I’ve been an AMC fan since my adolescence in the mid-/late-1980s. I don’t know if perhaps it was because something of that make’s “underdog” aura tugged at my heartstrings, or perhaps because of either Javelin’s genuine hotness, but at some point, I stopped poking fun at the gawkier visual aspects of Gremlins and Pacers and started to find them intriguing. I use that last word in the most neutral sense possible and without any malice, whatsoever. I think the Pacer is a legitimately attractive car (I know I’m not alone in this), and I give props to Chief Designer Dick Teague for its slick (even if bulbous) shape.
Growing up in the hugely General Motors-centric town of Flint, Michigan, to have your family drive anything but a GM car seemed unfashionable and, dare I say, heretical. Naturally, my parents drove Chrysler products (three consecutive Plymouths) exclusively for over a decade before buying a Ford (an ’84 Tempo GL four-door sedan). So help you in those days if an import was your family’s primary source of transportation or, even worse, a “dorky” AMC.
The only American Motors products (that weren’t Renault-based) that seemed to escape this second- (or third-) tier stigma were the Eagle 4X4 wagons, which (inexplicably, when I think about it now) seemed to maintain something of a premium image. Around the dawn of my middle school years, other AMC passenger cars – Spirits, Concords, etc. – seemed by that point in the ’80s to have slid down the used car chain very quickly as vehicles of the very last resort, whereas Eagle wagons always seemed to have more nicely-dressed families in them, regardless of the car’s age.
Our featured, lime green Hornet two-door sedan is an ancestor (relative?) of the Eagle, and it appears to have a much different combination of, let’s say, gifts than the average Eagle wagon. There are certain allowances to be made when examining the originality of a forty-something year old car. For example, it’s very likely that it has been resprayed at least once. The front and rear bumpers were chrome (and not painted black) from the factory. And yet, I’m compelled to believe that this car left Kenosha in very much the same configuration as what we see here: green paint the color of a can of 7-Up, a white vinyl top, and dog dishes on steelies painted the same color as the body.
Not being an AMC expert but just a fan, it is this last feature that makes me think this Hornet started its life looking much like it does in these pictures. I’ll bet there’s a base, 100-hp 232-six under the hood of this 2,800-pound car. The combination of steel wheels with the contrasting vinyl top seems like the most “AMC” thing about this car. This juxtaposition seems to say of its original owner, “I want basic transportation, but I’m just a little fancy.” Yep. This is like your uncle who wears his Rolex, his one prized possession, even when he’s rocking his denim overalls from Sears. About 145,500 Hornets found buyers that year, as AMC’s most popular line for ’74. (The Gremlin wasn’t far behind, with roughly 132,000 units sold that year.)
The holidays can be hard, as not all family dynamics that resurface bring back warm and/or fuzzy memories of roasting chestnuts, open fires, etc. However, this Hornet served – to me, personally, anyway – as a reminder that each of us possesses our own, unique set of gifts, and through our expression of those gifts, we have our own story to tell that no one else ever could the way we do. Look at this Hornet, as it rolls, proudly, down the beautiful, red brick main thoroughfare of downtown Flint, Saginaw Street. It is clearly not a trailer queen.
Still, by its mere presence and unique set of (bold) external qualities, it commands your attention. It is no shrinking violet, this Hornet. It is expressing itself, in Nineties parlance. That green-and-white color scheme (perhaps its nickname is “Sparty” as a nod to Michigan State’s colors) is about as in-your-face as they come. May the sun ever glint off those dog dish hubcaps of this product of what was considered for years to be the last independent, American auto maker, here in this birthplace city of once Goliath-scaled General Motors. Little green Hornet, flaunt those gifts, knowing that you are the only “you” in probably the entire state of Michigan.
Downtown Flint, Michigan.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017.