Stripes and Flares: 1980 AMC Spirit AMX

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One the most celebrated recipes for awakening consumer interest in a product is to issue a special edition. Whether it’s due to only being available for a limited time, or because there’s a numbered plaque on the dashboard to serve as a reminder of a car’s unique qualities, finding ways to market existing products is a skill auto manufacturers have mastered. This 1980 AMC Spirit AMX here on eBay is a textbook example, with fender flares, a decal kit, special wheels and aero bits, to make it stand out from the crowd – but it didn’t keep the Spirit alive. 

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Introduced around the same time as Ford’s Fox Body Mustang platform, the AMX-kitted Spirit had an uphill battle from the start. Coupled with the perception that its products were too old – perhaps due to its connections to the Gremlin – and the AMX may have been too little, too late. Which is a shame, because these cars were not just about appearances: bigger sway bars, high-performance and adjustable shocks, and improved brakes and steering round out the list of mechanical enhancements found on the AMX.

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Other special features carried over to the interior, with a unique gauge cluster mounted in the console and fake aluminum trim throughout. In the case of this car, however, the interior is where the most work is needed. Being in Florida, I can only guess the sunshine and humidity are the culprits for this wrecked interior, which includes a buggered headliner, seats that need recovering, carpeting that is well past its expiration date, and other issues. The seller is including a replacement dash and two replacement seats in the sale.

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For the 1980 model year, the 4.2L inline-six was the only engine offered. Although the V8 that came in ’79 is a bit more desirable, the inline sixes from AMC were proven performers as well. This AMX’s motor is said to run, but the ignition switch is damaged so the only way to shut it off is at the distributor plug. A project for sure, and there is a reserve price, unfortunately. The seller claims it is rust-free, with only some isolated surface spots to worry about. These AMX’s are hard to find, but should you hold out for a better example of this rare Spirit liftback?

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Comments

  1. Rob L

    Plywood seat backs?!?!? Is that factory?

    • Dan

      On the back seats, yes. My biggest worry on his car would be the missing wheel arch flares. It appears they are almost impossible to locate.

  2. geebee

    I really hate it when a car company recycles the name of what was a pretty nice car onto horrendously overwrought junk. This is a prime example.

    • AMCSTEVE

      These cars were not “junk”. They won many SCCA races and were awesome handling cars. You can drop a 401 V-8 in one and have a very serious contender. You obviously no nothing about AMC cars or the venerable Spirit which also was the SX4 the 4×4 version.

      As AMC fans we constantly are educating the dumbed down masses in the automotive culture, which we shouldn’t have to do as much with the Internet. Some people are just lazy and think they know it all when in reality they know nothing….

      • scottymac

        AMCSteve,
        Uneducated Ford guy here. Bought a clutch pedal set up in case the funds ever become available for a nice Spirit/AMX. Were the flares on the four wheel drive models the same as the AMX? Saw a nice white Hornet/Concord AMX for sale at the Auburn Auctions America on Friday for $8800. Fresh paint, so idea what it was hiding.

  3. Edh

    I’ll start a kickstarter to haves it crushed.

  4. Wayne Thomas

    A 4.2L straight six engine you say? Well now, a GM Vortec 4200 4.2L with 300hp swap would be quite the surprise with this sleeper.

  5. AMCSTEVE

    And again you know nothing about the AMC line of six cyl engines. You can get 300 hp out of them without having to go thru all of the trouble. Ask any Jeep guy about the AMC six if you don’t believe it. You will have much more torque than the Chebby more dependability.

    • Wayne Thomas

      Know nothing? Actually, you are not the only one who knows. There is a difference between knowing and caring. A newer engine with parts availability and FI is just superior. Fact. No debate.

      You’re religiously devoted to AMC as is your freedom. Not everyone has to be a purist. Some people are free to prefer modern performance no matter how desperately you wish to deny that.

      • AMCSTEVE

        That’s your opinion not fact.

  6. Coventrycat

    I’m still trying to accept that we bought cars that actually looked like that from the factory.

  7. eddie stakes

    Of the 391 AMXs, Javelins & AMCs I have personally owned since 1976, I have never owned a 1980 AMX. Only 865 produced, about 100 remain. Or less. The front air dam is formidable item to try to find. AMC raced these at Nurburgring, they took 1st, 2nd in class. I sell a dvd of that if anyone interested. Or search ebay or my site at Planet Houston AMX for it. AMC gave the axe to 80 AMX and slow selling Pacer in November 79, early in production, dealers were told not to take any more orders for them, remove posters, banners. Concentrate on selling hot selling Spirit & all new 4×4 Eagle Series. But the AMX fell thru cracks, ironically you would see AMXs still being produced in Mexico until 1983, along with 5 door Spirit called Lerma, under VAM (vehiculos sutomores mexicanos) but not available in US markets. AMC also printed two seperate dealer color catalogs for dealers once AMX Spirit and Pacer dropped early in production. This looks like a nice project car for someone, can essily drop in AMC 360V8 with 5 speed or AMC 401v8 in it light car about 3000 lbs. Eddie Stakes http://www.planethoustonamx.com

    • Howard A Member

      1st order of business. We should be honored that Eddie Stakes is onboard with us here. In case someone hasn’t heard of him, he produces the foremost authority on AMC cars. I love their website. Being from Milwaukee, AMC, to me, was the best car made. Pardon me for the derail, but to Eddie: Have you found the lost Javelin commercial, “It’s a great car, dad, I only made it better”?

