Affordable Survivor: 1980 AMC Spirit Liftback

This 1980 AMC Spirit proves that you don’t need a million dollars in the bank to own a classic car. It is a clean and tidy survivor that the owner is offering for sale with No Reserve. While the bidding activity has been “spirited,” it has only pushed the price along to a paltry $1,800. The AMC is located in Stamford, Connecticut, and if you want to join the bidding action, you will find it listed for sale here on eBay.

I will always have a soft spot for anything wearing an AMC badge because I think that the company managed to produce some great cars for peanuts. The Spirit was a perfect example because, under the skin, it was essentially a reworked Gremlin with some minor engineering changes. That made it a relatively old car, even when it was new, but the company still managed to make the car look fresh and crisp. This Saxon Yellow Spirit presents well for its age. The paint isn’t perfect, but it holds a respectable shine which should attract plenty of attention. The panels are straight, with no significant dings or dents. The good news revolves around rust, or more accurately, its general lack of it. There is a small spot on the driver’s side front fender, but that appears to be about it. The rest of the panels look clean, while the supplied shots of the vehicle’s underside reveal floors that are structurally sound and still wear most of their factory Ziebart undercoat. The chrome is in good order, as are the original wheels. The first owner ordered the Spirit with tinted glass, and I can’t spot any flaws or problems with this.

If it weren’t for a tiny tear on the outer edge of the driver’s seat, it would have been easy to class this Spirit’s interior as perfect. Even so, a competent upholsterer could address the tear with a blind patch, and I would tackle this task before the tear has a chance to deteriorate further. The rest of the Beige upholstered surfaces are in excellent condition, as are the carpet and dash. The headliner looks factory fresh, while there is no appreciable wear on the wheel. The interior isn’t loaded with luxury features, with a pushbutton radio being the only creature comfort. However, I don’t see this as a serious negative with this car because the overall condition offsets the lack of creature comforts.

When it was introduced in 1979, buyers could order their new Spirit with a V8 under the hood. This motor was dropped from the 1980 range, as was the original VW/Audi four-cylinder unit. In place of the latter, AMC slotted a 151ci “Iron Duke” four into the engine bay. This motor produced 82hp, and in this case, it finds its way to the rear wheels via a 3-speed automatic transmission. It seems that the original owner craved an effortless driving experience, so he ordered the Spirit with power steering and power brakes. It was a good thing that at 2,667lbs, the Spirit was a relative lightweight. Otherwise, the journey down the ¼ mile would’ve taken a lot longer than 20.7 seconds. While the engine bay of this Spirit is generally pretty tidy for a vehicle of this age, I do feel some pangs of concern about the coolant stains on the top of the radiator. This suggests that there may have been some overheating issues in this car’s past. The owner has recently fitted a new alternator, battery, and carburetor, and he describes the brakes and suspension as being in good order. He says that the AMC drives nicely, suggesting that those potential cooling issues might be a distant memory.

The reality is that not every classic car enthusiast will have a wallet full of greenbacks that they can hand over to park the car of their dreams in their garage. Those individuals have to reassess their position to find something more affordable, or they must abandon their dream entirely. Cars like this 1980 AMC Spirit offer an entry into the world of classic car ownership, and the outlay is not likely to break the bank. It might not be the most desirable car on the planet, but it is a neat and tidy survivor ready to be driven and enjoyed immediately. Its needs seem pretty minor, and I would be amazed if the bidding went beyond $3,000. It doesn’t matter how you cut it, that would make it a cheap vehicle. This is an auction that should be worth watching if you are on a limited budget. Good luck.


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  1. Raymond

    If it can fit a iron ducky it can fit a 455 ho iirc, good price, someone needs to grab this….

    Like 2
  2. JoeNYWF64

    Amazin condition of the interior. Reclining seats.
    Odd that AMC blacked out only the wipers – plenty of other exterior parts are still chrome.
    I didn’t know AMC used what appears to be the same cat converter as GM did.
    Interesting there was avail a 282 cu in (4.6 L) L6 (Mexico only).

    • That AMC guy

      The GM catalytic converter is not that much of a surprise since AMC bought the entire emission control system along with the engine from GM.

      Like 1
  3. jerry z

    Perfect platform for a 390/401 swap! I would leave everything else the same.

