Junkyard Find: 1971 AMC Gremlin

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1971 amc gremlin

Once American Motors was absorbed by Chrysler in 1987, after lingering on the ropes for a few years during a series of early-1980s bailouts by Renault (i.e., the French government), random strands of its Kenosha/Boulogne-Billancourt DNA appeared here and there in various Chrysler products over the following decades. You’ll still find plenty of examples of full-on AMC products in North American junkyards today, in the form of the XJ Cherokee and AMC Eagle (the case could be made that the Chrysler LH is an AMC design, via the Renault 21/25-based Eagle Premier), but full-strength AMC models from the company’s heyday of the George Romney era and into the early 1970s are very rare sights today.

Here’s a pre- Malaise Gremlin, in glorious brown, that I spotted in a Denver yard last week.

The Weather Eye, invented for use in the 1939 Nash and continued down through the years until Nash evolved into American Motors, was the AMC name for a car heater with adjustable temperature control. I can’t recall ever seeing the Weather Eye name on an AMC vehicle newer than this one, so 1971 might be its final year.

Another sign that the Nash influence wasn’t completely over by 1971 is the look of this Gremlin’s speedometer, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a ’51 Airflyte.

Under the hood, the reliable AMC straight-six, which lived on (as the Jeep 4.0) into the 21st century. If this is the one installed by the factory, it’s a 232.

This rosary couldn’t save the Gremlin from its fate, but this car outlived most of its contemporaries.

The Gremlin was, at heart, a shortened hatchback version of the Hornet. They were cheap, reasonably reliable, and sold well enough that they were once seen everywhere on North American roads. Unfortunately for AMC, they were thirsty, heavy, and cramped when compared to the front-wheel-drive imports that flooded the country during the 1970s (or even with the Detroit-produced Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega), and sales dropped off as the decade wore on.

Inspired by the opening scene from “Patton” (which was released in 1970), this ad emphasized the American part of the car company’s name.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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  • Dave M. Dave M. on Jul 05, 2016

    Both my '73 Hornets had the WeatherEye! Beware! Actually I really liked my Hornets - I got my first one in college and the price was right for a 3 year old Hornet hatchback; a few years later it was totaled and I found a '73 in good shape that I ran for a couple of years before giving it to my brother. They were a hodgepodge of common components...alternator by Ford, voltage regulator by Chrysler, etc.

  • Higheriq Higheriq on Jul 21, 2016

    This particular Gremlin looks suspiciously similar to one that my brother wrapped around a tree in the late 70's. It was a tough, economical car, albeit quite crude even by 70's standards.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic I drove a rental Renegade a few years back. Felt the engine (TIgerShark) was ready was ready to pop out from under the hood. Very crude!! Sole purpose was CAFE offsets. Also drove a V6 Cherokee which was very nice and currently out of production. Should be able to scoop up one at a fair deal.🚗🚗🚗
  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...