Have You Ever Heard of (or Seen) the Gremlin Car?

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Dec 11, 2023

The Gremlin car didn’t start in a design studio but rather in the sky. On a flight in 1966, American Motors’ design chief, Dick Teague, sketched a concept on an airsickness bag. This idea, a brainchild of necessity and creativity, was to chop off the rear end of a Javelin, a larger AMC car.

This unconventional beginning marked the birth of one of the most distinct cars of the 1970s—a true symbol of American ingenuity in the face of financial constraints.

Embracing Budget Limitations with Creativity

In a time when automotive giants like Ford and GM were gearing up with new designs, American Motors Corporation (AMC) had to think differently. With limited financial resources, AMC couldn’t afford a completely new car design.

Gremlin Car Pictures early sketch

Source: Boca Brothers Classic Cars/YouTube

So, they took an inventive approach: repurpose the existing AMC Hornet into something unique. This was how the Gremlin was born, a testament to making the most out of available resources.


Designing the Distinctive Gremlin

The Gremlin stood out with its unique design, a nod to AMC’s bold approach. Its front was identical to the AMC Hornet, but the rear was where it set itself apart.

AMC Gremlin Blue Interior

Source: CZmarlin/Wikipedia

The car’s truncated back gave it a distinctive, if controversial, profile. This design choice was not just for aesthetics; it was a strategic move to differentiate the Gremlin in a competitive market.

An April Fools' Day Debut

Launching a car on April 1 might seem like an odd choice, but for the Gremlin, it was perfectly fitting. Introduced on April 1, 1970, the car’s release date echoed its unconventional design and AMC’s playful approach to marketing.

AMC Gremlin Red

Source: CZmarlin/Wikipedia

This timing garnered attention and set the tone for the Gremlin’s unique place in automotive history.

The Gremlin: A Polarizing Figure

The Gremlin car quickly became one of the most talked-about vehicles of its time, embodying the era’s adventurous spirit. Some loved its unconventional style, while others ranked it among the ugliest cars of the ’70s.

AMC Gremlin White

Source: CZmarlin/Wikipedia

This division only added to the car’s fame, making it a topic of conversation from driveways to diners across America.

Gremlin's Cultural Footprint

Beyond the automotive circles, the Gremlin made a significant impact on popular culture. Its quirky design and distinctive name made it a symbol of the ’70s, representing a period of experimentation and change.

AMC Gremlin Neon Green

Source: Gremlinx72/Wikipedia

The Gremlin became more than just a car. It was a cultural icon, reflecting the era’s unique blend of innovation and rebellion.


The Practicality of the Gremlin Hatchback

The Gremlin wasn’t just about looks; it was practical, too. The hatchback version offered more than just a unique silhouette.

AMC Gremlin Blue

Source: Bob DuHamel/Wikipedia

It provided a compact and efficient space, making it a popular choice for city dwellers and young drivers. This practicality, combined with its unique style, helped the Gremlin carve out its niche in a crowded market.


A Visual Evolution: Gremlin Car Pictures

Gremlin car pictures offer a visual journey through its evolution, like the ones we feature here. From its early sketches to the final product, these images showcase the Gremlin’s transformation.

AMC Gremlin Yellow

Source: Greg Gjerdingen/Wikipedia

Each picture tells a story of design challenges and innovative solutions, capturing the essence of a car that was truly ahead of its time.


Gremlin vs. Its Contemporaries

In the ’70s, the automotive market was bustling with compact cars, but the Gremlin held its own. Compared to rivals like the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Pinto, the Gremlin offered a unique blend of style and functionality.

AMC Gremlin Green and Orange

Source: Robert Spinello/Wikipedia

Its longer hood and distinctive rear made it stand out, offering a different approach to the compact car design.


Reflecting on AMC's Legacy in the '70s

AMC cars of the ’70s, particularly the Gremlin, played a significant role in shaping American automotive history. These cars showcased AMC’s ability to innovate and adapt in a highly competitive market.

AMC Gremlin Dark Blue

Source: CZmarlin/Wikipedia

The Gremlin, with its unique design and cultural impact, remains a statement of AMC’s ingenuity and willingness to break the mold.


Webster's AMC and the Gremlin

The term “gremlin” typically conjures images of mischievous creatures, a definition not lost on the makers of the Gremlin car. This playful nod to the Webster’s Dictionary definition added a layer of humor and personality to the car, making it a memorable addition to AMC’s lineup.

AMC Gremlin Brick Red

Source: Ralf Roletschek/Wikipedia

It highlighted AMC’s approach to not just car design but also marketing, showcasing a company unafraid to be different.


The Gremlin in Today's World

Today, the Gremlin car is more than a piece of automotive history. It’s a collector’s item and a nostalgic reminder of a bold era in car design. Its uniqueness has only grown with time, turning it into a beloved classic.

AMC Gremlin Logo

Source: CZmarlin/Wikipedia

The Gremlin stands as a symbol of a time when car design was as much about character as it was about function, a reminder of an era when cars were more than just machines.