In just a quick glance, you can tell that this AMC Javelin isn’t even remotely messing around. A menacing face, a huge hood, and massive fenders wrapped over three-piece HRE wheels. A thousand horses from a 6.2-liter supercharged Dodge Hellcat engine. An opulent gold paint job.
There are plenty of resto-mod muscle cars out there, but this AMC tuner special from Ring Brothers—done up in a color called “Jalop Gold”—may be the one to beat at the moment.
It even has its own name, Defiant!, and when I drove it, I found out why.
(Full Disclosure: Ring Brothers wanted me to drive this Javelin so badly they made special arrangements on absolute shit notice to trailer the car across Los Angeles while they had it in town to meet me along the Pacific Coast Highway, and then forced me melt some tires.)
Some necessary back story: Ring Brothers are a shop based in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and have been stacking up big awards from shows like SEMA and Goodguys while being commissioned to deliver badass projects to individual customers and OEMs alike.
This particular Javelin was commissioned by Prestone as a celebration of their 90th anniversary, and had already been in the Rings’ garage for decades before being selected as their next mad machine.
You may find the color polarizing. We think it’s cool. If it looks familiar, we’ve discussed it previously. Its origin is a color from BASF, infamously associated with BMW. For this project, Ring Brothers have named it “Jalop Gold,” in a nod to one of this very website’s finer attempts at a naked cash grab.
Once we at Jalopnik learned the color name, we knew one of us had to check it out. I drew the lucky straw.
I’ll readily admit my background with muscle cars is as not comprehensive as some, but I’ve always liked Javelins. (In general, how can you not like AMC?) They aren’t like the Camaros, Mustangs, or Trans Ams you always see at any parking lot meet-up. And being less popular, parts don’t come as readily available in some cases. Ring Brothers have a specialty for 1960s muscle cars, with several of their previous builds including your more well-known American rides, but this project had to be somewhat different.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen any AMC project with any serious level of modification or restoration, so kudos to the Rings for pulling this one off. This creation goes wild with the amount of work put not only into the appearance, but with its performance.
While the biggest power plant offered by AMC in 1972 was the 315-horsepower 6.4-liter V8, Ring Brothers decided that wasn’t going to cut it. In its place there’s a Wegner Motorsports 6.2-liter Hemi crate motor from a Hellcat.
With 707 horsepower, that’s a substantial upgrade, but that still wasn’t enough. The Hellcat comes with a 2.4-liter blower atop that big Hemi, but again the brothers weren’t satisfied. Chunking that puny blower in the dumpster, a Whipple 4.5-liter intercooled supercharger now takes its seat atop the engine. If you like hearing a blower whine as you spool it up, this package will bring great joy to your life.
Big muscle car noises come out of Ring Brothers’ custom headers hooked up to a Flowmaster 44 stainless steel exhaust system. There isn’t a second spent in this car where I am not tempted to light it up, melt some rubber, and listen to this giant power plant scream in anger. It’s throaty, pronounced, and clean.
Along Pacific Coast Highway, plenty of Prius and Tesla drivers stopped and stared, forced to reckon with their own fears and insecurities. Rumbling around Southern California is the perfect way to show off this glorious experiment in American excess.
A Holley Dominator fuel management system and Aeromotive fuel tank and fuel pumps make sure the pump gas makes burns up as efficiently and effectively as possible. Ring Brothers didn’t mention any MPG figures, but who cares when you’re having this much fun with over 1,000 horsepower at your disposal.
Now cranking out a quoted 1,036 horsepower, it’s obvious to say no ordinary 1970s transmission could handle this output. Instead Ring Brothers made another upgrade, employing a Chevy 4L80E four-speed automatic by Bowler Transmissions, which they claim can handle up to 1,600 horsepower. It’s a perfect swap for this car, and always felt like it chose the correct gear for the moment. Not once was it chasing back and forth for the proper ratio to cruise or leap into action, like I experienced previously in automatic-equipped Hellcat models.
