Like most other cars American Motors made, the Gremlin is oftentimes a target for a certain percentage of other-brand automotive enthusiasts to poke fun at. It's usually featured in those ugly/worst car lists alongside the AMC Pacer which merely adds a reverse popularity element to it's reputation. As the more popular 'meat and potatoes' type musclecars have gotten pricey and scarce from being stored away by collectors, the Gremlin is currently garnering a small new popularity for it's potential as an engine-swap-to-musclecar candidate.
Of all the vehicles AMC made, only certain Jeep brand products were able to achieve an aura of high social status. Generally speaking, owning a Gremlin doesn't produce seething envy in the eyes of other people like the 'real' status cars do. A person who has chosen to drive a particular AMC car will most likely find conversations about it's weirdness, perceived low quality, or how American Motors went out business. That's just where they're placed in the car scene pecking order.
American Motors Corporation did not go out of busines, but that's another story.
A psychological generality every potential AMCer must face is called 'underdog complex'. This is where a person is initially attracted to an AMC vehicle by the way they look and considers the reputation to be wrongfully treated. At first, the person will actively attempt to 'right the wrong' by various deeds, but later on in their experience, will begin to settle into tolerating or even enjoying negative behavior associated to the car's reputation.
So, in other words, in the AMC hobby world there is a very real and noticeable psychological aspect of underdog human mental activity happening. Realizing the observable characteristic helps to make room for a healthier overall experience, instead of getting dosed with a weird new mental illness.
It's TIME FOR A MAJOR GREMLIN HISTORY EDIT!
A complete and thorough overhaul of AMC Gremlin history is needed for the benefit of all concerned.
Like my Marlin pages, it seems to me that the risk of being hated for loquacity has a lower value than the potential group value benefit that could be added by broadcasting new insights and observations that are related to AMC Gremlin history. While I would prefer to be a quiet man of action instead of just another spewing armchair engineer, if I forebear, the information I will try to convey has no chance to benefit the value and understanding of our favorite cars. I earnestly hope that the information herein illustrates a marked difference between the lukewarm literature that has been written by biased writers in the past and what could be expressed by a long term devoted AMC enthusiast who might be able to think their own thoughts after casting away the all too typical rotten, worn out, gobble-d-gook.
This is under construction, and I have no proof reader so there are likely to be errors and mistakes made that I have missed by an assortment of other inadequacies other than my less than perfect ability to convey a thought with concision. Of course I'll attempt to improve the text as time wears on;
The '70-'78 Gremlin is commonly catagorized as a sub-compact car made by American Motors Corporation. They were made in Kenosha Wisconsin USA, in Brampton Ontario Canada, and in Mexico City by VAM -Vehiculos Automores de Mexico. A few were made by AMI and sold as Rambler Gremlins in Australia.
It's not really a sub-compact car; it is in fact a shortened Hornet like the AMX two seater is to the Javelin. Like the two seater AMX it doesn't fit neatly into mainstream catagories to be classified. It's really just a smaller compact sized car made by shortening the Hornet chassis! The long and short chassis two-cars-out-of-one design was routine for AMC, going way back into the Nash days when they offered their shorter Statesman and longer Ambassador versions of same unibody chassis.
The Gremlin is related to AMC's '66 Project IV showcar named 'Cavalier' by it's Hornet chassis partner which was the closer image of that styling exercise. The iconic Gremlin sideview profile was heralded by the '69 AMX GT showcar. Even though the Gremlin is directly related to these two AMX origins, it's glorious birthright was noticeably avoided by mainstream writers back in the days when plausible disinformation may have taken place. It was rather mocked for being a different looking car and AMC's advertising team seemed to play tit for tat with their garbled messages.
Among the reasons the '69/'70 two seater AMX won the 'Best Engineered Car of the Year' award two years in a row by SAE was it's one piece injection molded plastic dash -done for safety reasons; for the occupants in a severe frontal collision to bounce off a flexible dash instead mashing into a steel framed one. Not mentioned was the fact that the US Federal Government was incrementally placing the no metal frame dash idea into law (all makers of cars to be sold in USA would have to do it) Many auto magazine writers who tested the Javelins and AMXs whined that the dash design was bland looking. For AMC it was a logical extension of it's Kelvinator Division which claimed to create the first one piece plastic inner liner for their refrigerators, and another opportunity to tell about their consideration to build a one piece injection molded plastic two seater sports car chassis during the design process of the AMX/3. They liked to brag about having the largest plastic injection molding machinery in US industry. So the '70 Hornet was next in line to get it's very own one piece plastic framed dash assembly.
