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The AMC Gremlin is a two-door subcompact car produced in the United States and Canada by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) between 1970 and 1978. In typical fashion, AMC expanded their development and manufacturing profits by adapting a shortened Hornet platform with a Kammback-type tail, continuing the 1968–1970 Javelin and AMX pattern but without the limited production aspect of the AMX, as forecast by the 1969 AMX GT. The manufacturer described the car as "the first American-built import".

Introduced on April 1, 1970, and competing with the Chevrolet Vega, Ford Pinto, and imported cars including the VW Beetle and the Toyota Corona, the Gremlin became AMC's best-selling passenger car since the Rambler Classic. A total of 671,475 were built in its single generation (one chassis design and body style).

History

Origin and design

A 2005 book described the Gremlin as a "bold and innovative” response to two imminent crises faced by the American automobile industry at the time of its design: reduced gasoline supplies, and an "alarming increase" in the sale of fuel-efficient imports.

Ford and General Motors were to launch new subcompact cars for 1971, but AMC did not have the financial resources to compete with an entirely new design. Chief stylist Richard A. Teague's solution, which he said he sketched on an air sickness bag, was to truncate the tail of a Javelin. The resulting AMX-GT, first shown at the New York International Auto Show in April 1968, did not go into production. (The AMX name was used from 1968 to 1970 on a shortened, two-seat version of the Javelin.)

Instead, Bob Nixon, AMC’s future Chief of Design, designed the new subcompact based on the manufacturer’s Hornet model, a compact car. The design reduced the wheelbase from 108 to 96 inches (2,700 to 2,400 mm) and the overall length from 179 to 161 in (4,547 to 4,089 mm), making the Gremlin two inches (50 mm) longer than the Volkswagen Beetle and shorter than the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega.

Capitalizing on AMC's advantage as a small car producer, the Gremlin was introduced on April 1, 1970, and was rated a good buy at an economical price. The April 6, 1970 cover of Newsweek magazine featured a red Gremlin for its article, "Detroit Fights Back: The Gremlin". The car was available as a "base" two-seater with fixed back window, at a suggested retail price of $1,879 (US$11,245 in 2012 dollars), and as a four-seater hatchback with opening rear window, at $1,959 (US$11,724 in 2012 dollars).

The car achieved sales of 25,300 in its abbreviated first model year.

From the front of the car to the B-pillars, the Gremlin was essentially the same as the AMC Hornet. Although it was only fractionally longer than the contemporary Volkswagen Beetle, Time said the length of its hood over the front-mounted engine made "the difference seem considerably more", adding that the car "resembles a sawed-off station wagon, with a long, low hood and swept-up rear, and is faintly reminiscent of the original Studebaker Avanti." As with the Volkswagen, the Gremlin's styling set it apart from other cars. Time said that “like some other cars of less than standard size, the back seat is designed for small children only." The Gremlin's wider stance gave it "a stable, quiet and relatively comfortable ride—for the two front passengers”, for whom, by small-car standards, there was more than average interior width, seat room and leg room. The six cubic feet of luggage space behind the back seat was less than in the rear-engined Volkswagen Beetle, but with the seat folded the cargo area tripled to 18 cubic feet (509.7 l).

The upright design of the tail, which enlarged interior space, was aerodynamically efficient. Later, European and Japanese manufacturers similarly created different models from basic small car designs by extending or curtailing the trunk (e.g. Volkswagen’s Jetta and Golf models).

Marketing

AMC executives apparently felt confident enough to not worry that the Gremlin name might have negative connotations. Time noted two definitions for gremlin: "Defined by Webster's as 'a small gnome held to be responsible for malfunction of equipment.' American Motors' definition: 'a pal to its friends and an ogre to its enemies.'" The car’s cartoon-inspired mascot was marketed for product differentiation and was intended to be memorable to consumers.

AMC promoted the Gremlin as "America's first subcompact". This description overlooks the Nash Metropolitan and the earlier Crosley. The Metropolitan—a subcompact-sized captive import, American-conceived and American-designed for the American market, and built in the UK with a British engine—has a claim to be "America's first subcompact."

