Quirky And Clean: 1977 AMC Gremlin

By the end of 1976, sales of the AMC Gremlin were in free-fall, and the company knew that action was required if the car was going to continue to sell in reasonable numbers. Apart from a substantial restyle, they chose this moment to introduce a new 4-cylinder engine for the 1977 model year in a bid to entice those potential buyers who were seeking a car with reasonable fuel economy. This Gremlin is one of those cars, and it appears to be a nice looking survivor. Located in Clinton, Ohio, the Gremlin is listed for sale here on eBay. With bidding sitting at $3,450, the reserve hasn’t been met. There is also the option to hit the BIN button on the little AMC, which has been set at $6,000.

Looking through the photos that the owner supplies tend to indicate that the Gremlin is quite a solid little car. The Brandywine paint is nice and consistent, while the hockey-stick stripes also look good. There is some damage to the paint on the front edge of the hood, but this is relatively minor, and should be quite easy to rectify. There are no signs of rust issues, while the majority of the external trim and chrome also looks good. There is some damage to the grille, but if perfection is the goal with this car, then finding a replacement shouldn’t present a huge challenge. What does look odd is the tires that are fitted to the car. They are obviously the wrong size for the vehicle and have a “balloon” look about them that is quite distracting. I would probably be inclined to replace them sooner rather than later because not only is there a chance that they would negatively impact the Gremlin’s handling, but I think that there is a reasonable chance that they could catch the front wheel-arches on full steering lock.

By the time a Gremlin reaches the sort of age that this one is, the interior would generally have seen better days. This particular car surprises in this area, because the interior trim looks to be in really good condition. The wheel wears a wrap and there is an aftermarket radio fitted into the dash, but the rest of it looks to be in really nice condition. The owner refers to the trim as being Levi Edition, but this isn’t right for this car. The owner does refer to the fact that the car has never been owned by a smoker, which means that it has avoided the staining and minor scorch marks that can be a hallmark of those cars, while the cleanliness of the ashtray would certainly suggest that this is accurate.

The big news for the 1977 model year was the introduction of a 4-cylinder engine into the Gremlin range. This was not a cheap proposition for AMC, as the 121ci engine was not an in-house development, but had been sourced from VW/Audi. Producing 80hp, what it lacked in muscle it made up in weight savings. The smaller engine brought a 300lb weight saving over the 232-equipped car, meaning that performance figures were almost identical between the pair. The Gremlin is equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission, and while the engine bay isn’t the tidiest on the planet, it is still quite acceptable for a car of this age. The owner does say that the engine and transmission are original and that the car does drive well. Sadly, the writing was on the wall for the Gremlin by this stage with only 46,171 cars rolling out of new car showrooms in 1977. The much-hyped new engine didn’t provide the sales boost that AMC had hoped for, with a mere 7,558 buyers choosing to tick that box on the options list.

It appears that this 1977 Gremlin is a nice car that is ready to be driven and enjoyed immediately. Various TV series and movies have gotten great mileage and plenty of jokes at the car’s expense, However, this fails to recognize that while they feature quirky styling, they were essentially a solid and reliable car. These are another of those unusual cars that have developed a strong following in recent years, and even though the BIN for this one does seem to be a bit on the high side, I really wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone hits the button on this one.

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Comments

  1. Andy

    Seems strange that a 2 liter from VW would have basically the same output as VW got from 1.5s and 1.6s in their own cars at the time. I wonder how the torque compares.

    Like 1
  2. GTiDave Member

    VW had fuel injection in ’77.

    Like 1
  3. Skorzeny

    Ecotec swap coming, along with everything you’d need. I mean, you have to drive it in today’s traffic, right?

    Like 3
  4. That AMC Guy

    AMC wasted a bundle of money buying the rights to this engine and tooling up a factory to build them. As far as I know they never did put it into production, the short blocks used were all bought from VW/Audi. Part of the engine deal was that AMC was not permitted to say where the engine came from. (I guess they figured Porsche 924 owners would not be happy sharing a motor with the Gremlin.)

    Period reviews of 4-cylinder Gremlins were generally positive. From what I’ve read though, good luck finding any parts for this engine if it should require serious work. These are interesting but for long-term serviceability a 6-cylinder Gremlin would be a lot easier to deal with.

    Like 12
    • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

      Thanx – always great to read informed comments

      Like 3
  5. JoeNYWF64

    Hard to believe the difference in weight!
    As far as chevy is concerned —>
    Chevy Vega L4 285 lbs(ridiculous iron head & alum block lol)
    Chevy II 153 L4 350 lbs
    Chevy L6 194-250 440 lbs
    Chevy small block V8 575 (generic for ’60s-’70s motors)
    Chevy 396 ‎ 665–685 lb

    Might be tuff to find a replacement grill – perhaps 1 on there can b repaired.
    On an all red interior, a different seat pattern looks better IMO.
    No “astro” upper fresh air face vents here on non a/c car.
    I wonder if AMC considered ford’s ohc 4 cyl motor.
    Ford & AMC motors were in Bricklins.

    Like 1
    • That AMC Guy

      There is basically no closed-window ventilation on a Gremlin (or Hornet, etc.) without AC. There is a wimpy “vent” under the dash that’s a cruel joke.

      Looking at the master cylinder it appears this car has non-power front discs. Should stop OK – I used to have a Hornet with this setup and aside from pedal pressure being a bit on the high side it worked well.

      Due to the lighter weight of the 4-cylinder engine, manual steering was a bit quicker than other Gremlins, not quite as truck-like. (I don’t see a power steering pump on this one.)

      Like 4
      • Freddie

        Dude you open the window

        Like 3
  6. Freddie

    These are great cars my dad has had six over the years i am 24 and have had 2 i don’t know why people call these lemons great cars indestuructable last on i had i was t boned pretty bad it bent both sides of the frame i drove 10 miles home

    Like 2
  7. Del3

    love Gremlins

    but only buy the Levi Edition V8

  8. Tom

    Sorry to say the grills are NOT easily sourced. They only used them in 77/78. The plastic is brittle and if you can find one they charge a lot of $$$.

  9. Denny Scanlan

    Great little car! Bought this one and had it shipped to Tucson, Arizona. You are correct, no AC, PB, PS. Will put it away for the summer and play in the winter when it gets down to 65 degrees! Making minor repairs, missing grill pieces were in the glove box!

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