$2,700! 1981 AMC Spirit DL Liftback


This 1981 AMC Spirit DL is about as distinctive of a design as ever came out of Kenosha, in my opinion. But, for AMC, the company that brought us the Hornet, Matador, and Pacer, that isn’t saying too much. AMC fans know that the Spirit was a replacement for the Gremlin. This liftback design wasn’t a Gremlin feature, but the Spirit also came in a Sedan / Kammback body style which very much was a direct takeoff on the Gremlin. This particular car is listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of just $2,700 or make an offer! For anyone who says that they can’t find an old car to tinker with and goof around with on weekends isn’t looking too hard. Or, they’re not really looking, they’re still holding out for that hidden Hemi Cuda for $2,700. This good-looking Spirit is located in Warwick, New York.


I wonder if anyone has done a breakdown (don’t say breakdown when you’re talking about a 35-year old car!) on how many librarians owned AMC Spirits? It sure looks like a car that would have been owned by someone who wasn’t hot-rodding around and adding a bunch of aftermarket hoo-ha’s and thing-a-ma-jigs to them. This Sherwood Green Spirit looks perfectly stock and it looks like it’s in great condition, doesn’t it? Some of the factory-applied stripes are fading and flaking a bit, but so am I!

The seller and their son has owned this car for the last decade and a very impressive and costly amount of work has been done on this car in the last two years, including, “replaced Brakes all around, Rear hatch pistons, Trans mount, Left Engine mount. (new right one included), 4 tires, Battery and a maintainer, Clutch master cylinder, clutch slave cylinder,clutch hose, Power steering pump, High and low pressure steering hoses, Washer fluid tank and pump, Alternator, all belts, Upper and lower radiator hoses, valve cover gasket, Rebuilt carburetor, Starter relay, Tune up 3000 miles ago. stock hubcaps, new tail shaft seal.”


$2,700? I’m surprised at the price, as in, it almost seems too low to me given the nice condition of this car and all of the work that has been done on it. The front seats appear to have been reupholstered, unfortunately. I think these cars would have had either vinyl seats or a “Coventry Check” two-tone/fabric pattern seat with a plaid insert similar to this pattern? Maybe NOS material is available somewhere, I’d want to redo those seats to a more factory spec, but they look great as is and they’d work for quite a while. The Barn Finds AMC gurus will know for sure if the seat material is original or not. There are no photos showing the back seats other than this one taken through the open hatchback, and the rear seats are folded down to show the cargo space available, so I don’t know if they’ve been redone as well or not. In any case, the interior looks fantastic and this is a 4-speed manual transmission car! The clutch pedal rubber is missing, but you can track one of those down. This car has power steering but no power brakes. I don’t see the optional rear window wiper/washer or power windows on this one. The last year for the leather-lined “Limited” was 1980 so the DL was the Spirit’s top level car in 1981.


This is somewhat of an unusual engine for these cars, at least in my opinion. I would have hoped to see an AMC engine here but this is GM’s Iron Duke 151 cubic inch inline-four with around 85 hp. This was the base engine in the AMC Spirit and Concord from 1980 to 1982 and also in the AWD Eagle from 1981 to halfway through 1983. The seller says that this is a “Pontiac Iron Duke 195 CID” engine, but I’m guessing they may be mistaken and it’s actually a 151 Iron Duke which was also known as the Pontiac 2.5? Other than some rusting on the both rocker panels and a few dings that the seller mentions, this one seems like a bargain to me.  What do you AMC fans think about this car? I like it because it’s in nice, mostly-original cosmetic condition, it’s an unusual car that you won’t see parked next to you in a parking lot or probably even at a car show, and it’s inexpensive. Win, win, win!


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  1. 68 custom

    these look so much better than a Gremlin but I would still rather have a Gremlin. still a nice looker in good condition and the 4 speed makes it kinda cool. :)

  2. Rabbit

    Shame it has the Duke & not a 258. If it were a 6 cyl car, I’d be on my way to Warwick.

