By on June 10, 2019

Vehicles from plucky AMC are always welcome here at Rare Rides. Thus far, the series has featured a Metropolitan, a concept Van, a Matador Barcelona, and a very tasty Sundancer. The latter is a cousin of today’s relentlessly beige Concord two-door sedan.

Ready for some malaise?

The story of the Concord starts out with its father, the Hornet. After the compact model’s run from 1970 to 1977, executives at AMC realized they’d need a compact entry to go head to head with new Fox-body entries from Ford, downsized A-body vehicles from Chevrolet, and everything from Japan. AMC’s bread and butter had long been the compact car segment, so this new car needed to be good. But as ever with AMC, money was tight.

Responsibility for the Concord’s design was handed over to magician Richard Teague, AMC’s favorite designer. What he did was create a Hornet 2.0 on the cheap. Concord utilized the Gremlin’s fenders, mixing them with new sheet metal. The front and rear underwent a redesign, and there was a brand new hood emblem especially for Concord. Reworked visuals accompanied upgraded engineering, as the folks at AMC were scared of the build quality being observed on new Japanese competitors. A reduction in NVH was achieved via an upgraded suspension and additional noise insulation throughout the car. Interior panels were backed with sound absorbing materials, and upper Concord trims also featured a fiberglass acoustic headliner.

A bevy of features were included as standard, and the revised platform meant a bit of additional headroom and rear legroom over the outgoing Hornet. Upon its debut in 1978, AMC billed it as a luxurious compact car. Let’s take a moment and talk Concord with John Davis.

Initial trim offerings were Base, Sport, and D/L. The D/L reflected the tastes of Personal Luxury at the time; buyers who sprung for that trim received a vinyl coach roof in a variety of colors. Other D/L niceties included the opera windows seen on this coupe, color-match wheel covers, velvety upholstery, and wood grain on the dials. By 1981 Popular Science crowned Concord as “the most luxurious of all the U.S. compacts.” A new top trim level bowed that year — Limited. Instantly the best selling model in AMC’s portfolio, the Concord lived a happy life through 1983. By that time, however, AMC’s days were numbered, and Concord was replaced with the Renault Alliance.

Sad!

Today’s Rare Ride is for sale presently in the salt-free location of Phoenix. It’s well equipped with the mid-pack 258 (4.2L) inline-six engine, automatic transmission, air conditioning, and cruise. With 50,000 miles on the clock, this Concord asks $3,500.

[Images: seller]

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64 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1981 AMC Concord Keeps it on the D/L...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    That video… 10.7 seconds to 50mph and 20 second/70mph quarter mile. Oh boy, I remember when 0-50 times, not 0-60, was what a lot of the auto rags road tested. This car was probably about 15-16 seconds for 0-60.

    “You could do a lot worse than the Condord.” Hehehe… faint damning praise.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      This was the result of Detroit lagging behind legislators. I’d say it was technology lagging, but you could get a 1983 BMW 533i that made 180ish hp from 3.2 liters. It would be about four more years before AMC released the injected 4 liter version of this engine that increased horsepower by about 55% and probably improved fuel economy. Ironically, these face-lifted Hornets with the updated engine as used in Jeeps would have probably been better cars than the Renault-based stuff AMC was selling by 1987.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Oooooh, a finned aluminum valve cover – Edelbrock, too? Also, looks like someone really likes blue zip ties. With the horsepower-sapping Borg-Warner/York a/c compressor, like our ’66 American had.

    I’ve always wondered if “D/L” actually stood for something. Dee/Luxe?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Way back when, an apartment complex neighbor of mine owned a Concord, in burgundy. He then traded it for a first-year N-Body Grand Am, also burgundy.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    One thing I always loved about the AMCs is that their style always was unique and more often than not, looked nicer than their same-year competitors. I almost wish that somehow FCA would herald the return of AMC as a brand.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    What a strange time we live in for car pricing! If you want to buy a “normal” used car, $3500 doesn’t buy you very much at all. Perhaps a 15-year-old Corolla or a 10-year-old GM something.

    For the same dough, you could own this, which is not only interesting, but perfectly serviceable as a daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yep, seems like a pretty good deal on a decent car.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      I’ll agree $3500 doesn’t buy much on the used car market, but we easily got that for my mom’s 100k mile, 9 year old G6 with a quick V6. To refer to something this old and unsafe as serviceable is…laughable. You couldn’t even take this thing on the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        TR4

        “You couldn’t even take this thing on the highway.”

        Why ever not?

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          You could take it on the highway in Arizona, south Florida, or a few other places. Here is what you do: go about 40mph when you merge from the onramp, then meander over to the left lane, accelerating slowly and forgetting your blinker (if it’s on, leave it on, if it’s off then don’t use it).

          All of these things are quite achievable in this car.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Very good summary of a certain type of driver who might very well have bought this car new and is still driving it

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, he may have a point – cars like this were no more than adequate when the double nickle speed limits were still in place, but since everything else was dead slow too, it didn’t really matter. It might now. I’d hate to think of merging into traffic these days in any old malaise sled that doesn’t have a V-8.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            There are lots and lots of commercial vehicles that accelerate more slowly than this and manage to use the highway system just fine.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “There are lots and lots of commercial vehicles that accelerate more slowly than this and manage to use the highway system just fine.”

