Trans Am Javelin Registry
American Motors Javelin

 
AMC Preface 

The 100 limited edition cars owe a tremendous amount to four men who were directly & indirectly responsible for the limited edition 1970 Trans-Am Javelins and their racing image. Ronnie Kaplan, Richard Teague, R.W. McKnealy and Roger Penske. In an effort to document this history, the Registry has been fortunate to have conversations about these cars with Ronnie Kaplan and R.W McNealy. Both were true gentleman and were gracious enough to offer their time to this site. Enjoy!

Developed during the Kaplan team, but built after the signing of the Penske team, these cars are a historic mix of two great teams during a transitional year.  While the special homologated parts and color order lean more to the Kaplan era, the body's sheet metal, color hues, ram-air / HiPo heads and styling updates lean to the Penske era.  Add to this the trackability and available documentation which some other unfortunate models lack and we have a very special American Motors car that deserves to be preserved and recognized.

 
While this registry will try to keep on subject, it is undeniable the influence that the actual race teams and race cars played in the creation and ambiance of these 100 T/A Javelin production cars.  Ronnie Kaplan has been kind enough to share some background with us and we hope it sheds a little light on the depth of American Motor's history that lies in each of these cars.

 

Ron Kaplan AMC

DISCUSSION WITH RONNIE KAPLAN: TRANS-AM TEAM LEADER 1967-1969

Thank you Mr. Kaplan for taking the time to talk with me on behalf of the Trans-Am Javelin Registy. It is an honor to get the chance and I appriciate your willingness.
No problem, I'm happy to talk with you.

How did you get involved with the American Motors racing program?
Well, it's quite a long story.  I had been involved in auto racing for a long, long time and had established a name for myself so when American Motors decided to enter Trans-Am racing, they talked to a lot of their suppliers like Goodyear and Champion spark plug, both of which I had done programs for previously.  I knew nothing of American Motor's intentions to go into racing until they came to me. Apparently some people knew that they were intending to compete in racing and there were a lot of people that had made some sort of bids.  After they approached me, my first question when I finally met the whole group at Elkhart lake was can you send me a set of factory drawings.  I told them I want chassis drawings and I want engine drawings.  And then we can talk.

Well, when I got the chassis drawings and the engine drawings I went through them with my people and thought man this won't work, there is no way we are going to make this thing into a racecar.  So I declined it.

Being that the new Javelin was based off the Rambler American underneath, not unlike the Mustang which was based on a Falcon?
Correct... So for some reason or another, Carl Chakmakian, who was administering the program under Mcnealy's marketing program thought I should be the guy. So we had numerous meetings and finally we got to a point where by they just made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Now the problem with the first year was that Jim Jeffords was going to be the team manager.  He had a lot of influence with that designer from Milwaukee… Brook Stevens.  Jim had this relationship with Stevens and Stevens was doing a lot of work with American Motors so it was easy for him to get the managing position, but the responsibility for the cars was all mine.
 Getting into the program I started out with a couple cars they sent out from the factory, They were complete so I had to disassemble and reassemble them.  Durring that process I thought we better get something and test pretty quick because the deadline was approaching fast. I signed the agreement in late October and scheduled to for testing in January at Riverside.  By that time we were assholes and elbows in development, they call me up and rush me to Detroit, they have an idea that they want to introduce the new 2-seater AMX at the Chicago auto show in February, but only after it had established some world speed records. I was thinking Wow, my plate's too full already but they kept insisting and insisting that I can fit it into the program somehow.  So finally I got Carl Chakmakian to come with me to California and we made this deal with Craig Breedlove. So I was able to unload that program onto him.

STARTING THE 1968 TRANS-AM RACING SEASON

So did you get the cars to Riverside in time?

 Yes,  we were able to get the cars together and go testing at Riverside in January.  Everything was moving along

So how was the season start for you, any hiccups?