Annual changes (1970–1978)

1970

The Gremlin debuted in April 1970 with AMC's 199 cu in (3.3 L) I6, a seven main bearing design which produced 128 hp (95 kW) as standard equipment, with AMC's 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 - producing 145 hp (108 kW) - as an option. AMC said the Gremlin offered "the best gas mileage of any production car made in America". According to the auto editors of Consumer Guide it had "an unusually long option list for the era" so owners could have luxury and conveniences typically found in more expensive cars, and these options "came with a much higher profit margin" for the automaker. Sales for the abbreviated model year were 25,300.

A nationwide survey based on 1,350,000 owner-driven miles of the 1970 AMC Gremlin by Popular Mechanics concluded that the unique styling attracted many buyers, but economy topped their likes.

1971

For the 1971 model year the "X" appearance/equipment trim package was introduced as a $300 option on the 4-passenger model and "proved extremely popular." It included body side tape stripes, body color front fascia, slotted road wheels with Goodyear Polyglas D70x14 tires, blackout grille insert, bucket seats, and "X" decals.

The 2-passenger Gremlin version entered into its second and final season. The 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 engine that was optional for 1970 became standard, while a longer-stroke 258 cu in (4.2 L) version became the option. Compression ratios dropped from 8.5:1 to 8:1 for 1971, resulting in 135 hp (101 kW) (gross) from the 232 cu in (3.8 L) and 150 hp (112 kW) (gross) from the 258 cu in (4.2 L).

1971 Gremlin prices increased slightly (up by $20 to $1,899 for the base model), and sales for this first full model year rose to 53,480.

1972

All Gremlins received a new body-colored front fascia treatment for 1972. Among many other changes was an available 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine. Engine ratings were downgraded to more accurate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) net hp figures, bringing the 232 cu in (3.8 L) engine to 100 hp (75 kW), the 258 cu in (4.2 L) to 110 hp (82 kW) and the 304 V8 to 150 hp (112 kW). The base two-seater model was discontinued, having sold 3,017 in 18 months. Gremlins also switched from non-synchro 1st gear manual transmissions to full synchromesh, and the Borg-Warner-sourced automatic transmission was replaced by the Chrysler-designed TorqueFlite. Other more minor technical upgrades improved the car's reliability and durability.

AMC introduced America's first bumper-to-bumper warranty, called the "Buyer Protection Plan". Numerous production and product improvements would result in fewer warranty claims, better public relations, and greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. 1972 sales totaled 61,717, a 15% gain over the previous year.

1973

For the 1973 model year, AMC strengthened bumpers able to withstand a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) impact in the front and a 2.5-mile-per-hour (4 km/h) impact in the rear, to meet new safety mandates by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Optional was a Levi's interior trim package, which included spun nylon upholstery made to look like denim (fire safety regulations prohibited the use of real cotton denim). Details included removable map pockets, burnished copper denim rivets, and red Levi's logo tabs. Rear-seat legroom was increased. The X package received a new tape-striping pattern that kicked up over the Gremlin's rear wheel flares.

Sales improved to 122,844 units, nearly 30% more than 1972. A 1973 Gremlin purchased by Consumer Reports was top-rated in a group of six subcompact models tested for the June issue. That car had relatively few sample defects and proved reliable over a long-term test.

1974

The Arab Oil Embargo of October 1973 came just as the 1974 model year began. AMC improved the Gremlin's back seat. A deeper front fascia made the car appear longer. A larger front bumper was mounted on self-restoring telescoping gas and oil cylinders. Unlike most other designs, the Gremlin did not use filler panel between bumper and body. A stronger rear bumper was set lower - front and rear passenger car bumpers were now required by NHTSA to have uniform heights, take angle impacts, and sustain 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) impacts with no damage. The rear fascia was modified slightly to blend with the design changes. The Gremlin X stripe pattern was given a "hockey stick" look for 1974: the stripes followed the window line as it tapered aft, and swept up now to include four diagonal lines on the wide C-pillar. A new typeface for nameplates was used by AMC for 1974, including on the Gremlin. With the car's 1974 model year extended into November to delay the need to install catalytic converters required by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2004 regulations starting with 1975 models, AMC sold 171,128 1974 Gremlins, an increase of nearly 40% over 1973 and 130% over 1971.

