Coulda Had a V8: 1982 AMC Spirit

Although the recipe was basically the same, the Spirit always strikes me as a wholly different car compared to the Gremlin it replaced. Perhaps it was because the Gremlin was so polarizing as a design and the Spirit seemed subdued by comparison, or maybe it was AMC’s changing identity into a company known more for 4WD vehicles. Whatever it is, this 1982 AMC Spirit here on eBay is a clean project car that the seller was planning to convert to V8 power. 

The conversion did not happen due to the seller’s changing health conditions, and the Spirit retains its venerable inline six. This is not a bad thing, as those engines were quite stout and could tolerate a fair amount of abuse. In fact, the Spirit even developed a reputation for being competitive in endurance racing, posting up impressive performances at the Nurburgring and at IMSA events. Granted, those were race-prepped Spirit AMXs – but not what you’d expect from a car with homely hatchback roots.

I’m not sure what I’d do with a Spirit like this one. I’ve always wanted an AMX, personally, and these hatchbacks were said to deliver a comfortable ride and be fairly cheap to maintain. This example has a so-so interior – not perfect, but not bad. The seller claims this automatic transmission-equipped example has been garaged most of its life and only has a slight oil leak at the rear mail seal as its biggest flaw, but has otherwise been a dependable runner. Currently, that hasn’t been enough to get someone to lodge an initial bid.

I suspect that initial bid amount – $3,595 – is a little bit too high of an ask at the moment for a non-AMX, automatic-equipped example. 1982 saw the 3-speed TorqueFlite gearbox ratios spread even further apart to improve gas mileage, so while performance wasn’t exactly on the menu, this Spirit could achieve decent fuel economy despite having a 4.2L six-cylinder under the hood. So, what would you do with this project? Would you execute the seller’s vision and swap in a V8? Or would you sympathetically restore in stock form?

Fast Finds


  1. S Ryan

    I had a V-8 stick Spirit Limited. Same as AMX they had at the time. Not the fastest but one Hell of a fun car. Glad I lived through it.

  2. Howard A Member

    Spirit wasn’t a bad car, I suppose. Be advised, rear main seal is a big job, especially without a lift. I have a friend that bought a new SX4 Eagle, aside from 5 speed problems ( which he eventually sold the car because of that) it was an ok car, certainly nothing I would buy, I’d almost want an original Gremlin than this. While I’m not into “bastardizing” cars, this would be cool as a drag car. Grandma would be proud seeing her little Spirit turning low 10’s at the strip. :)

  3. Mike H. Mike H

    “. . . the Spirit always strikes me as a wholly different car compared to the Gremlin it replaced”

    In the case of this car I’d say it’s more closely related to the Hornet Hatchback than the Gremlin. The more Gremlin-y cars had a Kamm tail very similar to the Gremmy, whereas this one is styled closer to the previous Hornet (but, truth be told, the Hornet and the Gremlin were essentially the same car).

    I know, I know. . . The Concord replaced the Hornet and the Spirit was the Gremmy’s stepchild, but still? I’m calling this body style closer to the Hornet Hatch.

    Like 1
  4. Blyndgesser

    Just needs a stroker six from Golen or Hesco.


    hope the seller gets his price

  6. Jubjub

    These always had a fairly European vibe. Neighborhood kid’s parents had a brown one with brown stripes. Those Rambler poverty caps are an interesting choice!

  7. Rustytech Member

    Drop an older AMX 390 in her, and watch the jaws drop at the stop lights, better yet, here’s your LS1 swap!

  8. JCWJr

    Have a 80 Concord. A very similer car to this one. Already have the V8 and transmission getting ready to do the conversion. Wanted a Hornet this is as close as I could find at the time. Would trade for a 64 wagon.

  9. David Miraglia

    I always called the Spirits the super Gremlins. They are nice cars don’t get me wrong. AMC always had a geek wonkiness to their cars which I always liked.

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