The very first race was Sebring and that was in March and the first set of rules I got concerning the Trans-Am indicated a single carburetor manifold, that's all AMC had.  When we got to Sebring I find out that what the rule book now called for was a 2 carburetor manifold. So we raced against the Chevy and the Fords with their 2 carb manifolds and still managed to finish well.  And so I went to work and contacted Vic Edelbrock to help me design and build a dual carburetor manifold which we got developed for the first race after Sebring which was War Bonnet in Oklahoma. We went there with our 2 carb manifold and were competitive.
That original manifold which was an AMC manifold, I had Edelbrock put AMC's name and part number on because it had to be homologated and ran through the parts book.  Later Jones from Traco engineering convinced Edelbrok to put Traco on top of that manifold, so later it was a Traco dual carb manifold.

Now Traco built your original motors correct?

Nope...Well... I take that back, yes they did, my dyno wasn't complete at my shop, so I had traco build 2 engines for me which we ran at sebring and they also did the engines for breedlove but after that the engines were all done by my RKE shop.

And where was your shop located?

Elk Cove, Illinois.

With the Javelin, in terms of being a race car, obviously the suspension needed a lot of work.  What was the strongest and weakest part of that car to work with for professional racing?

The weakest part was the front suspension, it had no anti-dive in it. We did a lot of research and work in order to get that suspension right. The strongest part was the ability of those engines to move air.  It just needed some tune up in the oil gallery and the valve train assembly, it was a decent engine after a bit of work.

Did you start with a 290 or 343 engine?

The 290 was the basic engine that we used to bring it up to 305 inches stroke.

Where all your engines standard 290s?

Yes, except the engines that we designed for AMC. That was a 343 block with the cores filed down so we could take 5/8ths off the deck.  That shortened the crotch so it required a new manifold for that engine.  Now that engine was a world beater!  It's a matter of history, when the first race in 1969 with the new engine we were late in getting there with the two new cars, because I was having development problems. And when we finally got two engines that lived through our dyno test so we installed them in those cars and got them there a day late, so in order to race I had to provide two new cars and get everyone else to sign a petition.  So we started from scratch.  Within 10 laps we were running 4th and 5th and getting close to Donohue, he came up and when it finally blew we were running 3rd and 4th.  We blew an engine in one and dropped a driveshaft in another.  That's the first time we lost both cars in one race. Then the shit hit the fan because the goofball who took chakmakians place didn't homologate the new engine, so we had to go back to the old engine for the rest of the year.

HOMOLOGATION AND MINIMUMS

We had previously discussed Homologation.  You had mentioned that if it was in the parts book, it was legal, right?

Yes, as long as it was in the parts book and offering a minimum of 100 parts or 100 cars it was legal. 


But SCCA would change those requirement numbers?

Yeah, it depended on who was giving them the most support.  If they were all driving Fords, they had Ford Support, if they were all driving GM they had GM support, so they would change the homologation rules to give the new supplier advantages.

So at the beginning, as long as you were in the book and made 100 parts you were good?

Right.

BIRTH OF THE AMC RED, WHITE & BLUE PAINT SCHEME

Now you mentioned Brook Stevens…

 Right

It has been reported that Brook Stevens came up with the red white and blue paint scheme for the TA Javelins.  Is that true?

No, What happened there was that the people at the ad group, all the office people and design people and so forth, were entered in a contest to design a color scheme, and AMC had Monogram make models of the Javelin. Everybody had a model and they painted it up with the various schemes.  So we had a meeting in LA at the Century plaza, they had a big room they rented and all the models were displayed on the floor.  Myself, the executive group out of AMC, Jeffords was there and representatives from Wells, Rich and Green, their ad agency.  It was funny, we were a bunch of grown men drinking martinis climbing around on our hands and knees looking at toy models displayed on this floor.  That's the real story… and the final choice was the red white and blue seen on the Trans-Am Javelins.

Now did you agree with the choice of that paint scheme?

