Classic Car Archive Specs, Facts, & History
The AMC Gremlin was a two-door subcompact car produced in the United States, Canada and Mexico by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos.
The Gremlin was an economy car by 1970s U.S. standards. Designed by Bob Nixon from an idea by Richard A. Teague, the car was based on a shortened and adapted Hornet platform with a Kammback-type tail. Faster than other subcompacts of the time, it competed with the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto, and also with imported cars including the Volkswagen Beetle and Toyota Corona.
The idea for the Gremlin began in 1966 when design chief at American Motors, Richard A. Teague, and stylist Bob Nixon discussed the possibility of a shortened version of AMC’s compact car. On an airline flight, Teague’s solution, which he said he sketched on an air sickness bag, was to truncate the tail of a Javelin. Bob Nixon joined AMC as a 23-year-old and did the first formal design sketches in 1967 for the car that was to be the Gremlin.
Capitalizing on AMC’s advantage as a small car producer, the Gremlin was introduced on 1 April 1970, and was rated a good buy at an economical price. The 6 April 1970 cover of Newsweek magazine featured a red Gremlin for its article, “Detroit Fights Back: The Gremlin”. The car was available as a “base” two-seater with fixed back window, at a suggested retail price of $1,879, and as a four-seater hatchback with opening rear window, at $1,959.
From the front of the car to the B-pillars, the Gremlin was essentially the same as the AMC Hornet. Although it was only fractionally longer than the contemporary Volkswagen Beetle, Time said the length of its hood over the front-mounted engine made “the difference seem considerably more”, adding that the car “resembles a sawed-off station wagon, with a long, low hood and swept-up rear, and is faintly reminiscent of the original Studebaker Avanti.”
The Gremlin debuted in April 1970 with AMC’s 199 cu in I6, a seven main bearing design which produced 128 hp as standard equipment, with AMC’s 232 cu in I6 – producing 145 hp as an option. AMC said the Gremlin offered “the best gas mileage of any production car made in America”. According to the auto editors of Consumer Guide it had “an unusually long option list for the era” so owners could have luxury and conveniences typically found in more expensive cars, and these options “came with a much higher profit margin” for the automaker.
As the first of the new domestic subcompact cars, “the Gremlin has been the most talked-about car since its introduction.” Sales for the abbreviated model year were 25,300.
Popular Science assigned its editor to the equivalent of one year of driving by conducting a 10,000-mile cross-country road test of a brand new Gremlin, and reported after driving it “without a single problem is an enviable record” and that “we were all impressed with the quality of this vehicle.” A nationwide survey based on owners driving their 1970 AMC Gremlins over 1,350,000 miles conducted by Popular Mechanics concluded that the unique styling attracted many buyers, but economy topped their likes.
|Engine||0 to 60 MPH||Quarter Mile||Source|
|199ci||11.7 sec||18.8 @72 mph||Reported|
|232ci||10.4 sec||18.0 @77 mph||Reported|
|199ci I-6||199ci||1x2bbl||128hp||182 lb-ft|
|232ci I-6||232ci||1x2bbl||145hp||215 lb-ft|
Ask Gremlin expert Richard Ehrenberg