Evil 400-Swapped 1974 AMC Gremlin

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The American Motors Corporation (AMC) offered numerous models with, shall we say “different” styling in a very intentional effort to lure a subset of buyers away from the “Big Three” (Chrysler, Ford, and GM). The Gremlin certainly fits in this category. Essentially a bobbed version of the mainstream Hornet, the Gremlin looked like nothing else on the road. This one has been taken up to the next level with the addition of Chevrolet 400 cid V8 and a five-speed T5 transmission. The $6000 price of admission here on Providence, Rhode Island craigslist seems reasonable for a finished car that’s seen some love and attention from stem to stern. Thanks to reader AMXBrian for spotting this Rhode Island tire roaster.

Shiny paint rounds out what looks like a well-executed bumper-to-bumper overhaul. The average citizen might ascertain that the car has benefited from a cosmetic makeover, but little suggests it swallowed a big V8 with evil plans to victimize unwary prey.

Simply move along unless you’re a fan of black. The clean monotone appearance continues throughout the interior. The flashlight-sized shift light broadcasts that you have no intention of losing a Stop Light Gran Prix. That said, it’s great fun to smoke a shift-light equipped poser with your stock-looking sleeper, a role this car could pull off easily if fitted with stock hubcaps.

Just how it left the factory? Well, maybe not, but it looks like a possibility. Upgrades accompanying the 400 V8 include a “1965 Nova limited slip axle, 3.55 gears,” “all new suspension,” and apparently a fat aluminum radiator. The entire car looks clean and tidy and the seller reports it “drives nice at any speed.” What’s not to like? Market value on such a beast is hard to set; the likely buyer will either be a Gremlin fan or someone who appreciates oddball sleepers. How would you finish it?

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  1. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Heh, heh, heh.

    Like 17
  2. Erich

    If it needs ‘finished’, it would be with a nice polish and wax. It’s brilliant the way it is.

    Like 18
  3. JohnMember

    I would be way more impressed if they put an amc 401 in it. They bolt in and make stupid torque numbers very easily. If you’re gonna do an oddball build don’t drop a run of the mill sbc in it. MHO. I also don’t mean to disrespect the dude or his hotrod. Jus sayin

    Like 48
    • That AMC guy

      Yeah, it would have been preferable to keep it in the family so to speak but still this looks like a neat installation. Presumably the Chevy mill was used because they’re practically as common as grains of sand on the beach while AMC 401s – well, they’re not. (Though you can certainly build up the more common AMC 360 to make plenty of power.) Given how light the rear end is on these cars I’m sure nailing the throttle makes for quite a bit of excitement!

      The custom front bumper makes for an “interesting” look.

      Like 13
    • Dave

      I knew a guy who dropped a 390 out of an Ambassador into his 304 Gremlin X. When he banged second the rear axle tore out of it. Didn’t think about reinforcing the weak spots.

      Like 17
      • kevin

        ive read that same story from you three times, and each time the story changes. sounds like alot of hoohah to me

        Like 0
    • Tim

      Had one 401 4speed a fun rocket ride for sure short wheel base

      Like 0
  4. Gaspumpchas

    I like it. IMHO, all it needs is a set of torque thrusts. Nice work and looks very well done. Nice little sleeper for someone. Good luck to the new owner!! As far as using an sbc vs a nash engine, maybe that’s what the guy had on hand. Besides—-its running and on the road. Ready to smoke rice rockets.


    Like 20
    • AMCFAN

      Gaspump, Everyone can dream. I hardly think that would happen in my neck of the woods and I am well versed on AMC’s including home made ones with brand X engines.

      Never discount or disrespect the young kid in a rice rocket. For one he is today what you once were. Working with what he has.

      I know a group of kids that will embarrass. One kid with a Honda Civic with a B16 ,His friends. A Stage 3 SRT4. A Supercharged Toyota Tacoma to a Mitsubishi Evo that puts out 800HP with stock LSD drivetrain . This same Evo a few summers ago took a man with a very impressive Buick GN and his $2000 cash in a street race. The Buick was not stock and was very fast. But not fast enough by many car lengths.

