By on July 22, 2015

21 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

We see a lot of AMC Eagles in this series, as well as the occasional Spirit or Encore or even an Oleg Cassini Edition Matador, but today’s Junkyard Find is our first-ever AMC Concord. Here’s an amazingly brown ’81 sedan for some Malaise goodness.
17 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Under the hood, we’ve got an Iron Duke four-cylinder, which made 86 mighty horsepower. That’s just 12 more than the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage (which weighs 864 pounds less than this Concord), a car much maligned by automotive journalists for its allegedly intolerable slowness. This Concord’s poor abused Duke had to drag 32.78 pounds with each of its gasping horsepower, while the new Mirage — which I say isn’t bad at all, for the price — has a much sprightlier 27.41 pounds-per-horse ratio. Think about that next time you hear some angry geezer complaining about cars being better in the old days.

07 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

This car came with AM and FM on the radio dial, all the better for listening to some of the year’s better music on KALX (if you had AM only, you were stuck with far schmaltzier stuff, though you might have lucked out into one of the better 1981 AM hits now and then).

18 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Think about this: the AM/FM radio option in this car was $192 ($556 in 2015 dollars), while opting for the 258-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine was just $136 over the cost of the standard Iron Duke. Priorities!

10 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

American cars of this era tended to have headliner-hanging-down issues. I see this staple trick frequently in junkyards.

14 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Luxury.

I didn’t spend a penny extra for all this luxury!

The Tough Americans, now with 10% rollback.

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62 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1981 AMC Concord...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “Think about that next time you hear some angry geezer complaining about cars being better in the old days.”

    I don’t think they are any worse than the geezers that are impressed by everything on sale today because it’s better than what was available in 1976.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “impressed by everything on sale today because it’s better than what was available in 1976.”

      I even got air-conditioning! Free!

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      At least my ’81 Concord can’t be hacked from the internet.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Think about this-

      This car cannot be hacked into by a 12 year old. You can see out of the darn windows. It could seat up to 6 people. It had more interior colors available than any car available today for any price. Replacement tires can be bought for around 59 bucks a piece. You had that thing called choice when it came to how the vehicle was optioned and could make your Concorde a stripper 4 cylinder with no A/C and 4 on the floor or load it up in Limited plush trim (not offered at any price today)with 6 cylinder 4.2 liter engine, power everything, full gauge cluster and handling suspension. You could buy it in coupe, sedan or wagon form for various years. Try that trick with any Camry, Accord, Sonata, Malibu, Fusion or
      200. It was also so easy to drive and operate a cave man could do it. Just try that trick in a Cue equipped Cadillac or any Bimmer, especially if your from the old school.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    With some judicious juggling of options, you could make a 1981 Concord into something almost entertaining: four-on-the-floor with either engine, comprehensive gauge package, handling suspension, glass sunroof, cast wheels, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      I miss ala carte ordering. I know option packages are designed to save customers money, and streamline assembly for the automakers, but I’d be willing to pay a few more bucks to get the better stereo without being forced to take the moonroof, too.

      • 0 avatar
        1998redwagon

        +1 to that. i wish i could order stock exterior colors with stock interior colors but it’s a big negatory. heck the car is even made here in the usa but there is no way around the corporate stranglehold.

        even for simple configurations that are available from the factory but hard to find, the conversation often goes a lot like this …..

        salesman: o, we cannot order something from the factory we have to sell what they give us.

        me: well i can configure it on the web, it should be easy enough to place an order.

        salesman: yes, but you cannot place an order on the web. you can only buy out of dealer stock.

        me: perhaps we should talk to the manager about placing an order.

        salesman: even if you could do it the wait would be months long.

        me: that’s fine i can wait for what i want.

        salesman: well if we do not have it in stock i can look at other dealers stock – as long as they are in the ‘area’. but we are the biggest dealer in the area and i think i can find what you need in our inventory

        me: (whatever … next dealer please)

        • 0 avatar
          319583076

          I should dovetail this with the JD Power bit – MINI encourages a la carte ordering, if you’re interested in any of their models, that is.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          I think this is connected with the “can you buy it TODAY?” mentality. Maybe the salesman figures that by the time you take delivery, he’ll be working elsewhere and won’t get credit for the sale.

        • 0 avatar
          spreadsheet monkey

          Totally agree with you.

