The 1970 model year started out with the all new AMC Hornet. The AMC Hornet attempted to meld the frugal image of the Rambler with the image of luxury into a new type of compact car. The company recognized the difference between an economy car and a small car as a new breed of automobile began to surface. The Hornet was a small car. An economy car was considered a smaller car yet with aura of implied austerity. You have to give the company a lot of credit for announcing then, on April fools day (April 1st) , the newest sub compact car made by a major maker and badged as the AMC Gremlin. It rode on a wheel base of 96 inches, four inches shorter the original Rambler of 1950. The growing subcompact market was no longer left to the imports.
Both GM and Ford were still working on their sub-compact offerings (Vega and Pinto) so AMC beat the major manufacturers into this important segment of the market by a full six months and served notice on the automobile industry that AMC was a serious if not novel contender. The first Gremlins were advertised for $1879.00 as a two place (7046-0), bottom of the line car with rubber floor mats, a bench front seat, and no back seat at all. There was also a four place version (7046-5) that had the fold-down rear seat, flip open rear tailgate window, and a much longer option list with a starting price of $1995.00, just under $2000. This was the bench mark dollar value that seemed to divide the line between austere economy and the luxury of the compact. With initial sales of only 872 two place Gremlins it was clear that the buying public, while willing to buy a sub-compact, did not want to do away with the image or aura of luxury. The four place car with the optional 232 six rather than the base 199 six and options up to and including A/C was well received and helped to further define the positioning of the Sub Compact Car Market.
Standard equipment on the two place car for 1970 consisted of front arm rests, front ashtray, 35 ampere alternator (55 ampere with air conditioner) dome light, rubber floor mats, heater and defroster, split back front foam seat cushion, wheel trim hubcaps, dual pinstripes, ‘B’ rated 6.00 x 13 Black wall polyester tires, three-speed manual transmission with column mounted shift controls and a 128 hp 199 six. The four place car featured a rear window lift gate, and a foam cushioned rear seat with folding backrest. Gremlins with the optional 232 cid six came standard with floor shift transmission controls. A selection of thirty options or accessories plus seven packages guaranteed that the size of the car did not have to be deficient in luxury.
A brief summary of changes follow that will highlight the Gremlins production run from 1970 to 1978:
1971: The Gremlin featured no major body changes, and with the price increase for that year, a four place Gremlin could still be purchased for $1.00 under the magic $2000.00 level. The four place Gremlin outsold the 2 place Gremlin on an order of 10:1, so as might be expected, this was the last year for the two place car. Mechanically the 199 cid aix replaced with 232 cid six as the base engine and the new 258 cid six became the new optional engine. An automatic transmission option was added. The Sporty “X” package made it’s first appearance this year and consisted of special striping on the body sides, a body color grille surround, Goodyear Polyglass D70 x 14 belted bias ply black wall tires mounted on 14 x 6 slotted wheels with the volcano center cap, the space-saver spare tire, custom interior trim including bucket seats, "engine turned" instrument trim and special "X" decals. This was also AMC’s first use of the 3.8 L (232 cid) and the 4.2 L (258 cid) engine nomenclature.
1972: There were minimal body changes in the form of trim and badges. Also mechanically there was little change except for two notable areas. This was the first year the 304 V-8 was offered in this package and as one might expect it was a very quick subcompact. If you purchased the “X” package trim the 304 CID V-8 was identified by a 5.0 L V-8 badge on the rear insert. Additionally the automatic transmission source became that of the Chrysler Torque flight series of transmissions. They had proved to be smoother shifting and more reliable that the previous Borg Warner transmissions that had been in use. Other changes were a fully synchronized manual transmission, redesigned front seats and improvements in both the suspension and brakes.
1973: There were again minimal changes in body, trim, and most of the interior. Notable was the installation of the federally mandated 5 mph safety bumpers which required some redesign in the bumper mounting points on the unit body frame. The biggest single change was in the interior with the addition of the Levi trim package. This consisted of special “blue jeans” spun nylon fabric covering the seats, door inserts and map pockets on the door panels. The addition of orange stitching and copper rivets furthered the illusion of the Dungaree look. A Levi Trademark decal on the front fenders identified the car as a “Levi” packaged automobile. The Levi interiors could be had in both blue and brown. It should be noted that the base price was pushed over the magic $2000.00 range by inflation.