      I have been taunted by the one kid with the Honda B16. Wants me to bring out my 390 AMX so he can spank me. I know him pretty well. He is my son. I know his car. He knows the AMX. We both know the outcome.

      I was there with the Civic on the dyno. The guy who tuned it has it dialed back at 422 as a favor to me but believes it easy 550 car. Not impressive? It doesn’t weigh anything. At 9100 RPM is when the fun starts.

      So beware the next time you make fun of that kid in a beat looking import with a loud exhaust. It could end up being at your expense.

      Like 6
      • Gaspumpchas

        All great points AMCFAN! Being an old grey hair and fixed in the cubic inch era, I still laugh at them until I see one running 8’s when we though Hi 11’s was fast!!! Myself, I am enlarging my carbon footprint 8 cylinders at a time!!



        Like 3
  5. 0417293995

    This was Darth Vader’s car when he was just starting out.

    Like 2
  6. Country Joe

    I like it. Yeah, the 401 would have been a little cooler than the SBC, but I’d still rock it.

    Like 10
  7. Chris

    Call it Gremvy!!

    Like 12
    • Jett

      I call it a waste of a Gremlin.

      Like 5
  8. wuzjeepnowsaab

    That T5 will not handle the 400 for very long

    Like 7
    • BryanO

      The car is light, it has half a chance unless it hooks. Drag radials would be a death sentence on the trans.

      Like 1
  9. Steve

    This was Darth Vader’s car when he was first starting out.

    Like 14
    • Dave

      “I find your lack of faith disturbing…”

      Like 20
  10. AMCFAN

    Ditch the Chevy drive train for sure. When I see this conglomeration (being nice, I didn’t say junk) I always ask the owner of these hybrids how much for the car minus the Chevy motor. In my mind I see them scratching their head in amazement as if to say Why remove the best V8 on the planet? With many Chebby is the only known brand. Then I may explain that Ramblers (many folks refer to an AMC as a Rambler) had their own V8’s and by golly make the power!

    In reality every AMC doesn’t need a 401. The truth is a warmed up 304 or better still a 360 will do just fine for most (max speed limit is still 70 mph) and cores are easily obtainable for $150. or less compared to a $1500+ 401. The cost to build the group is about the same. If you are racing then get a 401

    Like 8
    • Beaver

      I don’t know where you live but here in UTAH USA we have a few places that the speed limet is 85 MPH!!

      Like 6
      • JoeNYWF64

        65mph max(tho more common still 55 max) in Jersey & 45mph in construction zones on garden state parkway – insane!

        Like 2
      • ChallengerChick

        We have 85s in Nevada, too. I can’t drive 55 or 70! Vroom vroom!

        Like 1
    • Country Joe

      I built a 360 for a Grand Wagoneer for a daily driver for my wife years ago. I was very impressed with how well it turned out, power wise. .030 over pistons, a slightly hotter cam than stock, an Edelbrock intake and Performer carb, a set of Hedman headers and a Crane MSD box made it a very respectable street motor. I’d love to build another one and stick it in a Gremlin or an Eagle wagon.😁😁😁

      Like 7
  11. Marko

    I would put a new factory front bumper back on, some nice wheels that are kind of subtle, and paint a factory style Gremlin-X stripe package, in a reddish color, with a bit of patina.

    Perfect Weekend Warrior cruiser to scare the daylights outta the Millennial Tuner crowd.

    Like 2
    • AMCFAN

      Not likely to happen Marko. No one in the tuner crowd will be scared. Quite the opposite See above.

      Like 1
  12. Denis Flaherty

    i think it’s cool and a great sleeper….would buy in a minute if it doesn’t get any higher-priced

    Like 1
  13. Woody

    Looks like a solid sleeper,but I would have painted it red,white,blue and made a ‘lil-Machine powered via 360,390! Just saying……

    Like 4
  14. Jett

    Why why why do people insist on chevy-fying cars like this??? I can appreciate a beautiful 1st gen Camaro or c2 vette all day long. But put a sbc in a ford or amc, and it hurts my eyes.

