A Gremlin by Another Name Might have Sold Better

Anyway you look at it, it was an unfortunate name for a car that was — in its own way — very cool and ahead of its time. It’s not really all that different from my Ford Focus hatchback. We had just never seen anything like it. The Gremlin was an attempt to compromise, to give drivers the power of a larger car, but using the smaller, more gas efficient, six cylinder engine.

Six. Yeah.


The Golden Retriever would NOT have been happy. A Shitzu, maybe. And notice. They do not mention mpg in the ad AT ALL. That wasn’t a big sales point for “little economy cars.” The word “economy” said it all. In 1974, AMC put an Audi 4 cylinder engine in the Gremlin making it capable of getting 35 mph.

And still people made fun of it and I still seldom saw one on the streets.

There was something about the color options of the 70s that was just plain ugly and kind of cheesy. I think we knew it at the time, too. Not really we. I was a teenager. I wasn’t consuming shag rugs, refrigerators, lamps, etc. I was going to school.

You could pose all the sexy women you wanted to alongside the Gremlin and it never looked like a sexy car. And who would EVER lay their guitar on wet sand???


It was designed during a time when there was a legitimate gas shortage. I remember those days. People LINED UP at gas stations hoping to score some gas before the pumps ran dry. There was much cursing and moaning and then the attempt to smooth it all out with a 55 mph NATIONALLY MANDATED top speed limit. Yes. Drive south to north across Wyoming at 55 sometime and see you YOU like it.

“Don’t speed. There are highway patrol everywhere.”

“They could save the gas the highway patrol is using to keep us at 55 and raise the speed limit. It would even out.”

People LIKED driving much bigger cars. One of the two cars in which I learned to drive was my Aunt Martha’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It had a V-8 engine as did my mom’s Ford Galaxie 500. These cars got 9-12 miles per gallon of gas.


Having (this morning) done a little research on the Gremlin, I see it was a car-guy’s car.


13 thoughts on “A Gremlin by Another Name Might have Sold Better

  1. I remember in all films imported from the States to Great Britain, they always had enormous cars with wings on the back. I was still a kid when I first saw a real american style car on the street in London, think it was a Pontiac, which really impressed me. My dad worked for Ford cars all his life in the factory, in Dagenham. He worked on the wheels. I remember when the Ford Anglia was introduced I loved that little car with its style. Dad even had to sign a secrecy agreement when he began to work on it, it was so new. Today they are no longer seen, although we had a garagist in our local Swiss town that had one.

    • I had to look up the Anglia. Nothing like it was sold in the states. I think the smallest Ford at the time here was the Falcon. My dad had a 1966 Falcon. Your dad would have loved my family. We drive Fords, except my mom who actually — on her own — went for Buicks. Go figure. 🙂

      • The funny thing was my dad never had a licence to drive a car, we never had the money for a car, although he would have got quite a rebate working for the company.

  2. The year the Gremlin’s came out, my first husband and I went to buy one at the nearby American Motors dealer. They also were the first local sellers of Volvos, a car about which we knew nothing. While the sales guy was selling us the Gremlin — we bought a Volvo. Which, at the time, was merely a couple of hundred dollars more than the Gremlin and there was something about it … that huge trunk in which we eventually we able to put half a cord of wood with room left over. Or, if were were into it, three corpses and the guns, too. It was a great car. It was the first year the 144 was on the market. It got 40 MPG on the road, 30 in town. 4-cylinders. A back seat that grown ups could sit in, not to mention our dogs and when necessary, two cat carrriers.

    Three years later, that first husband totaled the car about two blocks from home. It being a Volvo, it crumpled and he came out of it fine, but the car was dead. By that time, the price had gone up well beyond our means, so it was also our last Volvo.

    So we didn’t get a Gremlin.

    • I thought the Pacer was great, but, again… I’m a short person and visibility is difficult in a lot of cars and that car just seemed to have me covered, or exposed, whatever.

      • Interesting. My Mom liked the look of the Pacer, but as both she and my dad were quite tall (6 ft), and there were 4 kids, there was a practicality issue. Although strangely enough they bought a Toyota tercel wagon a few years later. By that time, I was launched and they didn’t need to haul as many kids.

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