1974: Once again, there was relatively little major change in the body and power train. Any changes that were made were in an attempt to incorporate the now mandatory safety bumpers into the overall body style both in the front and in the rear. There was a token redesign in the form of the grill, and the headlight surround area. Of significance a rally “X” packaged was offered that included a dash mounted tachometer using the Hornet three pod instrument panel. Oil pressure and ammeter gauges were added as well as a blacked out instrument panel and steering column. For the six cylinder models a front sway bar was added. Styling was almost a complete carry over both in the body and the interior. However increasingly stringent smog criteria required the use of an electronic ignition now standard on all engines and the first use of a Catalytic converter. Interesting enough not all engine combinations were required to use a catalytic converter as there were some engine applications clear through 1977 that the lack of a converter was “Federally” correct. The most notable mechanical change was the addition of an electronically activated overdrive for cars with the six cylinder engine and manual transmission. The incorporation of both the electronic ignition and the Catalytic converter allowed a better tuned engine so both performance and fuel economy improved over the previous year.
1976: The AMC Gremlin received another restyled grill and headlight arrangement along with new side marker lights. Mechanically the 304 cid V-8 was dropped at mid year. Other than those two pieces, there were no notable changes in 1976.
1977: This year was notable as the year the AMC Gremlin received its first major body restyling. The front of the car was shortened by 4 inches, with new front clip sheet metal, fenders, grill and bumper. The rear was restyled with a larger glass hatch and tail lights. The gasoline filler was moved behind the rear license plate. This eliminated the exterior location of the gasoline filler cap which at one time became a signature of the car with a heavy and ornate Gremlin symbol cast into the design of the filler cap (then as now, a high theft rate item causing a redesign shortly after the introduction of the car with a simpler and less ornate filler cap). Mechanically the biggest change was the availability of a new four cylinder engine based on the Porsche/Audi design. This engine featured an overhead camshaft and an aluminum cylinder head. Unfortunately this engine was underpowered and to some extent improperly geared to move the Gremlin and other AMC cars down the road well and proved to be an unpopular option. This was also the first year for the introduction of a new four speed transmission, an all synchronized Borg Warner designated the SR-4. It was available on both of the six cylinder engines. The 2.0L four got a lower power version called the HR-1.
1978: Following the restyle of 1977, the 1978 AMC Gremlin turned to interior refinements. This included color keyed carpets, a custom steering wheel , standard floor shift for the three speed transmission, a standard AM Radio and more sound insulation to keep things quite Exterior standard equipment featured (some available as standard only on the custom models) B78 x 14 with wheel covers, manual front disc brakes and defroster. The "X" was available in Levi trim which included bucket seats and identifying decals on the body, a front sway bar, D78 x 14 tires on slot styled 14 x 6 inch wheels. In early 1978 a GT package was announced that consisted of fiberglass body components featuring a body-colored front air dam with striping, front and rear flares matching the body colors, black side stripes with color-keyed pin striping, a black grill insert and black mirrors and windshield wipers. Tires were D70-14 white letter radials. Included on the interior were a sports steering wheel, gauge package, brushed aluminum dash panel overlay, extra insulation and a day night mirror. 1978 was the last year for the Gremlin. In 1979 the Gremlin line was replaced by the AMC Spirit two door Sedan and Liftback (hatchback).
