True Time Capsule! 1973 AMC Hornet

In 1973, I wouldn’t have given an AMC Hornet a second look. Hornet you say? Javelins, AMXs, Ambassadors, Gremlins, regardless they’re all Ramblers; fuggedaboutit! It is amazing how things change with the passage of time. Consider this 1973 Hornet four-door sedan, located in Lake Elsinore, California. It is available here on craigslist for $9,500 and it literally looks new. How’d they do that? We’ll look a little closer and figure it out. Thanks to Ikey H. for this tip!

The Hornet, produced by American Motors Corporation (AMC) between 1970 and 1977, was AMC’s compact car slotted in to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick and Plymouth Valiant/Duster. While they were usually mild, there were performance variants like the 1971 SC/360 which was a potent performer, almost a sleeper as they were unsuspecting in their prowess. But most Hornets labored on as ordinary coupes, station wagons and four-door sedans like this example.

So I don’t know where this Hornet has been for the last 47 years but wherever it was, it must have enjoyed it. It has only amassed 36K miles in its lifetime and as I stated at the outset, it looks new. There is really nothing to decipher or pick apart in this case because the pictures are worth a thousand words. The exterior is a bit bland in beige with a white top but this hornet wears it very well. Good paint, good body, suddenly it’s 1973!

The interior is way cool, green! No one does green interiors anymore. There is nary a scuff mark, stain, loose thread, you name it. It looks like this Hornet just left the new car get ready department. The seat fabric’s houndstooth pattern is the ’70s all the way and is a nice diversion to the bland, blander and blandest interior fabrics and hues that are so prevalent in modern cars.

Under the hood is a tried and true AMC original, a 258 CI, in-line six-cylinder engine that knocked out 110 net HP. Hardly a world beater but a very reliable, tough engine. The seller doesn’t attest much to this Hornet’s driving characteristics other than to say it “looks and drives great.” A three-speed automatic transmission gets the 258’s power to rear wheels and there is power steering and A/C to keep the big six company under the hood.

So here’s another “Have your cake and eat it too” proposition. It’s a really nice car, in magnificent condition but hardly a museum piece (at least not yet). If you buy it, you will drive it and enjoy it and you’ll be able to maintain it to a point but the “stuff happens” aspect of reality will catch up to you. If you buy it and sit on it as this seller, or whoever he bought it from, has done it gets into the, “What’s the point?” arena. It takes up space, probably has limited upside value growth and you end up eventually doing some soul-searching, asking yourself why you bought it in the first place and then moving it on to someone else.

The old adage that you don’t know what you have until it is gone is ever so true. As I said at the outset, I wouldn’t have noticed this car in ’73 and now I find myself missing its simplicity and trueness (and the green interior). Time marches on and so does what we refer to as progress but the legacy of our past is still represented by ’73 Hornets or ’65 Marlins or ’49 Fords or ’39 Packards and on and on. I think I would compromise, buy this car and drive it a bit, not all of the time, and just enjoy it a little bit at a time. What do you think, any takers for this time-capsule Hornet from 1973?



  1. Howard A Member

    Thanks for the Joni Mitchell reference, Jim. Far as collectibility goes, probably not much, but if you want a decent car for a small family, that will last you forever, provided it stays clear of any salt, that is, you couldn’t ask for a better classic car. Sure looks like the real deal to me. Great find.

    Like 1
  2. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Weird exterior/interior color combination. I like it.

    Like 8
  3. art

    90% certain this is a flip from a dealer in Illinois. They had the same car, color, miles and equipment and were asking $5995.
    The absolute new California plates suggest it may have just now been registered in California. Still, the car, for what it is, is in remarkable condition.

    Like 8
      • Major Thom

        Have to be a real optimist to buy a car from a. dealer just to try to flip it for 2x the price.

        Like 1
      • Garyg Member

        Interior is green not beige like craigslist ad states

        Like 1
      • PatrickM

        Something’s not right. BF ad shows green interior. Your link, robh693, states the interior is beige…to match the exterior. Either way, I think this is a repaint. Still not a bad car. But, does moving to California really increase the asking price? Especially, since anyone who might be tempted to buy it, would be from another state. I would like to have a car like this. But, with all the smoke and mirrors, I’m out.

  4. Arby

    What a waste of a “time capsule”.

