The Truth About Cars » Spirit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 01 Oct 2014 16:21:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Spirit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1979 AMC Spirit DL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1979-amc-spirit-dl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1979-amc-spirit-dl/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498384 The AMC Spirit-based ’82 Eagle SX/4 Junkyard Find that we admired last week was an interesting car, but it was pretty well picked over and started its junkyard career as a basket case. In the very same Denver junkyard, however, sits this much nicer and more complete ’79 Spirit DL. It was so nice, in […]

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24 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe AMC Spirit-based ’82 Eagle SX/4 Junkyard Find that we admired last week was an interesting car, but it was pretty well picked over and started its junkyard career as a basket case. In the very same Denver junkyard, however, sits this much nicer and more complete ’79 Spirit DL. It was so nice, in fact, that I had to buy some parts from it!
19 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI needed a headlight dimmer switch for my ’66 Dodge A100 van, and so many vehicles of the 1959-1984 period used the same switch that I was able to get one for my van from this ’79 Spirit. It works perfectly.
02 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m not quite the AMC expert I ought to be, but I can tell that this Spirit came with plenty of options. Check out this sporty steering wheel, for example.
03 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car had the fairly rare Rally Pak gauge panel— complete with Malaise-fuel-price-friendly vacuum gauge— on the center console, and I just had to buy it. Maybe I’ll put it in my van, maybe I’ll sell it on eBay, or maybe I’ll just admire it next to my collection of 80s Japanese digital instrument clusters. For 15 bucks, I couldn’t say no.
14 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy late 1970s standards, the 258-cubic-inch L6 offered plenty of power.
05 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTan pleather buckets, floor-shift automatic, gauges, probably an 8-track player for your Gary Wright tapes, torquey engine… what’s not to like about this fine Wisconsin machine?
23 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe owner’s manual is still inside.
17 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOK, so it wasn’t the best-looking car on the road in 1979, but at least it was prettier than the astonishingly hideous Datsun F10.

If forced to choose between a Spirit and a Chevette… well, that’s no choice at all. Spirit all the way!

Let the spirit move you!

And the Spirit was immune to rust, according to this ad.

In Mexico, where the Spirit was sold as the VAM Rally, the ads were más macho than what we got north of the border.

The VAM Rally AMX American GT came with the Rally Pak gauges and an overwhelmingly bordellic red interior.

01 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Mechanical Soul: How a 200SX Turbo Saved My Life http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/mechanical-soul-how-a-200sx-turbo-saved-my-life/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/mechanical-soul-how-a-200sx-turbo-saved-my-life/#comments Mon, 18 Feb 2013 16:33:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477785 At the back of the car lot was death row. It was there where the real “one foot in the grave” cars were lined up, where desperate men with cold hard eyes gave the deadbeats serious looks, weighing the options while nodding gravely to themselves. Whether I wanted to be or not, I was just […]

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They don’t build them like this anymore.

At the back of the car lot was death row. It was there where the real “one foot in the grave” cars were lined up, where desperate men with cold hard eyes gave the deadbeats serious looks, weighing the options while nodding gravely to themselves. Whether I wanted to be or not, I was just such a man.

Poverty and I went way back. Thanks to my mother’s generosity I hadn’t been homeless during our first brush, but I knew well the psychological toll that the inability to support oneself takes on a man. To end that extended period of unemployment, I had rolled the dice and taken a dead-end job teaching English in Japan and now, after two and a half years, I had come home with money in my pocket. But without a steady job and with no prospects on the horizon, I felt poverty’s familiar presence close at hand, and the old feelings of inadequacy had returned with shocking intensity.

As sure as if we had shared a secret handshake, the man who emerged from the ancient travel trailer that served as the car lot’s office, recognized my situation at first sight. Despite all the stories that swirl around salesmen at this type of small independent lots, the man seemed sincere in his desire to help and he knew his inventory well. As we walked through the lot, he spoke about how this or that car had found its way there, hinting that some cars might be better than others but holding out little hope of any diamonds in the rough.

At the back of the lot, I took a quick look at the lowest of the low. I was just about to leave when I saw it. Wedged in sideways behind the last row of cars, up against the unpainted plank fence that marked the edge of the property, I caught a glimpse of a triangular rear quarter window and a once expensive aluminum wheel. Always a lover of cars, I recognized it at once, a mid-80s Nissan 200SX. “What about the little Nissan?” I asked.

Would this pique your curiosity? It got my attention.

“That one.” answered the man rolling his eyes, “That one was a mistake. I took it in trade to help some people. It runs bad, the alternator is out and I think it needs a turbo.” He paused while I craned my neck to see. “I won’t make any money on it if I pay to fix it and I can’t sell it on the main lot the way it is. If you’re interested, I’d sell it as a mechanic’s special for $500 but I’m telling you it needs a lot of work. Don’t get mad and throw a brick through my window if you buy it and can‘t fix it.”

I needed a closer look. Together, the salesman and I pushed the car out from the shadow of the fence and into the harsh light of the mid-August sun. It was filthy and its grey paint was well oxidized, but the car’s sides were still dent free and its lines were still razor sharp. With the help of a battery box we started the car and I climbed inside to cycle through the readings on the digital dash board. The oil pressure was good and, after the engine warmed, the temperature gauge stayed solidly in the green. True to the man’s word, however, the volt meter showed no bars at all.

