304 V8 H-Code: 1972 AMC Hornet

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To clone, or not to clone: that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of turning a 1972 AMC Hornet with an H-Code 304 V8 into an SC/360 clone… wait, where was I? I was misquoting Bill Shakespeare and got sidetracked by this cool Hornet which can be found here on Hemmings in Waddell, Arizona. The seller is asking $8,950 firm!

AMC made the Hornet for the 1972 1970 through 1977 model years and arguably the rarest of them all was 1971’s Hornet SC/360 which had hoped to follow up on the legend of the SC/Rambler. I have a sad feeling that this 304-equipped Hornet for sale here may end up as an SC/360 clone. Being the nerd that I am, I would rather see it stay as original as possible or restored to original spec, but I bet I’m in the minority on that idea.

You may have noticed that the photos aren’t the best, and there aren’t many of them. This is the only photo showing any part of the rear of the car and there is only one interior photo. My head spins like Linda Blair’s noggin every time I see someone trying to sell a car with a handful of photos, I just don’t get it. What I do get is that this may be a rare and desirable car, but that’s no excuse for skimping on photos.

Here is the only interior photo and you can see that the Arizona sun has wreaked some havoc here. I’m assuming that the seating material is long gone, given up to several decades of 100+ temps for months at a time, and the steering wheel needs help. But the big thing with this car isn’t on the interior where the humans sit.

The big deal with this car is here, on the interior of the engine compartment where the H-Code 304 cubic-inch V8 sits. If I’m not mistaken, by 1972 this one had 150 horsepower and 245 ft-lb of torque but it was still good for a 9-second 0-60 time – basically the same as a Nova with a 350 – according to a Motor Trend article. Under your ownership, how would you take care of this Hornet? Keep it original and maintain it, restore it to original-spec, or turn it into an SC/360 clone?

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  1. Mitchell GildeaMember

    Compromise: Build up the 304 with 290, 343, 360, 390 and or 401 parts and gradually restore the car into a driver

    Like 5
    • Thomas Squyres

      I know old post..
      But my 2¢
      Had a late 72SST 304 2dr some twerking and playing got me to a respectable 5.25sec 0-60 ate a ton a cars and trucks on Friday and Saturday nights running 110 avgas. Never ran 1/4 mile times but that dog would run ya down…
      God I miss it

      Like 1
  2. Bultaco

    I’d like to see a Hornet hatchback built up with a 360 and manual transmission and factory wheels like this car.

    Like 2
  3. CCFisher

    Is this really a rare car? No question that there aren’t many around today, but back in its day, this was equivalent to a 302 Maverick, a 307 Nova, or a 318 Valiant – just another basic compact with a basic V8. In fact, the 304 wasn’t even the top engine for the Hornet in 1972. A 360 was available.

    Like 6
    • DON

      It was available with a V8 , but 99.9 % of them had a 232 or 258 six bangers in them. Not so much with the Maverick, but a Nova or Valiant with a V8 was much more common

      Like 3
    • nlpnt

      It’s a two-door sedan, which most people only bought from AMC if they wanted the absolute most cheapest without going to an import. By far the most popular Hornet was the Sportabout wagon which had the segment to itself for most of the early/mid ’70s. Some years it was half of all sales.

      Like 1
  4. Mark

    For sone reason I am all of a sudden hungry for butterscotch pudding.

    Like 7
  5. Bunky

    From ‘68 on AMC V8 blocks were identical. The difference between the 290,304,343, 360, 390, & 401 was the bore and internal rotating assembly. A friend in H.S. (Way back) had a ‘71 SC360. He blew a piston, and when trying to replace it discovered that the car was equipped with a 401 police interceptor! The car was a year old at the time, so evidently came that way. It was a 4 speed car with 4:56 posi rear. No one would race him because he couldn’t keep it in his lane.

    Like 2
  6. Frank

    Hey it wouldn’t be original any more so why stop at a 360.
    Make it a 401 with a 4 speed or even a 5 speed!
    With the lightweight of this car, it would be a blast.

    Like 3
  7. Lance

    I vote for keep it as original after fixing it up. There hasn’t been an AMC for more than three decades so few would even know much about it today. I have seen magazine ads for the 360 just because I like old cars but it wouldn’t impress any younger readers compared to the power of a current Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. I do like it because the Nova, Mustang and Maverick were such practical sized vehicles and the small V8 was a great compromise between power and fuel economy.

    Like 4

    First off not a bad car and there probably aren’t that many left. As far as engines go if Traco could get 375 H.P. out the 290 back before the 304 came out, the engine used in Tans Am racing in the late 60’s a 304 would be plenty of engine for this car. Of course a street engine wouldn’t make that much power but it shows what is possible. Wish I could afford one of these. Unfortunately social security doesn’t make me flush with cash.

