Affordable Project: 1970 AMC Hornet SST

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I’ve always like the styling of the Hornet. Those slightly flared wheel arches give the car a muscular look and followed the AMC tradition of producing cars with interesting styling. This particular Hornet, from the first year of production, is located in Canton South, Ohio. You will find it listed for sale here on Craigslist with an asking price of $2,500. The owner is also open to considering trades for the right vehicle.

The Hornet does appear to be a clean car. The owner says that the floors, frame, and trunk are all solid. There is some rust in the passenger side fender and in the bottom corner of the quarter panel on the same side, but the rest of the car looks to be nice and solid. The panels are also relatively straight, so it would make a solid foundation for a project car.

When it comes to the dash and dash pad, they look to be in really good condition. The door trims also look good, but the armrests are broken. The carpet had turned to dust, so the owner has removed it. One upside of that is that it does give us a good look at the floors, and they certainly back his claim about their condition. The downside of the interior is the fact that the seats have suffered at the hands (or teeth) of mice. Let’s hope that it is only chewing because rodents are capable of producing a certain aroma that can be quite difficult to move.

I look under the hood and I know what my course of action would be. The engine that’s there is the standard 232ci straight-six, which sends its power to the rear wheels via an automatic transmission. The engine is said to start and run quite well, but it will need a full service, and it would probably pay to check the state of all of the rubber components due to the fact that the car has been sitting for an extended period. The brakes are apparently pretty sorry, so the Hornet isn’t a driver at present.

This AMC Hornet SST looks to be a nice solid car, and it would certainly restore quite nicely. Having said that, if this were my car, I would be extremely tempted to drop a 360 and a 4-speed manual transmission into it, and give it a real boost in performance. What would you do with it?

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    SC 360 clone,,,

    Like 13
  2. Stevieg

    I’m thinking 401 & automatic, steelies painted body color with the puppy pan hub caps, real granny looking sleeper. Would probably keep quiet mufflers on it & tuck the tailpipes up under the body so to not be noticed that there are 2 of them. Then beat the snot outta as many rice burning boy racers as possible. Maybe build it away from home so my son & his Honda driving friends don’t realize & then embarrass them lol. They all know about my bizarre love of inline 6 cylinder engines. They would all assume I beat them with a granny car! Fun!

    Like 13
  3. Sandy Claws

    Finally a car I might be able to afford, too bad it doesn’t motivate me. Nothing wrong with a Kenoshamobile, just never owned one. I was a Mopar man back then, if I ever took a plunge it would have to be that, though I can’t see paying the silly prices now expected for what for many years, were the brands with the lowest resale of any.

    Like 1
  4. That AMC Guy

    Not many first-year Hornets left these days so I’d probably keep it pretty much stock, aside from maybe modest upgrades like front disc brakes. (I see a power booster but the master looks to be for drum brakes.) Automatic transmission on this is a Borg-Warner 3-speed as was used in the Rambler American. Really under the skin there is not much to distinguish a Hornet from the Rambler other than finally losing the trunnion front suspension. (I think it was Car & Driver that described the Hornet as “the same wine in a different bottle.”)

    Pinholes on the fender tops – check under there carefully! Though overall this car looks amazingly solid for a rust belt vehicle nearly old enough to join AARP.

    Like 7
  5. Kenneth Carney

    I like it too! Might slide in a 258 6-popper
    if the 232 is toast. Other than that, leave
    it alone. Really looks sharp sitting on those slotted mags and fat tires. I agree
    with AMC Guy, check that frame for any
    rust issues before you hand over the cash. Mrs. and I had a ’72 Sportabout
    that quite literally rusted in two. But even
    as my wife drove it to the scrapyard, that
    AMC 6 never missed a beat! Sure says a
    lot for their mechanical parts doesn’t it?
    Speaking of dogdish hubcaps, anyone
    know where I can get a set for my ’91
    Ford F-350? I sure would like to hear
    from you. My truck runs great, just needs
    some minor work to make it look as good
    as it runs.

    Like 4
    • John

      I own the car. The frame is perfect. The arm rest is there also.

      Like 3
      • John

        Still have the car?