    Like 8
  15. Woody

    Tired of “dime-a-dozen” tin SBC’s.They belong in GM’s.

    Like 6
  16. Steve

    I like this. It needs the wheels to be widened and a prayer that the T5 can take the abuse. I have a T5 in my third gen B4C with well over the factory HP/TQ and I am terrified that I am going to break it.

    Like 0
  17. Wrong Way

    I had a 74 model with the 304! That little car was pretty darn quick! This one would really scoot down the road! However not my taste anymore! As you get older the more refined you become! LOL :-)

    Like 2
    • Miguel

      Wrong Way, was you car able to get the front wheels off the ground?

      I remember one of these with the factory V8 from back when I was 16, and I remember the front wheels coming up, but I sometimes question my memory these days.

      Like 2
      • Wrong Way

        No, but thinking about it, I really wasn’t a wild enough driver to try it! I was only wild on my bike. I do remember that it never had any problems getting off the line at a stoplight tho! :-)

        Like 1
  18. Karl

    Hey guys complaining about NOT putting a 401 AMC engine in this car, I have a buddy who drags a Chevy Vega and he has run a 401 AMC engine in it for 20 yes now. Now he wants to make the car a bit faster and because of the limited selection of hi performance speed parts and the cost of parts he is now changing to a SBC, but it was an AMC in a Chevy for awhile!

    Like 6
  19. Wayne

    I would prefer the AMC engine. But what’s done is done. Wide Kelsey 500s to fill the fender wells, 1971 bumpers and your ready to have some fun. (I probably would add some sway bars and better shocks and brakes as time would pass however.)
    Clean car!

    Like 2
  20. the one

    Whats done is done. I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun! Not sure of the geometry on a Gremlin. Can ya keep it in a straight line?

    Like 2
  21. Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

    Q-ships are great fun; my wife’s 2006 Trailblazer SS was a whole lotta disappointment to unwary flatulent car pilots after the SS emblems came off.

    Sometimes it’s just the absurdity of the machine that raises eyebrows, like buying the wrecked ‘Vette seen here earlier and transplanting the suspension/drivetrain intro a…..PACER??!?!? 😱😜

    Like 0
  22. Cav427

    Coyote 5.0 Anyone?

    Like 1
  23. Adam

    Wow, coolest Gremlin ever!

    Like 0
  24. Karl

    It’s a whole different world in the tuner arena today. I have a nightmare about one day having a Honda Civic pull-up to my 16 Z06, ?????? One never knows!

    Like 0
  25. 990V8

    It’s an achievement just to see a Gremlin that isn’t a ball of rust. And look!! .. it’s a project that actually got finished!!

    Yes, an AMC engine would have been nice, but most of all I like to see them being used on the road.

    Like 0
  26. Gaspumpchas

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said 990v8! My take is- you can knock a project all you want- but its finished. its driveable and on the road. that’s all that needs to be said. I always ask naysayers – well what have you got that’s running and on the road?? Maybe the sbc isn’t your cup of tea, but this car speaks for itself!! Good luck to the new owner and have some fun out there!!!



    Like 2

    I love my 74 javelin ta special. 360 p . hush 4 sp with 4.11 poise. All stock.

    Like 0
  28. Tony Evick

    I would be all over this car if it was still available at that price! 401 are not only a very expensive core but they are very expensive to build. For about the same amount of money you could buy a 392 Hemi gen 3 crate motor with 485 horsepower and now a days Tremec build a fantastic tkx 5-speed that will handle 600 ft lb of torque and bolt right in where any T5 was. Some 15 x 8 in wheel vintiques steel wheels for the rear and a set of American Motors poverty bottle caps for it. 8 inch drag radial on an 8-inch rim in the rear with some caltracs… Leaving on the back bumper!

    Like 0

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