About AMT Corporation
In the 60’s, AMT Corporation was the largest manufacturer of plastic model cars in the world. The company was doing very well for selling kits that averaged $1.50 each. But they were always looking for new avenues to pursue. They eventually got into SCI FI models and other types of kits.
In 1965, AMT opened a shop in Phoenix, AZ, managed by custom car builder, Gene Winfield, to build real cars for the TV and movie industry. The plan was to furnish the vehicles to the shows for free in exchange for the rights to sell plastic model kits of the cars.
AMT built cars for TV shows that included The Hero, T.H.E. Cat, Get Smart, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which featured a brand new sports car that AMT was planning to build up to 50 units a year for consumers. It was called the Piranha and based on an experimental, Corvair-powered car called the Cycolac Research Vehicle (CRV) by Marbon Chemicals, a division of Borg Warner.
AMT had been approached by Marbon to take over production of the car and the model company thought it would be a good sideline for the shop in Phoenix. To promote the new car, they first built a drag racer for the new Funny Car division that was sweeping the nation.
The Piranha dragster was strictly an exhibition car, but was one of the first Funny Cars to hit 200 mph. AMT then used the sixth CRV built and loaned to them by Marbon, to build the Man from U.N.C.L.E. car for the TV show, by adding all sorts of spy gadgets and secret weapons. A roadster sports racing car was also built with the help of a local racer, Dick Carbajal, to promote the car locally.
Soon, AMT started building street versions of the car to sell to consumers. They even had preorders for the car. However, it wasn’t long before AMT discovered it was costing them more to hand-build each car than they could sell them for. So after only a few street cars were built, AMT negotiated with Marbon to cancel their contract.
Marbon wanted the completed street cars and the UNCLE car back as compensation. However, Winfield wanted the UNCLE car for the show car circuit so they agreed to let him strip off the spy stuff from the car and remount the hardware on a Piranha chassis. The original CRV-VI was then rebuilt to a stock car and given back to Marbon.
The orphaned AMT cars were promptly rebadged with CRV logos and sent to various Marbon and Borg Warner locations as promotional vehicles. They eventually ended up in private hands. The rebuilt UNCLE car, Piranha Dragster, and Carbajal race car have all been restored to original condition. The other remaining cars are in the processes of restoration.