 Oh yeah, it was easy.  We could paint one red white and blue, nose first and one blue white and red. That's the way we ran the cars and it made it easy to identify them.

So it ended up being a member of their office who designed it?

  Right, I can't remember who it was but it was a member of their design group who put that scheme to it.  A name like Alexander comes to mind but I wouldn't count on it.

Lastly, have you ever owned an AMC, Nash or Hudson before this?

  Not before. While on the program I had a 390 Javelin and a wagon.  I also did a special AMC for Bill McNealy, we did the chassis and engine tune up for him.  There was a lot of that stuff that came through during that time.  We built cars for a lot of the executives and cars for promotions. Everything from blown Javelins to high performacne AMXs. I even did a car for Roy Chapin (AMC's CEO).  A nice man, a real nice man. 

// Ronnie Kaplan


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Editor's Note: In an effort to keep this site relevant to its subject, we have only included parts of the discussions that relate to these limited edition cars. The full discussion will be transcribed and available on a future planned AMC site.

 
Mr. McNealy spent many years at AMC during this time and played a very large role in AMC's new performance image. He was ultimately in charge of the Trans-Am effort and was responsible for green lighting the 100 limited edition street replicas. He also played a major role in the SS/AMX, Rebel Machine, SC/Rambler and other performance cars of the day.



Bill McNealy

DISCUSSION WITH R.W. McNealy: The head of AMC Marketing

Mr. McNealy, it is an honor to get the chance to talk with you. I appreciate you taking the time.

My Pleasure.

I wanted to ask you about the Limited Edition Trans-Am Javelin AMC made for 1970. Not the race cars, but the 100 street replicas. Do you remember these cars?

I sure do. I remember them quite well.

WHO'S IDEA WAS THE T/A JAVELIN

In late 1969 AMC ran an ad showing an actual SCCA Trans-Am racecar next to the street version of this car. I have heard rumors that the idea for this car might have been thought up by the newly signed Wells, Rich & Green. Do you remember if there is any truth to this or was it the idea of someone at AMC?


Mary Wells… she was something. Wells, Rich & Greene did work on that ad, but the idea for that car was actually Dick Teague and the boys in styling. They came up with the idea and presented it. They were always thinking up new things to improve those cars. It gave us something special to give to the dealers.

WHY BUILD ONLY 100 CARS

Bill Chapin had told me he thought these were the idea of AMC as well, so I appreciate you clearing that up. I wanted to ask you about the production totals too. AMC said from the start that they would only build 100 units and that would be it. Do you know why the number was capped off at 100?


Well, I really couldn't say for sure. It could have been due to floor space in the factory or due to the high cost. Those cars were really expensive. We put a lot into those cars. I wasn't in manufacturing so I am not really sure. Do you have any other memories about these cars? Dealers really liked those cars. They were able to display them like a trophy in their showrooms. They were something special that they could put up against the Chevy Camaros and Mustangs.


Well, again I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and I appreciate your patience in answering my questions and sharing your memories.


You're more than welcome.  

 

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Editor's Note: In an effort to keep this site relevant to its subject, we have only included parts of the discussions that relate to these limited edition cars. The full discussion will be transcribed and available on a future planned AMC site.

 

 

 


1970 T/A Javelin

Mission Statement: The American Motors SCCA Trans-Am Javelin Registry

Dedicated to the documentation and preservation of the limited (100 units) production SCCA Trans-Am Javelins manufactured by American
Motors for the 1970 model year.  All manufactured in factory custom Red, White & Blue paint and equipped with a standard high performance
390 cu. in. AMC motor and Hurst equipped T-10 4-Speed transmissions to commemorate the racing success of the SCCA Trans-American
Javelin Racing Team.  The aim of this registry is to document as many of the original 100 cars as possible, including cars that have been
destroyed or lost to history. If you have ever owned a T/A Javelin or know the details of a car's history please contact us! If you have any
history or documentation on these cars we encourage you to help share this information. Full credit will be given.

Send an email to:
AMC AMX