By on August 6, 2013

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.

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29 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 AMC Spirit DL...”

  • avatar

    Rust? Pfft… we’re the tough Americans! Now, back to MacGyver.

  • avatar

    Well I like those door handles, and feel more cars should have that sort of handle.

    Also, the bit of trim on the back window which hides the seam of the chrome metal surround is off-center, and would drive me nuts.

  • avatar

    When I was growing up I loved these cars, expecially the ‘GT’ version. The simple, clean fastback design worked and still looks pretty good today, IMO. And wow, that Mexican commerical is hilarious (were they trying to kill those chickens?).

  • avatar

    We came THIS close to buying one of these in early 1981, since we owned a 1976 Gremlin and enjoyed it – we must have been the only ones! Mom bought a new 1979 Concord after dad died, and it was an impressive car – as solid as a Sherman tank!

    The AMC dealer kept calling me trying to sell me that car! Alas, we wound up buying a 1981 Reliant instead – we needed more room, but stayed with a two-door.

    As to the factory-installed vacuum gauge, I bought one when I owned my Chevy C-20 pickup. It did help me drive more efficiently, but I could never get more than 16 mpgs – TWICE – out of it, so I don’t know if it did any good at all, or made any difference.

    Still, that’s a very nicely equipped Spirit. These were all over our neighborhood back then, as there was an AMC dealer not far from our house.

    I think AMC went downhill very quickly after this, to disappear into Chrysler and into automotive history.

    • 0 avatar

      “I think AMC went downhill very quickly after this, to disappear into Chrysler and into automotive history.”

      They actually had one last, big harrah, which seemed like a rebirth, with the autumn ’83 introduction of the 1984 Jeep Cherokee XJ. So much so that it is one of the major factors that convinced Chrysler to buy AMC in mid ’87.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Zackman! I wonder if Paul would ever do a “Deadly Sin” of AMC. As retro cool as the Pacer is, I think it was one of the DS’s for AMC. Along with the oddly styled post-1973 Matador Coupe. I can’t decide which was bigger.

      I’ve always like the AMC’s designed under Richard Teague, and these late 70’s ones continued that streak. Too bad the combination of EPA, NHTSA and CAFE sucked the life out of them. The foreign car makers ran through them like a knife through butter.

      I look at this thing and salivate over the possibilites…

    • 0 avatar

      I once put a vacuum gauge in one of my old cars.. it was fun to watch for the next couple of years. I guess it probably taught me to drive a little more efficiently (or maybe not).

  • avatar

    I have an unhealthy love of these cars. Since I was a teenager I’ve had a dream of putting a 4.0 stroker in a Spirit.

  • avatar

    For being 34 years old, those seats look pretty good.

  • avatar

    Those dimmer switches are only about $9.00 brand new. Your frugality mirrors my own… I like it!

  • avatar

    In 1982, I had just gotten my first new car, a 1983 Nissan Sentra XE hatchback. The sister of a friend had a AMC Spirit that was not much older, but it seemed like it was of another era. The AMC had no back seat to speak of. The Nissan, even with the hatchback roof, could sit two adults comfortably and three in a pinch (literally). The Spirit was creaky: the Sentra was tight. The Spirit was loud but gutless against its automatic transmission. The Nissan didn’t make much power but moved well with the traffic flow of the day with a nice 5-speed manual. The Nissan got 33 MPG routinely. The Spirit wouldn’t top 25 on its best day. Neither car had any airbags, door beams or anti-brakes. It was best not to crash them.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it is safe to assume that the AMC did have ‘anti-brakes’… We had an 83’ Sentra 2dr in the family from new – it had the 3spd slush box with torque converter lockup that often wouldn’t.

      Door beams were long since required equipment by then, even my ’74 Spitfire has then. Whether they would actually DO anything in a crash is an entirely different question, but they are there!

  • avatar

    Great TV ads ! .

    Too bad this clean old time capsule got scrapped , it’d be terrific for a Studio Rental as Set Dressing .

    Kinda _FUGLY_ tho’ .


  • avatar

    The platform this car was built on was solid and reasonably up-to-date… when it debuted as the 1970 Hornet, which was the basis of the Gremlin and then the Spirit. By the time the Spirit came out it was hopelessly behind the times (but still pretty attractive, I always thought). If AMC had invested in an update to their bread-and-butter compact platform instead of flights of fancy like the Matador Coupe and the Pacer they might have remained independent much longer.

  • avatar

    For some strange reason, every time I see some of that fine 70s auto dash plasti-wood, I think of high school girls with feathered hair and tube tops.

    • 0 avatar

      Mmmm… High school girls with feathered hair and tube tops… I’m getting plasti-wood just thinking about it… ;)

      • 0 avatar


        Best quote on TTAC yet.

        Don’t forget the skin tight, acid-washed, high-waisted Guess jeans, white Reebok hi-tops, and neon-colored oversize plastic hoop earrings to complete the ensemble.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no one has grabbed the front knuckles with the disc brakes to retrofit an older AMC musclecar. A guy I used to work with says they are direct bolt on for some of those older cars to ditch the front drum setup.

  • avatar

    I’m probably going to p*ss off all of the AMC nuts by saying this, but there’s nothing wrong with this car that a crate SBC & TH350 wouldn’t fix.

    This thing was gorgeous! I could understand it better if it looked more like the SX/4 we saw the other day, but wow! What a shame.

    A little small block action, those factory turbine styled wheels and take this bad boy over to Woodward for the cruise in a couple of weeks…

    Ah well…

    • 0 avatar

      Screw that, 6.4 Hemi with a Torqueflite.

    • 0 avatar

      Speaking for myself, I was thinking of an Arrington Performance 3G 426 Hemi and the new 8-speed automatic transmission that’s making its way into the SRT vehicles … or at least TCI’s 6X 6-speed tranny.

    • 0 avatar

      Nothing about this car that a crusher wouldn’t fix.

      I was actually alive and into cars when this was “new”. Nobody who knew anything about cars wanted one in my ‘hood. They were merely the last gasp of a dead patient.

  • avatar

    I remember looking at those cars when they were new and thinking why was I wasting so much time and money restoring a Dodge Charger when I could buy a new Spirit and experience 1970 all over again the easy way. Oh well. By 1982 the Spirit was all but forgotten by new car shoppers, who were no doubt eagerly awaiting the introduction of the Renault/AMC Alliance. I guess. Still the Spirit was not really a bad car. I loved that old AMC trademark package shelf with built in A/C ducts hanging under the dash. Too bad the 304 V-8 fell off the option list after 1979, even though the 258 was really more than enough.

  • avatar

    If the three brochures I have from 1983 are any indication the significance of American Motors cars was rather bleak. The Spirit and Concord shared a brochure while the new Alliance was muti-page. Even the Fuego had its own brochure.

    So sad.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    First American car from the era I see with a gated shifter. Nice touch.

  • avatar

    The guy in the “immune to rust” commercial sounds like Sheriff John Bunnell (from World’s Wildest Police Videos)

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