    Like 3
  9. bone

    I like the car and the 304 would remain in the car if I owned it, but the butterscotch color screams for a black interior, IMHO- the beige doesn’t cut it

    Like 1
  10. DON

    I think AMC kind of dropped the ball on the SC360 Hornet . It got little promotion , and in the wild color anything goes muscle car early 70s , it should have been a bigger success . They could have called it the Hornet Stinger , and promoted it like Mopar did with the Rapid Transit system and the Scat Pak. Instead it was a footnote in the AMC brochure .Maybe they were putting all their hopes on the new AMX/Javelin , but they could have had both

    Like 2
  11. Gremlin X

    There is nothing special about an “H-Code” 304. That’s just AMC’s 1966-79 2-bbl low compression base V-8. It was somewhat peppy in these because they were so light but nothing to write home about. For ’72 it was the only Hornet V-8 offered with a manual (a 3-speed) which this doesn’t even have. The money with these is in the 360 cars.

    Like 1
    • 370zpp 370zppMember

      Doesn’t the “H” stand for “housewife”?

      Like 2
  12. Christopher Gentry

    Well, it’s a AMC and today any AMC is cool , except the Pacer of course , (sorry to any Pacer folks. Sure some folks hate my car) any who it’s a AMC keep a stock look whether it’s a 360 clone or not. While yes it’s a AMC , it’s not like a Cord or something I can’t spell. So fix her up and have May be the only one in town

    Like 1
  13. Slantasaurus

    Did anyone else notice in that interior pic that EVERY knob is missing?? Window crank, shift lever, radio, headlights, and wipers.

    Like 2
    • Christopher Gentry

      No. Haha. Wonder how that happened.

      Like 1
  14. AMCFAN

    The magic of this car is that it is a 304. Today in some areas the fastest you can go on the highway legal is 70 MPH. This car will get you there just fine and sound great doing it. It has had a 304 all these years it should stay. No need to spend money to make it something it’s not. The kids in their Honda’s will still out run you even with a 401.

    It amazes me when it comes to any American Motors the answer always seems to be install a 401. The quick cure all. Try and post up a Craigslist ad out there and fish for one. Unlikely you will dig one up. Certainly not one that the owner doesn’t know what he has. Expect to pay $1500 and that will only get you in the door. You will still need to rebuild it. A 360 is an ideal upgrade but unless the 304 suffers a failure don’t bother. It shouldn’t be an option.

    I am unsure on the ask which to compare we just saw the 1970 SST 390 listed at no takers for $7500. Food for thought.

    Like 4
  15. Bob

    Just a correction on the year the Hornets were introduced. It was 1970, not 1972. In 1972 I ordered a Wild Plumb SST Hornet with a 304 for my wife. That was a pretty fun car, one I wish I kept!!

    Like 0
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Thanks for catching that typo, Bob.

      Like 0
  16. Mark P

    No, not alone I’d leave it as is now too. A nice exhaust on the 304 will give a great V8 sound Let’s face it, even as an SC360 in stock form it’s gonna be beat by a lot of the regular cars (and trucks) now anyway. I had a Hornet X in the 70’s, in the interior at the top of the dash I had three little 2″ gauges mounted in there that looked stock and where the clock is in this one mine had nothing, I took apart a Sun tach and mounted it from behind the already in place glass, also looked stock. Mine was a manual trans on the floor.

    Like 0
  17. Frank

    AMC Fan
    Boy are we touchy, So you are a purist, so what.
    Some of us are not dead and dried up and like performance. I am 69 and still enjoy a performance vehicle /sleeper that dosen’t cost $30,000.
    I would keep it all AMC (not putting in a chevy) and they are all the same size externally so who would know. (just a fast 304 :)
    Maybe you should buy and restore a Yugo, They are also about as collectible as a 304 2bbl AMC.
    Also, there will always be someone who has more money and builds a faster car than the one you have so what, It’s all about what you enjoy.
    Obviously you can’t enjoy life without stepping on other people so stay on the porch and drive 55

    Like 1
    • AMCFAN

      Frank. Not a purist. Just a realist. I am in the process of actually finishing up on an AMC right now that is a factory Z code so I know first hand what it’s like to source a good 401 in 2020. I knew in the 1980’s how hard they were to find and picked them up when I could. AMC never made them in great quantity. There are others like me.

      My statement still holds true. Sorry not every AMC project out there requires a 401. It is misleading to a novice thinking about buying something like this Hornet. All AMC’s with the right parts are like anything else will run. Performance equates to how much money one is willing to spend. But good luck finding one. Sometimes it takes more than money

      Who ever buys this car can do what they want. If mine I would enjoy it for what it is. If I need to go street racing I can go home and pick something that will do the job. I have choices. Sammy said it best. I don’t drive 55

      Like 1
  18. Christopher Gentry

    Kinda like Yugos too. Nice and weird. I remember when the local caddaliac dealer gave one away with every new caddy purchased :)

    Like 1
  19. Frank

    Hey Chris,
    I bought an 80 Cocord at a N.C. auction years ago for 300, It had a pontiac
    4 cyl, 4 speed and had a ford alternator and can’t remember either gm or chrysler front disc brakes. Driving back to Ohio, the rt front locked up and
    had to fix it. The girlfriend drove my 88 V8 t-bird back and couldn’t keep up.
    That thing was a blast to drive it through the mountains. At least It was
    easier to fix than the Yugo !
    One thing about amc, they used a lot of other company’s parts.

    Like 0
  20. Christopher Gentry

    Yeah , it’s been a LOT of years , but I seem to recall Dads 79 concord 6 cylinder used a lot of Pontiac parts too.

    Like 0

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