The American Motors Gremlin was introduced to the public on April 1st 1970, April Fool’s day. The car was introduced to the dealers in March, on Friday the 13th. Was this an omen?

There were two basic Gremlin models offered for the initial model year: a bare-bones two-seater model and a more civilized four passenger version. The fixed rear window two-seater was targeted as an import-fighting price leader and was initially offered at a miserly $1879. The four-seater, which added a flip-up rear window “hatch” in addition to the Marquis-de-Sade-inspired rear seat, was priced at $1959.

One of the Gremlin’s major selling points was its powertrain. While the rest of the subcompact competition had to make do with four-cylinder motivation, the first year Gremlin came equipped with either of two in-line, six-cylinder engines: a 128 horsepower 199 cubic inch (3.3L) engine was standard, while a 145 horsepower, 232 (3.8L) cubic inch version was optional. These engines were the tried-and-true AMC seven main bearing sixes that had gained a reputation for durability and economy since their introduction in mid-1964. A three speed manual (column shift) transmission was standard with the 199 engine, while the 232 came standard with a floor-mounted shifter. A column-shift, 3-speed automatic produced by Borg-Warner was optional for either engine.

wpe5ABecause of the extra cubes and torque provided by the large six-cylinder engines, Gremlin’s performance was quite sprightly, especially in comparison with the rest of the subcompact competition. This was in spite of the fact that the portly Gremlin weighed several hundred pounds more than the other small cars. The immortal “Uncle” Tom McCahill, Mechanix Illustrated’s flamboyant auto tester, drove an early production Gremlin equipped with the optional 232 engine and automatic transmission. His test car was able to zip up to 60 MPH in 11.9 seconds and also topped 100 MPH out on the straightaway at Daytona Speedway. He noted that the Gremlin exhibited “fast and easy” handling (though some other auto testers found the Gremlin’s handling to be a real handful due to a combination of front weight bias, short wheelbase and torquey engine). At the conclusion of the test, Uncle Tom stated that, “On a dollar for dollar basis, I rate the Gremlin the best American buy of the year”. Not bad for the first year out.

1970 Production Totals

1970 28,560 0 28,560 0 872 27,688

1970 Highlights

  • Base Price under $2000
  • 199ci 6 cyl, 1 barrel 128hp -standard
  • 3-speed column shift -standard
  • 232ci 6 cyl, 1 barrel
  • 3speed floor shift
  • Column shift Automatic transmission
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Steering, Power Brakes
  • Handling Package
  • Twin Grip Anti-Spin Rear Differential
  • Tinted Glass
  • AM Radio
  • Electric Windshield Wipers (vacuum standard)
  • Roof Luggage Rack
  • Rally Stripes
  • Bucket Seats