    • Steve

      I’ve had one in the barn for the past 27 years with only 85,000 kms (just over 50,000 miles). Bought for $100 as a parts car for my 82 Spirit GT and realized it was too nice and stashed her in the barn. Tempted to drag her out and get her on the road next summer. I need to find a set of those turbo cast wheels.

  8. VR LIVES

    This might anger some AMC purists, but the exterior looks too busy. Like they were putting this together at the last minute. I would paint this car black which would ehance the fender flames. Replace the AMX decal with a ghost colored AMX painted replacement. Black louvers for the rear glass and an V8 engine of choice. Like an 80’s Mad Max AMX look, but that’s just me.

    • Old school

      I thought so also except a solid color with those rims. The black lovers would look tough too.

  9. AMCFAN

    This color and the light blue color of the AMX package are not the best colors available. Although I like ALL AMC’s the car of choice would be a 1979 as the 304 V8 was still an option and you could get a Ford sourced 4 speed transmission with the V8 as well. A nice thing about that is you can pull it and slide in a T-5 5 speed out of a Fox body Mustang. Black with Black interior. The price of a restorable 79 with a V8 have been anywhere from $2000-$4500 range. To restore a 6 cyl. car costs the same.

    Dealers were proud to bring back the name. A stock 304 Spirit isn’t the fastest car today but when new it was as fast as any other American car and is the closest thing to its namesake as compared to a Z28 Camaro, Mustang II and the Dodge Aspen R/T of the time.

    The 79’s are a little hard to find compared to the 1980 version even though there are less. Many times cars ended up in the junk yard over rusted out fenders. Seen many AMC’s in the junk yards in the late 70’s early 80’s in my trips to the the big city.

    The 79’s rusted and badly. It started under the fenders and quickly went through the rockers and onto the lower doors. This was typical on an AMC. For 1980 AMC installed a plastic inner fender and this all but eliminated the rust issues. Finding an 80-83 Spirit or 80-87 Eagle or Concord will produce a set that will not only interchange with the Spirit but will also work on the Gremlin and Hornets from 1970-78

    Anyone up for some great reading please go to Eddies site. It is a one stop source for ALL that is AMC and then some. There is enough interesting material that it will take a week. I frequent it weekly. He has free classified’s for buying/selling and wanted. Plus you can contact him directly. Don’t like to type. Not a problem. He is very approachable and talks on the phone. A fantastic resource for anyone interested or thinking they would like to own an AMC. I highly recommend it.

    Like 1
  10. AMCSTEVE

    This was not as desirable as the black and red one but it does look better all cleaned up. I saw a 401 4-spd one on Facebook last month for sale, black on black. Wicked car

  11. eddie stakes

    This is a old file off my site I update one time a year, you can google ‘how many amcs left’ or click here. http://Www.planethoustonamx.com/stuff/how_many_amcs_left.htm I like to think after documenting thousands of AMC cars at meets, shows, auctions, individuals since 1970s that I have a little grip on how many left, but is speculation on my AMC part at end of day. Rarity does NOT equate market value when it comes to AMC. Google ‘mecum houston 70 amx’ to see the beautiful 70 AMX two seater in big bad green (74 produced in bbg) with Shadow Mask (about 20 bbg/shadow) that just sold for $18k. Right behind it a 68 AMX 390 red sold for $7500 go figure. So don’t worry too much about the color, AMC had some butt ugly colors thru history, paint it any color you want have fun with it, will be only AMC at cruise nights and car shows!

    Like 1
  12. eddie stakes

    One more thing, the AMX name first appeared in 1965 on prototypes (see press photos on my site) and AMX name was used from 1965 to 1983 on something prototypes (a number inc amx lll javelin wagon, vignale, amx/2, amx/3 including the AMX/3 that just won Pebble Beach 2016) Javelin 1971-74, Matador 1974-76 VAM, 1977 Hornet AMX, 1978 Concord AMX, 1979-80 Spirit AMX, 1981-83 AMX VAM.

    Yes! The exterior looks busy, was intended to! Get people into dealerships, then sell from stock! You could however opt out of the big hood covering ‘flaming bee’ on 77, 78…of which a smaller bee could be had on trunk! You have to remember again this was 1970s! A number of automakers had stuff like this, firebirds with big bird, dodge had those nascar look alikes, even road runner a ‘decal special’ same with can ams!

    Scroll down on the ‘my amcs for sale,’ file on my site to see the 77 Hornet AMX I sold recently with ‘hood bee delete’ http://www.planethoustonamx.com/my-amcs-for-sale.htm for instance. You could get the ‘flaming fireball’ on 79-80 AMX hoods deleted too.