1975

Fewer changes for the 1975 model year included minor modifications to the shape of the bumpers, availability of a catalytic converter, and standard electronic ignition. Struggling under stagflation and an inflationary economy, American subcompact sales slumped. AMC sold 56,011 Gremlins in the (albeit shortened) 1975 model year, a 67% drop.

1976

Changes were greater for 1976. Oval headlight bezels replaced the previous circular items. The grille shape became a stretched hexagon and included in its insert two opposing loops stacked atop each other and housing new rounded parking/turn signal lights. Front fenders were taller, with a slight finned effect. A new "Custom" trim line debuted, featuring a striped interior trim called "Potomac", as well as a spare tire cover and other minor details. The A models were given another new striping scheme: the hockey stick-style stripe of the previous year adding a secondary extension that ran from the door-handle straight back. The X package was now available only on Custom models. Due to flagging sales, the 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine option (now downgraded to 120 hp (89 kW)) was cancelled at midyear, after only 826 installations. (A total of 40,994 Gremlins were equipped with the V8 engine from 1972 to 1976.) A 4-speed manual transmission was made available at midyear. Sales tapered slightly to 52,941 - a decline of 5.5%.

1977

1977 changes included redesigned sheet metal for the first time in the Gremlin's now 8-year history: revised hood, shorter front fenders, new bumpers, taller glass tailgate, enlarged taillights, and rear license plate now covering the fuel filler. The front end was shortened by four inches (102 mm) with all new sheet metal and a crosshatch grille insert. Parking lights reverted to rectangular, and headlights were recessed into square bezels with rounded corners. The new hood had a small "power bulge" at the front. The base model now included carpeting, as well as rocker panel and wheel lip moldings. Available was the "Custom" model with a list price of $2,998. The X package returned as a $189 option, with a new striping pattern that ran straight back from the front fenders and crested upward over the rear wheels. Front disc brakes became standard.

At the start of the model year, the Gremlin was available with either the standard 232 cu in (3.8 L) or optional 258 cu in (4.2 L) six-cylinder engines. Both had increased power from updated cylinder heads and two-barrel carburetors. In addition, AMC offered a carbureted four-cylinder engine: a Volkswagen/Audi 2.0 L (120 cu in) Straight-4, also used in fuel-injected form in the Porsche 924. It gave better fuel economy but less power than the standard six-cylinder engines, and reduced the Gremlin's weight by 250 pounds (113 kg), allowing it to achieve an EPA rating of 21 mpg-US (11 L/100 km; 25 mpg-imp) in the city, and 33 mpg-US (7.1 L/100 km; 40 mpg-imp) on the highway. It was reserved for the Custom version of the Gremlin because the expense of acquiring the rights to the engine meant that AMC could not afford to make it standard equipment. Of 46,171 Gremlins built for 1977 (13% less than in 1976), 7,558 had the new 2.0 L engine.

1978

In its final year of 1978, the Gremlin received a number of changes, but customers on a tighter budget could still get a standard six-cylinder base model Gremlin for under US$3,400. Inside, there was a revised instrument panel borrowed from the then-new 1978 Concord. The dashboard had high-level ventilation HVAC, radio switchgear within easier reach, and a flat, full-width top. The X's tape striping pattern was revised to match the 1978 Concord Sport package design, with the stripe at the lower body side and curving over the wheel lip.

At mid-season, a GT package became available with a front spoiler and flared wheel openings as on the 1978 AMX. The GT added an aluminum overlay to the instrument panel, was powered by the 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 as standard, and had its own stripe scheme: a wide tape stripe, outlined by a narrow one, ran back from the front fenders and widened aft of the rear quarter windows. The package also included body-color fender flares and front air dam, as well as body-color bumpers, all of which combined to give the GT a modern, aggressive look. Fewer than 3,000 Gremlin GTs were built.