          Was discussed in an earlier TTAC article…

          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/avoidable-contact-when-it-comes-to-the-options-some-people-have-no-standards/

  • avatar
    Joss

    El cheapo Jensen Interceptor. Crossover Ferguson Formula in Leyland beauty brown.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Given the diminutive front discs and rear drums, a wheezy Iron Duke seems like a blessing in disguise…

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The AMC Concord was the Toyota Camry of its day. Old, reliable technology and a pleasant interior.

    We bought our 1979, 258 CID six-cylinder, DL model from a private seller in 1981. Never had a mechanical problem with it. Unfortunately it lacked the factory rust prevention measures common to today’s cars. The front fenders were showing signs of pin hole rust by the fifth year. Sold it in 1984.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    The ’81s came with Ziebart Factory Rust Protection and a 5 year warranty against corrosion. Also, FWIW, opting for the auto with the Iron Duke cost you 8 (?!?) highway miles per gallon.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    AM *and* FM? What an age we live in.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    That “old cars suck” article was great. One of my Jalop favorites. A real outlier of quality there.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    In 1981, I worked for a dealership that sold, or should I say attempted to sell these. I don’t recall ordering any of these with the four cylinder, all ours had the old reliable AMC six. We did have four cylinder AMC Spirits, including an occasional Gremlin styled Spirit sedan. https://www.flickr.com/photos/grayflannelphotos/7054277371/

    Amazingly, AMCs were competitive race cars, Amos Johnson’s Team Highball did quite well with them in the IMSA Radial Challenge series.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Back in the early 80’s I worked for an AMC dealership that tried to sell these things, too. Tried being the operative word.

      Although, there’s something about the last of the Hornet bodied cars that I really like. I’d still like to take one of these, drop a SBC in it and go have fun on the back roads. There were some performance upgrades for the suspension and brakes you could stick on them, too, to help with that end of it.

      Cheap fun.

      • 0 avatar
        DweezilSFV

        Aww, Geo. You’d settle for a Chevy engine when you could have the Pontiac ?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @geozinger, personally I think a Jeep PowerTech I6 from 2006 would be loads of fun and still keep some of the AMC flavor. Depending on the wrecking yard or the engine rebuild-er it would at least be cheaper than AMC performance upgrades (though not as cheap as the ubiquitous SBC.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          4.0L engines from wrecked Cherokees are common as dirt in junkyards. I’ve seen more than a few old AMC products from the late 1970’s/1980’s at car shows repowered by one of these Cherokee cast-offs…the bonus is a 4-speed overdrive automatic if you decide to keep the AW4 trans that is typically bolted to most 4.0L’s.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    About eleven years ago I met a man who profoundly purchased an MY80 or MY81 one of these IIRC with 30Kish miles (not sure if I4 or I6) for $2,000 at an estate auction. I remember looking at it and just thinking wow…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The door handles stick out to me as a) European in style and b) too big for the car, and c) not something you should put on a sedan.

      Also, the cheapo brougham attempts are pathetic, and awful. Look at the precision and modernity found in a 1981 Accord as contrast.

      http://img.favcars.com/honda/accord/honda_accord_1981_wallpapers_1.jpg

      What in hell was AMC doing?

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Trying to update cars on a shoestring budget that made Chrysler’s look lavish.

        I’ve sometimes wondered what the story was behind those AMC door pulls. AMC used them on just everything they built in the ’70s and early ’80s.

        edit: Ha, found an article about them:
        http://www.hemmings.com/hmn/stories/2010/07/01/hmn_feature21.html

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Speaking of individual parts!

          Nobody answered my query the other day on the Caprice Junkyard article.

          Seems to me like in the late 80’s both AMC and GM were using the same steering wheels. I noticed them in both the 88 Caprice and the 88 GW. I wanted to know if anybody could confirm.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            They were similar but not quite the same.

            Jeep: http://car-from-uk.com/ebay/carphotos/full/ebay142175530921292.jpg

            Chevy: http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/20698664.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good job finding example pics. I like the Avant Garde font they used for the Caprice gauges at the time.

            Makes me wonder if they’re just -slightly- different center covers on there, on the same basic wheel behind it. Even the shift levers for PRNDL look the same, just different materials at the end.

          • 0 avatar
            tylermattikow

            AMC, Jeep, and International used the GM/Saginaw steering columns. The wheels would would be interchangeable and likely sourced from the same factory. I have Jeep Cherokee leather steering wheel in my Scout, with an International badge replacing the Jeep one for instance.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks! Good info. I haven’t noticed your name on here before, but if you know this kinda stuff you should stick around!

