*The last six digits are the numbers assigned to the car when it was ordered from the factory. Each plant started with 000001.

The Check Digit, character 9, is used to verify authenticity of the VIN. Verification must be accomplished by hand. Any small mathematical error will result in an incorrect answer, so be careful! Any changes in the VIN to disguise the vehicle or change factory equipment will result in an error.

Step 1: Write the VIN down with double spacing between each character. Assign each number in the VIN its numerical value (4=4, etc.), and assign each letter the value specified below. Write these values in a row directly beneath the VIN.

    A=1    B=2    C=3    D=4    E=5    F=6    G=7    H=8    J=1    K=2
    L=3    M=4    N=5    P=7    R=9    S=2    T=3    U=4
    V=5    W=6    X=7    Y=8    Z=9 
(Letters I, O, and Q not used to avoid confusion with numbers 1 and 0)

Step 2: Make a third row of characters directly below the second with the values shown below for each character's numerical position. Make a fourth row by multiplying the values in row two by the values in row three.

     1=8    2=7    3=6    4=5    5=4    6=3    7=2    8=10    9=0
    10=9   11=8   12=7   13=6   14=5   15=4   16=3   17=2

Step 3: Add all the numbers in row four together and divide by 11 (long division, not with a calculator!). The remainder should be equal to the check digit. If the remainder is 10, the check digit will be an X.


1979-83 Spirit

1979-83 Spirit

1979 AMC Spirit Sedan 1979 AMC Spirit Liftback
1979 AMC Spirit Sedan 1979 Spirit Liftback

General Information

The Spirit for 1979 was conceived as an upscale market replacement for the 1978 Gremlin. The Spirit was produced in two body styles from 1979 through 1983. The two door sedan direct replacement for the Gremlin featured larger rear windows and dual head lights. The head lights were accomplished by placing a head light bucket that housed both lights over the single head lamp design of the front fenders and then masking the edges using trim pieces on the fender and hood to hide the single head lamp origin of the body parts used in 1978. This body style is sometimes referred to as a "Kammback" design, but is actually a two door sedan. The second style was the liftback design. This design is referred to as a hatchback by many. Both cars included as base equipment a high pressure compact spare tire, manual front disc brakes, inside hood release, lighted ash tray, full wheel covers, rear bumper guards, custom steering wheel and color keyed interior carpets. The tail lights were extended from the outside rear of the car to the license plate mount on the liftback which was also the opening for the hidden center rear fuel filler. These two body styles were continued through 1982, with just the liftback seeing the end of production in 1983, with minor changes in trim, paint, interior appointments and grill design. Note: The AMX version of the liftback carried its own body style number. See the AMX data page for further information on that model.


Body Styles and Trim Levels

There were three trim levels and two body styles available. The body styles and trim levels can be determined from either the model number on the door tag or the 4th, 5th, and 6th characters of the VIN through 1980; 6th, 7th, and 8th characters from 1981 on (see VIN and Door Tag Decoder for additional information on decoding the VIN and door tags). The body styles and trim levels are:

  • 2 door sedan in Base, DL, and Limited trim (1979-80)
  • 2 door liftback in Base, DL, and Limited trim (1979-80)
  • 2 door sedan in Base and DL trim (1981-82)
  • 2 door liftback in Base and DL trim (1981-82)
  • 2 door liftback in DL and GT trim (1983)

Base equipment: Black wall C78x14 tires, vinyl bucket seats, 4 spoke steering wheel, lighter, locking glove box, folding rear seat, spare tire cover, dual paint stripes plus moldings for the wheel lip, drip rail, hood front edge, windshield surround and rocker panels. Lift backs included a front sway bar for improved handling.

DL equipment: Custom bucket seats in Caberfae corduroy or Sport vinyl, walnut burl woodgrain instrument panel overlay, wood grain steering wheel, day-night mirror, digital clock, extra quiet insulation, dual horns, courtesy lights, package shelf, folding split rear seat back, front/rear bumper guards and white wall tires with color keyed styled wheel covers.

Limited equipment: Leather bucket seats, an AM radio, power door locks, power steering, power liftback release, dual remote mirrors, light and visibility groups, convenience and protection groups, tilt steer wheel, full length console with center armrest, 18 oz carpeting and P195/75R14 glass belted whitewalls.

