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Classic Car Cultist: AMC Gremlin

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On: Mon, Feb 21, 2011 at 1:32PM | By: Chris Salamone

Classic Car Cultist: AMC Gremlin

Some cars pass through dealerships and change hands a few times only to disappear into the annals of automotive history. Other cars become instant collector items. These vehicles have long-term value from the moment they are manufactured. The AMC Gremlin does not fall into either category. Produced from 1970-1978, the Gremlin has slowly earned its place within the hearts and minds of classic car enthusiasts and now carries a somewhat cult-like following. Evidence of the car’s popularity is found in the numerous TV and movie spots which add character depth by throwing in an oddball 1970s Gremlin to spice up the show, consider the HBO hit series True Blood or the Adam Sandler flick The Wedding Singer. The vehicle features a chopped Kammback-type rear end intended to improve aerodynamics and gas mileage. ‘Kamm Tails’ are found in many modern cars as well, including the current Toyota Prius. From the honorable distinction as America’s First Subcompact to the addition of a throaty 5.0L V8 the AMC Gremlin is finally being appreciated as a classic car.

When the Gremlin was introduced in 1970, AMC claimed it offered the best gas mileage of any production car made in the United States. The original vehicle commanded a sale price of $1879. Over the years, with the addition of a few models and options the Gremlin’s price went up. Although the car originally topped out with a 5.0L V8, an AMC dealership in Arizona got official permission to create a high-powered modification: the Randall 401-XR. It sold for nearly $3000 and included a 6.6L V8 which ran quarter miles in 12.22 seconds at 115 miles per hour. Even so, original Gremlins with the 5.0L V8, Levi’s trim, and X package retain the highest value and collectability.

But the Gremlin’s throaty potential is not what made it a fan favorite. From the beginning AMC executives knew the car’s main selling-point would be the downright bizarre aesthetic which led to a playful advertising campaign. When the car was released, a Time magazine article noted two different definitions for the term ‘gremlin’. The first, provided by Webster’s, called a gremlin “a small gnome held to be responsible for the malfunction of equipment.” On the other hand AMC’s definition invoked the car’s quirky nature, “a pal to its friends and an ogre to its enemies.” The ad campaign also featured a cartoon mascot. Also a number of universities in the 1970s used the Gremlin to test alternative fuel sources for vehicles, which only served to add to the Gremlin’s reputation.

All of these facts combined have created an excitement which still buzzes around the AMC Gremlin. Indeed, that’s probably why the vehicle works so well in TV shows and movies. When a character uses a Gremlin, some of the car’s magic rubs off on the driver. Viewers can’t help feeling the character is friendly, or perhaps even a pal.

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Michigander | 10:56AM (Tue, Feb 22, 2011)

Who wouldn't want a Gremlin? I mean come on... it's called a GREMLIN!!!

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