Rust-Free Daily-Driver: 1974 AMC Hornet

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As nice as a vintage vehicle may be, I wonder if many of us would use it as a daily driver after being spoiled by easy-to-drive and reliable vehicles over the last couple of decades. I like to think that a good percentage of people would use this 1974 AMC Hornet sedan as a daily driver. Maybe a weekend car, but one to jump in and drive two or three states away without giving it another thought, I don’t know. Are you one of those people?

As I’ve said many times, the words “rust-free” are about as good as it gets for me in the vehicle world. Having grown up in the road salt-heavy upper-Midwest and lived with depressing rusty vehicles my entire life, there’s something comforting about a vehicle that has no rust, one that may keep running like new but has to be retired due to rust. This Hornet appears to be one of those cars. It’s wearing its original Copper Metallic paint and has the original interior, too.

That isn’t to say that the body on this Hornet doesn’t have its share of dings and dents, and some of those won’t be magically removed by a paintless dent repair specialist, sadly. Still, give me rust-free every time. The seller only included two exterior photos and, yes, no engine photos. It is a craigslist ad, so I don’t really expect any less, or any more… The interior looks solid but the driver’s seat fabric needs help, as do a few other areas. SMS Auto Fabrics has samples of the “Nassau” fabric, but whether they have enough to redo the front seat is another question. From what I hear, a “chrome marker” will work wonders on worn dash trim as shown in the photo above, have any of you had good luck with that?

I’m not sure what the two holes are for by the headlight and wiper knobs? Anyone? The pedal pads are missing and it appears to have carpet remnants for floor mats, not to mention a deteriorating steering wheel cover, but as a daily driver with 126,600 miles and no rust, you can’t expect perfection everywhere. AMC made the Hornet from 1969 for the 1970 model year until the end of the 1977 model year. It replaced the American and next up would be the tweaked, more-luxurious Hornet that we knew as the Concord.

The back seat looks perfect and I sure would like to see an engine photo. It’s AMC’s OHV inline-six, which would have been rated at around 100 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque when new. It’s backed by a column-shifted three-speed manual sending power to the rear wheels and this one has power steering, a new battery, a new windshield, new tires, and more. It’s posted here on craigslist in Scottsburg, Oregon and the seller is asking $4,500. Here is the original listing, and thanks to Seth J. for the tip! Would any of you daily drive this Hornet?

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  1. Terrry

    The best looking Hornets were the first ones before the big bumpers, especially the two-door. They were attractive cars. It’s amazing that AMC hung on as long as they did, but the Hornet was one reason.

    Like 9
  2. Jimbo

    I would totally daily drive it.
    Probably freak out the nieces and nephews with the 3 ona tree.

    Like 16
  3. Jim Grey

    I’ve tried the chrome marker trick. It’s better than nothing, but it’s no match for the actual plastichrome.

    Like 5
  4. Connecticut mark

    Tires look huge , fronts look like they would hit fenders.

    Like 1
    • Jack M.

      Looks more like the front suspension is very tired.

      Like 4
  5. Big C

    My grandfather’s housekeepers car. She kept her Mad Dog wine under the passengers seat. Good times.

    Like 8
  6. Bob S

    The two holes in the dash looks like someone added a couple of extra power points, might be something different though.

    Like 1
  7. Mark

    My grandpa bought a two door hornet in 1972 when I was born o; his birthday august 23 1972. It was a 232 in-line six with a floor shifter and it had a/c. He passed away in 2002 and the car only had about 45,000 miles on it. It was his retirement car and he would only buy American products since he was in World War Two.

    Like 15
  8. That AMC guy

    I owned a Hornet Sportabout wagon driven regularly until about 10 years ago when the tinworm finally took it down. Mine had power steering, front disc brakes, 258 six, and automatic transmission. Replacing the base back-breaker seat with buckets from a Concord made it a pleasant enough driver.

    Although this car looks to be in good condition it also appears to be a base model with few options. There are no engine compartment photos so we don’t know what’s going on there. The ad says it has power steering but chances are it also is equipped with the standard undersized manual drum brakes (“exciting” panic stops). For 1974 the engine would have come with breaker-point ignition. Probably a good thing considering how trouble-prone the Prestoline electronic ignition was starting the next year. The tires look several sizes too big. Original stock tires were would have been something like C78-14 which equates to about P185/75R14 today.

    One place the Hornet is really lacking is the interior. Cheap, cheap, cheap, even by the standards of the day. This has the base bench front seat without even the reclining backs. Less support and comfort than a wooden park bench. No AC, so no ventilation without the windows open except for a cruel joke of a tiny vent under the dash. (They should have kept the Rambler American’s vent windows.)

    Still, for $2800 if it’s as solid as it looks it could be a decent knock-around vehicle, and the three-on-the-tree is an excellent theft deterrent.

