Junkyard Find: 1979 AMC Spirit DL

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 amc spirit dl

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 fact, that I had to buy some parts from it!

I 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.

I’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.

This 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.

By late 1970s standards, the 258-cubic-inch L6 offered plenty of power.

Tan 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?

The owner’s manual is still inside.

OK, 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.

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  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are some many OEM-specific ones out there (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.