    This 80 AMX still proudly has it although faded! If you need the kit, Phoenix Graphix reproduced the strioes and flaming fireball for these, good luck!

  13. Prowler

    I saw one very similar to this one but a much nicer complete car in Auburn on Saturday in the car corral and he was asking $14,000
    I just about fell out of the golf cart when I came around the corner and saw it
    I don’t think I have seen one in 10 years….actually so weird it’s kind of cool

  14. Howard A Member

    Listen to Eddie. This car was, sadly, a reminder of where we were in 1980. Muscle cars gasped their last breath years before, and all the car makers were trying whatever they could to sell cars, by putting muscle car names on sedate vehicles. It didn’t work very well, but still produced some nice cars. They just didn’t set you back in the seat, like previous models. Car wise, these were great cars. Comfy ( I know that plywood is a little scary, but I bet a lot of cars had that) dependable, economical cars, and you could “schmaltz” them up pretty good, to make it LOOK like you were going fast. This particular car is pretty tired. Still, can’t be many out there, and would be great a show. Saw one at the AMC reunion in 2014, one, so there aren’t too many around. I think it would be worth it for the paltry sum of $788 dollars it’s at now. Maybe Eddie will buy it?

  15. eddie stakes

    On the commercial howard mentions about the blown javelin, yes the commercial exists, no, i do not have it, nor have i ever seen it on youtube. http://Www.planethoustonamx.com/press_photos/generation-gap-blown-supercharged-amc-javelin.jpg if i did link right, if not look under ‘press photos’ on my site in 1969 range. There was a 1979 AMX 304, 4speed for sale in Austin, TX last year $13k 8000 original miles, really had to see to believe, instant gold level car.

    AMC had some really bad quality control issues in 1976-1978. A major strike crippled them in 1977. Brought in scabs to continue production. I have written about how bad some of the early 77 AMXs were, and the ‘extra holes’ under Targa band not filled, so headliner get wet in new car, and silly string like under coating applied doomed them from start. http://Www.planethoustonamx.com/stuff/1977-amc-hornet-amx.htm is old article helped hemmings out with.

    Really hard to sell a new 1978 AMC anything when you see friends, family, neighbors even strangers driving their new 1976-77 AMC & fenders rotting off and they still making payments! And press was brutal, and AMC suddenly was ‘struggling’ American Motors all the time in news, not good press.

    • BRAKTRCR

      Eddie, there was a large AMC boneyard in Brentwood Ca. ( nor cal not so cal) had a name similar to yours… was that your place, or just coincidence?

    • Howard A Member

      Thanks eddie, my brother thinks he has the commercial on an old VHS (Beta?) tape called ” Classic Car Commercials” or something, but is buried somewhere. I loved that commercial. There seems to be 2 of those commercials, before they were yanked because I heard they promoted street racing. Being from Milwaukee, I remember the strike well. We had neighbors and friends that worked at AMC, and I remember the picket lines at the Capitol Dr. Body plant. They had ads for scabs in the paper, and it got ugly. I’m not sure the “bad ” quality was intentional, just the lack of experience by the scabs. Things didn’t get any better after the strike either, and I heard of intentional sabotage on the Alliance. Hope to see you at the reunion next year. Great show.

  16. eddie stakes

    The big salvage yard that was in california years ago was ed stack auto parts, i bought a crapload of stuff off them nos for my own cars and restorations, i do not know what happened to them just vanished. Howard, if you ever find that commercial with the javelin, see if upload to youtube or send to me i can do it. If ya’ll get on youtube a lot of amc commercials! Something i did not mention, after the beating amc took with quality control, they brought in ziebart in 1978 for 1979 production to rust proof cars, but really too little, too late, still had been stigmatized by the ‘struggling american motors’ moniker i guess. Spirit and Eagle Series both sold well, as did Jeep. They also lost a number of dealers who did not want renault shoved down their throat! Renault got into talks with amc in 1977. One can only monday morning quarterback what could have been if talks were with datsun, now nissan, still selling millions of cars. Alliance was motor trend car of the year in 1983. At the dealership my dad worked at they called them renault appliance!

  17. CarNut from Winnipeg Member

    I saw a Hornet AMX and a Spirit AMX at the September 11th show at Garden City Mall in Winnipeg.
    Spirit – meh, but the Hornet looked really nice.

  18. GoodoleMike

    My fellow Mopar and Chevy friends never did warm up to anything American Motors in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Butt ugly looking cars, the whole bunch.

  19. Steve A

    Mike , you and you friends must be blind, plenty of attractive and some not so attrractive AMC’s during that period. Similar to what the competition was doing, some home runs, some should have stayed at homes coming out the factory door. It’s your opinion and you are entitled to it, yet I never understand why some people feel compelled to offer their negative opinions.

  20. John Grinnell

    John G. I used to own a 1980 AMX and a 1982 SX4. I wish that i could afford to find and buy another one they were awesome cars

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