The Gremlin started out with only one trim level and with only one body style available, a two door sedan (it wasn't called a "hatchback" as just the rear window opened). There were two trim levels beginning in 1976, Base and Custom. The 77-78 Gremlin four cylinder model received its own trim level indicator. The GT package did not receive a special trim number. Trim levels can be determined from either the model number on the Unit Body ID Tag or the 4th, 5th, and 6th characters of the VIN (see VIN Decoder and Unit Body ID Tag for additional information on decoding the VIN and body tags). The body styles and trim levels are:
- 2 door sedan (1970-75)
- 2 door sedan in Base and Custom trim (1976-78)
- 2 door sedan in with four cylinder engine (1977-78)
A GT package was available for 1978. This included a black confull lengthsole, black leather wrapped steering wheel, black instrument panel with woodgrain overlay, woodgrain door panel accents, tachometer black bumpers with nerfing strips and guards, twin black remote mirrors, black exterior trim moldings, black grill insert and headlight bezels, and black rear venturi area. GT models carried P195/75R14 steesteel beltedials on spoke style wheels V-8 with manual shift and a Performance tuned exhaust sound. The GT Rally Tuned Suspension Package added a tuned front sway bar, rear sway bar, heavheavy dutyriel Strider adjustable shocks, tuned strut rod bushings and rear spring iso-clamp pads, High Control rear leaf springs, unique steering gears and heavheavy dutykes.
The available engines are as follows. The 7th character of the VIN is the Engine Code and indicates original engine size:
- Engine Code G, 121 cid inline four, 80 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1977-78
- Engine Code A, 199 cid inline six, 128 hp, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1970 only
- Engine Code E, 232 cid inline six, 145 hp, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1970 only
- Engine Code E, 232 cid inline six, 135 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1971 only
- Engine Code E, 232 cid inline six, 100 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1972-75
- Engine Code E, 232 cid inline six, 90 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1976-78
- Engine Code G, 232 cid inline six, 155 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1970 only
- Engine Code A, 258 cid inline six, 150 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1971 only
- Engine Code A, 258 cid inline six, 110 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1972-74
- Engine Code A, 258 cid inline six, 95 hp, 8.0:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1975-77
- Engine Code C, 258 cid inline six, 112 hp, 8.3:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1976-78
- Engine Code H, 304 V-8, 150 hp, 8.4:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1973-74
- Engine Code H, 304 V-8, 120 hp, 8.4:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1975-76
If you are unsure of the size of the engine currently installed, you can check it's size by the following methods:
- The 121 OHC four is easily identifiable by sight. Both are four cylinder engines. It has the AMC six character Engine Day Build Code, described under inline six engines, on the left side of the bell housing flange. The engine code will be "G".
- On in-line six engines, there is a machined pad on the distributor side of the engine between the first and second spark plugs. This contains the six character Engine Day Build Code. The first digit indicates the calendar year the engine was built. 1970 will be a 3, 71-76 is 4-9, and 1977-78 starts over again with 1-2. The next two numbers will be the month the engine was made in. A letter code (same as VIN engine code) will tell engine size and compression. It is possible that the engine has been replaced with a newer or older engine. 199, 232, and 258 cid cid six cylinder engines made between 1964 and 1971 are almost externally identical as are the engines made from 1972 through 1983. The bell housing bolt pattern changed in 1972, so only 72 and later engines are direct bolt in swaps. There will also be a number of different mounting holes on the intake depending on the year as well as valve cover variations. If the original intake and accessories are used there should be few problems swapping in any 72 or later engine.
- For V-8 engines, the best way to tell size is to look at the size cast into the engine block near the first and second core (freeze) plugs on either side of the engine. Note that service replacement blocks do not have the displacement cast into them and tear down to measure bore and stroke is the only way to positively identify the installed engine. The second way to identify engine size is from the tag attached to the valve cover. The valve cover tag will be coded the same as the inline six Engine Day Build Code (see above description).
- V-8 Engine Notes. It is not unusual to find a Gremlin with a V-8 engine instead of the original in-line four or six, or a larger V-8 to replace the 304 the car was manufactured with. See performance section for details.
Note: Engine dates are calendar dates and not model year dates. Since model year production actual starts in the previous calendar year, it is possible to have, for example, an engine coded 1975 in a 1976 vehicle and be correct but an engine coded 1977 would not be correct for the same car since no 1976's were manufactured in calendar year 1977. Also note that a following year letter code may be used on an engine. (i.e. - an engine manufactured in 1969 for the 1970 model year would have a 1969 date but a 1970 letter code).
