CC Capsule: 1974 AMC Gremlin X • Perhaps Not Quite As Advertised


Without the bumper it looks downright shocked and alarmed, doesn’t it! I recall exactly two instances of happening upon a Gremlin parked curbside. When I was four, my parents—who had just decided to get a second car—and I, on a walk round our suburban-Denver subbdivision, came upon a parked orange Gremlin; I asked them please not to get that kind of car because it hurt my eyes.

Last Spring, over four decades later, I parked behind this Trans-Am Red over Snow White 1974 Gremlin X in Lillooet, BC.

It’s a Gremlin X:

A Gremlin X, y’hear?

Its taillights are very much of their time, Fresnel optics and all:

They remind me of certain other taillights I’m more closely familiar with; those of the 1970 Dodge Dart:

Here on the fuel cap appeared a gremlin. Still does, too; s/he’s not an ex-gremlin on this Gremlin X:

This particular Gremlin X appears to have been first sold in North Vancouver (that address is now/still a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership):

But take another look at the rear:

I suspect that “4.2 litre” callout was maybe not there when the car was new, and might be telling a fib. That’ll be the AMC 258 six-pot motor, and those great big rear tires and sizeable twin pipes hint at V8 power. I’m not certain, though; I didn’t hear it run, and there’s a healthy enough aftermarket for the 258 and its begats (including the later Jeep 4.0) that it’s surely possible to hot one way up.

There’s a big tachometer and some kind of hi-zoot shifter, too:

The ’74-up big rear bumper is counterbalanced by…er, wait a minute; no, it’s not anymore. Usually cars look somewhere between incomplete and not better to me with a missing bumper, but this hints to me at the massive loop bumpers of the time, and has me wondering what it might look like if this header panel assembly (grille, lamps and reflectors, etc) were built as the front bumper:

Hey, watch this. First, here’s roughly the view that prompted 4-year-old me to comment unfavourably on the Gremlin’s design:

I think it was mostly the shape of the quarter glass that put me off. But look what happens when I just raise the camera overhead:

To my eye, that’s a remarkably big improvement. It looks less dumpy and more scooty. The proportions; lines; curves, and angles make a lot more sense; they all seem a great deal more coherent and coördinated from this angle, and even the noise from the chrome roof rack and air deflector seems more harmonious.

Safety first, kids! (Also: Herculite as a safety glass brand):