    Like 2
  5. SMDA

    Such a nice piece of history that many of us can relate to. Prob a sad story here, maybe bought by an elderly couple who drove little and then passed away leaving it to someone else who they themselves rarely used, and maybe they are gone now too. Some of these back stories would be gold to hear. All I do know is that it is nice to see some regular cars here once in a while. If there was a museum that just held cars like these, I bet it would do quite well, at least with use aging Boomers. These are the cars that bring memories. People we knew or we ourselves owned cars like these. The muscle(super) cars were never really very popular, quite rare as I recall. Few of us knew anyone who had one, much less got to drive them. Yes, these are the kind of cars that start long wonderful conversations at shows, not some shiny muscle car that never looked that good, even from the factory, sitting behind a rope with a snooty owner who doesn’t want to talk to you.

    Like 11
    • Bhowe Member

      Fully agree with your post. If one is looking for a time machine you look for regular ordinary cars, like everyone else had, not the super rare stuff that one guy a town away had

      Like 1
  6. That AMC Guy

    Takes me back, family had a ’73 Hornet much like this one with the exact same green interior. Terrible gas mileage due to crude emission controls, but it was reliable as an anvil for the 10 years they had it. (In all that time I think the only repair was a water pump. The tinworm finally took it down.) I still have a set of those “stinger” wheel covers in the garage somewhere.

    Like 3
    • Blueprint

      Always thought these wheel covers had a tea spoon pattern!

  7. PaulG

    Would be nice to put 2k miles on annually, then rent it out for period movie sets… probably won’t see another anytime soon.

    Like 4
  8. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Gotta admit, the original condition is outstanding. The A/C, a pretty expensive option in ’73, is a big plus. Not sure if it’s worth the asking price; it’s not a 4-door Maverick or a 4-door Nova, but maybe to some, that’s the appeal. Clean 4-doors can bring decent prices but are still affordable. They can get you into an inexpensive vintage car that doesn’t need to be restored, a good option for someone who doesn’t have the time or the skill to take on a restoration. There’s a lot to be said for a reasonably priced turn-key classic, 4-doors or not.

    Like 5
  9. Carlton Firestine

    I would gladly park that in my garage and pull it out on a sunny day. Still an attractive design, despite the 4 door. Make you wish you could walk into a dealer today and find a simple “machine” that is not loaded to the roof or carry a hefty price tag.
    Simply put, Love it!

    Like 1
  10. Troy s

    Hard to say, really, but a lot of other folks felt the same way as you did Jim. Purposeful, A to B transportation,..that’s all it was along with 90 percent, at least, of all cars sold. A second look at this, new or a few years old, a decade old, noway. Believe it or not we pass by new cars like this all the time.
    There in the Cal Worthington lot, rows upon rows of them, but we don’t even give them a second thought.,..until three decades later. Like the Fairmonts and k cars, the wonderful Citation of many years ago.
    I like the Hornet, interesting design…now, but back in the seventies it was just and only just another lowly transportation car. Take a look at the cost for AC, no other option comes close in price. Wow!

    Like 2
  11. Del

    Nice car.

    Completely unattractive.

    Needs to be in Museum

    Price to high . 4 grand maybe

    Like 5
  12. Blueprint

    Today a base model Nissan Sentra S has the same mission in life, and it does it well.

  13. Pete Phillips

    A good buy at $5,995 for comfortable, simple, reliable, antique car transportation. Overpriced at $9,500.
    My first (and only) new car I ever bought was one of these in 1974. Couldn’t afford the A/C or the power steering so didn’t order them. Mine was red with a black and white interior and the 232 six. With gasoline having recently tripled in price from 50 cents/gallon to nearly $1.50/gallon, I was mainly interested in decent fuel mileage . It was a good car, and you didn’t see one on every street corner, like you saw a Maverick or a Toyota.

    Like 1
  14. George

    I had a 74 and loved it! It was a great little that got us around in high school. Would love to drive one again. Something fun about a no frills car like this!

  15. Bob C.

    This is a tough car, no matter how you look at it. Structure wise and engine wise, it is tough and durable. Too bad they don’t make them like that anymore.

    Like 2
  16. chrlsful

    i C the linked car, tan interior, so different; also, the $300 mentioned is a whole package that inc the AC.

    I agree w/the others. They were all around us. “Normal” cars. May B even subnormal (no pizzaz compared to mid’n top line @ the time). Look good now, even the small ones – roomy, easy to wrk on…

    No safety, pollution and poor MPGs, tho

    Like 1
  17. SEMason

    I realize this thread is old. I was telling my son about the ‘73 Hornet, two-tone tan/white, with beige interior that I used to drive “back in the day” as a hand-me-down from my parents. No AC and a piece of crap. Took it to college in ‘77 and it would only start once a day, so I had to run my errands and leave it running, locked with a second key, or I would never make it home. Seemed like I was always taking it to a mechanic for some repair, and I had no money to pay for it.

    My son Googled the car and sent me the link to this thread, and the exact image of that car haunts me to this day. Buyer beware!

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