The following transmissions were used in 1970 – 1978 Gremlins. The general transmission type can be determined by the third digit of the VIN.
- T-96 Three Speed Manual (199/232/258) 1970-72
- T-150 Three Speed Manual (232/258/304) 1974-78 (sometimes designated 150-T)
- T-150 Three Speed Manual w/Laycock-DeNormanville Overdrive (232/258) 1975-76
- T-14 Three Speed Manual (232/258/304) 73
- SR-4 Four Speed Manual (232/258) 1977-78
- HR-1 Four Speed Manual (121) 1977-78
- Torque Command Automatic – based on Chrysler 904 (121) 1977-78
- Torque Command Automatic – based on Chrysler 904 (232/258) 1970-78
- Torque Command Automatic – based on Chrysler 998 (304) 1972-76
1. Due to the common identification of the Chrysler series numbers AMC Torque Command automatics are generally referred to with the more common Chrysler identifications, usually with an "A" preceding or following (i.e. - A904 or 904A). The internals of these transmissions are identical to their Chrysler counterparts. They are not, however, interchangeable between AMC and Chrysler engines due to the difference in bell housing bolt patterns.
2. The 121 four has a unique bell housing bolt pattern. Transmissions will not fit any other engine used by AMC at any time. The 121 bolt pattern is believed to be the same as its Audi/Porsche counterpart (it was used in the 1976-85 Porsche 924).
|Body & Trim Style||1970||1971||1972||1973||1974||1975||1976||1977||1978|
|2 door-sedan, Base||Note 1||Note 2||94,808||128,844|
|Note 6||Note 7||Note 8|
|2 door-sedan, Custom||-||-||-||-||-||-||Note 6||Note 7||Note 8|
|2 door-sedan, Four Cylinder||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||7,558||6,349|
Note 1: 872 two place, 27,688 four place.
Note 2: 2145 two place, 74,763 four place.
Note 3: 11,672 of the total were equipped with the 304 V-8.
Note 4: 14,137 of the total were equipped with the 304 V-8.
Note 5: 3,410 of the total were equipped with the 304 V-8.
Note 6: No breakdown between Base and Custom models. 826 of the total were equipped with the 304 V-8.
Note 7: No breakdown between Base and Custom models.
Note 8: No breakdown between Base and Custom models.
Dates of model introductions:1970 - April 1, 1970
1971 - October 6, 1971
1972 - September 22, 1971
1973 - ???
1974 - September 15, 1973
1975 - November 15, 1974
1976 - September 24, 1975
1977 - October 5, 1976
1978 - September 9, 1977
The VIN tag on all 1968 and later cars sold in the US will be on the left side of the dash board visible through the windshield. The VIN is also stamped into the left frame sill behind the steering gear box. It is necessary to remove the steering gear box to view the VIN in this location. A 13 character VIN is used through the 1980 model year, a 17 character VIN for 1981 and later model years.
The 13 character VIN can be decoded as follows:
|Company||Year||Transmission Type||Series||Body Type||Trim Level||Engine||Sequential Serial Number*|
Note: Character one is always an A (American Motors) and character four is always a four (Gremlin/Spirit).
*The last six digits are the numbers assigned to the car when it was ordered from the factory. Numbers starting at 100001 are assigned to cars made in Kenosha, WI. Numbers starting at 700001 are assigned to cars made in the Brampton plant in Ontario, Canada.
The Unit Body Identification Plate for a Spirit can be found on the latch edge of the driver's door. It can be decoded as follows:
This is the number assigned to the body as it was being produced at the body plant. This number is different than the last six digits of the VIN.
