1968 Rambler Javelin – flashback

How do you get your missus to share your love of cool cars? Build her one!

Photographers: Peter Bateman

MICHAEL Brown always wanted a Rambler Javelin but he knew if he went out and bought one, he’d end up in the shit. So he did what any self-respecting street machining husband would do — he got devious.

This article was first published in the July 2011 issue of Street Machine

Cruising eBay, he spotted a ’68 Javelin. The $13,000 asking price was cheap as chips for genuine US muscle, so he had a sticky-beak. It was an honest car with a crappy jam job in everyone’s favourite ceiling colour and before long he — sorry, his wife Brenda — was the proud owner of a 1960s Aussie-assembled muscle car. Only thing was, she didn’t know it.

Rambler Javelin

Coke bottle hips, the defining feature of a 60s muscle car. Full-width tail-lights and reflector are cool styling touches, and check how flush and clean those bumpers are

“I bought the car and took it straight to a gearbox place to get the transmission sorted out. Then I drove it home, stopped around the corner to put some ribbons on it, parked it in the driveway and said: ‘Happy birthday, honey!’”

In case you’re wondering, Michael and Brenda are still married and she loves her Rambler. What’s not to love? Your husband brings home a car and 18 months later it’s completely rebuilt and looking better than it ever did.

A couple of inches taken out of the front and four from the rear get the Jav sitting perfectly over those 18-inch rims

Michael’s no stranger to the AMC brand; we featured his stonking ’72 Hornet in April ’09. With a blown EFI 427 Windsor and some 800 ponies turning to smoke at the back wheels, it was “a bit too out-there to drive on the street”.

So the Javelin is different: “We wanted something we could take on the American Mystery Cruises and not get hassled.”

No doubt Brenda still gets hassled — by people asking: “Is that a Dodge Rambler?” That’s the downside of having something you don’t see every day and it’s not surprising you don’t see a ’68 Javelin every day as only 90 were assembled in Oz.

Space-saver rims be buggered — you’ll just have to pack carefully when you go on holiday

Aussie-built Javs were sold with a 343ci V8, BorgWarner Type 12 auto and an AMC 20 diff that’s just under nine inches. Michael kept most of the original running gear but opted for the later 360ci engine as parts availability is much better, and Roland Jahn Race Engines got busy prepping a stock bottom end to take a whole catalogue of Edelbrock aftermarket equipment.

In the US the 360 has a strong following and there’s quite a bit of aftermarket gear available. Edelbrock supplies alloy heads and full valvetrain solutions. Manifolds were never a problem but Edelbrock recently released an Air Gap manifold so that’s what Michael ordered. On top sits a Holley 750DP and the engine copped some dress-up items in the form of finned rocker covers and air cleaner, also from Edelbrock.

MSD ignition lights the fire and although it’s no quarter-mile terror, it’s a vast improvement on the original donk: “The old motor would only spin the tyres on the white lines in the wet!”

A warm 360 stuffed with Edelbrock parts now fills the engine bay. And no, it’s not a Chrysler engine

Javelins used to arrive here in Completely Knocked Down form (CKD) and were assembled at the Australian Motor Industries (AMI) plant in Melbourne. To keep the Aussie content up, a few pieces were sourced locally, which makes them among the rarest muscle cars here or in the US. They were also the only US muscle cars sold brand new in Australia but with a sticker price of $7495 in 1968 they were twice as expensive as the 327 Monaro or 302-powered XT GT.

In Australia, Ramblers were marketed as prestige vehicles, quite the opposite to the US market where the brand was known for small, economical cars — when you’re up against Cadillacs, most things are small and economical. Here they found favour with farmers and doctors and the Javelin was sold as more of a luxury Grand Tourer. Things may have been different if the Javelins had made it onto a circuit — they almost did, with two cars being shipped over in 1969, but things didn’t work out and they never raced in anger. At least one of those cars still exists and is being restored, and AMC fans will soon be able to see a Javelin tearing up a racetrack in the hands of Jim Richards in the Touring Car Masters. I can’t wait!

This is pretty much how it left the AMI plant in Melbourne way back in 1968

But back to this Javelin — Brenda was keen to keep the car white but Michael’s response was along the lines of: ‘That looks crap.’ Instead, a custom PPG Sahara Gold brew was whipped up and the crew at Camden Crash laid it on after getting the Jav arrow-straight.

With all the rubbers and the fuel tank replaced and the chrome and stainless fixed up by Al McCoy, the car is practically brand new.

“There’s not one thing that hasn’t been touched — it’s all done underneath as well. I tried to hide everything and clean it up as much as possible,” Michael says.

The interior is factory — even the door trims and dash pad are original. The seats needed repadding and new vinyl trim but the only deviations from stock are the Kenwood stereo and a couple of gauges in the centre console.

American Republic Phoenix rims, measuring up at 18×7 and 18×9 and covered in Kumho 225/45 and 275/40 rubber, are the new rolling stock. It’s a modern take on the classic five-spoke mag wheel and suits the car to perfection.

There’s only one thing wrong with Brenda’s Javelin; now everyone can see how cool these previously overlooked cars are, so they’ll get popular and therefore expensive. I wouldn’t mind having one in my driveway but now I guess plenty of you are thinking the same thing.


Colour: PPG Sahara Gold

Brand: AMC 360ci
Intake: Edelbrock
Carb: Holley 750DP
Heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Camshaft: Edelbrock
Lifters: Edelbrock
Pistons: Clevite
Crank: Stock
Valve springs: Edelbrock
Valves: 2.02(in), 1.60(ex)
Fuel pump: Carter
Cooling: Aluminium radiator
Exhaust: Custom twin system
Ignition: MSD

Gearbox: BorgWarner Type 12
Diff: AMC 20, 87/8in
Converter: 2400rpm stall

Springs: King Springs, 2½in lowered (f), reset leafs, 4in lowered (r)
Shocks: Koni
Brakes: PBR 315mm rotors, PBR calipers (f), standard drums (r)

Tyres: Kumho 225/45/18 (f), 275/40/18 (r)
Wheels: American Republic Phoenix 18×7 (f), 18×9 (r)

Darren, D&D Motor Trimming; Roland Jahn Race Engines; Camden Crash; Luke Jago — without him Michael would never have finished the car