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          That same handle survived all the way until 2006 as the rear tailgate handle on the Jeep Wrangler. They simply rotated it 90 degrees so that you pull up on the “paddle” to open the tailgate.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        Yeah, look at that Accord – for one thing, they built the damn thing completely backwards. It’s worthless unless you are a mailman.

        Seriously, you are looking at this completely the wrong way. As you know, the car market is all about segmentation and in 1981 there was still a segment that AMC’s schlock appealed to and who would have thought the Accord to be dull and lacking in “luxury” cues. Even if AMC could have afforded to build a clean sheet design (and they couldn’t) they wouldn’t have built something that looked like an Accord.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I wasn’t around in 1981, but it seemed like the brougham-tato was dying out by then. I suppose not? Was this car for the poor and tacky older customer who wanted to pretend it was 1975?

          BTW, I’m noticing current Lexus vehicle cues in that old Accord design. The staggering of the binnacles, as well as their general shape.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    My father was a big AMC fan. He almost bought a 1968 Rambler American. But in 1971, he bit at the Hornet body style and picked up a two-door example with 232cid inline six and three-speed Shift-Command (Borg-Warner) automatic. This preceded the Torque-Command autos (which were Chrysler Torqueflites). Three Gremlins followed that car.

    My brother and I were unintentionally drawn into his enthusiasm. We grew to love the reliability and overall toughness of these cars, despite some issues with rust and teeny bits falling off inside.

    Imagine my surprise when I discovered the second-generation Javelin weighed only 47 pounds more than a Gremlin. So I wound up having a ball with a 1973 Javelin with 258cid inline six and a three-by-the-knee. The engine responded surprisingly well to even mild modification. Ditto the suspension and handling. 120K (a lot of miles in those days) and not a single breakdown.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    The ironic thing about AMC installing the Iron Duke was that they had spent millions buying the rights to the Audi 2.0 4 cylinder, plus the line to build it and manufactured it here as the AMC 4.

    A waste of time and effort to then go and drop it after two years and outsource an engine from GM.

    I think the 2.o was dropped about the time Renault bought the controlling interest in AMC.

    It made the Gremlin a better handler and gave better fuel economy than the 6. And would love to know how many 2.0s were installed in the Concord.

    Unfortunate that AMC mucked up the 78 version of the Concord with horrible styling “improvements”: grille, c pillar windows and the old Hornet style tail lights with a connecting red reflector in between. Old style Studebaker/Nash/Hudson answers for keeping it “fresh” every model year: just keep adding more hash.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    HELLO WISCONSIN!!!!!!

    (I always thought there should have been more “AMC” in that show.)

    Wasn’t the Concord available with a small V8 during various model years?

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      I’m pretty sure the 304cid V8 was an option in the Concord at least sometime.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        The 304 was available in the Concord for ’78-’79. The V8 was gone for 1980.

        • 0 avatar
          epsilonkore

          Yep, straight 4 (didnt know it was a DUKE!?) straight 6 that was hard to kill, and a v8. My parents had 3 of these cars, a 78 coupe and a 79 coupe, both straight 6. They also had a spare wrecked Concord that we picked parts off of during the mid 80’s as the other two broke. I thought we would NEVER get rid of Concords. Finally we got an Olds Calais 86 Coupe with an Iron Duke to replace the 78 model. It felt like a hot rod compared to the straight 6 Concords. I had no idea till today that the Duke was an option in the Concords… I cant imagine how slow that would have been! The 79 model finally became too much of a hassle in the mid 90’s and we sold it. It was still running though! Both of ours were the “luxuriously” appointed D/L models complete with vinyl half top that you had to scrub/bleach constantly to keep the mold and tree sap out of… :/

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            A car that was available with a choice of engines from 4, 6, or 8 cylinders. Now that’s a blast from yesteryear. I can think of the Ford Fairmont (and Mustang), the mid-1980s LTD, and not many others.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I’m pretty sure the BMW 5series is available with a four, a six, and two eights at the moment.

          • 0 avatar
            DownUnder2014

            A car avaliable with a 4, 6 and 8 cylinders today is the Ford Falcon although the four-cylinder turbo engine is Automatic only.

