Good Car

A year or so ago my friends experienced a terrifying car crash. They were rear-ended by a coal truck as they were turning in to the driveway of the local vet where they’d gone to pick up their dog who’d spent a couple nights there while its people had gone to a nearby town to visit family.

It was awful. Neither of them were seriously hurt (nor was the driver of the coal truck) but the damage to their car made it look like a crash no one could have survived. They drove a Ford Escape. In the back was part of an engine of a 1950s era T-bird. The well-designed back end and the heavy metal of the T-bird part did a lot to protect my friends.

They’ve only recently been able to sort out the insurance claim even though the coal company was cooperative. 

The day of that crash, I had a little one of my own. My car — a Ford Focus hatchback — was rear-ended by a Dodge Ram Truck. 

Relax. There was a LOT more damage to the truck than to my Focus. Strange, huh? I thought so. All the damage to my car was three little divots from the truck’s license plate frame. The truck’s hood would no longer close and the bumper was dislocated. 

The truck was driven by a kid, so I had the honor of being his first accident. With my California mentality, such an accident is no-harm no-foul. Still, the kid and his father (who runs a body-shop) were very worried that I didn’t really mean, “Forget about it.”

But I did mean it.

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.