In the world of limited editions and special versions, fashion designers sometimes manage to bridge the gap between the fashion and the automobile industry. Nowadays it’s fairly commonplace as a crude marketing exercise, but one of the earliest examples I can think of came from American Motors Corporation in the early seventies.
It’s no secret to regular ViaRETRO readers that I have a profound focus on the interior of classic cars. This is after all where we can spend hours on end while we enjoy our beloved classics out on the road where they belong. It’s equally no secret that I prefer my interiors to be a bit out-there. I’ve always been a huge fan of Porsche’s psychedelic Pascha interior and I seriously considered purchasing this rather ordinary Simca Horizon simply because of its funky striped seats. If I can’t have waving chequered flags or vivid stripes, then at least give me a plush velour interior in bright orange or deep green. As such, it should probably come as no surprise that I quite fancy AMC’s attempts at sprucing up their model range with the magic touch of European fashion icons.
It kicked off in early 1972 when Gucci was contracted to design a luxury trim package for the AMC Hornet Sportabout. Shortly after that, they gave us the Cardin package for the AMC Javelin and finally in 1974 the Cassini package for the AMC Matador. But of the three, it’s Pierre Cardin’s design which truly stands out for me – it’s just entirely bonkers!
While Cardin was born in Italy, he was raised and educated in France. After having worked his way to the top, he started his own fashion house in 1950. He quickly became a master of Haute Couture and continued to evolve from there often shocking the entire world of fashion as he came up with new and ravish ideas and concepts.
For the second-generation 1972 AMC Javelin, Cardin came up with a bold mirrored, multi-coloured pleated stripe pattern in tones of Chinese red, plum, white, and silver that were set against a black background. The nylon fabric with a stain-resistant silicone finish covered not just the front and rear seats, but the multi-coloured stripes ran across the doorcards too. But the extravagance didn’t stop there. The stripes were even mirrored in the rooflining! I don’t recall that having ever been done before or since on any other interior. It was certainly both daring and outlandish.
The exterior remained stock but was given only a limited selection of paint colours to compliment Cardin’s wild interior: you could choose between Trans Am Red, Snow White, Stardust Silver, Diamond Blue, and not least Wild Plum. Yet, there were 12 Cardin-optioned Javelins which were specially ordered in Midnight Black. The front wings were of course adorned by Cardin’s designer emblem.
AMC’s adverts claimed that: “Only Pierre Cardin can make upholstery look so elegant, door panels so classy, and a headliner so chic”. Now despite me really liking the Cardin Javelin, I’m not entirely convinced anyone can call it either elegant nor classy. However, I’m thoroughly on board with it being chic. AMC anticipated selling 2,500 examples of the Cardin trim package, but after having it as an option for 1972 and 1973, a total of 4,152 Javelins had left AMC with the ostentatious Cardin interior.
I’m sure many will find it both garish and exorbitant. To be honest, I can see why. But much like I love Mopar’s Mod Top, I find Cardin’s take on the Javelin quite refreshing. It dares to stand out and be different, and in this mundane sea of silver and black modern plastic cars, that can only be a good thing. But what say you dear ViaRETRO reader. Is the whacky and bizarre Cardin Javelin best forgotten or celebrated?