How important was the Hornet to American Motors?
Before we can answer this question, we need to look at where American Motors was at the time.
- The prominent Rambler brand name had taken a beating by the time the 70’s rolled around. In an effort to improve the company’s image, American Motors began to use the new AMC division brand name and logo.
- A barely profitable American Motors needed to spend large amounts of capital to come up with worthy successor to the Rambler line of cars.
- The next car had to sell in volume in order to profitable.
AMC’s solution was to develop a new car that was to be the basis of a whole new group of car lines. The new Hornet was that car! Designer Dick Teague designed the new Hornet to be the lead product in this new shared chassis program.
The 1970 Hornet was offered in 4 and 2 door sedans only. It sported a long hood/short deck design found in sporty cars like the Ford Mustang and the Javelin. These basic elements could be found in the Hornet’s immensely popular competitor, the Ford Maverick. It sat on a longer wheelbase than the Maverick (108 inches). This ensured that the new Hornet would be roomier that it’s competitor.
AMC had created a new type of compact car. As Car and Driver Magazine put it, “…Chapin has shown the he understands the essential difference between small cars and economy cars. Mavericks and Volkswagens are economy cars. The Hornet is a small car.”
The Hornet was offered in two trim levels, base and SST. The base standard engine was a 199 cid six cylinder while the SST got a bigger 232 cid six cylinder as a standard.
A long list of options were offered that made the new Hornet a luxury compact…
- an available two-barrel version 232 six
- 304 cid V8
- shift command automatic transmission
- reclining seats
- power steering
- power brakes (disc or drum)
- air conditioning
- electric clock
- pin stripes
- vinyl roof
- choice of wheel covers, and more…
With the new Hornet as lead product, CEO Roy Chapin now planned to as he put it, “introduce a new product every six months.” That next product came out on April Fool’s Day 1970. AMC introduced a brand new car based on the Hornet chassis called, the Gremlin. It was the first American-built subcompact from a major American automobile maker. Look closely, the Gremlin is just a Hornet with it’s rear chopped off!
Motor Trend magazine gave the ’70 Hornet it’s “Car of the Year” award, moreover the Hornet can brag of having an industry first safety feature; internally reinforced guard rail beam doors.