A GT package was available 1979-82 (it became a trim level for 1983). This included a black full-length console, 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 steel-belted radials 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, heavy duty Gabriel Strider adjustable shocks, tuned strut rod bushings and rear spring iso-clamp pads, High Control rear leaf springs, unique steering gears and heavy duty brakes.



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, 8.1:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1979 only
  • Engine Code B, 151 cid inline four, 99 hp, 8.3:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1980-82
  • Engine Code E, 232 cid inline six, 90 hp, 8:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1979 only
  • Engine Code A, 258 cid inline six, 100 hp, 8.3:1 compression ratio, 1 bbl, 1979 only
  • Engine Code C, 258 cid inline six, 110 hp, 8.3:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1979-83
  • Engine Code H, 304 V-8, 125 hp, 125 hp, 8.4:1 compression ratio, 2 bbl, 1979 only

If you are unsure of the size of the engine currently installed, you can check it's size by the following methods:

  • For inline 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. 1979 will be a 3. Due to a change in the numbering system, 1980 and later uses the last digit of the year (1980 = 0, 1981=1 etc.). 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).

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 1978 in a 1979 vehicle and be correct but an engine coded 1980 would not be correct for the same car since no 1979's were manufactured in calendar year 1980.



The following transmissions were used in 1979 – 1983 AMC Spirits. The general transmission type can be determined by the third digit of the VIN.

  • 150-T Three speed manual (258/304) 1979
  • SR-4 4 speed manual (258/304) 1979-81
  • T-4 Four speed manual (151/258) 1981-82
  • T-5 Five speed manual (151/258) 1982-83
  • HR-1 Four speed manual (121) 1979 *
  • Torque Command Automatic – based on Chrysler 904 (121) 1979 *
  • Torque command Automatic – based on Chrysler 904 (151) 1980-83*
  • Torque Command Automatic – based on Chrysler 904 (232/258) 1979-1983 (1980 on with lock up Torque Converter)
  • Torque Command Automatic – based on Chrysler 998 (304) 1979

Transmission note: 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.

* 121 and 151 four has a unique bell housing bolt pattern. Transmissions will not fit any other engine used by AMC at any time. These transmissions use the same bolt pattern as a small block Chevy.


Production Numbers

A blank indicates that the body and trim style was not available for the year in question.

Body & Trim Style 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983
2 door sedan, Base Note 1 Note 2 2,367 119 -
2 door sedan, DL Note 1 Note 2 Note 3 Note 4 -
2 door sedan, Limited Note 1 Note 2 - - -
2 door liftback, Base Note 1 Note 2 42,232 20,063 -
2 door liftback, DL Note 1 Note 2 Note 3 Note 4 3,491
2 door liftback, Limited Note 1 Note 2 - - -
2 door liftback, GT - - - - Note 5
Total 52,714 71,032 44,599 20,182  

Note 1: Total is for all Spirit and AMX production. 3,657 were AMX (which was available with six or V-8, Liftback only), 16,237 four cylinder, 36,241 six cylinder, and 3,893 V-8.

Note 2: Total is for all Spirit and AMX production. 37,799 four cylinder, 33,233 six cylinder.

Note 3: Base totals are for both body styles. 26,075 four cylinder, 18,524 six cylinder.

Note 4: Base totals are for both body styles. 9,290 four cylinder, 10,892 six cylinder.

Note 5: DL total includes GT. All were six cylinder.

Dates of model introductions:

1979 - Sept 18, 1978
1980 - Oct 11, 1979
1981 - Sept 25, 1980
1982 - Sept 24, 1981
1983 - Sept 22, 1982


VIN Decoder

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*
A 9 F 4 3 7 B 100001

Note: Character one is always an A (American Motors) and character four is always a four (Spirit).