The Gremlin's body shape had not changed appreciably in its nine years of production, and other more advanced subcompacts, lighter in weight, with more doors, better interiors and front-wheel drive, had appeared on the market. Gremlin sales for the final year fell 52% to 22,104 units. By the time production ceased, a total of 671,475 Gremlins had been built.

Performance

During its era, the AMC Gremlin's performance was above subcompact car levels. A road test by Motor Trend magazine recorded a zero to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) acceleration time of 12.6 seconds with the 232 cu in (3.8 L) engine. Both the Ford Pinto and the VW Beetle were in the 18-second range. Fuel economy was reasonably good at 28 mpg-US (8.4 L/100 km; 34 mpg-imp) to 30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp) with the small six, but it was not competitive with the 35-plus mpg economy of the VW Beetle.

The car's front-heaviness was generally thought to compromise the handling, although journalist and automobile critic Tom McCahill writing in Mechanix Illustrated found the AMC Gremlin "fast and easy", and the ride was comparatively stiff because of the shortened rear springs. On the other hand, he showed that acceleration and top speed were better than other subcompacts of the era. McCahill ran the 232-engined Gremlin with automatic transmission from zero to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in 11.9 seconds and saw 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) on the Daytona Speedway straightaway. He summarized: "on a dollar for dollar basis, I rate the Gremlin the best American buy of the year".

Car and Driver magazine recorded a 0-60 mph time of 11.9 seconds with a Gremlin powered by the 232 cubic inch engine.

In a "Critical Look at the 1973 American Cars" article in Automobile Quarterly the summary verdict was that the basic "Gremlin offers outstanding performance for an economy car and excellent fuel mileage."

Popular Mechanics magazine tested the new for 1977 Audi four-cylinder engine and found its acceleration with a four-speed manual to "feel amazingly strong" with zero to 60 mph and quarter-mile elapsed time only one second slower than with the 232 cubic inch straight-six (16 vs. 15, and 21 vs. 20 seconds respectively. The small engine produced EPA mileage of 35 mpg-US (6.7 L/100 km; 42 mpg-imp) highway and 22 mpg-US (11 L/100 km; 26 mpg-imp) city.

The Gremlin's body structure was heavier and stronger than its domestic or imported competitors. The engines were more powerful than any fielded by its main domestic competition. Not only were the Gremlin's powertrains smoother and more reliable, but the car also had a cleaner recall record. The Gremlin's chief import rival, the Volkswagen Beetle, did not handle as well, and got similar gas mileage from about 40% of the Gremlin's horsepower, but it was packaged marginally better (both cars were the same overall size). Gremlin designer Richard Teague commented in Motor Trend magazine that to compare the Beetle (whose basic design originated in the late 1930s) to the Gremlin in profile and body design was like "comparing a Ford GT40 to the Hindenburg".

Randall 401-XR

Randall AMC dealership in Mesa, Arizona received AMC's endorsement to build 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8 powered Gremlins. The cars started out as 304 V8 models from the factory and after Randall's modifications would run 13.90's at 103-106 miles per hour (171 km/h) in the quarter mile, for $2,995 (US$15,680 in 2012dollars). Known as the Randall 401-XR (X for Gremlin X, R for Randall), a total of twenty cars were built for the street and one for the strip during 1972, 1973, and 1974. Car Craft magazine tested one with some modifications and achieved 115.07 miles per hour (185 km/h) in 12.22 seconds while still remaining a "totally streetable, daily-driver".

Racing

The AMC Gremlin saw action on numerous auto racing venues, including endurance, as well as oval and road racing. Due to their inherent inexpensiveness, strength, and the ease with which they could be modified for higher performance, many AMC Gremlins were used in drag racing.

During the 1970s road courses such as the Virginia International Raceway, a challenging course with many turns, straightaways, as well as over 100 feet of elevation change, hosted numerous racing events with smaller American cars, such as the Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin, became the norm on the track.

