Courtesy of Russo and Steele

Eager to shed its stodgy reputation during the 1960s, American Motors launched a daring assault on the lucrative youth market with a series of prototypes. Developed at AMC’s advanced styling studios in October 1965, the first AMX prototype — short for American Motors experimental — was developed under Charles Mashigan, a leading contributor to Ford’s original Thunderbird and Chrysler’s Turbine.

AMC management was suitably encouraged to approve further development, enlisting outside contractors Smith Inland of Ionia, MI, to build a small group of the distinctive fiberglass bodies differing in fine details from the original AMX show car.

While the number of fiberglass AMXs built remains unclear today, it is believed that just two were ultimately created. These fiberglass-bodied prototypes were fitted with powertrains and tested at the AMC proving grounds. This fascinating vehicle is one of those cars.

Once the AMX progressed to the assembly line in 1967 for its highly anticipated launch for 1968, the fiberglass prototypes — which were never intended for road use — were slated for destruction. One is reported to have been unceremoniously burned, and the other, the car offered here, was spared, thanks to Domenick Jiardine Jr., an assembly-line worker at American Motors’ Kenosha Lake Front Plant in 1971.

As the sole surviving fiberglass AMX prototype, it stands as a unique and formative specimen of one of the most exciting performance cars ever designed and built in America during the 1960s.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 AMC AMX Ramble Seat
Years Produced:1966
Number Produced:Three (estimated)
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$90,750 (as the only known sales data point, there’s no median)
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$22.58
Club Info:American Motors Owners Association
Alternatives:Any 1960s prototype survivor, such as the 1964.5 Ford Mustang III “Shorty”
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot S544, sold for $90,750, including buyer’s premium, at Russo and Steele’s 16th Annual Auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 30, 2016.

Audacity, nerve, guts. American Motor’s Vice President of Design, Richard Teague, had little else to work with.

His team was made up of a small but talented group of designers, draftsmen and modelers. Miniscule budgets meant the need to rationalize every component and design decision against thin profit margins. This was the challenge Teague faced, first with Packard, and then with AMC beginning in 1961. “As long as I worked at AMC, we were always trying to get maximum bang for the buck. We never had the money to do really dramatic things,” he told author Richard M. Langworth.

Going sporty, saving money

Project IV was Teague’s long-range plan for the design language and product direction of AMC. When unveiled on the 1966 auto show circuit, the four vehicles of Project IV were conceived to gauge the public’s reaction, and to show what the small company could accomplish. The Vixen hinted at the future Hornet and Gremlin. The Cavalier demonstrated how identical major components such as doors and fenders could be used in both the front and rear locations to save money. The AMX-II was a lovely four-seat coupe that again hinted at the future designs of AMC. But the real star of the group was the two-seat AMX.

That first AMX was just a “pushmobile,” or a fiberglass body on a rolling frame. This was common in the industry — a fairly inexpensive way to build a concept car for display by pulling a mold off a full-sized clay model. That car survived and is on display at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, OH.

AMC then had a steel running prototype built by Italian coachbuilder Vignale, which was completed in just 78 days. With the positive feedback that car generated, AMC built several running fiberglass prototypes for testing. I’m not so sure fiberglass was meant to be a production material, but rather a quick, inexpensive way to build a number of running test vehicles.

We know one may have been crashed, while another was destroyed to liquidate unwanted assets (the usual demise of concepts and test vehicles). But one of those AMX prototypes — this car — survived through pure chutzpah.

The $50 buy

Domenick Jiardine Jr. was an hourly worker at AMC’s Lakeside assembly plant in Kenosha, WI. He heard about the AMX prototypes from his brother who worked at the proving grounds, and he wanted to save the lone survivor.

One day in 1971, when AMC President and COO William Luneburg was visiting the plant, Jiardine simply walked up to him and asked if he could buy the prototype. Jiardine told the Kenosha News in 1975, “I just walked up and asked if he was going to destroy it as they do with all prototypes. I don’t like to see anything destroyed and, besides, I collect old AMCs and Nashes. I told him that if he was going to destroy it, why didn’t he give it to me instead. All the guys I work with thought I was nuts. Maybe Luneburg did too.”

Soon after, Jiardine was called into the superintendent’s office and offered the AMX for a grand total of $50. The AMX prototype became the centerpiece of Jiardine’s collection of AMC vehicles, and was well known in Kenosha and the AMC community. Domenick Jiardine Jr. passed away in 2012, and his family kept the prized AMX until now.

Prototype value

So what is a one-of-a-kind factory prototype or concept car worth? With no previous sales to benchmark, there was no way of knowing for sure. The Vignale-built AMX Prototype survives in a collection in Canada, but there is no record of its sale to help place this one on the value scale.

If this were a Ferrari, we could imagine the price to be in the millions. But an AMC? Considering this was a brazen $50 purchase to begin with, there wasn’t really a whole lot to lose financially here — but as a running and driving AMX prototype survivor, there had to be some real value here for an AMC collector.

At Russo, that value boiled down to a number just shy of six figures. If you had to have an AMX prototype, this was your one shot, and I’d say the price paid was the right money for the story and the car’s rarity. Call it well bought and sold.

(Introductory description courtesy of Russo and Steele.

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