Mini Muscle: 304 V8 Powered 1974 AMC Gremlin

You certainly know one when you see it! And if its truncated bee-hind isn’t memorable enough, the Gremlin name is. I remember when these were introduced and I thought, “you gotta be kidding!” But I knew enough then to know that AMC had to try harder to stand out in a tsunami of the domestic auto industry that was overwhelmingly controlled by three major manufacturers, two of who were truly outsized in their market control. So, if standing out was one of AMC’s objectives, mission accomplished! This 1974 Gremlin is located in Lake Wilson, Minnesota and is available, here on Autotrader for $9,000. Thanks to Larry D for this tip!

Produced between 1970 and 1978, total Gremlin sales surpassed 670K units or an average of 74K per year. Its April 1970 introduction put the Gremlin just ahead of Chevrolet’s Vega and Ford’s Pinto, both released in September of 1970 as ’71 models. Changes were minimal over the nine model years of production with mostly just enhancements and refinements occurring to the single two-door sedan, with rear lift window, body style. In ’70 and ’71 there was a two-seat “commuter” version available that featured a fixed rear window and no back seat.

The seller states, “The side mirrors do not match. There is some paint damage and visible rust on the passenger side of the hood and fender from what I assume was a battery spill. Those are the main issues“. There aren’t good close-up images so these items are hard to verify but this Gremlin shows well. The paint appears to still have depth and the chrome on the 5 MPH Federally mandated bumpers still shines though the rear bumper is a bit misfitting. The white stripe is a nice contrast with the F2 Maxi Blue finish. The optional roof rack is probably more for show than functional use but a Gremlin would seem naked without one. One thing about Cragar S/S wheels, they make any heap look respectable, not that this Gremlin is anywhere near heap status.

Five years ago, the seller had the 150 net HP, 304 CI V8 engine rebuilt. He claims, “In 2016 I had it overhauled. The engine was completely rebuilt, replacing many of the consumable components. I recently rebuilt the carburetor as well, giving it a deep clean and replacing all the gaskets and plastic spacers, etc. The result is a much smoother running car. It starts reliably and behaves very well as soon as the engine gets up to temp“. The engine compartment does appear to be pretty clean, much cleaner than one would expect to find on a car that has experienced 100K miles. While a three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment, this Gremlin has the more commonly found “Torque-Command”, three-speed automatic transmission.

The interior is not revealed in a comprehensive manner, so a good look at it is not available via the accompanying images. It is a blue vinyl, bench seat environment and the seller claims the upholstery and carpet are newly installed and designed to match the original. Apparently, the radio and A/C-heat are “unresponsive” which I think means that they don’t work.

As with so many styling trends from years ago, the Gremlin no longer elicits that “You gotta be kidding” response from me, that urge passed long ago. But it still engenders a “wow”, it’s just a more acceptable design to my eyes now than it was in the ’70s. Show of hands please, have any of you owned, or still own a Gremlin, and if so, how did you, or do you like it?

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Comments

  1. scott m

    Friend of mine had one in the late ’70s that I drove occasionally, worst brakes ever! Had dreams for years of standing on the brakes with little result. I agree that it looks much different to me today, in a good way

    Like 3
  2. Sam Shive

    Love These Little GREMLINS. Had one running around town growing up that had a 390 in it. Gave All The Big Boys Trouble.

    Like 11
  3. Tom

    NOT a $9k car.

    Like 4
    • DON

      You’d be surprised what good condition Gremlins go for ,especially the V8 cars.

      Like 12
    • Motorcityman Member

      Its a 70s V8 in Good condition, its worth close to 9K

      Like 9
  4. MDY

    it was 1971, a few minutes before 9 at night. I was 16. My father had some time to look at cars with me. Guess what I wanted at the time? That’s right! A Gremlin with a 304 and 3 speed. Something attracted me to it. When we got to the dealership they were already closed. On the way home we drove by the Lincoln-Mercury dealership and we saw a Comet in the window and someone was at their desk inside. I guess I was in the mood to buy because I ordered my first new car that night. A Comet GT with 302 and 3-speed, handling package and no radio. About $2250. I guess fate drew me away from the Gremlin.

    Like 10
    • 370zpp

      Great story MDY.
      I was in a similar situation when at 19 I was trying to replace my 71 Beetle and found myself at the Pontiac dealer where I impulsively bought a shiny new 72 Lemans GT, 350 3 speed.

      For years I have regretted that I didn’t first stop at the Chevy dealer ship down the road, and instead choose a slightly more expensive Z-28.

      Like 6
    • Mike

      MDY, Comet Gt any day over the Gremlin. Although I did like the Gremlin. My dad had a Maverick Grabber 302 that I ended up with. Love em

  5. Fitz

    Late 70’s. Buddy of mine acquired a 401XR Gremlin. Rough outside, but mechanically a beast. The hood came up about 105 on I-80 just outside of Omaha. One of many “religious experiences” in that damn thing…

    Like 12
  6. James Schwartz

    Just a side observation.
    As the owner of an AMC Hornet (and a long time AMC enthusiast having owned over 25 AMC’s), it’s always struck me how when a Gremlin shows up with a 304 V8 in it, a common reaction is “Wow…a V8 in a Gremlin…that must really be fast”. But the same 304 in a Hornet (a car that is barely bigger/heavier than the Gremlin), you get “Meh…It’s just a 304”.

