Developing the 1970 AMC Gremlin
Now let's consider the details of American Motors' development of the 1970 AMC Gremlin. The 1970 AMC Gremlins and the AMC Hornets were nearly identical from the doors forward. Hoods were similar, though Gremlin's hood had a stamped-in "power bulge" in place of the Hornet's center windsplit.
The 1970 AMC Gremlin and Hornet were nearly
identical from the doors forward, but the
sportier Gremlin had a rear hatch.
The Gremlin grille included a heavy surround that encompassed the
headlights and side marker lamps, and rectangular parking lights
floated in the grille opening. All these details were departures from the the Hornet design, but bumpers and fenders were the same. The biggest difference was behind the front seat.
There, Gremlin's character veered sharply from that of its stablemate. Whereas the Hornet was a conventional-looking family compact, Gremlin seemed younger and "groovier" because it sported a rear hatch. The few hatchbacks on the market were all imports, so the Gremlin was unique for an American car.
AMC had to price the Gremlin low to compete with the imports and the upcoming GM and Ford entries. To hit that target, the company cooked up a model strategy about as offbeat as the Gremlin's looks -- a stripped two-passenger sedan tagged at $1,879, as a price leader, and a somewhat better-equipped four-passenger model priced at $1,959 that would be the volume seller.
This would allow the company to advertise Gremlin as the lowest-priced American car, yet still sell most of its production at a profit margin more friendly to the bottom line.
Still, Gremlin wasn't that much cheaper than other U.S. cars. Ford's Maverick was priced at $1,995, and AMC's own Hornet began at $1,994. Gremlin's main target, the Volkswagen Beetle, was $1,839.
The VW "Bug" was a four-cylinder car. Gremlins, however, came with a smooth-running 199-cubic inch, 128-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine and a column-shifted three-speed manual transmission.
Interiors were plain, with vinyl seats and a rubber floor mat as standard equipment, same as most small cars of the day. Buyers of the two-passenger Gremlin not only didn't get a rear seat, they had to settle for a fixed, non-opening rear glass.
Gremlin suffered with some dated mechanical features like vacuum-powered windshield wipers and an unsynchronized first gear in the manual tranny. Also, most imports, the Beetle included, had four-speed gearboxes. Then again, many imports didn't even offer an automatic transmission, let alone a smooth three-speed unit like the Gremlin's. Likewise, none could match Gremlin's modern air conditioning system.
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