Terry Scroggin vividly recalls dragging Douglas one night with a buddy who worked at the Byron Stout AMC dealership. “He said, `You’ve got to see this new car called an AMX. It’s really cool,’” Scroggin recalled.
He went to check the car out and was impressed with what he saw.
“I kind of hankered to buy one. But I was getting ripped so bad about buying a `Rambler’ that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I bought a Torino instead.”
It was a half century ago, 1968, when the first AMXs appeared on the showroom floor. And although Scroggin bought and drove a lot of Ford and Chevy muscle cars over the years, he never quite got the AMX out of his head.
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With a wheelbase of only 97 inches, shorter than the Corvette that it was built to compete with, the AMX was basically an AMC Javelin with 12 inches taken out of the middle and a powerful 390 cubic inch V-8 and 4-speed manual transmission stuffed inside it, he explained.
A few years later, Scroggin spotted an AMX with a shoe-polish “For Sale” sign painted on its windshield sitting near a house. That got him to thinking about owning an AMX again. Unfortunately, by the time he got around to checking out the car, the woman who came to the door told him her son had just sold it the night before.
Fast-forward to 1977 when a friend in the construction industry told him about an acquaintance who was thinking about selling his 1969 AMX, and he wasted no time letting the owner know he was interested. But the owner had begun restoring the car and really wanted to finish it.
“Then he called me two years ago," Scroggin said. Health issues had slowed the project to a standstill after a rebuilt engine had failed after a drive of only a couple of blocks and the AMX owner was ready to let it go.
“I had pestered him about that car for years, so I really felt like I needed to buy it. And I had a guy interested in buying my roadster, so …,” Scroggin recalled.
So the beautiful red, Hemi-powered ’32 Ford roadster was sold and the AMX rolled into his Kansas Dry Stripping business in Derby.
“I was going to make a driver out of it. I had a 401 (AMC) block rebuilt,” Scroggin said, thinking he would do a basic restoration on the car. “But parts were going to be hard to find and I wanted it to be O’Reilly-friendly in case it broke down on the road.”
So when a small block Chevy 350 crate motor with a March serpentine belt drive system already installed became available, all bets were off.
“I decided to start from scratch,” he said. The AMX was dry-stripped at Scroggin’s shop and then taken to Chris Carlson Hot Rods in Mulvane, where the shock towers were removed and a TCI front suspension system was installed, including upgraded disc brakes.
“We had to move the engine forward an inch and a half (for firewall clearance),” Scroggin said. Tom Wilhite built the engine using an Edelbrock kit from Hall’s Speed Shop that included aluminum heads, a Comp Cams roller camshaft and lifters, an Edelbrock Air Gap intake and a Holley 650 cfm carburetor on the stroked 383 block. It is rated at 345 horsepower.
A GM World Class 5-speed manual transmission was mated to the Chevy power plant, operated by a tall Hurst shifter. A Wilwood hydraulic clutch and brake assembly was installed, while the factory Dana rear end with a 3:54 gear set was retained.
The body was virtually rust-free, having been stored indoors for years. The original plan was to put a nice, solid black paint job on the finished AMX.
“But then Chris said, `you need to chop that top,’” Scroggin recalled. “I told him, `you’re a custom car guy.’ This is a muscle car, not a custom.’” Besides, another body man said an AMX could not be chopped because of all the body lines involved.
But when Carlson produced an artist’s rendering of the AMX with its top chopped, Scroggin became a believer and gave his OK. He was startled a short time later when Carlson texted him a photo of the car with the roof already removed. The top was chopped 2 inches, with the roof being moved forward, which necessitated reworking the door mechanisms and windows to fit correctly, and the rear roof panels extended. It also involved lowering the floor panels by an equal amount, for added headroom.
Drew Carlson handled most of the sheetmetal work, including custom underhood panels and a pancaked, shortened rear deck lid, including factory style underside bracing. The rear windshield is fitted with an era-appropriate Mustang louvered panel that fits like it was made for the car.
The AMX was lowered approximately three inches all around and Kevin Kaiser installed a custom exhaust system based around a set of Flowmaster mufflers. A 1999 Mustang hood scoop directs cool air into the engine bay and finally, the car was painted a custom charcoal pearl black color.
“It all blends together … I like to keep things clean. I didn’t want to take the soul away from the car,” Scroggin explains. Inside, factory vinyl and cloth material remains on the two seats, with high-grade carpeting covering the floors and extending up the rear panel, where an AMX logo is embossed in vinyl between a pair of speakers. A JVC touch screen stereo with back-up camera is centered in a carbon fiber dash insert, with upholstered cupholders tucked into the front edge of the center armrest.
A “knee-knocker” Hot Rod Air air conditioner is attached to the bottom edge of the dash, with a flat Con2R Corvette-style steering wheel mounted to a tilt idiot column.
“It’s really a fun car to drive,” says Scroggin. The only upgrade left is a Curry 9-inch Ford rear end that should make the AMX even livelier.
But what would the purists think about an AMX with a chopped top and a Chevy engine? “Oh, the AMC guys — all six of them — won’t like it,” Scroggin grinned. “The AMX was a unique car to start with and now I have a one-of-a-kind AMX,” he said. And it only took him a bit less than 50 years to make it happen.