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Some might say the AMC Gremlin is one of the ugliest and worst cars ever. Given its boxy, sawed-off shape and tiny size, it’s easy to see why. However, despite its appearance, the Gremlin enjoyed decent sales during its production from 1970 to 1978. Introduced as a low-cost alternative to larger, more expensive cars, the Gremlin found a niche despite its flaws. Here are six reasons why the AMC Gremlin was a sales success story.

1. It was cheap to buy

1970 AMC Gremlin sales
1970 AMC Gremlin | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of the main reasons for the Gremlin’s success was its rock-bottom price. AMC designed the car to be cheap to produce and focused on efficiency and affordability. Its price was significantly lower than competitors, making it a popular choice for bargain hunters. The most affordable 1970 model cost $1,879, about the same as the Volkswagen Beetle, MotorTrend reports. That would be only $14,871 today. 

2. The AMC Gremlin was American-made

At a time when many consumers were skeptical of foreign-made cars, the fact that the Gremlin was made in the USA was a selling point. Americans saw domestic cars as more reliable and trustworthy than their Japanese or German counterparts, and the Gremlin benefited from this perception. It made the Gremlin a popular pick for consumers wanting an American-made car that wouldn’t break the bank.

3. It was compact

In the 1970s, bigger was not always seen as better. At the time, more fuel-efficient cars were in demand. The Gremlin’s compact size made it a hit among drivers wanting a vehicle that was easy to maneuver and park in tight spaces. It also pleased city dwellers needing a nimble car to navigate traffic.

4. The Gremlin got great gas mileage

With its lightweight design and efficient engine, the AMC Gremlin boasted better fuel economy than most larger cars. That made it ideal for consumers concerned about rising gas prices and wanting to save money at the pump. The 1970 model’s “21-gallon tank gave the car a useful 500-mile range,” Hagerty reports. And with the 1973 model, “20 mpg was possible, which was good mileage for the era.”

5. It was faster than competitors

Despite its diminutive size, the Gremlin was surprisingly speedy. Its innovative engine design provided impressive acceleration and a fun and exciting ride. According to MotorTrend, it packed a 3.3-liter cam-in-block cast-iron straight-six but also offered a 3.8-liter six. That made it attractive to younger customers looking for an affordable yet sporty ride.

6. The Gremlin had a unique look

The AMC Gremlin’s distinctive design made it stand out on the road. Though some found its styling ugly and odd, others saw it as quirky and cool. The car had an unmistakable silhouette, with a long hood and a short, sloping rear end.

The AMC Gremlin is better than expected

The Gremlin wasn’t elegant or luxurious, but it was a sales success story for its maker. 

“AMC built 671,475 Gremlins between 1970 and 1978,” MotorTrend reports. “That’s a drop in the bucket compared to other automakers — Chevrolet built more full-size cars in 1970 alone — but it was enough to make the Gremlin the second-bestselling car in AMC’s history.”

The car carved out a niche and found a fan base. Though it might not be a classic, it’s one of the best cars of the 1970s and deserves more credit for its role in automotive history.


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