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AMC Gremlins

alextalext Posts: 63
I was going to talk about Gremlins in the AMC
topic I made in the classics section, but since
there were a lot of heated responses by some of the
people there, I decided to put it here in
hatchbacks (since it is a pretty important part of
hatchback history).

Anyway, I use to own a '66 AMC Rambler and I grew
up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where AMC HQ built just
about every AMC in the U.S. up intil 1987. Both my
mom and my aunt had Gremlins, my grandmother had a
Pacer and my dad had an Ambassador. SO I've
decided to restore a '74 Gremlin I've recently
found for sale.

It's in great shape, ahs only 50,000 original
miles on the clock, the old v6 is running strong,
and only needs some cosmetics to bring it back to
glory (new windshield, hammer out a few dents, new
paint, new interior upholstery, etc.). Well, I was
just wondering if any of the hatchfans out there
have also restopred Gremlins (I hear they're one of
the most popular classic cars to restore for the
under-25ers) and I was interested in finding some
tips on increasing performance and fuel economy.
So far I'm planning on getting a K&N air filter and
adding a performance muffler and exhaust tip.


  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    Gremlin in Classics? I'm feeling old. :-) When I was in high school, the first girl to have her own car bought a deadly green Gremlin. It got us to and from school, shopping, parties, and much more. I have good memories of it. I wasn't the driver, of course.

    It's been some time since I've seen one on the roads. I'll be keeping an eye out now. Lurkers, let's hear from you.

  • alextalext Posts: 63
    Well, since the old Gremnmy is having a hard time starting (not unlike my Rambler used to) I've opted to replace the carburetor entirely with a new/reconditioned one from JC Whitney. At $100 it's not a bad buy for better performance/gas mileage. Now I just have to get it installed (I'm no mechanic). Any guesses on average labor cost? I think I may replace the timing chain as well, as the original is made of plastic (is that 70's for ya or what?), and although not too worn I figured why not put a brand new steel one in? Only $30 for the parts plus current quote of $90-$100 for the labor from a local shop. A good tune up is next on list, the cosmetics will have to wait until September when I have more dough.
  • rickroverrickrover Posts: 602
    You may want to install an electronic ignition when you tune it up, that way you won't have points anymore. I'd think JC would have a kit for it.
  • alextalext Posts: 63
    Is it possible to install a larger carb? The gremlin 6 cyl. uses a 1 barrel carb, I was wondering if it's possible (or practical) to make modifications for a 2, 3 or 4 barrel carb.
  • alextalext Posts: 63
    Well, I found the electronic ignition in JCW, and at only $77 I'll probably be getting within the coming month. I also found an electronic choke to replace the old automatic one for only $18, which I will get along with the carg immediately.

    And I guess I answered my own question since I found that JCW also has a conversion kit for the smaller displacement 6 cylinder that includes a massive 4 barrel intake manifold and a customized 4-barrel carb. Together they run a little under $600, so they won't be in my gremlin anytime soon, but for the power and performance of a v8 with the efficiency of a 6 I probably will install the kit in 6 months to a year from now. This reminds me of how cool it was that AMC made the gremlin X with a 304 8-cylinder. I mean, nowadays it's pretty damn hard to find a compact hatchback with a v6, much less a v8. As far as I know the only company's that make them are BMW and VW (??? and GTI GLX). And I've even seen gremlins maxed out with an AMC 401 v8, which for you modern folks is a huge 6.6 litres.
  • emmett1emmett1 Posts: 20
    Hi guys. I was a little kid in the 70's and I remember Gremlins. They had some funky colors, and one of my childhood memories is seeing my neighbor buy her first car....a PURPLE Gremlin. It was wild and the neighbors were mortified by the color, but I thought it was cool. Oh well, something else from our youth has Good luck on the Gremlin. Maybe for your next 70's project, you can restore a Vega or Duster...or the sister car to the Duster, the Demon, which also came in purple I
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    Alext, please keep us posted on your restoration project. As I wrote above, Gremlins have a special place in my heart.

