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The world is getting stranger every day. Case in point: American Motors (AMC) Gremlin, those oddball econocars of the 1970s, are a thing with car collectors. They’re continuing to pop up on collector car sites and seeing increasingly higher asking prices. Not too sure sellers are reaping the amounts they’re asking, but there is no harm in asking, right? Anyway, if you’re interested or just curious about the 1970 to 1979 AMC Gremlin, we have some insight. 

With the success of the Volkswagen Beetle in the 1960s, the Gremlin was a play for those buyers. The price was slightly below that of a new Beetle, partly because it started as an AMC Hornet with the back whacked off, shortening the wheelbase by an even foot. This saved both development time and tooling costs. AMC was perennially scraping the bottom of the money barrel for everything it did.  

How could AMC sell a Gremlin for only $1,879?

Early AMC Gremlin advertising for $1,879 base price
Early AMC Gremlin advertising | Stellantis

The other reason AMC could sell the Gremlin for a base price of $1,879 was because the company stripped the heck out of them. No rear seats and a fixed rear window were just some of its features if you can call them that. A 128 hp straight six-cylinder OHV engine and three-speed manual transmission with no first-gear synchro were also part of that package. 

1970 AMC Gremlin with optional lift window with model
1970 AMC Gremlin with optional lift window | Stellantis

Of course, there were plenty of options available. Most early Gremmies were optioned out well, but at least that $1,879 base price got them “in the tent.” It would be surprising if any still exist today. They mostly rattled apart before the 1980s. 

Vice President and head of design Dick Teague originally penned the curious design on an airplane barf bag in 1966. No, we’re not kidding. The talented, quickwitted Teague said of the design, “Nobody would have paid it any attention if it had looked like one of the Big Three.”

What competition did the AMC Gremlin have?

Levis option AMC Gremlin advertising
Early AMC Gremlin advertising | Stellantis

At the time, it was already known that Ford, with its Pinto, and GM, with the Chevrolet Vega, were readying small, lightweight cars to go after Volkswagen. Plus, Nissan and Toyota were rapidly gaining ground in the same small car segment. By 1970 both Japanese manufacturers were overtaking even Volkswagen in the U.S.

AMC Gremlin advertising promoting how inexpensive it was
Early AMC Gremlin advertising | Stellantis

The plucky manufacturer took a light-hearted approach with the Gremlin, starting with its name. In advertising, it said, “If you can afford a new car, you can afford two Gremlins.” And it debuted on April Fool’s Day, 1970. This beat out both the Pinto and Vega by a full six months. 

When was the last Gremlin made?

1978 AMC Gremlin GT package
1978 AMC Gremlin X | Stellantis

But AMC was already readying an “X” package that would help it increase sales from that first shortened year selling 28,560 Gremlins. Sales reached almost 77,000 in 1971, to 185,265 by 1974. In all, AMC produced 671,475 Gremmies through 1978. And toward the end, the options list included a Laycock de Normaville electric overdrive, according to Silodrome.

By then, AMC was finding other mutations of the 1968 Hornet to make money with, like the fastback Spirit starting in 1979. Lasting through 1983, the stalwart company had found unique enough Hornet variants to keep the platform alive for a total of 16 years. AMC itself would only last a few years, dying an ignominious death in 1988.  


6 Reasons Why the AMC Gremlin Was a Car Sales Success Story