Lenny Podbielski was "a major player in late 1970s Speedbowl action" and the Gremlin-bodied machines he raced were "some of the prettiest cars of the era."

Heading AMC's Pro Stock drag racing efforts starting in 1970 was Wally Booth. He and other drivers campaigned Gremlins painted in the hash red, white, and blue pattern that AMC had adopted as its corporate race livery. Dick Arons built the engines. The team "transformed the brand’s staid grocery-getter reputation from the ground up into that of a genuine performance powerhouse." Wally Booth "was one of the Edelbrock crew's favorite racers."

Three factory Pro-Stock 1972 Gremlin drag racers were campaigned around the nation. One was driven by Rich LaMont and sponsored by radio station 99 WIBG in Philadelphia, PA. This car has been restored with a 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 with 4-speed manual transmission and it still runs the quarter-mile at around 8.75 seconds achieving over 150 mph (240 km/h).

AMC Gremlins appear in competitions: for example, at the 2006 World Power Wheelstanding Championships (not a race event, but a "wheelie" contest), Brian Ambrosini's specially modified 1974 Gremlin took second place.

Other markets

Mexico

Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) manufactured Gremlins in Mexico under license and partial ownership (38% equity share) by AMC, and continued to use the Gremlin name for several years after it faded in the U.S. The VAM cars had trim, interiors, and model names that differed from the equivalent AMC-made models. The 1976 VAM Gremlin X came with the longer front end from the Hornet, and its interior was trimmed in the "Navajo" pattern cloth upholstery that was optional on AMC's Pacer DL models built for the Canadian and U.S. markets. The base VAM Gremlin also included luxurious seating with a center armrest that was never available in the U.S. models.

All engines built by VAM were of AMC design, modified to deal with Mexico's lower octane gasoline and higher altitudes. Options included a unique 282 cu in (4.6 L) version of AMC's straight 6.

One vehicle was assembled from a Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kit by Australian Motor Industries in Port Melbourne for evaluation purposes. AMI assembles and marketed other AMC models (AMX, Hornet, Javelin, and Matador) in Australia. It was branded as a "Rambler Gremlin" (as were all of the other AMI-made AMC's) and powered by the standard 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 with three-speed manual transmission. The car features right-hand drive and the mandated percentage of locally produced content.

Hurst Rescue System 1

Between 1972 and 1974, Hurst Performance marketed "a highway safety vehicle" for emergency services, as well as a compact alternative to trucks for motorsport race tracks. The "Hurst Rescue System 1" was based on the AMC Gremlin and designed to quickly assist vehicle extrication of crash victims. The vehicle came with the "Hurst Rescue Tool", commonly known as "The Jaws of Life", winch, stretcher, as well as firefighting and first aid supplies. The vehicle also included push bumpers and a 25-gallon water tank. The price for this fully equipped rescue vehicle was between $11,000 to $13,000.

Experimental

The Gremlin proved a popular test-bed for experiments with alternative fuels. Many universities converted them to run on natural gas, hydrogen, and electric power.

Hydrogen

In 1972 University of California, Los Angeles researchers won a nationwide Urban Vehicle Design Competition when they modified a 1972 AMC Gremlin to run on hydrogen and the lessons learned are still useful today. The engine was a converted Ford 351 cu in (5.8 L) V8 noted for its volumetric efficiency. Lacking sophisticated electronics and injection systems, the carburetor was a modified propane unit and the 100-litre (26.4 US gal) "thermos"-type hydrogen tank gave the Gremlin a 160 miles (257 km) range. Tests indicated that the car would not only meet the scheduled 1976 vehicle United States emission standards, but also actually emit slightly cleaner air than it took in. In 1984, UCLA's first hydrogen-powered car was sold for one dollar to the William F. Harrah Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

Alternative fuels

Other experiments used AMC Gremlins. To evaluate non-petroleum fuel and measure mechanical wear under mostly short city driving, a 1970 Gremlin with AMC's 232 cu in (3.8 L) engine operated successfully on methanol for ten years and 46,250 miles (74,432 km).

