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PACERS, GREMLINS, AND MATADORS!
THE BRILLIANTLY WEIRD CARS FROM THE 1976 LINEUP FROM AMC MOTORS

From its meager beginnings in 1954, to their last gasp when Chrysler absorbed them in 1987, AMC has been one of the most fondly remembered independent car companies in American history.  Though they went through many changes during those decades, it was the mid-70s in which they made their biggest pop-culture impact.  Their 1976 lineup, in particular, contained some of the most unusual cars to have ever graced this country's roadways.

Perhaps the most well-known AMC car was The Gremlin.  Made during 1970-1978, the unusual car with it's "chopped off" end was one of the first true economy cars of the time.  With a whopping 21 gallon gas tank, it was built for long commutes, and with V6 and V8 engines, it had a surprising amount of power for a car that looked so goofy.  As you can see from the picture above, its lack of trunk space made storing hundreds of tennis balls rather difficult.

These pictures clearly demonstrate that the stylish and luxurious Gremlin was welcome on the lawns of the finest estates of America.  The catalog makes note of The Gremlins high resale value as a solid investment, as well.  "Treat yourself to some fun along with big helpings of savings and value!"

If you really wanted to impress the ladies, perhaps the AMC Matador was more your style!  With patented "Luster-Guard" acrylic baked finish inside.  If you click the picture to see the larger version, you'll notice a man dressed in what may very well be the ugliest blazer ever created (next to those in old Century 21 uniforms).  The police car in the series ADAM 12 was a Matador, as well.

The Matador came in a coupe, sedan, or special "Brady Bunch Wagon" model (theirs was a Ford, but this wasn't too far off).  In the catalog literature I have, they make special note that the Matadors are "trimly sized overall for easy handling and painless parking?"  Trimly sized compared to what...The Partridge Family's bus?  The hatchbacks on the wagon were actually pretty cool because they featured a "dual swing" door that would open down, or to the left.  Even the cars swung both ways in those wild 70s!

Next we have the Hornet (The Green Hornet, in particular), which was really the full size version of The Gremlin.  Made until 1988, it was the longest surviving of AMC's modern cars. 

Like The Matador, the Hornet came in a sedan, hatchback, and wagon model, and included a special "Sportabout" edition, as well.  And with a secure warranty of 12 months/12,000 miles, what more could you want?  Let's see those guys at the PINTO dealership BEAT THAT, EH?

Of course, any look at AMC would be a rip-off if we didn't feature the marvelously bizarre Pacer, which made it's debut in 1976.  So stylish and "futuristic" this car is easily one of the most recognizably weird automobiles of its time.  The intent was to give you, "broad expanses of glass for virtually 360 degrees of visibility", but what it really did was give you broad auto-glass repair bills because nobody but the AMC dealers had that strange rounded shape if you ever needed to fix it. 

It was a tough car to have private makeout sessions in, that's for sure.  Unless you could find girls that were in to indulging their fish tank fetish, it was not built for romancing.

I miss the cool cars of AMC.  There was a wonderful ugliness about them that is still charming to this day.  To think that a 70s family or a young adult ready for their first car would haggle for hours to finally drive a new Pacer or Gremlin home says oodles for the culture of the time.  We've loved goofy cars in all eras.  Lord only knows what website will be making fun of our SUV obsession 40 years from now.

If you have any neat old family photos with an AMC or other funky car featured prominently in it, send it my way, and I'll be happy to show it off here in a special retroCAR gallery.

Robert Berry
rberry@rerocrush.com
 

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