        Like 0
  6. Frank Talan

    I don’t know why I torture myself looking at these old cars, I’ve already got one I need to restore (55 Ford). It seems like whenever something like this comes up, I never have the extra money for it, and it’s always on the other side of the country. That being said, I would absolutely love to have this Hornet.

    Like 3
  7. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    I know Scotty is not a fan of red hoses under the hood. I would like to hear what he thinks of these! LOL

    Like 2
  8. Mitch RossMember

    Many AMCers consider the 232 a better engine than the 258. They rev higher due to the shorter stroke. I have one in my ’77 Gremlin and it feels much the same as the 258 that was in the parts car for said Gremlin. This is a nice car and well worth the buy in . If one were to switch the engine over to a 258, it would be wise to include the trans and upgrade to the 904 Torquflight. I do have one available with the trans as well as a disc brake set up if anyone here buys this car,

    Like 2
    • rcpaulsen

      I installed a set of Hooker headers on the 232 in my 1972 Gremlin X. Cylinders 1-2-3 went to one collector and 2-4-6 went to the other. From there it was just a pair of glass pack header mufflers, and side exits just behind the driver’s door. (Forgot about being able to hear the radio.) It was unbelievable how that one change woke up that engine. I wanted to install a large 2-bbl or small 4-bbl on a Clifford Reseach intake, but the money wasn’t there. That along with a mild cam would have been a killer combination. At that time (mid-1970s) a dirt track about 80 miles away had a ‘Super Six’ stock car class. One of the drivers used to bring his 1968 or 1969 Javelin with a modified 232 to our local track to run against the V8s, and he had no trouble keeping up. The track announcer would always say it sounded like an angry bumble bee. I have no idea how many revs that thing was turning.

      Like 1
  9. GeorgeL

    The Green Hornet!

    Like 3
  10. Doug

    Always been an AMC fan, and this is close to me as well. I’ve even got the space in the pole barn for it. Too bad my wallet is light at the moment, with my wife having surgery shortly and being out of work for 6-8 weeks.

    Like 1
  11. dweezilaz


    I’d leave it as is.

    HD sound deadening, new carpet [or rubber flooring], cleanup and over all freshening of brakes,belts, hoses, tires.

    AMC and Studebaker were many times protest purchases by people who resented the Big Three’s planned obsolescence and waste.

    People forget that and mine the hoary old “provincial, cheap, square” stereotype for commentary and forget that people bought Volvos, Saabs and other foreign cars for the same reasons.

    As this Hornet stands, it is the Anti Clone and needs to be exactly what it is.

    Like 3
  12. Blake Young

    If this was in Southeast Texas I’d be hooking up my trailer. I don’t need another project, but this is not a bad one. Can’t justify a drive to Ohio though. good luck!

    Like 2
  13. Wallyum

    Love it! My first car was supposed to be my Grandpa’s 1970 Hornet four door, but my Dad talked him into trading it in on his Volare instead. They gave him $150 for it. Would have been a great first car. Never understood Dad’s thinking.

    Like 3
    • Bob C.

      And for a Volare? Should have kept the Hornet.

      Like 2
      • wallyum

        One would think, but Grandpa always said the Volare was the best car he ever owned. He called it a cream puff. It lasted until 1984 when a teenager blew through a stop sign. All five people in the car got bruised up, but all lived long lives after the wreck.

        Like 2
  14. Bob

    I bought one of these brand new for my wife in 1972 and ordered it loaded with a 304 in Wild Plumb. It was a great car with American Motors Buyers protection plan. It cost us us $2600 and my 8 year old Chevelle trade in. I wish I had kept it!!

    Like 3
  15. Chunk

    I’d go with a fuel-injected aluminum 401 stroked out to 469 cid, mid-compression aluminum heads, and a streetably lopey cam for a mild-mannered 500 hp and 600 lb/ft of torque. Then I’d attach it to a strong TKO transmission, build a good locker, and tub the wheel wells ’til Sunday.

    Like 1
  16. Tricky

    Not sure I could handle all that green on the inside!!

    Like 0
    • AMXBrian

      I love the green on green. I would consider a 4.0 swap and drive it or the 401 and eat tires for fun.

      Like 1

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