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Phantom Build: This 1977 AMC Hornet Is As Good Of A Start As You’ll Find, So Tell Us How You Would Build It!

Phantom Build: This 1977 AMC Hornet Is As Good Of A Start As You’ll Find, So Tell Us How You Would Build It!

Anyone who has ever built a project car will always have one piece of advice for you: start with the best possible builder of a car that you can. Starting with the cleanest and most complete car you can find is the best way to go…it’s easy to fix small stuff than to hunt down a full interior that matches the car, you know? If it looks like Grandma Ann owned the car since new, had the oil changed like clockwork, and had the car washed and waxed every week, you’ve struck a goldmine and should be tap-dancing your way from that deal plenty pleased with yourself.


For example, take this 1977 AMC Hornet. Amazing condition for being nearly forty years old, isn’t it? Stock hubcaps, stock 1970s “banana cream” color on a basic package that is mercifully devoid of a padded roof or tacked-on flares. And the interior seems to have aged just as well. It’s not perfect…if you look closely you might find a paint bubble somewhere or a seam tear on the inside, but as a project car is concerned, you’ve hit the motherlode. Minimal work to this little Hornet will give back the one thing it’s missing: it’s sting. Except for the rare SC/360 package cars from 1971 (and, arguably, the Hornet AMX of 1977) the Hornet was meant to be an economy car for AMC, just a size above the Gremlin, a direct competitor for the Chevrolet Nova and the Ford Maverick. It did come with 304ci and 360ci V8 engines, but you were more likely to find one of American Motors’ inline-sixes doing the work underneath the hood.

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And sure enough, there it is: the 100 horsepower 232ci inline six. It’s a decent, if heavy, eco-six and would get the job done, but don’t expect too much in the way of thrills. Do, however, take note of the condition underhood: not greasy, not too grimy. Someone really loved their Hornet and took great care of it. And if the underhood isn’t enough to convince you, check out the interior:


Like I said before…not perfect, but far from bad. It’s pure 1970s in here, but it’s also basic: everything you’d need, nothing you don’t…except for the air conditioning, that’s just a nice touch.

With a buy-in of $3,500, it would be tempting just to drive the car as-is and enjoy it as a nice survivor. But honestly, as nice as it is, it could use some work to be even more enjoyable, and that’s where we want to hear from you: what would you do to make this Hornet excellent? We would re-carpet the car to get rid of the stock shag stuff, run a 4.oL inline-six without a turbocharger, start hunting down everything needed to convert the car to a five or six-speed manual, and find any other wheels than the stock steelies and hubcaps…maybe the “Turbocast II” Vector-like wheels used on the Sprit AMX? But that’s just us. Maybe you want a 401 under the hood, the rear wheels widened, and nothing else done so that you have a survivor-quality beast. Maybe you want to try the “Pro Commuter” idea, slap a small turbocharger onto the 232 and work the suspension so that you could drive this thing every day and get great MPG? Tell us your ideas below!

Craigslist Link: 1977 AMC Hornet 

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10 thoughts on “Phantom Build: This 1977 AMC Hornet Is As Good Of A Start As You’ll Find, So Tell Us How You Would Build It!

  1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Keep everything as it is on the outside, but fit a turbo and EFI to that stock 6 cylinder and upgrade the brakes and suspension – Granny’s little sleeper indeed!

    1. Jav343

      I’d run it as-is and never look back…well, until I found a rodded out 401 and the necessary conversion go-fast goodies needed to make her sing!

  2. Kent Reed

    Well I’m a Mopar guy,and Ramblers and AMC’s are part of our family. So,along with nothing replaces displacement. You go get a motor home 440 big block Mopar at a bone yard,they are cheap. They are huge torque and around 330 hp stock. Get a swapmeet turbo. Do a system like the Corvair did with a draw through not a blow through .The early Buick “T ” type also did that with there first V-6s. Anyway it would be real easy to make 500 plus Hp. Use the rest of your time and $ for trans ,brakes and steering upgrades. Keep it as stock looking as possible. Even those nasty looking hub caps. Learn how to run a good pass,with an easy launch .So as to make everyone think “cute little car” Then click off a 10.50 or quicker. Now that would be cool shit . And you have to drive it to the track . Maybe use some of the $ you saved not buying a set of million $ heads. Put on some great brakes and steering stuff,change the tires .And go tear up a parking lot road course . Do that my brother and you have what they call a kick ass cool hot rod sleeper .Yep, that would be cool

  3. Rock On

    I would definitely go the 401 route. As very few people are familiar with AMC, I would label it up to look like a 304. You would be well on your way to having a nice sleeper!

  4. jerry z

    I would yank out the wasted 1/2 dozen and install a 5.7 hemi, 6 spd, suspension upgrades, and 17″ minilites.

  5. BeaverMartin

    Dare to be different. I would build an old school JDM inspired Hornet along the lines of a 1st generation skyline. Turbo charged 4.0 AMC/Jeep inline six. Tremec six speed. Lowered stance on 10″-12″ wide sakura petal wheels. Super wide arches. Slick silver or white paint job, and of course fender mounted side view mirrors. I actually drew up this concept years ago. If I can find the drawing I’ll post it.

    1. Colinv

      Post the drawing if you find it! I really like that concept for some weird reason. I think this car would look great like that even in this same colour.

  6. Loren

    I’d say, get a car that girls won’t laugh at. Although I do watch CL for a cheap small-bumper (early) Sportabout, don’t care about “condition” except for bent or rust. Nothing in CA for six months now.

  7. 3nine6

    It needs an LS motor. I’ve never owned or even driven an LS powered car, (although I have moved our LS powered delivery truck in the parking lot at my place of employment). I’m just doing this to piss-off UK Georgie…

  8. Cousin ivan from outta tow

    Get the baddest engine you can muster from mother Mopar and get after it I found the cherry 75 Plymouth valiant 4 door and spiced it up with 06′ viper engine and t-56 hood still shuts too

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