  3. Terry J

    The Iron Duke is a good engine. Nice car, I wouldn’t change a thing. On the other hand, where a GM Iron Duke resides, could not a 350? :-) Terry J

  4. John

    I had the most faded non descript gray 81 Spirit wherein the iron duke/auto gave way to a built 360 a904 combo. To say it was a fun car would be the understatement of the year. I need another :)

    Like 1
    • DrinkinGasoline

      You don’t need another…you just need to raise your standards..

  5. DrinkinGasoline

    Sorry, this redlines the “Yuckometer” for me ! I can’t even do a double take…And I drove a Pacer !

  6. Moparmann Member

    A set of Magnum 500’s would really make this car pop! :-) (I don’t care at all for “wheel covers or hubcaps”!)

    • MeepMeep

      Magnum’s on this would be like lipstick on a pig…

  7. John

    Those last 2 posts were supposed to contain pictures of my red spirit AMX clone, doesnt appear to be working. please administrator delete if blank

  8. DrinkinGasoline

    Kenosha should have stuck with cheese and the Hornet compared to this. Both were tastier.

  9. angliagt

    That short body just doesn’t do it.

  10. S Ryan

    4 cylinder seems under powered to me. I had a 79 Spirit Limited. 304 4spd maybe even 5spd? It’s been a long time , car was loaded even Leather. Not the fastest car but moved and handled well. Somewhat of sleeper given it’s looks.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Yep, a sleeper, as in put it to rest. Cremation.

  11. Rustytech Member

    I wasn’t a fan of these when they were new, I was still into full size and intermediates but this is a nice example, and with the three pedals it looks like a fun drive. I would paint it in a different color and change the wheels then have fun driving it. A bigger engine would be nice, just don’t know if it’s worth the investment.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Rustytech, aside the paint and wheels for self amusement, there is no investment value. The BIC Lighter of cars for the era. Light as many tires and cigarettes with it until it empties then buy a new one. Disposable cars.

  12. Rich Truesdell

    I had a 1978 Concord DL 2-door in the same color, with beige vinyl top half top, 304 V-8, 3-speed auto, my first new car.

    The low price might be explained by the fact that this is a non-A/C car which makes it a non-starter for many of us in warm weather climates.

    Still, a nice looking car with non-original interior trim. I agree with a previous post, wheels would make a big difference. Great entry-level classic, ones that are getting harder and harder to find.

    If anyone comes across a 1978-79 AMC Concord station wagon or hatchback, especially a V-8, please let me know.

    Just an FYI, there’s a new AMC magazine on the scene, Legendary American Motors Magazine. I hope no one will mind the shameless plug. I just launched it three weeks ago.


    Like 1
    • angliagt

      Where,& how much for an annual subscription?

      • Rich Truesdell

        @angliagt, no subscription yet, I’m waiting to sell 500 copies of the prototype/test premiere on Amazon. This started out as a way to take stories I wrote for Musclecar Review and Cars and Parts and give them a fresh layout of my own design. I wanted to see what happens using Amazon’s CreateSpace self-publishing, print-on-demand platform. So far I’ve sold more than 125 copies in less than a month, now selling 8-10 copies a day through Amazon. If things go well, I should reach 500 copies by the end of the month. That’s when I’ll pull the trigger on the subscription drive.

        I think that the AMC community needs this and thus far a small but growing number of people agree with me.

        Here’s a link to a slide show I have up on YouTube that will give you an idea of how it looks.


        Like 1
  13. DrinkinGasoline

    This is your publication? Nice !

    • Rich Truesdell

      Yes @DrinkinGasoline. I plan to launch it as a quarterly in the first quarter of 2017 if the response remains good (sold 150 copies in three weeks). I’ve got a preview slideshow up on YouTube at http://bit.ly/LAMMpreview.

      • DrinkinGasoline

        Nice work Rich ! I’m in !