  • For those who don't know or remember, and yet may care, the Gremlin was based on the AMC Hornet, a compact car, designed to compete with cars such as the Chevy Nova, Ford Maverick, Plymouth Valiant, and a smattering of imported compacts. The Gremlin was essentially a hatchback version of the Hornet (which was later renamed Concord), and it was introduced to do battle with the sub compact VW Beetle, Toyota Corona, Datsun (Nissan) 510, and the soon to be introduced Chevy Vega, Ford Pinto, and Plymouth Duster.

    To clarify a couple of inacuracies from former messages, the Gremlin's 6 cylinder engine was a straight 6, not a V6, and I'm almost certain that it came from the Nash side of the Nash-Hudson merger, not Hudson. That engine was indeed durable, as was pointed out, but the flip side was that it was also rather heavy for a car of the Gremlin's dimensions. The front end weight detracted from the car's handling and traction. The heavier V8 version only exacerbated the weight distribution problems of the 6.

    The Gremlin was developed on a very tight budget, and AMC did a very commendable job with the money it had. While it was fairly competitive for its time, the Gremlin had design compromises due to it's being essentially a chopped off compact made to compete with new from the ground up sub compacts. In addition to its heavy engine, which was less fuel efficient than the competing 4 cylinders, the back seat room, especially leg and foot room, was very tight, even by the sub compact standards of the '70s.

    Similar comments as were made for the Gremlin could be said of Chrysler with its Plymouth Duster/Dodge Demon, which were coupe variations based on the Valiant 4 door.

    Fortunately for AMC, all of its competitors had serious flaws of one type or another. The VW Beetle, for all of its vaunted strong points, was an old design, and among it's numerous weaknesses was the fact that its already underpowered, noisy engine couldn't adapt well to the tightening emission standards; the Vega and the Pinto were plagued by design serious design defects, some (though not all) of which were compounded by abysmal build quality; the Duster and Demon had the some of the same design compromises as the Gremlin; and the Japanese cars, though not too bad for their day, didn't have nearly the quality of later models. For example, I owned a '70 Datsun 510, which developed somewhat of a cult status, and it was the worst car I've ever owned, although it's possible that mine may have been a lemon.
  • As a P.S. to my previous message, I agree that the Gremlin has a lot of nostalgia value. have fun with your restoration, Alext.
  • The '74 Gremlin was my first car. I bought it new for $2903 including sales tax and registration. It was the 232ci straight 6 with a 3 speed on the floor, bench seat, rubber floor, no carpeting. As a previous post noted, the weight distribution was poor, but man I could lay down a smokey burnout with the light rearend and bias-ply tires. The car was generally cheap to run and easy to work on.

    The thing that bugged me was how the steering deteriorated on that car. The ball joints (and probably many other parts) wore somewhat quickly. I remember having to do a lot of steering just to go straight. Very sloppy steering. Hopefully you can find a way to address this in your restoration so the car can be a fun drive.
  • marbymarby Posts: 34
    AMC were known to wear out Ball Joints and Idler Arm Bushing,The latter was inexpensive the Ball Joints no.
  • Girl at work has a 1978 with the big egg-crate grill. That poor car has a three-speed stick on the floor, manual steering, manual brakes, no air, a cheap radio, and it is brown of all colors. She says she has spent thousands of dollars on it in the last few years and will never sell it. It still looks hideous, but I guess all the mechanical work is done. She has a bumper sticker says, "Yes, it's fast, No, you can't drive it"
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    I saw a Gremlin the other day and it was sad to see how beat up and old it was. It was a cool car. At the time.

  • I was a kid in the late '60s/early '70s and loved purple! I thought the Gremlin was kinda cool too. One day, shopping with my Mom, I found a toy purple Gremlin with the 'pullback' motor in it. I think it may be packed away somewhere still. I'll have to check one of these days.

