This little green 1980 Concord was a three-generation family car, owned by my grandfather, my aunt and myself. Like the title says, I didn’t know what I got:
When Grandpa’s 1971 Toyota Corona was succumbing to rust in the early ’80s, Dad and I had a conference on what car should replace it:
– It had to be simple; Grandpa would not deal with complicated controls.
– It had to be inexpensive; retired carpenters did not have a lot of money.
– It had to be cushy; after the tiny and tinny Corona, my grandparents needed something a bit nicer to sit in
We decided an AMC Concord might fit the bill, and within a few weeks Dad had traded the Toyota in on a pre-owned, deep green 1980 Concord DL. As you can see from the ad above, this was exactly the Concord’s mission when it was introduced in 1978: to provide some big car comfort in a smaller package that used the hardware AMC had available at the time.
In our case it was perfect–not too big, with comfy tan velour seats that matched the vinyl roof, roll-up windows, AM radio, PS/PB/Auto, and that’s pretty much it. Grandpa liked it a lot, and was proud enough to carry buckets of water down to his apartment parking lot to keep the Concord washed.
I got my first real taste of highway driving in the Concord just after getting my beginner driver’s licence. I accompanied my grandparents on a day trip to visit some relatives. Having learned to drive in his 40s, Grandpa eschewed highways and took minor roads, which turned the two-hour drive into an eternity. After our visit he turned to me, dropped the keys in my hand and simply said “You drive. Take the highway.”, before settling into the back seat of the Concord without another word. Once on the 401 I was freaking out a bit. I didn’t really know how to get home and here I was with my grandmother, who didn’t drive, or even speak much English. Between hand gestures and my making some guesses about what she was telling me in Dutch, we did manage to make it home.
The Concord served Grandpa well for his remaining years, and after his death ownership passed to my aunt, who had moved in to care for my grandmother. Grandma never had a drivers license but enjoyed being driven in the Concord for her errands.
Now here’s where I come in. In 1991, I’d graduated from school and returned home with my 1972 AMC Matador, which was far too ratty to drive to job interviews. As a supposed serious professional engineer I needed something more dignified. Meanwhile, the Concord had a flickering oil light and was making ominous clattering noises. Removing the valve cover revealed that the 258 six was severely coked up despite (or perhaps because of) its low mileage. So I solved both problems by buying the Concord for $100 and transplanting the Matador’s 258 into it.
Going in I wasn’t sure that everything would bolt up because of the eight-year difference but it did, and the resulting mongrel turned out to be a really good car. The combination of the 1972 emissions-free engine with the 1980 electronic ignition and lockup converter transmission drove very well, and since the Concord weighed some 500 pounds less than the Matador it had decent performance. I suspect that the rear gears were taller too, because the Concord cruised effortlessly on the highway.
I attempted to spruce up the Concord by using my AMC rally rims, and mounted an AMX grille from the wrecking yard. Sure, it wasn’t a real AMX, but then again neither was the car I’d removed it from. The biggest problem was the headliner, as the cloth had detached and was hanging down tent-like. Removing the cloth improved visibility, but bits of foam and dried glue would sift down on me while driving so I removed the whole thing, and using house paint made the headliner into a giant Canadian flag and re-installed it. Sort of an inside out General Lee motif from the wrong country.
I got a job, I moved out, and I pounded around in the Concord which was very reliable and felt like a well put together little car. Since the Concord was really just a refresh of the 1970 Hornet, AMC had been making the same car for 10 years and had it down pat. The doors closed with a satisfying thunk, it was quiet inside, the paint was shiny and it didn’t rust. It was cheap to run and insure, and I paid off all my student debts while driving the Concord.
At the time I was listening to a lot of Beach Boys music, and as I drove I developed my own version of “Little Deuce Coupe”. I’ll spare you the complete lyrics of “Little Green Concord”, but the best line was:
And if that aint enough to make you flip your lid,
There’s one more thing, it’s got a tan velour interior
I drove on, singing, for two years with almost no problems, which was great value for a $100 car. When my friend Bill was getting rid of his RX-7 I heard the siren call of the cheap sports car and decided that it would be more fun to drive than the Concord. It was, but you can read all about how that turned out here:
One of my co-workers was looking for a old car for her teenage son to fool with, so I gave them the Concord. I had gotten such good service out of it I couldn’t charge money for it. To my surprise, they put it back on the road. Until I moved out of that town some months later I would occasionally pass the Concord going the other way.
I wish I knew how much longer it lasted–chances are it was still going long after the RX-7 wasn’t. Maybe if I’d known what I got I wouldn’t have been so quick to let it go, but that’s part of the carefree days of youth.