The AMC Javelin Was a Trans-Am Racing Heavyweight — And Still Is
The AMC Javelin is one of the coolest American cars ever, and it was a beast in Trans Am racing.
It’s that time of the summer, dear reader. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will soon be upon us. If you’ve never been, it’s basically vintage car racing heaven: instead of parking these old gems on a golf course lawn like at the rest of the Monterey Car Week events, these folks actually race these machines at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, as God intended. It’s a must-see event for every enthusiast if you can make it out there.
After being cancelled last Summer due to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this event that draws historic racers and enthusiasts from all over the country is finally back. The Motorsports Reunion draws a solid variety of cool, classic race cars. What’s more, shops and high-profile owners bring out their own hardware to play. In the case of Bruce Canepa, owner and namesake of the high-end restoration, sales, museum, and racing operation Canepa, (which is so high-end, that they’re a dealer for the Gordon Murray Automotive T.50) some even get behind the wheel of these old beasts themselves.
Back in 2013, Canepa did exactly that with one of his 1970 AMC Javelin Trans-Am cars:
It’s always greatly appreciated when vintage race cars don’t just sit in collections. When they get hauled out to tracks and put up against their period rivals on awesome tracks like Laguna Seca, it’s so incredibly cool.
The Javelin was AMC’s muscle/pony car answer to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Two doors, slim-yet-muscular-proportions, healthy V8 power, and rear-wheel drive.
An Underrated Beast
It seems like Javelins are always overlooked when vintage pony cars are generally discussed nowadays. But they were badass—and they looked the part. One cool-as-heck performance option back in the day was the Javelin’s Go Package, which consisted of either the 360 cubic-inch or 390 cubic-inch V8, dual exhaust, performance suspension, a 3.93 rear differential, and more. Talk about a stoplight monster.
In true American “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” fashion, Javelins cleaned up during the 1970 Trans-Am season. Trans-Am was, and still is, sort of like a hybrid between NASCAR and touring car racing. Back in the day, they had more OEM guts beneath their sheetmetal than they do today with these full-tube-frame, fiberglass-bodied, stock car things. But they were road circuit monsters nonetheless.
Anyway, 1970 was full of success for the Javelin. Campaigned by Penske Racing and driven by Mark Donahue and Peter Revson, it saw a ton of podiums during that season. Fun fact: Peter Revson co-drove with Steve McQueen in his Porsche 908 at the 12 Hours of Sebring the same year. I learned these quick facts via Canepa’s site, which does a brilliant job discussing the significance of all the hardware in their collection.
The above video is quite entertaining, and covers the entire sprint race. Hearing the scream of the Jav’s racing-prepped V8 as it thunders up the front straightaway, as well as watching Bruce muscle it through Turns 7, 8, and 8A, AKA the Corkscrew, is quite a sight to behold.
Good on everyone who takes part in races like this; it’s great to see these old platforms continue to do what they were intended for.