From the back of the gearbox, a QA1 carbon fiber driveshaft twists the rear axle that has a set of HRE 20-inch wheels wrapped in 335/30 Michelin Super Sport rubber. Turning that expensive rubber into a gooey strip on the pavement takes little effort. We may have tested this a few times, just to be sure.
Surprisingly, the power delivery in Defiant! is simple and smooth—if you are too. All too often, mega muscle cars pack so much unusable power that breathing anywhere near the go pedal results in either a jumpy sensation from the car or produces results that rival those of a Mustang leaving a Cars & Coffee.
Now, if you put your foot to the floor suddenly at any speed in any gear, you will light up the tires, and this Javelin will surge forward at a pace you’ve probably never experienced.
I didn’t take any corners flat out, but it was a delight to see that I could mash the accelerator out of any medium bend, counter steer slightly, and the car would take off so easily in the direction intended.
To not only make the Hellcat crate motor fit, but also accommodate upgraded suspension components, Ring Brothers hit up Detroit Speed again for a hydro formed front subframe originally designed for a Camaro. and a set of their front sway bars. The combination is brilliant.
The steering wheel maintains a classic AMC look, but with updated supple leather meeting your hands. It felt slightly soft on center, but never truly dead. As soon as you gave it a flick, the big Javelin would easily maneuver from one lane to another. You would expect those passive wheels and tires to make steering effort heavy, and a rub could happen in many cases, but Defiant! was simple to steer, carried its weight far better than anticipated, and not once did the tires rub the fenders.
One could attribute the extra ride comfort to a number of things. For instance, Ring Brothers stretched the wheelbase six inches by pushing the engine further forward. The rear suspension is a custom 4-link by Ring Brothers, and both ends rely on RideTech shocks to keep things planted while comfortable.
As I cruised down PCH, Defiant! was as comfortable and compliant as a base model Dodge Challenger. Subtle bumps and manhole covers couldn’t be felt in the cabin at all. Even bumpier pavement didn’t unsettle the chassis. Stopping power comes via huge Baer 6S six-piston calipers, painted white.
What surprised me most is how quiet and still everything was in the cabin when sitting at a light. With a big crate motor with a ton of upgrades, you’d expect this thing to shake and rumble. Not a chance in this Javelin.
While I had the windows down on my drive, the Rings did keep warmer climates in mind by equipping a Vintage Air Gen IV evap kit, keeping the engine bay heat to a minimum.
Given the hype around this car, the expectations are high, and off the shelf lighting and interior details aren’t allowed. Nor is keeping the standard, heavy steel body. The Rings are known for their fabrication in house, and flexed their muscle in Defiant! Their attention to detail through rapid prototyping blew me away. Nothing seemed overdone, and all pieces fit the style of the era perfectly.
Much of the body work is now made from carbon fiber composites, as a collective effort between Ring Brothers and Solidworks. The front fenders, hood (which is much taller, to fit the big blower), grill and front valance are also made from carbon fiber by The Rings. The Javelin’s bumpers, trim, engine bay accessories, and taillights are all machined from aluminum in the Ring Brothers shop.
Gauges are custom pieces from Classic Instruments, and the surrounding trim is rapid prototype work from the Rings. There’s a Kicker audio system cranking out a ton of sound, should you want to listen to music, but not once did I try it out, opting instead to listen to that four-digit power plant soundtrack. Keeping the interior quiet and the audio inside, the Javelin’s interior is coated in plenty of Dynamat.
Making me smile in a modded muscle car is easy, but impressing me with fit and finish has always been a difficult task. Far too often I drive 1960s and 1970s cars that are thrown together with a bunch of zip-ties and poor welds, big engine swaps with transmissions that don’t work in any sort of harmony, and Bondo-riddled bodies paired with orange peel paint work.
What Ring Brothers pulled off in crafting this beast of an AMC Javelin is stunning. I can’t wait to see more work coming out of their Wisconsin shop for many years to come.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the car had an eight-speed automatic; as you might have guessed, it’s not that fancy. It has a four-speed auto. The text has been fixed.