            They use the highway system, yes, but I wouldn’t say they use the highway system “just fine.”

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          Some people are terrified of something that doesn’t have ABS, AEB, BSM, RCTO, ten airbags, etc. He’s on the floor, in a fetal position, just thinking about this thing.

          • 0 avatar
            PeriSoft

            Call me terrified if you want, but I like my legs and head way too much to drive a car like that through an intersection filled with distracted people driving 4500lb SUVs. Paranoia is refusing to drive a 2015 Accord because it’s a generation old. Foolhardiness is driving a ’70s compact because some other people are paranoid.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’ve done a 50s flathead Mercury (which I’m guessing is about the same or worse speed-wise as this) on I4 and I95. You’re definitely only going to be cruising in the right lane, but I wouldn’t put it in “can’t take it on the highway” category either. Although I’d probably avoid the interstate if you’re driving through DC or through the Rockies or something.

        For someone looking to own a “classic car” that they can still drive a few times a week, this seems like an affordable way to get that.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        My ‘73 Hornet had the 232 and hauled ass up and down I-81 during college pretty well. All depends how hard you cane it.

    • 0 avatar

      From video it looks like that it was designed with defective shocks. Pay attention how it violently sways up and down when braking to full stop.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Isn’t the “Rare Ride” supposed to be….rare?

    Any numbers on the rarity bonafides for an AMC Concord?

    The Concord may be best known as the basis for the Jeep 4wd-equipped AMC Eagle. Sure there aren’t many of either left around, but how many MY1981 vehicles are still genuinely abundant?

    • 0 avatar

      If you feel there are rides out there we aren’t covering, feel free to provide links. Thanks!

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Corey,

        I was specifically concerned about the rarity of the AMC Concord. To your credit you usually include production numbers or known survivor numbers for some cars that are truly rare. I didn’t see any here for the Concord and wouldn’t have otherwise considered it rare. Maybe that’s because my grandfather had an AMC Eagle since before I could remember and kept it until he could no longer really drive, but I was just asking for what constitutes “rare” and where the Concord fit.

        • 0 avatar

          I think a very clean and rust-free Concord is a worthy entry. There aren’t many left because they weren’t worth saving. They’re rare now, even if they were once common.

          Eventually the Toyota Previa will be rare as well.

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            Think we are already at that point. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen one on the road. I see far more first gen Siennas.

            Peak Japan is around 30 years old now (I classify that around 1989-1995 before serious cost-cutting took over around the 1996-1998 model years) and it’s getting rarer seeing a nice, or even well-running 1990 Maxima, or 1992 Lexus SC, or even a 1990 Miata that hasn’t been garage-kept most of its life.

            My God I’m really feeling old now…

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        You’re doing good, Corey, you come up with some real oddballs

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Yes, yes! I definitely enjoy these articles when there is an old, almost-forgettable, ordinary car that someone has cared so much about and maintained so well.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      YMMV but I actually like the RR series more when we’re talking about something that isn’t super esoteric. When dealing with a “1 of 1” vehicle, there isn’t much to do beyond snark on the styling or asking price.

      I don’t think Corey should become “Curbside Classic” (ahem), but some variety is good.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Add me to the “old vehicles that once were common but are rarely seen now” camp. It’s fun to see that some of those clunkers are still soldiering on, and could even be mine should I lose (more of) my sanity.

        • 0 avatar
          A Scientist

          “Add me to the “old vehicles that once were common but are rarely seen now” camp.”

          Me as well. There’s no reason to take such a loving care for a car like this (ok only IMO, of course). And yet, someone did, and I absolutely love them for it.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            I also agree. It brings back memories for us oldies. And for the younger generation it is educational to see and read about the type of vehicles which were common but now are rarely seen.

            The exotics, luxury and muscle cars that now seem to represent their eras were in reality only a small minority of vehicles that were sold and on the road.

            I prefer to see work a day vehicles that somehow managed to escape the scrapper.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well Concords never sold that well and I bet the take rate on the D/L was really low as a leathered up compact was unheard of at the time.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Sadly, the last car my grandfather ever owned was a Concorde. Without exaggeration, the worst car I have ever driven, even with 30 years as a mechanic under my belt. Breathe on the brake pedal and the rear wheels would lock up on dry pavement. Miles of vacuum lines under the hood that were always springing a leak. Acceleration required timing gaps in traffic. Terrible interior design with dinky controls and gauges that looked like those little square bedside alarm clocks of the 70s. Handling was non-existant; steering wheel inputs were more like a suggestion than a command. Ride quality was anything but. Visually, the car sported all the dorky ride height of the Eagle with none of the traction. Heavy “deluxe” factory hubcaps with tiny mounting tabs loved to fly off anytime you hit a bump in the road. Just a terrible automobile by any measure. If AMC didn’t have Jeep in it’s stable, I am sure Chrysler would have never bought them. Fast forward to the present day and the company valuation for Jeep is higher alone than its combined value with Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      “If AMC didn’t have Jeep in it’s stable, I am sure Chrysler would have never bought them.”

