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Drag Racing

Drag Strip Testing And The Magazines

The real potential of THE MACHINE may never have been uncovered but for the fact that two drag strip testing sessions were carried out that appear to have been unique in the industry.

What made them unique was there was no deception involved. Deception was the modus operandi for GM, Ford and Chrysler at that time and famously since. AMC by contrast was a what you see is what you get kind of company. They didn’t subscribe to chicanery in any way shape or form.

That made the Machine with its well defined though limited performance parts department an easy choice for determining how those parts worked in the real world when it came to the all important quarter mile performance criteria of speed and elapsed time.

There was a session at a track in Michigan and another in Gainesville, Florida. The first was in Michigan and sample Rebel Machines were put through their paces both as showroom stock cars and equipped with the Service Package.

The fastest repeatable time by HOT ROD magazine for the showroom stock Machines was 14.4 at 99 mph with defective Hurst shifters. I believe every Hurst shifter was defective as installed. The reason I believe that is because the drivers noted the shifter hung up between 2nd and 3rd and every Machine I’ve driven had the same problem. Fixing the shifter and replacing the clutch pressure plate with a Chevrolet L88 disc knocked a full second off the E.T.

SUPER STOCK magazine ran the Service Package cars in Michigan getting 12.81 at 107.35 mph

Then Rodders and SUPER STOCK magazine published further test results and the performance times improved to 12.73 at 107 mph. The CARS Magazine group did the testing in conjunction with AMC and Hurst in 1969 at Gainsborough Florida's drag strip.

What was important about this test series was who did the testing. CARS group of magazines did not accept manufacturer advertising. They wanted the freedom to publish the times the cars really ran, not massaged numbers garnered from racing what became known as ringers. These were specially prepared cars built for publicity only. The purpose was to fool potential customers into buying their cars. Therefore the cars as supplied by GM, Ford and Chrysler were actually a lot slower out of the showrooms than reported in magazine articles. That’s also why so many of them got their doors blown off by AMCs they thought would be slow and weren’t. The CARS Magazine drag strip testing of the Rebel Machines turned out to be the most comprehensive performance tests ever done on any North American car. The late Roger Huntington’s article ‘ARE YOU GEARED TO GO?” was written to explore the performance capabilities of a typical intermediate two door hardtop. Every aspect of the car's straight line performance was explored and quite a lot of swaps and changes including rear ends were done at the track in the pits between sessions. There were seven cars there, 4 speeds and automatics. The four speeds were marginally quicker than the automatics by 2/10ths of a second. Today the tables would be turned and the automatics would be the faster and safer cars on the drag strip.

Interesting to note: AMC automatic transmissions were not well respected by the racing crowd then or since but none of the automatic transmissions suffered any problems in that session of flogging that lasted several days. In the cars had over 100 runs each with none of the cars suffering breakdowns.

As a result of the testing and subsequent published story, the Rebel Machine turned the fastest dealer stock times of any car tested as far as I've been able to find until its time was bested by a 1996 10 cylinder Viper. That event was covered in my INTERNATIONAL REBEL MACHINE NEWSLETTER and used as a comparison.

In my book THE REBEL MACHINE IDENTITY, I provided a chart compiled from a previously self-published book by Steve Schultz of Gas Publishing titled HOW FAST WERE THEY?

The years covered were from 1949 to 1971.

His book charted all of the performance results of every domestic car ever tested except the Service Package equipped Rebel Machines' CARS tests which he was unaware of. I provided him copies of the article but he never issued a second edition.

Regardless, The Machine came out on top by a substantial margin.

The other thing HOW FAST WERE THEY? lists is all the trick modifications that were done to the test cars by their respective factories before the cars were tested by the magazine. Those details make very interesting reading for an AMC fan because of all the ways GM, Ford and Chrysler cheated to give results that were unattainable by the average car buyer/owner/weekend racer.

One thing that was not in the book that would have been useful when the cars were new was an as tested price comparison. The standard equipment on a Rebel Machine was far beyond what was offered on any of its competitors.


Pure-Stock Drag Racing


Earlier I mentioned that dealer installed is not the same as factory installed. This has everything to do with why Rebel Machines were not as well known as they should have been.

The Machine without options was a very complete package. In any other forms other than a radio or a clock meant it would be installed by the dealer the same as any other AMC car. The reason for this was due to a shortage of real estate. AMC didn’t have physical space to get into complicated optioning. So they had four trailers that were mobile training vehicles that toured all of the dealerships educating their mechanics. AMC considered dealer service bays to be an extension of the factory floor.

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) found that unacceptable and would not allow Rebel Machines to race with the Service Package, warranty or not.

What was really at issue was a fee the US Department of Motor Vehicles slapped on the manufacturers that was essentially permission to build and sell high performance motors in their cars. It was supposed to be an Environmental fee. It cost a lot of money and AMC knew they could not sell enough high performance cars to make paying the fee economical. What no one realized at the time was that the fee was a scam. No one knows where that money went but it didn’t into Environmental Protection.

How do we know that? Americans didn’t care any more about environmental protection then than they do now and knew even less. So the fee was basically a form of extortion.

Fast forward to the 90s and Pure-Stock drag racing was a thing. But since the NHRA would not allow the Service Package, neither would the Michigan Pure-Stock organization. Their fall back position was show us documentation that it was an option.

Twenty years went by and no documentation turned up until after I told this story to one of my sheet metal customers. He had the Rebel Machine handbook as many of us do. But what he did that the rest of is did not was to read the fine print on the back cover. There, in the middle of the page was the documentation I’d been looking for all this time!

As of this writing, the Eastern Pure-Stock organization has accepted the documentation and we are good to go racing with the Service Package installed in Pure-Stock in Lebanon, New York.

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