Anyone can build a Chevy, but it takes a unique person to build an off-brand. There we said it, and it’s out in the open. You can argue all you want, but talk to anyone who builds a nonmainstream muscle car and they will quickly tell you that they have to be way more creative and resourceful to build a redheaded stepchild from the same era as your Chevelle or Camaro. Of course, that’s also the exact same argument that Chevy guys will use to justify their marque of choice—it’s easier and more affordable, so they can concentrate on taking the car to the next level. Jimi Day not only took his ’69 AMC AMX that he affectionately calls AMXess to the next level, he did so with a car that is rare to see in any form.
Most AMC owners are not that way by accident. Something has to click with them at an early age, drawing them to a brand that society discarded. Jimi says he was a car guy from the time he was 9 years old, helping his dad work on the family fleet of cars. His story was a slice right out of a Bruce Springsteen song, sitting on his dad’s lap, driving down the rural roads of his hometown in central Illinois. When he turned 14, Jimi bought a ’64 Ford Fairlane for $125. It had a 260ci V-8 that leaked from every seal, and it was the perfect classroom that would teach him how to work on just about every system of a car. For a young boy, it was freedom and heaven all rolled up in one. While Jimi owned this car, he helped out at local body shop, and that’s where he fell in love with the AMC AMX. A local guy in town brought one in for touch-up paintwork. It had two seats, a big V-8, and the signature proportions that define an AMX: a long hood, high rear hips, and a nearly nonexistent decklid. In Jimi’s words: “I was smitten. It was 1981, I was 15 and broke, but I vowed that someday I would have an AMX.”
Clean is the first word that...
Clean is the first word that comes to mind when you peek under the hood of the AMX. D&Z Customs smoothed the firewall and removed the strut-tower inner fender panels to create a smooth background so your eyes can focus on the GMPP LS3 crate motor that rests front and center.
It was 21 years later before those words would come to full fruition. Things in Jimi’s life aligned, and he was able to purchase the ’69 AMX that you see here. Of course, it looked nothing like this. It was, however, a complete, driving car from Northern California. It had different paint, wheels, tires, suspension, brakes, engine, trans . . . well, you get the idea.
The first round of modifications Jimi made to the car were really unmodifications. He returned the car to stock, finding original AMC parts or reproduction components wherever he could. He had the 401 engine and four-speed manual transmission rebuilt to stock specs. This led to car shows and trophies and a general round of satisfaction in classic AMC style.
Then, only four years into owning the AMX, Jimi took the car completely apart to attend to the fading paint and address a few minor sheetmetal issues. This next part is something most of us can relate to: In the midst of a total rebuild, the car got sidelined. Business was, well, busy, and life demanded more time, leaving fewer hours to work on the AMX. First, it was moved to the back corner of the shop, and then to a damp warehouse basement.
It was three years before the genesis for the current direction of the car was put in motion. Rich Rinke at Turnkey Restorations suggested that he finish the AMX, and Jimi quickly agreed. By this time, the Pro Touring movement was well established and Rinke was enlisted to also step up the handling and stopping power of the car. Rinke fabricated custom lower control arms and fit the front suspension with Strange coilovers and Brembo brakes from a ’98 Mustang Cobra. This was a vast improvement, but only a smidgen of what the car would become.