Superb Sportabout: 1976 AMC Hornet Wagon

I was just barely a teenager in 1976 and a 1976 AMC Hornet Sportabout Wagon would have probably been the furthest thing from my mind, and the lowest vehicle on my wish list. Now, things are different, I’m about the furthest thing from being a teenager and I really like these cars! It’s funny how a few decades will change a person’s mind. This sporty wagon can be found on Craigslist, or here on the CL archive. It’s located in the Wheeler, Illinois / Northwest Indiana area and the seller is asking $4,200 for what looks like a very nice example. Thanks to Pat L. for scrounging up this Sportabout!

The seller is listing this car for a friend who is downsizing the ol’ collection a bit. That sounds like my 2018 New Year’s resolution list: 1) Downsize the ol’ collection a bit. 2) Downsize the ol’ collection a bit. 3) Downsize the ol’ collection a bit.. 1976 was the second to the last year for the Hornet wagon, at least in name. In 1978 it would become the Concord, a slightly-upmarket model, with a few improvements to the engineering and styling. This one has the “optional, extra cost rims with mud flaps.” It also has “newer tires with plenty of tread.”

In the era where vinyl tops ruled the roost, I believe that one was even available on the AMC Hornet Sportabout. I could be mistaken on that, one of you AMC gurus will know. The sloping 5th door/hatchback is almost like small wagons of today. It looks sporty and is mostly likely more aerodynamic, but it really cuts down on rear storage. My wife’s Subaru Crosstrek has a similar, if not quite as sporty, sloping back and it’s a bummer sometimes when a person needs to haul just a few more boxes. The owner’s friend, who is selling this car for him, says that this “is a turn key, kind of quirky car, that can be driven anywhere as it sits, nothing needed. Legit 72k on the odometer.”

This is a really, really nice looking car! The interior photos show what looks like one nicely-maintained and loved Hornet. I don’t know if I really see a flaw in the interior, other than maybe a slighly-misaligned glove box door? Or, maybe it’s just open a bit. You can see the driver’s side of the front bench seat in the above photo and it doesn’t look like it’s worn or faded in the least. The clutch pedal pad (this is a 3-on-the-tree manual) can be seen on the hump on the front floor, I’m not sure why that’s off. But, door panels and seats look great, and I don’t even see any rust on the bottom edges of the doors in the photos that they provided. There is an aftermarket cruise control and vacuum gauge. Unfortunately, there are no engine photos, but this car has AMC’s 232 cubic-inch inline-six with around 90 hp. All “belts, hoses, fluids have been replaced. Brakes have been redone fairly recently. Original radiator has been professionally recored.” Thoughts on this nice Hornet Sportabout?

 

Comments

  1. Nathan Avots-Smith Member

    I think you hit on what makes these Hornet (and Concord and Eagle) wagons so much more appealing than the other variants, Scotty—that neat roofline at the rear. One of Richard Teague’s many ahead-of-its-time designs, although you’re right that it comes at the expense of function. Not to mention the ridiculously high liftover height into the tailgate…sweet car at a decent price!

  2. Jack M.

    Nice find Scotty and Pat. I wish that today’s manufacturers sold a wagon this size instead of bloated SUVs.

  3. mallthus

    I’m sorry, but when I see one of these, all I see is an Eagle parts car. Now, with one this nice, it might be that a rusted out Eagle’s 4×4 parts get swapped over to this very good body, but as a RWD malaise era wagon, this holds little appeal.

    • Graeme

      I fully disagree. Any AMC is a worthy collector car to me, whether it’s a quirky Marlin, a Pacer, or a Spirit.

    • That AMC Guy

      It would be a lot of work to install an Eagle 4×4 drivetrain into a Hornet. The floorpan on the Eagle is different in order to clear the transfer case.

      I had a Sportabout similar to this one years ago, even had the same color interior. The glove box door lock looks partially unlatched, but the door would not have aligned very well even new from the factory. The Hornet/Gremlin dash overall is a cheap assemblage of ill-fitting plastic parts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Sportabout with a factory tach! Just the thing to get the most out of that low-revving 232 and three-on-the-tree!

      Standard seats in these are the worst, no back support at all. This one does not even have the reclining feature. If you were going to drive one of these cars a lot you’d probably want to swap in more comfortable seats from a Concord. (Eagle seat mounts are different due to the bulge in the floorpan for the transfer case. Though possibly the seat mounts could be swapped.)

