX Car #39 Pete's Patriot originally owned by Wallace
"Pete" Peterson

Received some pictures from Dave Lesick, former owner of Hurst

SS/AMX Car #31 "AMX 1".  This is a car closely restored to the way

it came from Hurst. Only a few changes, such as obviously the

lettering on the side of the car.

Here is a copy of a posting Dave made:

"I purchased an AMC AMX Super Stock about 6 years ago. It turned

out to be number 31 of 52 AMX's that were modified by Hurst for drag

racing. It was very successful and raced under the name of AMX-1

and was owned and sponsored by an AMC dealer "Atlantic Rambler"

of Virginia Beach. I have been restoring it back to what it was in it's

racing days and have been able to track down and talk to the owner

of the AMC dealership and the mechanic. I am looking for any

information, old articles, photos, etc. of AMX-1. Or would love to talk

to anyone who may have followed drag racing "back in the day" and

remembers watching AMX-1 race. "

And here are a few comments he sent me:

"Here are a few more pics. The Hurst cars had a relocated shifter that

moved it up and back closer to the driver. They also used special

heavy duty shifter rods. There is one pic showing the rear hood pin

hole that Hurst also drilled, even though some of the cars put the

hood hinges back on. I was a very good friend of Ray Whinnery back

in 70-74 when he owned the TOONERVILLE PERFORMANCESS/

AMX. As a matter of fact his SS/AMX took the NHRA SS/C NATIONAL

RECORD from the car that I own today."

Here is a vintage picture:

And here are some current pictures (Note the correct vintage shifter):

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