Char. 2 - Year
9 1979
0 1980
Char. 3 - Transmission Type
A Automatic column shift
C Floor shift automatic
M Four speed floor shift
Char. 5 - Body Type
3 2 door liftback
6 2 door sedan
Char. 6 - Trim Level
0 Base trim
5 DL
7 Limited
Char. 7 - Engine
A 258 cid, 1 bbl
B 151 cid, 2 bbl
C 258 cid, 2 bbl
E 232 cid, 1 bbl
G 121 cid, 2 bbl
H 304 cid, 2 bbl

*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 17 character VIN added country of origin, vehicle type, a check digit, and a final assembly plant code. It can be decoded as follows:

Country Company Vehicle
Engine Transmission
Series Body Type Trim Level/
Check Digit* Year Final
Serial Number*
1 A M B M 4 3 7 2 B K 100001

Note: Character three is always an M (Passenger Car) and character six is always a four (Spirit).

Char. 1 - Country
1 or 4 United States
2 Canada
3 Mexico
Char. 2 - Company
C AMC (Canada)
V VAM (Mexico)
Char. 4 - Engine
B 151 cid 4, 2 bbl
C 258 cid 6, 2bbl
Char. 5 - Transmission
A 3 spd auto, column
C 3 spd auto, floor
L 5 spd manual, floor
M 4 spd manual, floor
Char. 7 - Body Type
3 2 dr Liftback
6 2 dr Sedan
Char. 8 - Trim Level / Restraint
0 Base / Manual Belts
5 DL / Manual Belt
7 Limited / Manual Belt
Char. 10 - Year
B 1981
C 1982
D 1983
  Note: I, O and Q not used.
Char. 11 - Final Assembly Plant
B Brampton, Canada
K Kenosha, WI
M Mexico City, Mex.
Row 1(VIN) 1 A M C A 0 6 5 2 B K 0 0 0 0 0 1
Row 2 1 1 4 3 1 0 6 5 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1
Row 3 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 10 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Row 4 8 7 24 15 4 0 12 50 0 18 16 0 0 0 0 0 2

Sum of Row 4=156. 156/11=14 with 2 (check digit) remaining.


Unit Body Identification Plate

The body tag 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 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983
xx43-0 = 2 door liftback, base trim X X X X

xx43-5 = 2 door liftback, DL trim X X X X
xx43-7 = 2 door liftback, Limited trim X X

xx43-9 = 2 door liftback, GT trim

xx46-0 = 2 door sedan, base trim X X X X
xx46-5 = 2 door sedan, DL trim X X X X
xx46-7 = 2 door sedan, Limited trim X X


This identifies the interior trim style, color, and seat types. The trim code through the 1981 model year is a 4 character number. The first character is the year, the second the series, third color, and the fourth is the seat type.


The following colors were available in 1979-1983. 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.

Paint Code Color
P1 Classic Black 1979-83
6P Firecracker Red 1979
9E Wedgwood Blue 1979
9M Starboard Blue Metallic 1979
8A Khaki 1979
9H Cumberland Green Metallic 1979
8B British Bronze Metallic 1979
9A Alpaca Brown Metallic 1979
9K Sable Brown Metallic 1979
9C Russet Metallic 1979-80
9N Morocco Buff 1979
8C Quick Silver Metallic 1979-81
9L Saxon Yellow 1979-80
9B Olympic White 1979-83
9P Bordeaux Metallic 1979-80
9Z Misty Beige Clear coat 1979-80
Smoke Grey Metallic
Cameo Blue
Medium Blue Metallic
Dark Green Metallic
Navy Blue Metallic
Cameo Tan
Medium Brown Metallic
Dark Brown Metallic
Cardinal Red
Black Medium Gloss
Moon Light Blue
Sherwood Green
Autumn Gold
Copper Brown Metallic
Vintage Red Metallic
Deep Maroon
Steel Grey
Oriental Red
Mist Silver Metallic
Sun Yellow
Slate Blue Metallic
Deep Night Blue
Sea Blue Metallic
Topaz Gold
Jamaican Beige
Almond Beige
Sebring Red
Diamond Blue
Jade Mist
Amber Glow
Low Gloss Black (black out)
Low Gloss Black (black out)
Fleet Only Colors
Transport Yellow   FA FA    
Omaha Orange   FB FB    
Federal Grey   FC FC    
Forrest Green   FE FE    
Olive Drab   FH FH    

Color samples can be viewed at http://autocolorlibrary.com/aclns.html

Sequential Assembly Number

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: