The compact or “Junior” (AMC term) sized rear wheel drive Hornet was manufactured from 1970 until the end of 1977 in one generation and was a new marque for AMC, but the Hornet name has a previous history. The Hudson Motor Company manufactured the “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” which sent a major buzz through stock car circuits in the early 1950’s. The Hornet moniker became AMC property with the merger of Nash and Hudson under the umbrella of The American Motors Corporation. The name is now owned by Chrysler after its acquisition of AMC in 1987.
Before the all new Hornet is introduced to the public in 1970 AMC invested forty million dollars and spent a million man hours refining its design over a three year period. The compact platform was an important one for the company, as is the Hornet, which carries a sticker price of $1,994.00 for the base in 1970. Not only did the car performed well on the books with 92,000 plus units produced the first year, its production time outlasted all the rest of the compacts of the era, including Valiant, Nova and the Maverick, although not in volume. On all counts the Hornet scores better than any of its competitors for style, comfort, driver visibility in all directions, safety, power, economy, storage space and handling according to the major magazines of the day.
The Hornet is introduced as a family car initially and offers two practical straight six engines as the basic choice, but there is also a 304 cu in (5 L) V8 engine on the table to power the sporty looking vehicle in 1970. The model is available as a notchback with either two or four doors and two trim levels; the base or the SST in the beginning. The Hornet is the first vehicle made here to have the doors reinforced with guardrail beams for added side impact protection.
The Sportabout four door wagon is made available in ’71 and outsold all other Hornet models combined in its first year. For 1971 a unique folding sunroof made of fabric could have been on certain models. This year a SC/360 package could be ordered for the two door sedan. The engine is a 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 producing 245 hp (182 kW) and developing 365 ft-lb (495 Nm) of torque with a two barrel carburetor. As a further option for the Hornet SC/360 the “go pack” would add a ram-air induction four barrel bumping the horse power rating up to 285 (212.52 kW). The SC360 package includes uptown wheels, Goodyear Polyglas D70x14 tires, hood scoop, pin striping, and handling upgrades.
The basic transmission offer for every Hornet is a three speed on the column, but an automatic and a four speed standard with a Hurst designed shift kit are both options for the SC360. There is another performance option offered in ’73; the “Twin-Grip” limited slip differential which could have either 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 gearing. The Hornet SC360 could do 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.7 seconds and a standing quarter mile in 14.9 seconds achieving 95 mph (153 km/h) in the process. Motor Trend Magazine said at the time “The Hornet is a gas to drive…it handles like a dream”. The original plan was to produce 10,000 units of the SC360, but rising insurance rates and EPA mandates were equally to blame, there are only 784 vehicles factory assembled.
For the 1973 model year a new Hornet could be optioned with a Levi denim interior that had many takers and AMC was the first manufacturer in the USA to offer a luxury, but fashionable, designer trim package-the one they offer in ’73 was created by Aldo Gucci for the luxurious version of the Hornet Station Wagon. In ’73 the now popular hatchback is offered on the Hornet one year before the other American manufacturers and another first in a long line of them for AMC.
A 10,000-mile Olds W-30 still wearing its 1971-era tires. An 11,000-mile Hemi ’Cuda that in 1970 was a present to a high school student for good grades. A 1968 Camaro SS350 that didn’t see the light of day for some 30 years and has just 7,000 miles on the odometer. These are just some of the fascinating stories behind the unrestored original cars parked in the Vintage Certification area of the 2016 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals.
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The 4.0-inch bore 350 variations 1967 to 1980 continued…
For the 1969 and the 1970 model years, the L46 was an option for the Corvette; this is a high-performance version of the base 350 engine. Its block casting number is 492, and it features 2.2/1.60-inch valve heads and has a high 11:1 compression ratio delivering 350 bhp (261 kW).
The LT-1 350 for the Corvette in 1970 was the pinnacle for this small-block. Solid lifters, a high 11.1:1 compression, a high output “178” crank, topped off with a CFM Holley carburetor on the aluminum intake and the rams’ horn manifold handling the low restriction exhaust, worked together to give it the edge. The Delco transistorized ignition allows the LT-1 to put out 370 bhp (272.1 kW) in the Corvette and 360 bhp (264.8 kW) in the Camaro Z/28 at 6000 rpm developing 380 lbs-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm, but the NHRA rated this engine at 425hp (312.6 kW). The LT-1 red lined at 6500 rpm, but the power begins to drop off at 6300 rpm. For 1971, this 350 engine has the compression dropped to 9:1, which now allowed the LT-1, in both the Vette and the Camaro, to develop 330 bhp (255 net hp; 242.7 kW) with a further drop in 1972 to 255 bhp and producing 360 lbs.-ft. of torque. Note in ’72, a “net” figure is used and not a “gross” measurement. The 350 LT-1 went on a 19-year hiatus but returned in 1991 as a small-block engine in the generation II.
1973 until 1980 the 350 L82
For the ’73 and ’74 models years, Chevy marketed the L82 as a performance 350 producing 250 hp (183.88 kW) with 285 lbs.-ft. of torque from the factory; this was an SAE net hp rating now. The 2.02 heads have a 76cc chamber size with the 624 casting number imprinted. The carburetor is the Rochester Quadra-jet four barrel bolted to the dual plane aluminum manifold, with the same hydraulic lifter cam as the earlier L46, and forged aluminum pistons with a 9:1 compression. The factory delivered these engines with crinkle black rocker covers with the distributor housing and the manifolds aluminum-colored. The Corvette in 1975 delivered 210 bhp (154.45 kW), but other models put out 205 bhp (150.78 kW) and developed 255 lbs.-ft. of torque. These figures remained the same through ’77, but in 1978, the Corvette L82 was slightly up and developed 220 bhp (161,8 kW) offering 260 lbs.-ft. of torque. For the ’79 model, the L82 350 engine 225 bhp (165.49 kW) for the last year, 1980, reached the high point of 230 bhp (169,17 kW). This same engine was also available for the Camaro.
The only year for the L81 version of the 350 was 1981 and was the only 5.7-liter engine in the Corvette for that year. The compression is 8.2:1 and with the high-performance cam working with the computer-controlled spark advance distributor, this version developed 190 bhp (139,73 kW) and produced 280 lbs.-ft. of torque. The “smart" carburetor made the L81 a one-of-a-kind. The Rochester Quadra-jet was altered to allow the fuel mixture to be controlled electronically; a sensor in the exhaust manifold feeds data to the Engine Control Module (ECM), altering the fuel/air mixture to meet demand. To be continued…