This identifies the body and trim styles. The first two digits are the year, the third the series, fourth body style, and fifth trim level. Base trim level is often left out (only four digits). A blank indicates that the body and trim style was not available for the year in question. Replace "xx" with last two digits of year for complete model number.
|Code w/Body Style and Trim||1970||1971||1972||1973||1974||1975||1976||1977||1978|
|xx46-0 = 2 door sedan, two place||X||X|
|xx46-3 = 2 door sedan, base trim||X|
|xx46-4 = 2 door sedan, four cylinder||X||X|
|xx46-5 = 2 door sedan, four place|
(Custom trim 1976, base 1977-78)
|xx46-7 = 2 door sedan, Custom trim||X||X|
This identifies the interior trim style, color, and seat types. The trim code through the 1981 model year has four characters. The first character is the last digit of the year (9 = 1979, 0 = 1980, etc.), the second the first digit of the series (4 for Gremlin), third color, and the fourth is the seat type. EXAMPLE: 641? = 1976, Series 40 Spirit, black, (seat type).
1970-78 Trim Code Decoding
|1 - black|
|3 - blue|
|5 - red|
|6 - tan or beige|
The following colors were available in 1970-1978. The original color can be determined by looking at the Paint code on the body tag. If there are two codes separated by a dash, the first code is the primary body color and the second code is the upper body (sometimes roof) or accent color. For example, a car that was black with a white top would have a paint code of 1-72. Paint codes may also be prefixed with a P or suffixed with an A. Note that some cars were painted non-standard colors. These cars will typically have a code such as " 00" or "SPEC". This was reserved for large orders in the special color, usually for fleet use. Only colors normally available for the Gremlin are shown. Any AMC car color could be ordered as an extra cost option during the production run.
|P1||Classic Black||1970-73, 74-78|
|E1||Diamond Blue Metallic||1973-74|
|E2||Olympic Blue Metallic||1973|
|E3||Fairway Green Metallic||1973|
|Tallyho Green Metallic||1973|
|Pewter Silver Metallic||1973|
|Copper Tan Metallic||1973|
|F3||Fresh Plum Metallic||1973-74|
|F7||Dark Blue Metallic||1974|
|F8||Golden Tan Metallic||1974|
|Silver Green Metallic||1974|
|Medium Green Metallic||1974|
|Dark Green Metallic||1974-75|
|Medium Blue Metallic||1975-76|
|Deep Blue Metallic||1975|
|H4||Dark Cocoa Metallic||1975-76|
|H6||Golden Jade Metallic||1976|
|H7||Aztec Copper Metallic||1976|
|H8||Autumn Red Metallic||1976|
|H9||Silver Dawn Metallic||1975|
|6A||Marine Aqua Metallic||1976|
|6E||Burnished Bronze Metallic||1976|
|6J||Silver Frost Metallic||1976-77|
|6T||Nautical Blue Metallic||1976|
|7B||Mocha Brown Metallic||1977-78|
|7C||Autumn Red Metallic||1977-78|
|7K||Captain Blue Metallic|
(Midnight Blue Met. for 78)
|7L||Loden Green Metallic||1977-78|
|7M||Golden Ginger Metallic||1977-78|
|Captain Blue Metallic||1977-78|
|8B||British Bronze Metallic||1978|
|Quick Silver Metallic||1978|
The unlabeled number at the bottom of the body tag is the Sequential Assembly Number. This number was assigned to the vehicle as it entered the final assembly line. Cars assembled in Kenosha will have an "E" or "W" preceding the number. This designated the East or West assembly line. Cars assembled in Brampton will have a "B" preceding the number. Vehicles were assembled in batches as needed -- i.e., 10 Spirits may be assembled then 20 Concords followed by 15 Matadors, etc. Minimum and maximum sizes of batches are unknown -- in some cases single cars may have gone through the lines.
The following sources were used to verify the information contained on this page:
- American Motors, The Last Independent; Patrick Foster, ISBN 0-87341-240-0
- Cars & Parts Catalog of American Car ID Numbers 1970-1979, ISBN 0-87938-518-9
- 1970-78 American Motors Technical Service Manuals
- 1970-78 American Motors Sales Catalogs
- The Standard Catalog of American Motors, 1902-1987, ISBN 0-87341-232-X
- Chilton Repair & Tune-Up? Guide. American Motors 1975-1986
- The Compact Chronicles, Copyright 1992, Frank Swygert