    Like 3
  4. Howard A Member

    Sorry for being in a crappy mood ( Fathers Day thing) but if I could slap would be buyers behind the head with a rolled up newspaper( newspaper? what’s that, gramps) I would. 22 bids, $1913,,,what, going up in dollar increments? What’s the matter with you people? This car, compared to what’s out there in cars today,,if any, would work in a variety of situations. You can thumb your nose at the new car dealers, as impatient customers wait for the tally on their non-warranty covered problems, and you can roll right by that mess, with your 1980 AMC Sprit. It’s clearly a joke. I’d love that, maybe even take a few laps around the service bays, tooting the horn,,( oops, right, mom, don’t gloat). My point is obvious. Here’s a car that’s 40 years old, probably runs and drives great, great mileage, super comfy seats ( compared to that Asian crap) for a FRACTION of what’s out there. What a great find.

    Like 21
  5. Gary Rhodes

    I’d drive it daily in good weather and just care for it. A husband/wife had two four wheel drive wagons back in the day when I had my garage. They were both postal carriers and used theirs daily, one black with tan interior, the other white/tan. I worked on them for many years and other than the frequency of the brake pad and oil changes, the only thing I really remember was replacing light bulbs all the time, as they burnt out from running the four ways all day five days a week. I bought the black one when they retired, both were highly optioned and in beautiful condition. I sure wish I had it back, it was a great car.

    Like 2
  6. That AMC guy

    Very nice Spirit, the only downsides being the gutless Iron Duke engine and lack of air conditioning. It’s crying out to have the 4.0 inline six and AW4 transmission from a 2WD Jeep Cherokee dropped in.

    Like 2
  7. Ralph

    Good to see a seller who is not asking for all the money in the world for this car! Very refreshing, and reminds me that not everyone is a money grubbing weasel.
    This one looks like a pretty clean car that should not break the bank to bring back to near showroom condition.
    That being said, the Gremlins, Hornets were not really comfortable cars. After several 1,500 mile road trips, it was clear to me these would not be on my list of preferred rides ever. Had a brand new 74 Hornet wagon, (less than 1K miles) overheat constantly the first time it was on a road trip. Learned to keep a couple gallons of anti freeze and water in it always. BTW, the dealer could not explain or fix the overheating issue. Hornet was gone in less than a year. YMMV.

    Like 1

    Clean Spirit. Had me until the GM motor. I like mine with AMC power.

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      I think it’s splitting hairs on which 4 cylinder is better. My YJ has the 2.5, and am amazed at how gutless it really is. 3rd gear is too low, and 4th is too high,( don’t even think about 5th until a flat stretch, down wind, of course) so you crawl along at 3 grand in 3rd @ 38 mph with foot to the floor, it over shadows any gas mileage benefit. When the 4 cylinder goes,( which may be a while, mine has 94K and they routinely go over 200K) a 6 will for sure take it’s place. I thought the GM motor was a pretty good motor, for what it was.

  9. CJM

    Nicely equipped and a great color combo. Too bad its got both the wrong engine and the wrong transmission. A 6cyl manual would be the best. Either a 6 cyl auto or a 4 cyl manual would be passable. A 4cyl auto is a tough sell. But I suppose if it was cheap enough….

    Like 2
  10. Rick

    I was ready to do a double back flip until I saw the GM Iron Puke under the hood. If this car had the 232 or the 258 then I’d already be on the way to the chiropractor. ;)

  11. James Schwartz

    This Spirit has “successfully” sold on eBay 4 times now. $ times listed, 4 times meeting reserve and finding a new owner.
    But yet, it keeps popping up for sale.
    Something isn’t right.
    eBay is a horrible place to sell an old car due to bogus bidders, but this is the 5th time on there. Something isn’t right.

    Like 3
  12. Abi

    “a paltry $1,800” was spirited into over $3k with still a day and a half. Unfortunately articles like this bring a lot of attention to these auctions and drive the prices up.

  13. Abi

    He’s relisted this car on eBay 3 previous times after a successful high bid and claims its relisted do to non paying bidders.
    Something sounds fishy to me

    Like 1
  14. Abi

    I don’t know why this didn’t post so sorry if its a duplicate.
    Searching this sellers completed auctions to see the auction he claimed was won by a deadbeat bidder, I notice he has already relisted this car 3 times for the same reason. He is either the unluckiest seller on eBay or his is shill bidding his auction to try and drive up the price. Beware if you bid on this.

    Like 2
  15. David Bailey

    Love the Spirit / SX/4 cars!. Mini fastbacks that, if you squint your eyes a lot, lind of have the Classic AMx outline!

    Like 1

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