My 1970 AMC Hornet

Intro is below; the following are the construction diary pages:

Before... After...

It was time for another project car. I've had my current car (1963 Rambler Classic 550 Cross Country Station Wagon) for 17 years now, and it's outlived three or four other cars, none of which ended up meeting my needs.

So it's time to make another car. Unfortunately I'm broke, or maybe not so unfortunately, because I got to plan plan plan for almost a year. It was between a 67-69 American, and an early Hornet, I figured.

So Ron Akerman announced to the AMClist ( his two Hornets had to go, other projects needed the garage. So we scraped the cash together and bought 'em, a running '72, and a rolling-chassis '70. We rented a truck and dragged them the 100 miles home to Los Angeles.

I spent Christmas week renovating the '72, and Josh now drives it to work. The '70 is the project, the '72 will become a project once the '70 is "done".

In the last year, I got to do a lot of planning. I've had a lot of cars, and now I get to combine the things I like, skip the things I don't, and though I have to make some compromises because of a lack of cash, I think I'll get what I want.

The secret to a successful project is to set achieveable goals and stick to them. My biggest constraint is, no surprise, money. I'm fairly broke, meaning I can cough up a few hundred bucks a month maximum, and only if I bag-lunch it (I'm serious).

Though I'm broke, I refuse to do half-assed work. This is my overall approach to the project: plan it out, stick to reasonable goals, do everything right the first time, drive the damn thing.

My overall approach is to get the basic stuff done right (chassis, body, electrical, squeaks leaks). I'll scrimp only on things that would make fun projects later -- nice wheels, disk brakes, TBI, nicer transmission.

So the first pass for this car will look pretty much like a restoration, down to the factory steel wheels and hubcaps. It's what I got and can make it reliably go.

So with planning, and some elbow grease along the way, I think I'll end up with the fastest and easiest way to get what I want, and have nice projects to fiddle with and work on, as we all know car projects are never "done".

Here are the basic specs for the car. It came without an engine (more accurately, the engine and trans from the '70 are in the '72, where Ron put them, after the '72's developed an extra hole and some of the nice parts exited the block), but the most generous Joe Fulton, another AMClister, sold me a used 232 inline six (my engine of choice) and T-14 transmission.

(I'd originally intended a 232ci six, T-14 three-speed manual (later, T150/OD) but other things became available along the way.)

Cosmetically, I'm stealing some ideas from the import scene:

Not one damn speck of color visible on the entire car, in nor out. My reactionary take on flash colors (not that they are not beautiful) but besides pleasantly jarring, easy and cheap to pull off.

(Runner-up color schemes mostly involved white as the primary and gold as secondary color, with yellow or orange lighting, or blue, with blue or green lighting. Carpets in gold or blue are easily findable. Though black is the classic "matches everything" color, I really wanted a very light color scheme.)

I chose the color scheme from the bottom up. Paint comes in all colors, but decent interior parts are hard to come by in in these years; I think most of the 70's color choices suck, to put it mildly. This particular car has a faded medium blue. I hate medium blue. Other popular colors for these cars included shit-brindle (aka tan) and puke green.

Enter SEM vinyl dyes. Available from Eastwood Company ( and others, they have a limited range of stock colors. Custom mixes are available, but I can't afford them. So I designed the interior around the stock colors.

Having decided on a monochrome scheme I bought three likely colors, and ended up choosing two of them: white and warm gray.

The last color decision was chassis color. The under-chassis on this car is going to be pretty. I can't afford powder-coating, but there are paints that work well, if you do good prep work.

And all of this stuff can be done on the cheap, look good and be solidly reliable. I want to have it ready by the '04 AMO Nationals in Arizona.

In December 2003 I did have a one-time lump of cash with which I bought new springs, brake and suspension parts from ESPO and Galvin's AMC Rambler, window sweeps and such from Peter Stathes, for both cars. Since then I scrounge up a few hundred bucks a month. I bag lunch it to work, every free buck goes into the '70 now.

I am keeping notes and photos, diary-style, in per-month pages; see the table at the top of this page for links.