Project AMC--The Introduction
Project AMC--AMC Gremlin
Project AMC--AMC Hornet and AMC Eagle
Project AMC--AMC Pacer
1976 AMC Gremlin--1997 Acura Integra GS-R
1976 AMC Gremlin X--1997 Acura Integra Type R
The following is an excerpt from a diary kept by Motoring Magazine Road Test Editor Tom Kelly, dated Jan. 5, 1976--the date on which the revitalized American Motors Corporation released its second-generation Gremlin to the press for evaluation:
I flew in to Los Angeles last night to cover the press launch of the new AMC Gremlin, and of course my body clock woke me up way too early as it always does when I fly to the West Coast. I don't need to be at the Hilton until 9 a.m., so I may as well pass the time writing.
I have to admit I'm not particularly excited about today's launch. I'm tired of complaining about how smog equipment and baroque decoration are choking the spirit out of new cars, and these press launches are getting more and more painful. I guess the launch of the new Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare a few months ago was encouraging in a way--it's nice to see Detroit finally paying some attention to downsizing--but I had to work so hard to force a smile that my face was sore for weeks. It's tough to whip up too much excitement for yet another smog-crippled, workhorse sedan. I'm sure it'll be a fine car, and it might even revitalize Chrysler--but after the fun we had in the 1960s and with the interesting cars being released in Europe, I'll be damned if I can work up any excitement for another dull sedan with a low-compression V-8.
Normally, the only thing duller than the Aspen/Volare would be the release of a new economy car from staid old, withering-on-the-vine American Motors. My only glimmer of hope is that I may be able to learn something about the mystery surrounding AMC over the last few months. When I first heard the news that AMC had been sold, several plants had been shuttered, and the company was canceling production of its current lineup, we all figured the leaning tower was beginning its final collapse a good decade before anybody expected.
Dealerships have been screaming bloody murder for being left without inventory for so long, but at least factory workers are happy--they're being paid full wages to stay home. Nobody has been able to figure out why they haven't just been laid off, or who will be actually be building the new AMCs. I'll have to make a note to ask AMC's PR staff about that when I see them today. At the very least I might get a new evasive answer out of them.
The initial specification sheet that AMC PR mailed over looks mildly interesting but curiously short on detail. The new Gremlin will be available as either a two-door with a hatchback or as a four-door sedan, which is a minor surprise as the old Gremlin was available with two doors only.
Apparently the new Gremlin won't feature the old straight six or V-8 as the old one did; it will feature what is apparently a new 1.8-liter inline four. The pre-release sheet didn't specify power output or any additional detail, so I'd assume it's a conventional low-output pushrod affair in the AMC tradition, fed by either a one- or two-barrel carburetor. It's hard to generate enthusiasm about yet another car shedding horsepower, but at least AMC's small car will finally be the least bit fuel-efficient.
There is a big surprise, though, and that is that the new Gremlin will apparently feature a Issigonis-style transverse engine and front-wheel drive just like the revolutionary new Volkswagen Rabbit. This is clearly the direction in which economy cars are going in the future, but I wouldn't have expected AMC to beat all of the Big Three to the punch on this. We'll see how well it's done--I can't imagine AMC could put together something even remotely as slick as the Rabbit with their shoestring budget.
But as I said, I'd expect the new Gremlin to finally be a bit more efficient than the old one. Gas prices haven't really dropped that much in the 18 months since OPEC dropped their embargo.It's a shame, though--the old Gremlin was fun despite its many flaws. How long will the new Gremlin take to get from 0-60? 15 seconds? 20? It's all part of our brave new future, I guess.
Well, I've successfully burned an hour and may as well find a diner for some breakfast. I'll pick this back up later.