Gearheads are a sentimental lot. Most every project has a story, memory, or other emotional attachment to it. It could be the car the builder wanted since they were in short pants, the first car they owned, or the one that got away years ago.  Often it’s a reminder of wrenching with dad or vehicular shenanigans committed with high school buddies. 

Here’s a proud Dalton O’Neal standing by his 1971 AMC Javelin SST at the 2022 SEMA Show. And proud he should be. The Javelin is Dalton’s first full-on build, done like many of us do our own—at home with basic tools and plenty of help from friends and family. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

For Dalton O’Neal, it was his father’s enthusiasm for the AMC Javelin that led to building this 1971 AMC Javelin SST.

“As a kid growing up I helped put cars together with my dad. When I was five years old we built a 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 and later on a 1972 Mercury Cougar, but dad always talked about Javelins,” Dalton explained. “When I got out of high school I did some research on Javelins. I learned about the car’s SCCA Trans-Am racing career and how Roger Penske and Mark Donohue won the 1971 championship with one. Now I knew why dad liked them so much—the Javelin was an underdog that took on Camaros and Mustangs and beat them.”

Here’s what Dalton started with. He found the Javelin in Utah where it had been sitting in a field for 41 years, apparently a street machine project that had been abandoned. Utah’s climate was pretty kind to the car as it had solid bones. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

It took Dalton three years, but he finally tracked down a ’71 SST in Utah. Even though it had been sitting in a field for 41 years, the body was solid. Dalton hauled the Javelin home, got it running, and drove it around his Jordan, Utah home while he finalized his plans for its resurrection.

The Javelin came with a 304 cubic inch V8 and a Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission. A 360 cube four-barrel engine was an option on SSTs, which is what Dalton went with. He bought a rebuilt 360 with a 0.030 inch overbore, swapped the cam for an Edelbrock Performer RPM hydraulic stick rated at 0.520/0.544 inches of lift, and replaced the oil pan with a Canton Road Race Series aluminum pan. The Canton pan has triple trap door baffles and a removable windage/anti-slosh baffle to keep oil at the pickup when the Javelin is twisting around the autocross cones.
The transmission is a Tremec TKX five-speed with a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch and a McLeod hydraulic throwout bearing. The bellhousing was made for Dalton by Silver Sport Transmission. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

A chance meeting with another AMC fan at the 2021 SEMA Show cemented Dalton’s plans.

“I met Darin Smith of DWS Classics, who had a Trans-Am inspired 1970 Javelin at the show,” Dalton said. “That car gave me a lot of ideas for my Javelin, including building it to SCCA regulations for autocrossing. Darin also shared a lot of advice about building race and show-worthy cars, and convinced me to enter the car in the Young Guns class for the 2022 SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.”

The Javelin’s paint looks a lot like the scheme applied to the Trans-Am Javelins back it the day, but Dalton says it’s actually based on an old Hot Wheels car he found. The Goodyear Blue Streak bias-ply race tires on Minilite-style wheels are dead ringers for those found on the original Trans-Am Javelins. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

Dalton finished 14th in the Young Guns, which is pretty darn impressive when you consider the Javelin is his first full build.

“I did everything in my carport, back yard, and on my back porch where I’ve got a little area to work in,” Dalton explained. “I don’t have a lift or a bunch of air tools—I used what I had.”

Underneath that Edelbrock air cleaner is a Holley Sniper EFI system. It can support up to 650 horsepower, but more importantly the system is more reliable and virtually immune to fuel starvation when Dalton is whipsawing the Javelin around the autocross cones. You can also see the Holley Sniper Hyperspark electronic distributor and coil that’s a plug-and-play installation for the Sniper EFI system and the March Performance serpentine accessory drive setup. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

He also got plenty of advice.

“I work in a transmission shop. My boss is a teacher as well, so he doesn’t do things for you—you learn to do them yourself,” Dalton said. “He really threw me in the hot seat and said, ‘If you’re going to race this car you have to trust it, so do it right’.”

It’s all business in the Javelin’s cockpit. In the dash from left to right is the touchscreen for the Holley Sniper EFI; AutoMeter Traditional Chrome Series oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel level gauges; AutoMeter Traditional Chrome speedometer; and the switch panel from the Painless Performance Pro Street 21-circuit wiring harness. Dalton steers with a Summit Racing™ Competition Steering Wheel and shifts gears with a Summit Racing™ Billet Shift Stick with a matching knob. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

My dad grew up around Darlington Speedway in South Carolina, so he knows old cars better than me. His experience was a huge help with the Javelin.”

And if you think parts to build a hot rod Javelin are tough to find, think again. Many of the parts Dalton used are available at Summit Racing:



Chassis and Brakes

Other Items

Dalton and a buddy installed a Rhodes Race Cars 10-point roll cage to comply with SCCA autocross rules. Made from 1.75 x 0.083 inch chromoly tubing, the cage comes with main and roof hoops; rear braces; side bars and windshield down bars; frame supports; seat crossmember; and a dash crossmember. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)
Dalton likes stopping almost as much as going, so he equipped the Javelin with 12 inch Wilwood disc brakes front and rear. You no doubt noticed the coilovers. Dalton got a front coilover conversion and a four-link rear coilover setup from Control Freak Suspensions. The rear axle is a custom-built Ford 9 inch with an Auburn Gear Grip-N-Lock differential, 3.70 gears, and a Summit Racing™ nodular iron third member case. (Image/Dalton O’Neal)

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Author: Alan Rebescher

Editor, author, PR man—Alan Rebescher has done it all in a 25 year career in the high performance industry. He has written and photographed many feature stories and tech articles for Summit Racing and various magazines including Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding, and edited Summit Racing’s Street & Strip magazine in the 1990s. His garage is currently occupied by a a 1996 Mustang GT ragtop.