            Another one avaliable in yesteryear was the Holden Commodore between 1981-86.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    “Think about that next time you hear some angry geezer complaining about cars being better in the old days.”

    When people talk about “the old days”, I don’t think they are talking about Iron Dukes OR 1981 (when cars were already loaded down with emission controls). When I was growing up (in the ’60s), no self-respecting American car (not even a Corvair) had a 4 cylinder engine. A straight 6 was the usual base engine and V-8s were very common. Now those 6’s and even some 8’s also made lousy power by modern standards (especially when connected to 2 speed autos – yes you heard me son, 2 speed transmissions), but they were “better” in other ways. For one thing, they were very easy to work on, even for home mechanics.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      A Chevy Blue Flame six mated to a two-speed Power Glide transmission. Now THOSE were the good old days. :) I can’t believe that transmission was available as late as 1973, even in cars from other GM divisions.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Pontiac’s Tempest was available with a large displacement four.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        And a rear transaxle and rope drive and unibody. Very advanced car for an American mfr. at the time. Wasn’t exactly a four – it was a 389 V-8 with the left bank missing, built on the same assembly line as the full 389s. It was not a big seller and only lasted 3 years (’61-’63). The advanced technology made zero impression on the car buying public. The replacement was of (then) conventional design (but bigger) with the base engine being a straight 6. So the Tempest was the exception that proves the rule. 100% of American cars didn’t have 6’s or 8’s in the “good old days”, only 99% of them.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Finally, a speedometer that makes the one in the ATS look classy. Yeesh, 12 o’clock just to hit 45. How depressing.

    Sorry for bringing up Cadillac in an unrelated article.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    AMC used a lot of parts from other manufacturers such as GM Saginaw steering columns and ignition switches. Chrysler Torqueflite automatic transmissions and the GM Iron Duke. You would think that Dick Teaque and the folks at AMC would have just taken the 232/258-6 and lopped a couple of cylinders off to create a 4-banger.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      In a way, they eventually sort of did just that. The 2.5L AMC engine, launched in 1984, was based loosely on the 232/258 block, but with a bigger bore and shorter stroke to make it more emissions friendly. The 4.0L that put Jeep Cherokees on the map was actually based more directly on the 2.5L than the old 258. The 4.0L uses the large bore and short stroke of the 2.5L (along with all the block updates/improvements) rather than the smaller bore and longer stroke of the older 258.

      The ideal combo is to take the long stroke crank from a 258 and use it in a big-bore 4.0L block. You end up with around 4.5 liters worth of displacement and wonderfully torquey power delivery.

  • avatar
    TrstnBrtt89

    My only memory of these cars is from when I was about 10 my mom was looking for a beater, my grandpa found her a ’76 Hornet wagon and bought it for her. While trying to put a temporary licence plate holder through the hatch he slammed it really hard and the back window shattered. My mom raced home in my grandpa’s LeBaron (clearly a Mopar family) to tell my grandma about what happened and make sure she didn’t ask him about the car. As soon as my grandpa walked in the door my grandma asked about the new car. I don’t know what ever happened to that car but my mom never drove it and I never got to ride in it.

  • avatar
    countymountie

    Grandma had a 79 Concord with the 304 in it, actually a pretty rare sight. That 304 was such a dog and the Torqueflite always shifted too soon. The car was a “lovely” two tone brown and tan with vinyl seats that would sear human flesh to a medium well in the Oklahoma sun in no time. She covered the seats with rag rugs folded in half but it didn’t help. The car was hard loaded with air, tilt, cruise, and AM/FM radio, stereo even. The car always had an exhaust tick and ate batteries which was due mostly to sitting more than it was driven. When I turned 18 I bought her an 84 Riviera to replace the Concord. Selling it off was one of my biggest regrets for the (mostly) pleasant memories it held.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Speaking of OK, where I grew up, I had a friend in the late 80s who collected oddball AMC’s much as you describe. Generally, he’d spend about $200, bring a spare battery and some starter fluid, and drag home car after car from retired owners. Hornets, Matadors, that kind of thing. Usually the six and four doors, and with his all night paper-route wages he probably kept upwards of six at a time. Never a V8 Javelin or anything, just plaid interior sedans.
      He became famous in my town for rolling a Hornet on a sweeping avenue through a residential neighborhood with his sister in the car. Casualties were one telephone poll and some landscaping, so they were sturdy at least.

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