The Rebel Machine Comes of Age

The Rebel Machine

It was the first time anyone had seen American Motor’s fastest muscle car of all time. AMC called it The Rebel Machine, and Hurst Performance would give it a great sendoff at the NHRA World Drag Racing Finals in Dallas, Texas in 1969. Linda Vaughn and her Hurst Girls entourage were on hand to liven the atmosphere. With dragsters revving in the back ground, AMC was premiering their next great muscle car. Its debut in a year when Chevelles, Challengers and Cudas were getting all the press, paid tribute to the group of engineers at the Kenosha, Wisconain plant that were diehard muscle car fans. 

This week, a rare Rebel Machine was listed for sale by a private party seller from Illinois. It is one of 1,000 or so Rebel Machines done in the Red, White and Blue racing livery much like the SC/Rambler that came out a year earlier. (Follow this link to view dozens of detailed photos.) It has the 390 ci V8 engine and a very desirable 4-speed Borg Warner T-10 that was race prepped by Hurst Performance. Both are thought to be orignal to this car. They say it was fully restored in 2011 from a rust-free New Mexico body.  You rarely see one of these for sale. The seller notes that it has had minimal miles since the restoration and is in excellent condition. 

The Rebel Machine was the result of a collaboration between Hurst Performance and the AMC factory gear heads in Kenosha. They were chomping at the bit to produce a world class drag racing car that could hold up to what GM, Ford and Chrysler were making. Their dealers knew the value of having a top performance car in their showroom. Having a Rebel Machine in your showroom would help you sell cars.

Equipped with the Hurst prepped 4-speed, The Rebel Machine could run 14.44 in the quarter-mile at 104 mph. That translated into zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds. Not many factory cars could do that right off the showroom floor, but The Rebel Machine could. 

The first 1,000 Rebel Machines produced by AMC in 1970 were painted in the company’s race-inspired red, white and blue color scheme. This 1970 AMC Rebel Machine is one of them. It comes with American Motor’s most powerful motor, the 390 ci V8. It came from the factory with special heads, valves, cam and a 690 cfm 4-barrel carburetor.

The Rebel Machine featured here spent its early years in Texas and New Mexico. The seller says it was virtually rust free prior to the restoration. In the early 2000’s, a family with strong AMC ties acquired the car and restored it. Their attention to detail is evidenced everywhere on the car. 

Options on this car include, electric wipers, electric clock, passenger vanity mirror, Rimblow steering wheel, power steering, remote driver’s mirror, courtesy lights, ignition key buzzer and it came with a full size spare tire. 

Just for The Rebel Machine, the 390 engine’s top end was tweaked to produce 340 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque–the most ever on an AMC street legal car. It had 10.0:1 compression requiring high octane fuel.  It eclipsed the AMC AMX top output by 15 horsepower. In addition to the same camshaft and compression as the AMX, The Rebel Machine had the same forged connecting rods and crank as the AMX. But then they added a high-flow dual-plane intake, dog-leg port heads, and larger 2¼-inch-outlet exhaust manifolds. A letter Y in the VIN identified the 340-hp engine. This was the most powerful engine AMC would ever offer in a regular production vehicle. 

The cylinder heads, cam, valvetrain, intake and exhaust system were all reworked. It had the same transmission and rear end as the S/C Rambler, with the venerable BorgWarner T-10 four-speed manual and optional “Twin Grip” differential available in either 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 final drive ratios.

Trim features included correct “The Machine” branding on the trunk lid, dash board and both front quarter panels. The hood came with a functional scoop, with a tachometer housed in the back part of the scoop. 

According to the registry, a total of 2,326 Rebel Machines were produced by AMC at the Kenosha, Wisconsin plant. It is estimated that over half of the wore the red, white and blue race livery. 1970 is the only year the Rebel Machine was produced.

Find more AMC Muscle Cars when you scroll through the list in Cars-On-Line’s AMC Section online. 

The Rebel Machine

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2 Responses to The Rebel Machine Comes of Age

  1. John Newell, author: The REBEL MACHINE IDENTITY October 30, 2021 at 5:44 am #

    Sorry to pop your bubble. The Machine was the second fastest production car for AMC. The first was the little known Matador Machine. In 1971, the auto industry changed how they rated horsepower in response to rising insurance costs. Before 1971, horsepower was measured at the flywheel with no air cleaner on, no accessories hooked up, so no power draining drag at the pulleys. The Machine was rated at 340 hp this way. In 1971, the horsepower was measured at the rear wheels where the rubber meets the road. Using that criteria, The Machine came in at 274 hp and the Matador Machine came in at 330. According to Pat Wnek, the only person to have owned both 390 equipped Rebel Machines and a 401 Matador Machine, the Matador Machine was faster. It was more aerodynamic too.

    The 1,000 car Rebel Machine product launch didn’t happen. AMC was shut down and on strike from the last week in September 1969 until the first week in November. That was when the 1,000 Machines were supposed to be built. There was only time for about 300 before January 1, 1970. There were tell tale signs that the cars were put together in one hell of a hurry. The shifters weren’t adjusted properly when installed, They hung up between second and third. That meant they could not be power-shifted at the Dallas product launch in front of all the fans there for the Drag Racing Championships. Far from the glorious event it should have been, the four-speed cars had to be granny-shifted through the quarters. The shifter cost the cars a second in E.T. posting 14.4s. That’t the times that were advertised. Once the shifters were adjusted, the Machines could run in the high 13s but it was too late and anyway, AMC didn’t care. They didn’t want to sell a lot of Machines, they just wanted them to draw new customers into their showrooms and in that sense, it worked.

    But the debacle with the shifters had to have hurt sales with so many influential people in the stands. Runs in the high 13s would have electrified the market at the time because the only other cars capable of such times were all big block cars from GM, Chrysler and less notably, Ford. The Machine engine was over 30 cubic inches smaller than the big blocks it could have been competitive with. What was the difference? The heads on the 390 breathed better than any of its competitors, so it delivered a more potent fuel charge to the cylinders at every stroke. That efficiency counted for a lot, especially when the carb was rejetted.

    The total number of Machines built is not cast in stone. An inventory sheet surfaced that puts the number at 1,936. I have the hard evidence both ways and a case can be made for both numbers.

    The transmission was not Hurst prepped. Hurst concepted the car with AMC but then AMC took over the project and brought it to market with no help from Hurst. However Hurst was involved in testing the cars and with what became known as the optional Service Package installed that added another $500 to the car’s list price, the 4 speed Machines could do the quarter in 12.73 as recorded in testing at Gainsville Dragway in Florida.

  2. John Newell, author: THE REBEL MACHINE IDENTITY October 30, 2021 at 6:00 am #

    I should clarify: The Service Package was a dealer installed option that apparently no one took advantage of except for the test cars. Being dealer installed instead of factory installed gave NHRA reason to disqualify The Machine from using the optional cam kit and carbs. AMC didn’t have room to do optional engine options in their factory. On top of that, to install the Service Package at the factory level would have required AMC to pay a steep environmental fee that would have converted The Machine into a very unprofitable venture. GM, Chrysler and Ford paid the fees. It transpired that the environmental fees were merely a cash grab and fraud foisted on the performance market. None of that money was ever used for environmental work.

    The cars were put together in such a hurry that the VINs punched into the frame rails behind the steering boxes look like they were hammered into the metal by a drunken blind man. None of the numbers align. Some of the numbers are left out, wrong or not there at all. The VINs on other AMC cars are lined up and look professionally done.

    Another clarification is that Pat owned the Matador Machine and two Rebel Machines at the same time. I’d say his observations are believable. If the Machine were the faster car, he’d have said so.

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