    Like 12
  9. RICK W

    Fortunately have had many friends, one had a HORNET. No surprise to frequent posters BUT it was a poor revision of HUDSON Hornet name. 😉 Riding in it was almost as bad as a BEA sting.

    Like 3
  10. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    As That AMC Guy mentioned, the seller has dropped the price to $2,800! That’s about as good of a price as you’ll find on a functioning used car from any era in today’s world, let alone one that would have a crowd around it at any car show.

    Like 9
    • AnthonyDA

      That crowd would not be admiring this car…they’d be laughing at it.

      Like 0
  11. Mike

    Top picture kinda looks like some kind of Datsun.

    Like 2
  12. Rumpledoorskin

    I like the bolt action shifter and house carpet. Mrs. Doorskin does not allow me to hang out with strippers, though.

    Like 4
  13. XMA0891

    This car brings back great childhood memories. One forgets how long ago 1974 was. Nothing says “Malaise Era” quite like copper metallic…. So many of these were automatics, the three-on-the-tree makes this one unique. I’d love to place her into partial retirement ding around town with her May through November.

    Like 2
  14. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    74 Hornet, $2800. Fabric for the front seat from SMS, $2800.

    OK, OK, I exaggerate, I think you could buy the car for 2500.

    Like 6
    • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

      I recently had a full upholstery job done using SMS fabric. Rex, your quip is actually not far off.

      Like 4
  15. Bill D

    Back when we were all in high school in the early ’80s, a friend’s mom had one of these in this exact color (not sure the year) with a 3-on-the-tree. Brought back some memories. The manual trans has to be pretty rare–how many of them would have been ordered that way?

    Like 1
  16. CCFisher

    I think advances in seat technology alone would prevent most folks from using a car like this as a daily driver or long-haul cruiser.

    Like 4
  17. HoA HoAMember

    Price drop seems pretty logical, nobody wants it. Sorry, the stick kills it everytime. 1st, the fact that someone would even order a car like this with a manual transmission, when most of these were for granny anyways, shows someone was either too frugal, or a last holdout. I read, an automatic cost an extra $231 bucks, but did include a heater and p/s at no extra cost. As is, maybe worth a grand, just for wheels, I’d love to have it.

    Like 7
  18. St.Michael

    My father had a 2 door with a 6 auto & no A/C. He passed and I inherited it, not long after as I was making a left hand turn some guy side swiped me on the driverside side from behind.The cops wanted me to nail his ass BUT because the guy had helped out my dad with a special tool he needed while working on my bros BEETLE and my dad had told me to SUPPORT their station I just said EF it…..I had planned on dropping a 340 n auto in it. With M/T ‘s and CRAGARS…. When talking with john law I asked “WHOS FAULT IT WAS” the cop replied JAVIAR’s as that was his name and he was from BRAZIL …to which I replied ..HALF MINE ????? lol…. Later they were popped for smuggling coke into the country from Brazil where they were from..go figure

    Like 5
  19. Jonathan Green

    Would I daily drive this? Yes. But, one big caveat: I’d have a stash of tools and parts in the trunk (think Points, condenser, fuses, tape, a bit of wire) including a bit of oil, antifreeze, and brake fluid. These are lessons I have learned, usually the hard way.

    Especially on an AMC. I know that a lot of parts are sourced from other manufacturers on these cars, but it only makes things a little more complicated, especially when you are trying to get a little, nothing part that’ll stop the car dead in its tracks.

    True story: about 10 years ago I went to the biggest motorcycle dealer in Metro Detroit to get a set of points for a Yamaha TX500. I went in, and said “I need a set of points for-”
    “We don’t have any.”
    “-a Yamaha -”
    “We don’t have any.”
    “We don’t have points for any motorcycle.”

    Like 5
  20. Kenneth Carney

    With dealers here in Florida charging
    $30K for a tired 20 year old vehicle,
    this is a steal! Looked at a Ford Sport
    Trac at our local Hyundai dealer a few
    months back. That fool was asking
    $10K cash down $650 a month for 48
    months! The biggest red flag came
    when he wouldn’t let us test drive it
    without leaving a $250 cash deposit!
    I politely asked him what the sff he was smokin’ and we walked out and
    haven’t been back. To me, this car
    would be worth 2 plane tickets to pick
    it up and drive it back to Melbourne.
    Sure beats payin $35K for an ’07 model truck.

    Like 6
  21. Erich

    Cool. A Hornet with the original “Stinger” hub caps. I like it. Great entry into the classic car hobby especially at that price. Won’t win any races, but you’ll get a lot of pointing and looking while cruising around town.

    Like 3
  22. Greg G

    As clean as it is I’m surprised they were honest about the milage. Some sellers would’ve probably rolled the miles back. It happens every day to get a few more bucks.

    Like 0
  23. MichiganDoug

    Down to 1900. If it was 1000 miles closer it would be mine.

    Like 0

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