Simple and surprisingly functional, the 200SX’s digital dash allows you to change your gauges at the push of a button.

I climbed out and gave the car a long, hard look. The car met my gaze with a whirring turbo and an uneven idle, but it seemed somehow unapologetic for the fast life it had led. Thinking hard, I walked behind the car to check the tailpipe for smoke and, as I did so, caught a glimpse of my serious, scowling face reflected in the rear glass. The sight stopped me cold. How many times had I seen a hiring manager wear that same expression before rejecting my application out of hand? Unpleasant memories and repeated disappointment welled up inside me and flashed into anger. It wasn’t right. Not long before, everything had been so promising but it had all come undone so quickly. I looked at the Nissan and realized the same could be said for it. We were the same. We didn’t deserve to be here. My emotions got the better of me and, without further thought, I turned to the salesman and struck the deal.

After swapping the dead battery for a fully charged one, I drove off the lot in fits and starts. On my way out of town I stopped for oil, filters and tune-up supplies and then limped the six miles home to the sounds of occasional backfires and the shrill whine of the turbocharger, its pitch rising and falling as I worked the accelerator.

Once home, I raised the hood and made a long, close examination of the engine bay. Years of neglect were evident but at the very least everything was still there, Moreover, nothing had been modified. Filth was everywhere, with one exception – the alternator was obviously new. I ran my hands over the part checking for trouble and soon found it, a broken wire connector. It took less than ten seconds work with a crimping tool to fix and upon starting the car I was greeted by a stack of green digital bars on the volt meter where previously there had been none. Score one for us.

The Nissan 200SX

Clearly, the car’s prior owner had a problem with wires, I thought as I listened to the engine‘s lumpy idle. Back under the hood I took a quick look at the spark plug wires and found that they, like the alternator, were not so old. I researched the firing order and, sure enough, two of the four cylinder’s eight plug wires were switched. The repair was simple and the engine sprang to life and idled smoothly when I turned the key. Confident I was in the right track, I completed my tune-up and ended by changing the oil and filters.

With the mechanical work completed, a test drive was in order and on the street, the difference was immediately apparent. With the misfire corrected and fresh oil coursing through it, the engine ran smooth and strong as I accelerated through the gears. The oil change also helped to quiet the turbocharger. Boost was clearly evident as it kicked in at higher RPMs. I relished the feeling, and my test drive stretched into an hour long back road blast. Together, we had turned a corner.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Later, back at home, I washed the exterior and worked on the paint with an old can of TR-3 I found in the garage. I didn’t get the dramatic results Mr. T did in the commercial, but when I was done the car did look better. I finished up by shampooing the carpets, cleaning the glass and fitting some inexpensive seat covers to make the cabin a more pleasant place to be.

The completed project was not a show winner, but neither was it the near total write-off that the salesman had thought. My modest efforts were rewarded by a fast, eager little car with great handling and from the day I brought the little Nissan home, my life began to improve. A week later, I landed a job in a local warehouse and began to slowly beat back the specter of poverty. I was still driving the little car when, a few months later, I landed my dream job and was called away to a new life on the East Coast. Sadly, I was forced to leave it behind.

I know that cars are only tools, but in our short time together the little Nissan was my faithful companion on a thousand speedy adventures. Our spirits had nourished one another. When the car had a problem, I repaired it. When I had the blues, the car banished them with its boundless energy and enthusiasm. It was a relationship unlike any other I have ever had with a car and together, we were more than the sum of our parts. If machines have souls, then surely we will meet again.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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El Diablo Went Down To Georgia: The 1981 VAM Rally AMX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/el-diablo-went-down-to-georgia-the-1981-vam-rally-amx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/el-diablo-went-down-to-georgia-the-1981-vam-rally-amx/#comments Thu, 03 Mar 2011 18:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=385927 Sales of the Gremlin-based AMC Spirit in the United States were pretty dismal, but perhaps that was just the result of the suits in Kenosha choosing the wrong ad agency. Let’s head south of the border to see how VAM, which built certain AMC models under license for the Mexican market, pitched the ’81 Rally […]

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Sales of the Gremlin-based AMC Spirit in the United States were pretty dismal, but perhaps that was just the result of the suits in Kenosha choosing the wrong ad agency. Let’s head south of the border to see how VAM, which built certain AMC models under license for the Mexican market, pitched the ’81 Rally AMX.

You still see a fair number of VAM-built AMCs in Mexico these days, as I discovered during a visit to Nayarit last year. Sadly, Renault ended up taking over VAM and shutting down the operation in the late 1980s, which is why you don’t see ’03 Javelins.

Yes, it’s a pair of VAM Rally AMXs terrorizing a once-peaceful Mexican village, while Satan saws at his fiddle and chickens flee in terror!

Let’s compare that excellent piece of marketing to what Los Norteamericanos got in their ads for the Spirit: a tedious comparison to the Chevette, a machine that can hardly be called an automobile.

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