    This isn’t about any particular car, just something I’ve noticed for years. I suppose it has to do with the fact that for a few years early on, the Hornet could be had with the 360, and anything less is just “Meh”.
    Similar reactions probably occur with other makes and models as well, but I just happen to notice the contradiction within the AMC’s.

    Like 5
    • BONE

      I think the reason maybe because it was grouped with the Pinto and Vega as the subcompact “import fighters” ; and while Vegas and Pintos had 4 cyl engines (except for a few later Fords with a V6) AMC’s car could have come with a V8

      Like 5
    • john vititoe

      Hornet was built on the same chassis

  7. Michael Abate

    I don’t think the side mirrors matched from the factory! Believe it or not!!!

    • DON

      Mine did on my 74 Gremlin and my 75 Hornet X

    • Gary Rhodes

      I worked in a bodyshop in 79 and a fellow brought in a four door 77 Dodge for a dent repair. The mirrors did not match either, he bought it new and said that was the way it came. Poor quality control

  8. J N Dwyer

    In 1977 I bought a purple(!) 1973 Gremlin X – mainly because of affordability and availability, as I was in school – but as Gremlins go it was actually pretty fancy, with bucket seats and….drum roll….a 5 liter V8, which was advertised on its stubby, slanty backside.

    The Gremlin was good for me at the time, though it seemed that everything on it rattled, lol. Had it for a little over a year, until I was able to work my way into a truly sweet 1974 Celica ST, dark green/white interior.

    Like 1
  9. VICTOR SANCHEZ

    2 stories,# 1 a friend of mine had a nice green and white Gremlin – X was a good car until a cat ran in front of him, he stood on the brakes and didn’t hit the cat but the engine and tranny broke away from the mounts and went through the radiator. #2 I had a 1967 GTO with the 360 hp engine and met up with a 401 in it and he cleaned my clock good .

    Like 4
  10. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Well I’ve read all the comments and the write up. When Gremlins first showed up there were a lot of jokes about where’s the rest of your car. But the truth is these were very good cars. I had a 74 Gremlin X 258 three speed on the floor that I drove through 8 states over a period of 2 years. Now what we have here is a one in very good condition with the 304 and air conditioning. Now that would be nice on hot summer days. I added power steering to mine that I took off a Hornet in a wrecking yard, that sure was a big help in ease of driving. As far as the price it’s really hard for me to understand value these days, but that’s the way life is, my dad couldn’t wrap his head around values of my generation.
    God bless America

    Like 4
  11. Ralph

    I had a friend in the early 70s that had one of these with a built 401, and 4 speed. Had some sort of high rise intake and huge carb as well.
    Wheelie bars on the back end. I laughed at him until he pulled the front tires 6 inches off the ground doing a burnout at the gas station.
    Incredible. Still want one of these.

    Like 7
    • Gary Rhodes

      Ralph, a friend of mine dad had a 401 Gremlin with a built 401. He would put a pop bottle in get of the front tire and when he dumped the clutch it would pull the wheels and smash the bottle on the rocker. I almost bought a Levi’s Gremlin for my first car but my pops said no

  12. Bob19006

    Gremlins at the time were sub-compact cars made out of compact & mid sized car parts, big cast iron straight 6, Chrysler torqueflight transmissions, front ends etc. They fell short of the competition (Vega, Pinto) on gas mileage but whereas they were made of parts designed for a car weighing 500 to 1000 pounds more, usually capable of being 100,000+ mile cars while those 2 competitors mostly never saw 100,000. My 1971 6 month old Gremlin-X 6 cylinder with 3 on the floor cost me 2000 in 1972 and I sold it in 1979 for $950 and the engine, clutch, trans had never been touched by a mechanic.

    Like 3
  13. David Bailey

    Now there’s a good story: The Randal 401 -XR conversions! Maybe fastest conversion ever at that time(Possibly 427 Cobras as well?!)…

    Like 2
    • Chunk

      Car Craft tested one in May ’72 that ran 12.22 in the quarter. That’s pretty much a spot-on tie with the 427 Cobra – close enough to make the outcome dependent on the drivers.

      I’d love one.

  14. Howie Mueler

    I have never driven one, but i do like the look.

    Like 1
  15. john vititoe

    In 1975 my mom took me to the amc dealership i ordered a Gremlin with the 304 black with white leather and a 3 speed super nice. In 8 months i put headers, eldenbrock high rise manifold holly 4 barrel and a cam. A borgwarner super T 10 from a 69 rambler and a ford 9″ rear end dam thing was a bat out of hell. ran low 11″s at the track. wish i had it back. Loved that car.

    • James Schwartz

      I’m thinking you meant “black with white vinyl”.
      I could be wrong, but I don’t think leather was an option.

      Like 1
      • john vititoe

        Like i said it was a special order or maybe i didn’t. but i know it cost an extra 300 for that interior with high back bucket seats, And it took 6 weeks to get it in.

  16. ramblergarage

    I had a new 1972 in aqua color, fun little car.

  17. Lonewolf

    Had a 73 Levi Gremlin manual 3 speed with a 258 six. I had the most fun a 16 year could have.😉 Back seats folded forward to make a Cousy back area when you pulled into the drive in and opened the back hatch window. You could rip around town and swear the inside wheels were off the ground on corners.

  18. JIMBUS53

    My 1st new car was a72 Gremlin with 232 6cy and 3speed, no radio but factory A/C for $2199. I had it for 18 months and 80000+ miles and sold it for $1800! Might not have been the classiest car I ever owned but the best $$ value for sure. Jimb

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