    Later in life, some friends and I rented a Hornet (I think). It was a two door hatchback, 6 cyl, auto. That thing could smoke it's tires and I got it up to about 115mph! That was the fastest I had ever gone up until then.
  • Had the "Levi" interior. Brings back memories.
    Worst car I ever owned!
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    The levi interior!!!! I forgot about that! What a hoot!!

  • navy4navy4 Posts: 44
    I had the parent car, Hornet. What a POS. I did like the car though. But how do you spell GEEK? Gremlin! LOL
  • CooperCooper Posts: 55
    I've always liked Gremlins.

    Speaking of Levi interiors, my sister had a Dodge Colt (I think) in the late 70s that was white and had a "denim" motif. I recall that the vinyl roof was light blue.

    I used to drive on Main street between Somerville and Bound Brook, NJ as part of my commute to work. It was not uncommon to see a Pacer in the morning. I'd always smile when I saw it.

    My first car was a 74 Pinto ... without carpeting! Sold that and got my parents '72 Scamp. Then on to a succession of VWs.

    The "Cooper" for my name is because we used to have a '66 Mini Cooper S. A rare one, too, with the 970 cc engine. Now my wife has a '66 Austin Mini Moke. (I must really be strange.)
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    Sounds like you and your wife were made for each other! Enjoy!!

  • gitongiton Posts: 15
    My mom had a Gremlin, at the time I remember it looked very futuristic. It had a hard bench seat, no radio, no a/c, no power steering. Mom had biceps from pulling the steering wheel, she liked to corner fast:)
    I know voted it one of the 10 worst cars ever, but it lasted well over a decade, and was very dependable.
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    Yes, giton, at one time it did. And I didn't even know was around long enough to keep its worst cars list running for ten years! ;-)

  • Had i think a 258 CI engine i think. 3 speed with a body that was dented on every panel and bumper. Was working then repaired Bentleys and R.Royce but older models...Hypen Repairs...Anyhow the car was a POS but i kept it running!

    Pulled into a van show which were popular back then with these vans painted in mucho expensive paint jobs.

    Well i knew how to spot bad work from doing the renovation part of painting these old cars and when my Gremlin pulled onto the field the hoots and hollers were fun for the first five minutes...I was paid minimum wage minus! Overtime was free in those days so my body and paint looked kinda...well it was really bad!

    But i knew what to look for.

    Van #1 Nice paint but Plastic and here.

    After looking at about 4 Vans with great airbrush i was being given free beers etal!

    I left when they all got together and started a revolt on the bodyshops...

    Paint should be done AFTER the BODYWORK has been done.

    Whyford, trip down memory lane :)
  • perry40perry40 Posts: 94
    My very first car was a red & white 1976 Gremlin X that I bought in April 1980 for $1200cdn ... I loved that car & even named her "Wendy" after the gremmie in Cheech & Chongs "Up in Smoke" that wouldn't start! Man, Wendy & I had some great adventures! Camping trips, girls ... ah to be 18 again!
  • I bought a new red 73 X and then a new 74 blue Levi X in 74. Only problem I had was the rockers on the valves kept wearing out on the 74. On the 258 in that car the rockers were individual and you replaced them one at a time. Engine had GOBS of torque. 3spd on the floor got it going. Put larger tires on the rear and it really looked sporty. Kind of comical in one way, but I wish I had a good low mileage one now. The base models looked ugly to me, but the X package made the difference for me.
  • kjclowkjclow Posts: 29
    I got my gremlin from my sister. I think that it was a 73 or 74. Red with white stripes. When it would start and stay running, it was a good second car. I got just before getting married in 82. I had all kinds of electrical problems, so did my sister. Had to have it mostly rewired because the battery kept shorting out and then leaking acid. I traded it after 3 months of headaches on a new Subaru Wagon. Good buy for the money in 82. Only $5000 after trade of $750 (?)

    Good luck on restoration. Watch out for the electrical problems
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