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46k Mile 1981 AMC Spirit Barn Find

The AMC Spirit wasn’t an all-new car when it came out in 1979. It was a seriously restyled Gremlin, using the platform that car borrowed from the Hornet in 1970. The quirky styling (and name) was getting old by the late 1970s, so the budget-minded guys at AMC came up with the Spirit as the Gremlin’s successor. It sold well enough for four years, and even had its own 4X4 version for a while like the Eagle. This 1981 Spirit reportedly has low mileage and has been living in a barn for quite some time. It you want to free it from its bonds, it can be found in Arpin, Wisconsin and is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $2,000.

The Spirit borrowed some engineering and mechanicals from the Concord which came out in 1978 (the Concord was the “new” Hornet). Unlike the Gremlin, which looked like a Hornet that had been chopped off behind the doors, the styling of the Spirit looked more intentional. Initially, the Spirit’s 4-cylinder engine was VW-based, but then AMC started using Pontiac’s 2.5-liter “Iron Duke.” Always looking for ways to stay viable, AMC began selling all its cars with Ziebart rust protection, enabling them to offer a five-year, no rust through element to the warranty package.

The seller’s 1981 Spirit comes with a few details and – unfortunately – not many good photos, so we’ll share with you the best of what we can. This car originated in Florida and found its way to a barn in Wisconsin some years later where it apparently has sat ever since. The barn has a cement floor, so rust may or may not be an issue. The odometer is said to read just 46,0000 miles and everything supposedly worked properly when the car was parked (we see this time and time again; why do perfectly good cars get parked and forgotten about?).

The interior is said to be in really good condition and the overall shape of the car suggests it might not be a difficult project to get going again. We don’t know if this Spirit has the standard 4-cylinder or the optional inline-six, but we’re told it has an automatic transmission and air conditioning (a must in muggy Florida summers). As these cars are not regulars on the collector circuit, there doesn’t seem to be any definitive market prices placed on the Spirits. But if it doesn’t take much to get it cleaned up and running again, it could be $2,000 well spent as these weren’t bad cars.


  1. Moparman Member

    Hmmm, not enough pictures (FUZZY!) or info about this one. It “could be” a good buy, but only an onsite inspection will tell for sure. GLWTS!! :-)

    Like 5
    • Mike

      It’s like they clicked the picture just before the camera could focus.

      Like 2
  2. CCFisher

    46,000 miles? April Fools, right? I mean, every day seems like April Fools’ Day lately, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

    Like 2
  3. JOHN

    In the Spirit of this find, I wouldn’t be interested, if it were new. You can find a much nicer car for $2,000. It’s taking up valuable space for animal feed.

  4. Broke dog

    I did not know that these were ziebarted by AMC. The one I junked went to its demise rot free, with a perfect running iron duke 4, that could squeal its narrow tires with ease, and was suffiently powered. The problem was HD like, as the motor shook it self so violently that everything around it broke or was affected. Alternator bracket, air pump, tore transmission bracket. Broke distributor, carb issues. Lemon deluxe. Rear leaf springs broke 3 X, though I never hauled anything. Frankenstien construction, Pontiac motor, chrysler transmission, Ford brakes. The seat broke, the radio broke, there was always the smell of burning wiring coming from dash. Windows would roll down partially just sitting. It was one of those cars that was at the mechanics as much time as it was being used. Mine was red and sharp, with cool hubcaps. It looked out of place at the junkyard, where they seemed to scratch their heads as to why I was junking a perfectly running car, with exception to its listing from a again rear broken spring. One of two lemons I was unfortunate to have owned. The 2nd was worse, because I paid a lot more for it. A 93 full size Chevrolet W/T 4×4 w/4.3 vortec. It only had 38k on it, and was mint condition. Without a spot of oil leaks, blue smoke, it burned 3 quarts in the 1st 3000 miles of my ownership, its only held 4 1/2 quarts to begin with. Dealer explained that it was in the normal range, according to GM. They tried to fix it by putting in stp, under warrenty, claiming they did a valve job with new lifters. It continued to burn oil as other things, like the radio broke, muffler broke. This thing was rust free on bottom and top. I had tested vehicle on highway before buying. Cruised great, in the woods or hauling anything, the vortec became anemic, especially in 4×4, deep snow, wheels would’nt spin unless I put it in low range, unbelievable. I bought it at Les Stump Ford in Appleton, WI. Ended up arguing with the old man himself after 3rd attempt to fix oil burning problem before 12,000 mile warranty passed. Never would show me parts they alleged to replace, because they said they had to be given to the warranty service they used. His solution was I could trade the vehicle back in for another one for only a $4,000 dollar loss in less than 6 mos of ownership. I lived with that POS for a little over a year, when I traded it for another truck, at a different dealer. It looked as sharp as the day I bought it, with cap, bedliner. When they asked if it had any issues, I told them the truth. It had an issue that dealer fixed(supposedly, but didn’t) under warranty. It passed their inspection, so they took it on trade, where I had to pony up and accept my loss.

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