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AMC Gremlin Power Station

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Like most other cars American Motors made, the Gremlin is typically a target for a certain percentage of other-brand automotive enthusiasts to poke fun at. It's routine to find AMC Gremlin literature containing biased smears to supposedly add a sense of humor. AMC's Gremlin is regularly featured in those ugly/worst car lists alongside the AMC Pacer.

Ever wonder why?

It's not because these AMC products actually look ugly or have sub-standard mechanical issues.

Rather, perceptions about cars are crafted in social peer groups which may have a propoganda effect regardless of reality.

Sometimes a delusion of grandeur condition exists among 'other make' enthusiasts where conversations about true mechanical issues and awkward styling are nearly non-existent.

For example; Chevrolet Vega was a true mechanical blunder when GM made that car's engine having aluminum cylinder walls? Another; The exaggerated rear fender bulges of a mid-seventies Ford Torino appear to insult the intellect for having no functional purpose other than to look cheezy? Again; The styling of some of the early sixties Chrysler cars has always caused me to wonder if they were 'on something'... and with advertising touting  'looks like it's going 100 mph standing still' ...seems a bit overrated to me. 

Of all the vehicles AMC made only certain Jeep brand products were able to achieve an aura of high social status. There are exceptions like the 52 SS/AMXs and the 6 AMX/3s, but 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 themselves shucking off comments about it's 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 business, but that's another story... ever heard of AM General?

Since AMC literature is seemingly inseperable from an assortment of disbaraging comments, the associated 'baggage' can otherwise be understood as a psychological survey of human personality types in society. A micro of the macro? 

A particular psychological generality every potential AMCer must face is called 'underdog complex'. This is where a person is initially attracted to an AMC vehicle by it's perceived positive attributes 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. The adaptation to enjoy the negative behavior is the mental illness part. For example; someone who enjoys getting pooped on by other people, or like a dog who chooses to poop inside it's own doghouse instead of somewhere else in the yard. Otherwise, it's a healthy thing for a person to dislike getting pooped on & a healthy dog rather poops somewhere else.

Another person said 'you gotta have thick skin, when you have an AMC'. Hence, a deliberate positive mental adjustment is key to being able to enjoy the cars.

The experienced AMCers know this.

There are many other aspects of mental illness that apply to AMC haters, why they do it etc. and that too is another story. (explanation of sadistic, bullying behaviors etc most certainly could diverge here)

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.


A complete and thorough overhaul of AMC Gremlin history is needed for the benefit of all concerned. 

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 beginnings were 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. 

'Creative historians' (an oxymoron) seem obliged to poke the AMC Gremlin with the 'poor aerodynamics' branding iron. And Wally Booth is often quoted as saying 'he picked up a few tenths and mph when he switched to the Hornet body style when he was funded by American Motors to drag race the cars. However, there are no wind tunnel drag coefficient testing numbers for verification (found an article that said .49 ?) and in no case does one example qualify as a statistical truth. (that would be a statistical falacy)

A simple reality check occurs by comparing Gremlin articles to Pick-up Truck articles; no 'poor aerodynamics' discussion? What seems 'right' in Gremlin articles is 'not right' in other articles? Hence the psycho deviation; to smear the Gremlin.  

Maybe fifty percent of Gremlin articles re-tell Dick Teague's supposedly humorous story of sketching a Gremlin styling idea on an airplane barf bag while on the way home from a European excursion. Apparently he had no better paper to work with! (toilet paper? -nah) And supposedly, this factoid is used to describe Teague's creativity; while the Gremlin's shape seemed unique at the time from a US perspective, it was nothing new for a small car to look that way in Europe. The Austin Mini is probably the most glaring example making it rather easy to say 'the look' of a Gremlin is copied?

*Take a look at '68/9 'Reliant Scimitar' pics and notice how similar the styling cues are to AMC's '70/77 Hornet versions.  

Way back in the early seventies, the first Gremlin I ever saw was sitting in a parking lot wearing 'Mini Wagon' badges and had no back seat -the two seater version. 

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

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.

Now what I'm about to describe, again there is nothing -anywhere- written to say this, but if you 'get it', it's downright exasperating to consider why the information has stayed so hidden.

So let's 'let the cat out of the bag'... as they say... why do we want cats in bags anyway? what the... oops... 

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 'American 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.

So; in the mid sixties a new drag racing class was formed and named 'AFX'. The AFX cars are now fondly remembered for how those drag racers usually altered the wheel base (moving the rear axle forward). The name 'AFX' stood for 'American Factory eXperimental'.

AFX means 'American Factory eXperimental' and AMC declared AMX meant 'American Motors eXperimental'.

As the AMX was to the Javelin, so the Gremlin is the AFX version of the Hornet. 

Connect the dots... 



Gremlins are HOT!


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