Brendan’s excellent post on the Spirit GT captures AMC’s Herculean efforts to create something out of nothing. In February 1979, Car and Driver reviewed the Spirit GT, read on to see their thoughts on how well AMC succeeded back in the day.
Visual glitz over prosaic underpinnings took Detroit by storm in the late 1970s. Credit must be given for larding “glamour” onto a Gremlin, about the least likely “sow’s ear to silk purse” transformation imaginable.
Sadly for AMC, the Spirit’s appeal was only skin deep. The handling wasn’t great, and the V8 was lackluster. Plus, with the onslaught of more efficient and better handling small cars arriving for 1979, the V8 Spirit seemed woefully out-of-place.
Nor was the Spirit GT a screaming value. The as-tested price of $6,578 ($23,757 adjusted) put the car into fiercely competitive territory, up against superior rivals like the all-new Ford Mustang. Unless you were a die-hard AMC fanatic, there were many other choices for the same money (or less) that were either more modern or from a brand with more cachet.
But you have to give AMC credit for trying. The Spirit, along with the rest of the archaic cars in AMC’s line-up, simply couldn’t survive so long past their “sell by” date–but the scrappy fighter mentality that defied the odds was a testament to AMC’s employees–and wound up helping Chrysler immensely as well, after AMC was brought into the Pentastar fold.