      • DweezilAZ

        So true. That dash looks like it came from the factory exactly that way.

        My folk’s 71 Gremlin was the same way, ill fitting plastic, even warped in some places, glove box [it was optioned up a bit] off kilter. Seat hardware started poking a hole through the side of the upholstery during the first six months.

        The 72 Ambassador Brougham they traded the Gremlin for was not much better: trim on all four armrests [same as seen in this Sportabout], was bowed out, ill assembled plastics on the dash, windlacing that you could stick a finger through at the door corners.

        Dad said if that was the best AMC could do on their “best” car, he’d never buy another one.

        Still, I’d love to have either or both back in the driveway.

        I am surprised to see the interior in such great condition tho.

  4. Rock On Member

    Nice find Scotty and Pat. Too bad that today’s domestic automakers don’t sell a wagon this size instead of all the bloated SUVs.

  5. John Newell

    Sportabouts make fabulous dragsters. Perfect weight transfer and good solid body thanks to the roof. Plus you have lots of room for jacks, slicks and stuff you need at the track. It’s already a 3 speed, a 4 speed tranny or a 727 will fit right in with a small hole for a super shifter or a racket shifter. Lots of room in the wheel wells for slicks too. The ultimate sleeper. What’s not to like? A 401 to complete the package and you can haul ass up a mountain or through the quarter waving bye, bye at the competition.

  6. XMA0891

    Besides the fantastic condition, I’d say the biggest news here is the three-on-the-tree manual! These always seem to be automatics when they come around! Great find! Fair price! Period color! Love it!

    Like 1
  7. jesus bortoni

    My heart skipped a beat when I saw that it had
    a three speed manual. You can slide a SBC and
    a nice 4 or 5 speed trans in there and have a nice
    ride.
    If the condition is as good as it looks, it would be a hell of a deal.

    • Graeme

      There’s no excuse for putting an sbc in anything but a gm vehicle.

      Like 2
      • That AMC Guy

        Hornets at various times came with the 304 and 360 V8s as options. An AMC 360 would probably be the ticket for an engine swap. Though of course anywhere those engines will go, so will a 401!

        Like 1
  8. Rube Goldberg Member

    This was another very popular car, but mostly in the Midwest, for some reason. There really wasn’t anything else in it’s class, that offered a wagon with a hatch. It was the perfect size, they should have sold millions, but by this time, AMC had begun to slip, and the Concord which was next, while still a good car, was kind of the beginning of the end. As far as I’m concerned, these were the last of the really good, traditional type AMC’s. Great find.

  9. Gay Car Nut

    I remember seeing AMC Hornets like this when I was a boy. But I’ve never seen one with a 3 on the tree manual transmission.

  10. Wayne

    I have always liked these. (Anyone else see a resemblance to a Dodge Magnum?). Poke and stroke a 4.0 to 4.9, a few Clifford goodies and a T5 5 speed and “FILL” the fender wells with proper tires. Fuel injection (even throttle body) and a couple of sway bars and you would have a great car!

  11. Al

    I used to have one of these. I now have a so called bloated M-B SUV. My Sportabout had a 3 on the tree, but also had overdrive (O-D).
    Passing on a 2 lane road took planning, ….. major planning as well as timing. I could push the O-D as I was about to pass and before it kicked into O-D, I had a lot of power. It was far too easy to red-line in those few seconds. The O-D, I believe was the reason I had a factory tach.
    As to the glove box lid, the locking mechanism, has been locked in the open position. The trunk-key should properly fix this. The lid had two spaces for coffee cups, and if you locked the mechanism, when it was opened the lid didn’t bounce on rough roads. At least, that is how mine worked.
    Would I purchase this car again (if new)? Not on your life, I would have spent an extra $1,200 & bought an M-B diesel wagon.

    Like 1
  12. Jeffrey

    After I graduated High School in 1982, My Father and I drove His 1076 Sportabout from Columbus Ohio to Kennewick WA. Stopping in Rawlings Wy and Salt Lake Utah and back. It was the best month of My life. Great little Wagon.

  13. Greg Yancey

    This would make an awesome ‘toad’ behind our motorhome….too bad we just bought a Trailblazer for that, I would snap this up in a minute!!

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