The broadest range of fuel tests were conducted by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) labs in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Engineers estimated the performance and fuel economy of 1977 Gremlin Xs operating on ordinary gasoline, a variety of wide boiling range fuels (naphtha, kerosene, etc.), as well as two alcohols, ethanol and methanol.

Electric

The Electric Fuel Propulsion Company (EFP) of Ferndale, Michigan produced a number of electric cars including the AMC Gremlin based, two-passenger X-144. Introduced in 1973 it featured a 20 horsepower (15 kW) direct current motor fueled by a 144-volt cobalt-lead storage batteries designed to reduce the formation of harmful gasses during recharging, as well as a regular 12-volt battery to operate the cars lights, horn, and heater blower. Performance was claimed to be similar to a base gasoline Gremlin, including a top speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h), but with a calculated lower cost per mile for the X-144 over five years and 20,000 miles (32,187 km) of use.

Exhibition

Engineers at Coleman Products Corporation in Coleman, Wisconsin created a non-drivable plexiglas Gremlin as a demonstrator of the placement and function of electrical wiring harnesses.

Concept Gremlins

Gremlin Voyager

In 1972 AMC developed a prototype "Gremlin Voyager" with a slide out rear panel called "Grem-Bin". The car was a production Gremlin with a proposed "shelf" design to make cargo loading easier.

XP prototype

In 1974 a production car was modified and dubbed the Gremlin XP prototype. It has a larger glass hatchback and additional side quarter windows. A pronounced crease started from the mid-body section and wraps over the roof while the rear quarter panels feature bulges around the wheel well openings. The rear panel has a recessed and blacked out area with four lights. The design of the concept car improved visibility around the Gremlin's original wide C-pillar.

Concept 80

In 1977 American Motors presented six show cars to illustrate the automaker’s commitment to smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles for the 1980s. Three of them, the "Concept I", "Concept II", and "Concept Grand Touring" represented new subcompact designs.

  • The Concept I car combined a "wedge-design" with a short hood, low body beltline, steeply raked windshield, and expanded glass area. The front featured a mesh grille with “rally-type” parking lights and rectangular headlamps. The rear end was squared off featuring large rear quarter windows to eliminate blind spots. The rear panel incorporated a characteristic continental tire bulge.
  • The Concept II design was another Gremlin replacement proposal featuring integral soft bumpers, headlamps concealed by flush sliding doors. A pronounced center structural "Targa-band" was designed to add strength to the roof. The squared off rear end featured a glass hatchback.
  • The Concept Grand Touring was a larger luxury hatchback designed for four-passengers. The interior was appointed in leather and corduroy upholstery and luxury appointments with deep-pile carpeting. The front end featured a “venturi” grille with rally-type lights. The rear side windows were "opera" recessed and surrounded by a vinyl cover that ran over the roof’s rear quarter. The Concept GT car had genuine wire wheels.

Design elements from the Concept II and Concept GT were incorporated into the Gremlin's replacement, the AMC Spirit that was introduced in 1979.

Production history and reception

The 1970s was one of the most volatile periods in the history of the automobile industry that is renowned for ups and downs. A total of 671,475 Gremlins were sold in the United States and Canada, making it the most popular single generation body style/chassis produced by AMC (other models, such as the Rambler and even Hornet, have higher production numbers, but consisted of more than one chassis design and body style in the case of the Rambler, multiple body styles for the Hornet).

A book about the popular history of the 1970s introduces it the decade of "pet rocks, shag carpets, platform shoes and the AMC Gremlin." It is among the cars that people who were in high school in the late 1970s and early 1980s would be familiar with because it was one of the first cars they drove and among most often seen in student parking lots. Kiplinger's personal finance magazine, Changing Times, listed the AMC Gremlin as first among the best subcompact used cars as "selected by top mechanics for good value, good service." Five years after the Gremlin's introduction, the mechanics liked the six-cylinder engine and most preferred automatic transmission. Comments included, "I have one. It's the greatest. I own one with a 304 V-8 engine. Have no trouble outside of normal maintenance."

