Monday, July 4, 2011
Car Of The Day: July 4, 2011
Today's car of the day is Hot Wheels' 1972 AMC Gremlin modified racer.
The AMC Gremlin is a subcompact car from American Motors Corporation, introduced as a 1970½ model and produced through the 1978 model year. AMC reduced development and manufacturing costs by adapting a shortened compact Hornet platform with Kammback-like tail producing what was described at its introduction as "the first American-built import".
The AMC Gremlin was introduced April 1, 1970 competing with the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto introduced six months later, as well as imported cars including the VW Beetle and the Toyota Corona. The Gremlin would become American Motors' best-selling passenger car since the Rambler Classic. From April 1970 through 1978, a total of 671,475 Gremlins were built in the United States and Canada. With a mild body restyling, the basic design continued with the AMC Spirit and the all-wheel-drive AMC Eagle until 1983."
For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: AMC Gremlin
Hot Wheels had an obsession with the AMC Gremlin back in the 1970s. That's the only way I can explain how they did three different examples of AMC's compact: Openfire, Gremlin Grinder, and the Greased Gremlin seen here. 1972's Openfire was a reverse-stretched, 6-wheeled, V-12 powered Gremlin. 1974's Gremling Grinder was the closest to stock, with stock body proportions, but with a giant motor sticking out from where the hood should have been. And finally, in the last year of the Gremlin's lifespan (1978) the Greased Gremlin debuted. This was an early Gremlin (1971-76) modified into a dirt/asphault modified race car. This type of racing was especially popular in the Northeast and Southeast, and Gremlins could still be found competing as late as the late 1990s. I remember reading in AARN (Area Auto Racing News) that one team put together a brand new Gremlin modified in 1998 (the only part of that particular car fabricated from a real Gremlin was the roof). The green example seen here was a recent RAOK from Firehawk73 (thanks Paul!).
Ford and General Motors were to launch new subcompact cars for 1971, but AMC did not have the financial resources to respond with an entirely new competing design. Chief stylist Richard A. Teague's solution was to truncate the tail of a Javelin (legend has it that Teague sketched the design on a Northwest Orient air sickness bag). The result was the AMX-GT, first shown at the New York International Auto Show in April 1968. The AMX-GT was never produced (although the "AMX" name was used from 1968 to 1970 on a shortened, two-seat version of the Javelin).
Instead, AMC's new subcompact, designed by future Chief of Design, Bob Nixon, was based on the Hornet, a compact car (based on interior volume) with a wheelbase of 108 inches (2,743 mm). For the Gremlin, the Hornet wheelbase was reduced to 96 inches (2,438 mm). The overall length was cut from 179 to 161 inches (4,500 to 4,100 mm), only fractionally longer than the Volkswagen and shorter than either the Pinto or Vega.
The Gremlin was AMC's "bold and innovative approach" to preparing for two imminent crises in the American automobile industry: reduced gasoline supplies, and an "alarming increase" in the sale of fuel-efficient imports.
Executives at the automaker apparently felt confident enough to not worry about the word's negative connotations. Time magazine noted two definitions for "gremlin": Defined by Webster's as "a small gnome held to be responsible for malfunction of equipment." American Motors' definition: "a pal to its friends and an ogre to its enemies." The AMC Gremlin also featured a cartoon inspired mascot that was also used as a marketing tool for product differentiation and to provide memorable qualities for consumers.
Capitalizing on AMC's advantage as a small car producer, the Gremlin was introduced in April 1970 and was rated a good buy at an economical price. The AMC Gremlin was six months ahead of its domestic competitors from Ford and GM. The April 6, 1970 cover of Newsweek magazine featured a red AMC Gremlin for its article, "Detroit Fights Back: The Gremlin". The smallest domestic automaker able to achieve this by adapting its existing products and it also avoided developing and building a new four-cylinder engine. The Gremlin featured a six-cylinder engine and base prices below US$2,000, AMC's 'import-fighter' initially sold over 26,000 in its abbreviated first season" before the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto were introduced. Although its appearance received some criticism, the Gremlin had an important advantage with its low price. The Gremlin's exterior "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 was promoted as "America's first subcompact". Nevertheless, this description overlooks the earlier and diminutive Crosley and Nash Metropolitan. The latter—a subcompact-sized "captive import", American-conceived and American-designed for the American market, and built in the UK with a British engine—has a claim to be "America's first subcompact."
From the seatbacks forward the Gremlin was essentially a Hornet, but with a shortened wheelbase and reduced overall length. The Gremlin was just two inches (50 mm) longer than the original Volkswagen Beetle, but the long hood over its front engine made "the difference seem considerably more." The Gremlin's wider stance gave it "a stable, quiet and relatively comfortable ride - for the two front passengers. "Front-seat room was enormous by small-car standards, especially leg room and interior width". Like some other cars of less than standard size, the back seat is designed for small children only". The Gremlin's six cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seat was smaller than that of the rear-engined Volkswagen Beetle, although folding the rear seat tripled the cargo area to 18 cubic feet (509.7 l) and was accessible through the rear hatch window.
The cut-off "Kammback-type" design with a station wagon-type upright rear design allowed for interior space utilization and was aerodynamically efficient. Later, other automobiles from Europe and Japan would also create different models by adding or truncating the trunk "box" from a basic small car design (such as the Volkswagen Golf from the Volkswagen Jetta and the shortened wheelbase BMW and Mercedes coupes) though with less dramatic style. While the Gremlin's notoriety was mainly over its polarizing styling, it never suffered from controversies over gas tank safety or engine durability that dogged its competitors from Ford and GM.
The Gremlin was available in two versions: a "base" two-passenger model with fixed back window, intended as the leading "import-fighter" with a suggested retail price of $1,879 (US$10,628 in 2011dollars); and a four-seater with flip-up rear window "hatch", at $1,959 (US$11,080 in 2011dollars). As with the Volkswagen Beetle that it was designed to compete against, the Gremlin's styling made it impossible to confuse it with anything else on the road.
However, even though Gremlins share numerous parts and components with other AMC models, finding parts for a restoration project can be difficult. This is exacerbated by the fact that many Gremlins were chopped up during the late 1970s and the 1980s to make dirt-track racers. The body of choice on the dirt circuit was the Gremlin and AMC Eagle. The subcompact bodies fit Modified chassis and of special interest was the Gremlin's slab top and sides with a contour that was easy to duplicate in sheet metal.
If the red one has you scratching your head, that one is a custom purchased from 69Stang (thanks Ward!). He removed the rear spoiler and went to town detailing and and giving it better wheels and paint.