Like, Can You Dig It, Man? By JOHN F. KATZ (08:30 May 26, 2003) “Speak softly and carry a big stick” was how President Theodore Roosevelt described his approach to foreign policy. This Big Bad Orange Javelin turns that phrase inside out: It screams vividly and carries a small six. The runaway sales success of the Ford Mustang in 1964 sent the competition scrambling. By the end of the year, Chevrolet was hard at work on the Camaro, Plymouth was rethinking its Barracuda, and little American Motors began developing its own breed of pony. The AMC Javelin debuted in September 1967 as a ’68 model, and just like its Big Three competitors, it could be ordered with a selection of V8 engines and performance options. Also like the Mustang, Camaro and Barracuda, the base-level Javelin came standard with a six-cylinder, drum brakes, and a suspension tuned for a comfortable ride. There were few changes to the Javelin for 1969, but American Motors brightened the lineup that winter by adding three paint schemes it called the Big Bad Colors: searing orange, brilliant blue and bilious green—hues that could only have originated in the psychedelic ’60s. This $34 option included painted bumpers and a unique aluminum trim piece to define the outline of the grille. “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Colors?” grooved a suitably hip sales brochure. “They happen on the new Javelins... from bumper to bumper... including the bumpers.” We don’t imagine many Javelins were ordered with the Big Bad look and the standard 3.8-liter inline six—but the car you see here is one of them. Its original owner even opted for black rally stripes and the “SST” interior upgrade, but skipped the optional handling package and front disc brakes. According to current owner Pete Young, this is one of only two six-cylinder ’69 BBO Javelins listed in the AMC Big Bad Colors Car Registry. Pete’s father opened a Hudson dealership in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1939, and Pete and his brother Wilson continued the trade, selling American Motors cars through 1987. They took this Javelin as a trade on a new Pacer in 1976. Pete had the car detailed and gave it to his daughter for her 16th birthday. She drove it until 1990, then sold it back to her father, who decided to restore it and add it to his collection of AMC automobiles. Pete drives the Javelin regularly to AMC gatherings in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Delaware. It showed 84,008 miles on the day of our test drive. The instrument panel looks solid, architectural; in comparison, the base-level dashboards of the Mustang, Camaro and Barracuda all seem cheap and unfinished. The Javelin’s seats are firm, comfortably upright, even supportive to the lower back, though too flat for aggressive cornering. The three-spoke, tilt-adjust steering wheel provides a handy grip. AMC’s straight six idles almost silently, whirs gently while cruising, and hums enthusiastically when we step on the gas. With 145 hp at 4300 rpm, it’s smooth as cream yet slow as molasses, and it isn’t helped by the Borg-Warner automatic’s reluctance to downshift. To a modern driver, the Javelin’s handling would feel equally uninspired. As with most AMC products, the power steering is solid and ball bearing-smooth, but returns little useful information. The chassis wants to understeer, even in gentle turns. The non-assisted drum brakes require a little muscle, but at least they are easy to modulate. On the other hand, the Javelin’s ride is taut and level, never harsh; the chassis tracks straight and true at 65 mph, and wind and road noise are about average for its time. We’d rate the Javelin a notch below a base Camaro for handling, but damned close to a base Mustang—and the AMC pony is significantly more comfortable and somewhat better finished than either. Of the three, the Javelin would be our choice for a cross-country drive. How typical of American Motors to build a pony car that excelled in practicality.