  14. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Thanks for the tip, Rich! I just ordered the magazine and am looking forward to it!

    • Rich Truesdell

      @Scotty Gilbertson, thanks so much for the support. Please give me your feedback once it arrives.

  15. Christopher

    I dated a girl that had one like that, the seats were like corduroy and vinyl. A-B transportation. It road well and never let her down…appliance of cars which a lot of people want. I live in the south so lack of air conditioning means no deal.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Dated a girl that had one…..nough said

  16. Chebby

    Relive the awfulness of used-car choices in the late 80s – early 90s? No thanks.

  17. Joe Muzy

    I love AMC’s but not this car.

  18. Another Bob

    This is a car I barely noticed when new. I noticed all kinds of Gremlin permutations. No one else will have one if that is a good reason.

  19. boxdin

    I like this body style especially in AMX form. Why not restomod a little. Iron Duke is a great engine I had a few in Fieros. Low end tractor motors but the 4 cyl was a lot faster on my home track than any 6 cyl Fiero.

  20. Dutch 1960

    These cars with the straight six were front runners in the IMSA RS class back in the early 80’s. The RS class is the one in which Car & Driver magazine built the Mazda RX2 and Pinto race cars.

    • hoberg

      had a white “woody” concord wagon back in the day. dodge cop car rallys bolt on. used hi-way patrol gatorbacks off mustangs. amazing handling car.miss it.

  21. Rspcharger Rspcharger

    Its crazy that this little turd of a car has garnered 28 comments in a wee 5 hours. I see a Pinto & that’s not usually a good thing.

  22. John B

    I’m diggin’ period funkiness, if the price is right. This one is right…where do I sign?

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Right here on this line where is says: Pay To The Order Of Someone More Intellegent______________________________

      • Shnookylangston

        He who comments on someone else’s intelligence better know how to spell intelligence.

        Like 2
  23. John B

    I just know I have an MTV bumper sticker around here somewhere. That oughta impress the ladies at the stop light in their bland little Hondas!

  24. DrinkinGasoline

    Comb up the Mullet, hike up that shirt collar and head to the club with a Benjamin and a couple joints and yer golden.Stayin Alive, Stayin Alive…..pfft.

    • Howard A Member

      You know, DG, I think you and I are the kings of the “thumbs down” baloney :)

  25. Howard A Member

    Well, say what you want, oddball AMC’s sure get us talking, and Scotty sure is willing to oblige. Yeah, I agree with most, I think the Spirit was a half baked attempt to recapture some of the Gremlin fans of yore, but by the time this car came out, there were plenty of other choices to buy, and people were probably still driving their Gremlin’s, what was left of them anyway. I think the 4 cylinder was a good choice for this. It was marketed as an economy car. AMC was going down in ’81, and this ( and the Eagle variants) was probably one of the last real AMC’s. Be a great used car to just drive. Collectible? Maybe when the Packers win another championship, which may not be for a while,,,,GO PACK!!!

    Like 1
    • Terry J

      OFFSHOOT to Howard A: Have a pal here in Eugene (Ore) who was an all pro punter for the Packers , name of Josh Bidwell. Ex Duck, he has a full size pewter Packers helmet on his desk as he was honored with the “Courage” award for winning a battle against cancer, and winning back his place on the team afterwards. Great story in his book “4th and Long”. :-) Terry J

  26. Car Nut Seattle

    Lovely looking car. I’ve always liked the 1981 and later AMC Spirits.

    Like 1
  27. John

    I have had a 1970 AMX since I was 18 months old, have had 2 spirits, one pretty, one blindingly fast, one 1971 javelin with a fuel 4 liter and r154 supra 5 speed. This is high on the list as a next purchase once things right themselves. Very cool car and different which is the point. If everyone wanted one I wouldn’t want one at all. Rich I am in for the magazine at a later payday.


  28. Car Nut Seattle

    I’ve always loved the grille of the 1981 and later AMC Spirit. It’s too bad it wasn’t used on the Eagle.

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