The '70-'77 Gremlin shares the Hornet dash assembly, having only minor changes to the instrument cluster for product differentiation. Not mentioned in any creative, historical, aftermarket or in-house AMC literature is the fact that the Hornet dashboard is remarkably unique in all automotive history for it is a schematic diagram of the car tracing directly to the '66 Cavalier showcar design. Like the side profile of the Cavalier, so is the symmetrical profile of the dash. The left side = the front section of the car, the middle section = the passenger compartment, the right side of the dash = the trunk or rear section. It is even fun to tell a long-tongued description of how the controls and features of the dash map out the components of the actual car by analogy. Having never been informed of this, personally, I never really liked the look of it until one day about twenty years later I was thinking about customizing my Hornet and then I realized... suddenly I had a moment of clarity... it's... wow! it's... the dash is a schematic diagram of the Cavalier! There is no other car in all automotive history that can make this claim of design clarity and functionality. The dashboard (an archaic term) is truly a work of artistic and engineering genius in the eyes of any educated beholder. This is most certainly a historical feature contained in the Gremlin.
The then new AMC Concord dash was borrowed for use in the '78 Gremlin, having a style looking reminiscent of the '70 Javelin and AMX dash... another way how the Spirit/Concord models are connected to AMC's AMX Project.
By shortening the chassis, a car is made proportionally wider and more suitable for handling corners. By lengthing a car's chassis, it is made proportionally more narrow and suitable for high speed straight line stability. For examples compare the styling of dedicated bonneville top speed record holders to GT type vehicles...
It became commonplace in the mid to late sixties for road racers to modify their cars with fender flares for fat tires like those found later incorporated into Gremlin/Hornet styling. AMC went on and made them that way; it's no coincidence. The 'black out' tail light panel area became a tradition done by road racers to amplify visibility of their brake lights. Gremlin X models feature a similar treatment but usually with contrasting colors.
The '59 Studebaker Lark was the first US made compact sized car to get a V8 option. The small compact Gremlin got it's V8 option in '72, ending in '75. '72 V8 Gremlins came factory equipped with AMX/'group 19' type AMC torque links for rear axle control. '73-'75s came with a leaf spring snubber mounted in the otherwise forward frame mount position of the torque link to control wheel hop without causing a harsher ride characteristic. (correct me if I'm wrong at firstname.lastname@example.org)
AMC did not manufacture any racing engines. However, having the common sense chassis and engine modifications needed to make them competitive, Gremlins were fairly successful racing in sanctioned road race venues in the seventies and early eighties. AMC Gremlins also make good drag cars by virtue of having a V8 sized engine bay and a smaller overall size, affording a power to weight ratio advantage.
In the mid sixties a new type of drag race car evolved from trying to manipulate a car's center of gravity for better traction. A new catagory was formed by sanctioning bodies named AFX. A division of Chrysler is credited to have first done this and 'A/FX' stands for 'factory experimental'. Drag racers, primarily working with front engined rear wheel driven type cars, began experimenting with altering the wheelbases of their cars in order to move the drive wheels closer to the car's center of gravity. The intention was partly to reduce the reaction time of a car's chassis as power is transferred from the engine to the drive wheels upon initial acceleration. Along with removing a section of the car's body just ahead of the rear wheels, they'd extend the mounting position of the front wheels to maintain a longer wheelbase for high speed stability. Both of these modifications 'move' the center of gravity closer to the drive wheels by relation. The phenomina of 'popping a wheelie' was also a component the AFX cars tried taking advantage of; by raising the body of the car upward, the car's center of gravity would more easily topple rearward to place weight more quickly onto the rear drive wheels for increased traction.
In the world of AMC, one organization named 'Bill Kraft Rambler' proceeded to sponsor and race a '64 Rambler American, then a heavily modified '65 Marlin fastback in the AFX category, both having Rambler V8 engines. Giving credit where credit is due, Bill Kraft and Guy Thomas deserve credit for their extensive exploration of the Rambler V8's performance potential. In the AMC world, this car was a history maker now well documented by the Marlin Auto Club website.
Whereas AMC's controversial looking Rambler Marlin fastback styling was partly made to be a dealer showroom marketing tool to sell their more ordinary looking convetionally styled cars, and then somewhat popularized in drag racing by Kraft Rambler's AFX Marlin, a more logical transition from '65/7 AMC Marlin to '68/70 AMX can be deduced.
Nearly all writers have utterly failed to make note of this glaring historical element; the shortened wheelbase version of the Javelin named AMX is -obviously- directly related to the AFX drag cars of the sixties.
Brain dead. Even the name is a dead give away; AMC was often officially quoted for saying the AMX name meant 'American Motors eXperimental'.
The radical limited production AMC two seater AMX was their next showroom sales tool when it replaced Marlin in '68.
When the AMX was phased out, the Gremlin was phased in. Hopefully, other writers will be able to improve this study of how AMC's Gremlin actually evolved into a full production car.
Connect the dots...