1970s AMC Cars: Ambassador Custom Brougham, Javelin, AMX & Gremlin

Greg Zyla
A Reader Writes: Greg, I owned a 1974 AMC Ambassador Custom Brougham 4dr sedan back in the 1970s with the 304 V8 engine. What is this car worth today? I read your column in Auto Round-Up magazine, and I know you owned AMC cars. How many AMC cars have you owned and what are your feelings on the AMC Pacer and Javelin/AMX? Finally, how many Ambassadors did AMC sell back in 1974? Bill S., Hyannis, MA.
The Author Responds: Bill, American Motors Corporation (AMC) had a very good year in 1974 when it sold a total of 431,798 vehicles of which 17,901 were Ambassador Brougham sedans. The Ambassador and the Matador sedan were same-size siblings with the Ambassador delivering more plush amenities and more chrome pizzazz.
As for me, I owned a 1974 Matador 4-door sedan with the 304 V8 as I traded two Gottlieb pinball machines called “Paul Bunyan” and “Sing Along” for the car. To this day, I’m not sure who got the better deal, me or the Chrysler dealer I traded with as neither the Ambassador nor the Matador have set any collector car value records.
On the plus side, I used that 1974 Matador for everyday trips to and from the weekly newspaper office where I worked, and it got fairly good fuel mileage for a V8. The car only had about 50,000 miles when I did the trade in 1983, so it was an out-dated car in good condition during an era when American manufacturers were building small, fuel efficient cars. I kept that Matador for about three years, and it never missed a beat.
The AMC Pacer, meanwhile, was to be AMC’s breakout success all-new compact car, but it never happened. Produced from 1975 through 1980, the Pacer was built around a spacious, four-passenger cabin and actually looked a bit like an alien bubble car as it was finished with lots of glass everywhere. Pacers were as wide as a full size luxury car of the era, and a couple of car magazines came out at the time both gave it some praise, calling it one of the 10 best forward-looking designed vehicles.
With the actual in-house prototype designs beginning in 1971, the Pacer was to originally utilize a Rotary Wankel engine, but the extra costs involved, poor Rotary fuel mileage and the fact that we were in a gas crisis in 1973-1975 didn’t help matters. Thus, the Rotary idea was scrapped at the 11th hour and instead of the Wankel Rotary, AMC decided to use a GM built 4-cylinder engine. However, that deal also dried up so AMC had no other choice but to adapt its inline-6, in 232 and 258-inch versions, and later the same 304 V8 that powered our Ambassador and Matador models for Pacer power.
Still, initial first year Pacer sales were quite good as over 145,000 consumers signed on the dotted line. But by 1980, the total of all six years of selling amounted to only 280,000 and the Pacer went away quickly from the AMC lineup. In its place came the AMC Spirit, a car which I also personally owned in 1979 and it came with a Volkswagen built 4-cylinder engine and it was a really nice car.
Today, you can probably own a well-restored Pacer for $5,000, which is what Haggerty Insurance rates the value of the ’75 Pacer with the 232 6-cylinder. The Pacer received its best, albeit late, publicity thanks to Mike Myers and Dana Carvey who rode around in Garth’s (played by Carvey) 1976 AMC Pacer in the 1992 hit movie Wayne’s World.
As for AMC ownership, I also owned a new 1974 Hornet X 258, a new 1976 Gremlin X 258, along with the afore-mentioned 1973 Matador and low-mileage 1979 Spirit. Again all of which I used for selling newspaper adver-tising. I always felt AMC offered low cost, dependable transportation and to this day I still own a 1980 AMC Concord 258-inch six with just 27,000 miles that I purchased about five years ago.
To answer your question on how much your 1974 Ambassador Brougham 304 V8 with air conditioning is worth today, the NADA Classic Car price is currently $2,100 high retail (great shape) to a low of just $569 in low retail, (poor condition). The average retail is $1,260. Not surprising is the 1974 Matador 4-door with the 304 V8 is a bit less on the NADA list with a low retail of $522 to average $1,155 and a high of $1,925. I’m starting to feel I wish I had my two Gottlieb pinball machines back.
In ending, the Javelin and AMX were two of the best looking AMCs ever built and to this day look pretty good sitting next to modern day Mustangs. If you happened to own a Javelin/AMX with the 390 V8 Go-Package or later one of the 401 V8s, you had one nice, hot AMC.
The Javelin was available from 1968 to 1974 while the AMX in two-seater form was only available from 1968 to 1970. Notable is that Roger Penske led AMC Javelin to two Trans-Am Championships in 1971 and 1972, but I’ll keep some of this info for another week as I have a reader that has asked about the AMC Matador coupe winning NASCAR success, also headed-up by Penske.
Stay tuned, there’s more AMC columns coming and thanks for your letter. Long live those wonderful Ramblers and AMCs.
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