AJ’s “Badass Friday” Car of the Day: 1971 AMC Hornet S/C 360

AJ’s “Badass Friday” Car of the Day: 1971 AMC Hornet S/C 360

Car: AMC Hornet S/C 360

Year: 1971

What makes it special: The 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360 was a muscle car that reflected changing times. Even a year earlier in 1970, when muscle cars were at their pinnacle, the signs were there for those who chose to look. Federal safety watchdogs, state and national emissions regulators, insurance companies and a changing social climate all took aim at the high-performance car. For ’71, compression ratios retreated to accommodate regular-grade fuel, gross horsepower ratings began to fall to tamer-sounding net figures, and public relations-conscious automakers backpedaled. Into this upheaval stepped the 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360. Hornet was the company’s newest compact, and the two-door sedan was a reasonable basis for a low-profile muscle car. 

What made it famous: Original plans called for both an SC/360 and an SC/401, but when AMC discovered that a 401 cid Hornet probably wouldn’t provide much of an insurance edge, the 360 cid V8 alone was borrowed from the Javelin AMX. In standard form, it had a 2-barrel carb and a modest 245 bhp. The $199 “Go” package included a 4-barrel and a ram air setup for a more satisfying 285 bhp. These were gross ratings. Optional in place of the standard 3-speed was a Hurst-shifted 4-speed or an automatic. Polyglas D70Xl4s were standard, with upgrades running to the handling package and the Twin-Grip diff with 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 gears. It combined respectable quickness with a taut suspension, big tires, and modest size for a package praised by Motor Trend magazine.

Why I would want one: It’s my favorite formula: Take a base, economy car and stuff a big V8 in it. Love!

Fun fact: The SC/360 turned out to be a sleeper in more ways than one. It made up only a fraction of the 75,000 Hornets built for ’71. The SC/360 died after just one year as one of the muscle car era’s better-kept secrets.
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