During the early 1970s American cars “are remembered far more often for their power than their style, and ... throughout the decade, the character of cars became blurred. Only a handful of cars had real personalities...” the AMC Gremlin was one of them, “a pioneering hatchback”.

Officially discontinued after the 1978 model year, the Gremlin was restyled that including a new model that featured a sloping liftback for 1979 and the model line renamed the AMC Spirit. This restyled continuation of the familiar chopped-tail two-door and the new hatch coupe caused sales to increase to 52,478 units for 1979. The original "Kammback" body style continued in production until 1982 as the Spirit Sedan with larger rear side windows. The basic design was also used for the small AMC Eagle Kammback from 1981 to 1982.

American Motors lacked the funds to come up with a separate platform for a sub-compact car, so it did something different with an existing model and "although car snobs make fun of the chop-tailed Gremlin, it was a huge sales hit." The authors of the book 365 Cars You Must Drive "that any self-respecting auto enthusiast just has to know and experience from the driver’s seat" describe that "driving a Gremlin isn't about the drive; it's about being seen in one, making a statement that you dig the mid-1970s, and also woudn't be caught dead in something normal." An article published by Time in 2007 included the Gremlin as one of "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time", describing it as an AMC Hornet with the rear end whacked off, and criticizing its exterior proportions, with a long low snout, long front overhang and a truncated tail, "like the tail snapped off a salamander".

In 2007, Popular Science magazine included the 13.4-foot (4.1 m) AMC Gremlin as one of six historic cars that took "Small Steps to a Smart Future" in a special issue about the "Future of the Car: Efficiency".

Future U.S. Presidents

Two future U.S. presidents drove AMC Gremlins during their younger days.

"Bill Clinton drove the back roads of Northwest Arkansas in his green AMC Gremlin" during his campaign for the first and only race for Congress in 1974.

An AMC Gremlin with a Levi interior was owned by the George H. W. Bush family and driven by George W. Bush in 1973 while getting his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

Collectibility

Scarcity, and the fact that it is a 1970s car, makes the Gremlin collectible, and it has a following among old car hobbyists and collectors of historic vehicles. In some cases, the Gremlin enjoys "a cult-like following in today's collectible car market. In 2007 Business Week reported that 1970s cars such as the Gremlin were increasingly attractive to buyers, and an insurance provider for collector-car owners reported that values were rising.

In light of rising gasoline prices, the Gremlin offers a relatively economical alternative to muscle cars and the more massive American cars of its era-especially for buyers leaning toward the eccentric. AMC said the Gremlin got "the best gas mileage of any production car made in America", and its 21-US-gallon (79 L; 17 imp gal) gas tank allowed 500 miles (805 km) or more between fill-ups.

It has been said that scarcity makes any Gremlin in good condition worth preserving as a unique piece of automotive history. Original Gremlins with the V8 engine, X package models, Levi's trim, and also the 1978 GT versions, are the most sought-after and command higher prices.

Although Gremlins share numerous parts and components with other AMC models, finding parts for a restoration project can be difficult. This is exacerbated by the fact that many Gremlins were chopped up during the late 1970s and the 1980s to make dirt-track racers. The body of choice on the dirt circuit was the Gremlin and AMC Eagle. The subcompact bodies fit Modified chassis and of special interest was the Gremlin's slab top and sides with a contour that was easy to duplicate in sheet metal.

Over the years, many owners have converted Gremlins into home-built "muscle cars" because AMC engines up to the 401 cu in (6.6 L) "just drop right in".

There are active AMC car clubs with numerous local chapters to assist Gremlin owners.

Hot Wheels model

Hot Wheels designer Paul Tam created a "bizarre but beautifully rendered model of a six-wheeled AMC Gremlin called Open Fire" with the extra pair of wheels under a giant, exposed metal engine. Other than the engine, extra wheels, and elongated hood, "the Open Fire retains many accurate styling details of AMC’s quirky 1970s econocar."

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