      Specifically, if AMC/Jeep didn’t have the designs done for the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler would have never bought them.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Brougham all the things!

    This Concord looks so jacked-up I thought it was an Eagle. One thing I can say about AMC they could come up with a whole new car without ever leaving the parts bin

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Look at that first picture.

    Some day, some where, a state government is going to have it up to here with the poor design of license plates and hire a graphic designer.

    Some day.

    We can hope.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Look at that first picture.

    Some day, some where, a state government is going to have it up to here with the poor design of license plates and hire a graphic designer.

    Some day.

    We can hope.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      I collect license plates and 100% agree. With the digital imaging available, there’s no excuse not to have a nice plate that defines what your state is. Look at the Mexican plates. They had to change all of theirs to reflect a new standard (no design where the letters/numbers are), but they are still very attractive.

      Or the states get greedy and make us pay extra for the specialty plates (…cough…Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California, Michigan, and others…)

      Still trying to figure out what Ohio was thinking with their new(er) plate – covering it with “All Things Ohio” slogans and facts. Not a good idea to try to read at 75 mph, but while rotting in one of the many construction zones that never seems to end, give it a try!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Our ’79 AMC Concord DL was reasonably priced, comfortable and reliable. It was also rust-prone. Small rust bubbles started appearing on the front fenders by the third year.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Gardiner: Aren’t you in Canada? I seem to remember that. I’m not surprised by the rust. It seems to me that during the 1981 model year, AMC upgraded their rustproofing by a considerable amount. IIRC, they went with factory applied Ziebart rustproofing and put a 5 year warranty on perforation.

      FWIW, my brother had a 1984 Eagle Sedan that he drove daily in Pennsylvania (strict-ish bi-annual inspections back then) for 14 years. The car did have to endure some body work during the last several years on the road, but what took the car off the road was that the engine finally gave out after 300K+ miles.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    So not just beige but “relentlessly” beige…whatever that means.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This was weird. The 4wd coupe model was next-level weird.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Enough already with the word “malaise”. Just stop. I don’t know who made up this term but now one can’t read any article about 70s era cars without that word popping up. It wasn’t that long ago where that word was never used in this context. So what happened. Did all the brain dead millennial writers join in on some newly crafted word? So stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Sorry, but that’s the term the Internet Car Commentariat settled on to describe the mid-late ’70s and early ’80s automotive craptacuolae. Blame Murilee:
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/what-about-the-malaise-era-more-specifically-what-about-this-1979-ford-granada/

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      I might be wrong but I think it was TTAC’s own Murilee Martin that coined the term “Malaise Era”. Given the cars and the times, it sure fits. Everything sucked. Except my orange sparkle-painted banana-seat bicycle with ape-hanger handlebars and a hockey card in the spokes, held on by a wooden clothespin.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “The phrase “Malaise era” was defined by automotive journalist and photographer Murilee Martin early in his tenure at Jalopnik.[citation needed] He expanded upon his definition in a lengthy article for the website The Truth About Cars in 2011.[citation needed]

        The term is in reference to the commonly-used name of a televised speech given in 1979 by then-President Jimmy Carter, also known as the “Crisis of Confidence” speech.[citation needed] “- Wikipedia

        You are correct, but as you can see by the “citations needed” it’s up for debate

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      It’s an appropriate term for the cars of the day. Think of the Corvette, the top engine went from 435+ hp in 1971 to about 200 in 1980. The average Buick or Mercury sedan of 1970 had at least 250 hp, by 1980 numbers just over 100 were common. Add to this the massive 5-mph bumpers, the baroque styling, the plasticification of the interiors, and, with the introduction of square headlights in 1976, a bland sameness that permeated the industry until the late 80’s. Malaise is the perfect word to describe an American automotive era when budgets and technology could not keep up with changes related to safety, insurance, emissions, fuel economy, and foreign competition.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      A gen-Xer coined the term, if that matters.

    • 0 avatar
      A Scientist

      I’ve always assumed it was a short-hand reference to the Carter years, a la his infamous “malaise speech” in 1979. The quality of the cars kinda fit right in.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidency_of_Jimmy_Carter

    • 0 avatar

      I like Malaise era music though, it was called in more hip terms “The New Wave”. And in music videos all kind of Malaise era cars, esp police cars. Who remembers the cool Cardigans video with Malaise era Caddy “My fave game” (do not try that at home)? But it was 90s pop actually.

      youtube.com/watch?v=u9WgtlgGAgs

  • avatar
    Boff

    Editing dept.: “latter” = second of two “last” = last in a list of >2.

  • avatar
    jimbo1126

    I have to admit, even though the coupe featured here is ug-lee with its overwrought opera window, the sedan in the video is beautiful.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      That ‘ug-lee’ opera window was needed for rear-quarter visibility; I had one quite similar in my ’79 Dodge Aspen and it gave a clear view of your typical blind spot when changing lanes. You might not appreciate it but I would.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I too enjoy these articles on long forgotten and / or orphan vehicles….

    Just because you (certainly I) don’t want to buy one doesn’t make this a bad car or bad article .

    -Nate


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