Photo swiped from Wikipedia. I love this photo right down to the manufacturer’s year “1970 1/2.” They must have swiped it from some AMC Gremlin promotional material. I love the little woman standing behind the Gremlin. I’m pretending that’s me.
And if you go to the wikipedia article itself, you can read, “Introduced on April 1, 1970, and competing with the Chevrolet Vega, Ford Pinto, and imported cars including the VW Beetle and the Toyota Corona, the Gremlin became AMC’s best-selling passenger car since the Rambler Classic. A total of 671,475 were built.” It’s competition is even legendary – the flimsy Vega, the blow-torch Pinto, the death trap Beetle, and the blow-great-billows-of-black-smoke-out-the-exhaust-pipe Corona.
I always wanted a Gremlin, but it’s something you want when you are young and stupid. But then, again, maybe not. Maybe it’s just something you want because the car is simply so ugly. But then, maybe the Gremlin is in your soul and you can’t get it out of your mind – ever.
Once 20 years ago, while driving on the Indian reservation in North Scottsdale, a speeding purple Gremlin sucked my doors in. The driver was a middle aged woman in a cowboy hat. Her bumper sticker said ‘Cowgirl from Hell.” And I assumed she was because she was speeding on the reservation. NO ONE DOES THAT. And why? Two words – reservation police.
And then, my cousin who is not really my cousin but claims cousin-hood simply because that’s easier, contacted me fifteen years ago about a friend of hers who had a Gremlin with a modified engine for sale.
Of course, my immediate response was: “A Gremlin that’s still running has to have a modified engine.”
Her response was, “No, really modified, so much so it’s blowing off the back end of the car when he test drives it.”
My response was, “Look at the back end of the car. It doesn’t have one. There’s nothing to blow off.”
Anyway, several emails later, the Gremlin owner and engine modifier was willing to sell the Gremlin to me with the oversized Ford engine he had dropped in it. It was tempting, very tempting. He would drive the car from Tennessee to Arizona, where I lived, but then, I would have to buy his plane ticket back home. I was not cool with that part. In the mean time, years went by while I contemplating his proposition. His shop went broke – probably because he was modifying cars like Gremlins. Then, he had a stroke, and beat up the attendants in his nursing home. Then, he died, but I think it was after he got kicked out of the nursing home. Lesson learned from that part. You can get kicked out of school and nursing homes much the same way – for fighting.
Anyway, I’ve not seen any Gremlins since I moved to California. The closest I’ve come was an AMC Oleg Cassini Matador, exactly like the one pictured here, another one of AMC’s so-fugly-you-have-to-have-them cars. The sale price of $6500 was posted on the driver side window. It was parked on a side street near my condo so I kept my eye on it. After two months, the price dropped to $4500. I called the phone number on the for sale sign and offered the man $3000. He turned me down, but not before he gave me an ear full about my cheapness – as if that was something I had never heard. In another couple of months, the car was gone. I think it was towed. At least, that’s what I tell myself.