Tag Archives: AMC Gremlin

Car Spot: The Chevy Vega

A car that rusted right off the assembly line

It was a car that was doomed almost from the very beginning. Code named the XP-887, the Chevy Vega was meant to stop shoppers from buying the many cars being imported from Japan that got great gas mileage but when GM’s corporate engineering staff finally delivered its first prototype to Chevrolet, it lasted just eight miles at GM’s Milford proving ground before the front end fell off.

Vega Pro-Street driven by one of my coworkers at the golf course I work at during the summer months.

When John DeLorean was named Chevrolet’s general manager in 1969 with the project already late in developement, he convinced his staff that no matter how much they disliked the XP-887, it would be judged as a Chevrolet, and it was in the division’s best interests for it to succeed. They tried naming it the Gemini, which tied into the US space program at the time but GM president Ed Cole insisted on calling the car Vega, even though the name tested poorly.

RELATED: See John DeLorean’s most famous creation

Introduced in 1970, the car couldn’t make its targeted base price of $2,091 which was $311 more than the Volkswagen Beetle and $172 more than Ford’s new Pinto, while AMC’s Gremlin’s base price was $1,999. It was also 200 pounds over its one-ton target weight.

Despite all this, the automotive press loved it. It was Motor Trend magazine’s 1971 Car of the Year. After that, it was all downhill.

In 1972 Chevy recalled half a million Vegas because rear axle shafts could separate from the housing, causing the wheels to literally fall off. But that wasnit it, faulty brackets on the single-barrel carb jammed the throttle open. The optional two-barrel engine could backfire violently enough to split the muffler, blowing hot exhaust on the fuel tank and causing it to expand, rupture, and ignite. Yikes.

An undiscovered defect in the new rust-proofing system left the underside of the front fenders unprotected. In typical GM fashion to save money it had rejected plastic fender liners leaving Vegas prone to rapid corrosion not only in the fenders, but rocker panels, lower doors and front suspension parts as well.

The train wreck continued with its engine. If it got too hot the cylinders would distort, wearing the coating on the walls and forcing coolant past the head gaskets and if a Vega owner didn’t keep the coolant topped off, the Vega could, and often would, destroy its own engine. Chevrolet did its best duck and cover by extending the engine warranty and retrofitting an overflow bottle and low-coolant warning light, but not before many owners got replacement engines to go with their replacement fenders.

Oh and one last goofy GM idea, how the cars were transported. General Motors and Southern Pacific designed “Vert-A-Pac” rail cars to hold 30 Vegas each, compared with conventional tri-level autoracks which held 18. The Vega was fitted with four removable cast-steel sockets on the underside and had plastic spacers—removed at unloading—to protect engine and transmission mounts. The rail car ramp/doors were opened and closed via forklift. Vibration and low-speed crash tests ensured the cars would not shift or suffer damage in transit.

Despite all this fun and games, Chevy managed to sell just over 2 million Vegas before the plug was pulled in 1977. Compared to 3.1 million Pintos, which had its own set of problems, and 671,475 AMC Gremlins. Still this car has a loyal following like the owner of this Vega who had stuffed a 427 V8 in it and owns two more. The most valuable Vega is the Cosworth. Chevy only built 2,061 cars in 1975 and 1,447 the following year. Perhaps that was because of its $6,000 price tag. Today, it’s easy to find a low-mileage Cosworth Vega. According to Hagerty, one in Excellent Condition sells for around $15,000 so if the Cosworth Vega was a Vega for the price of two when it was new, now it’s about the price of ten.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

Crazy money shelled out at Mecum Kissimmee

A couple of AMC’s make the list

There was some serious cash thrown around at the recently completed Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL. Around 3,500 cars crossed the block with some crazy money chucked up for cars like this 2016 Pigani Huayra selling for almost two million.

There were other million-plus cars but what a lot of people probably missed were the number of cars that were built in Kenosha and sold for insane numbers, orrrrrrrr, maybe not.

Let’s start with this 1974 Gremlin X with a 258 6, 3-speed manual, power steering, brakes, and air conditioning. A loaded Gremlin. What makes this special is that it only had 21 hundred miles on it. I’m thinking this might have sold for maybe 20 thou outside of an auction but at Kissimmee it sold for….wait for it….$30,800. That is NOT a typo. Nice return if the seller had bought it new because it would have stickered for $3,454.10.

Photo: Mecum

This next one brought back memories for me, a 1979 Spirit AMX with the 304 V8, and loaded up. I had a white one. This is a survivor with the original paint and interior. It had 8,368 miles and sold for $35,750!

Photo: Mecum

There was a beautifully done 1972 Mark Donahue Trans-Am Javelin tribute car which hammered at $35,200.

Photo: Mecum

Here was somewhat of a head-scratcher. This 1987 Eagle Limited wagon with 72,000 miles went home for $35,200. I would love to have one of these but like the Gremlin, you have to wonder if this would have hit that mark on an auction site. But hey, somebody wanted it bad. Good for them. There was another one that sold for a more reasonable $8,800.

Photo: Mecum

The highest price of any AMC selling at auction was this 1969 AMX with 390, 4-speed manual with Hurst shifter, factory Go Pack, and seldom seen side exhaust. This went home with a happy new owner for $84,700 which is more than I’ve seen 1970’s go for.

Photo: Mecum

Based on what happened this past weekend I think people have discovered our secret, AMC made some really fun and collectible cars.

I love different looking cars

This comes from a guy who owned a Gremlin and Pacer

amc gremlin, american motors gremlin, american sub compactsBy Paul Daniel

Some called them weird but there is a line. A different car is more than a one and done. It’s a car with a production over several years, in the case of the Gremlin 70-78, and selling hundreds of thousands of units, 671,475 for the Gremlin. Continue reading I love different looking cars

My 1st Car: Everybody has a story

We all remember our 1st car

our fist car, our 1st car, my first car, my 1st car, savageonwheels.comHow many times has it happened when you’re driving down the road, or coming out to your car in a mall parking lot, or see a car on TV or a movie and boom, you remember that you had a car, your first, just like that. Not your second or third but your FIRST. We all have a story and I have a good friend of mine, John Wingate, who Facebooked me an image of his first car, a 1962 Mercury Meteor like this one which he saw the other day. John said he purchased it when he was in 10th grade for $400 and until he received his license, he drove it in the driveway for a week or so. So what’s your story? Come on, nobody’s going to bust your chops here. I owned a bunch of AMC’s so I’ve already taken care of that.

Rebel with a cause

My 1st car, my first car, our first car, our 1st car, SavageOnWheels.comWell since I came up with the idea, I’ll start. My first car was a 1970 Rebel. I cashed in a bunch of savings bonds and went with my dad to get it at Jack Doyle Motors near Germantown, WI. If course that was not my first choice, what I really wanted was a ’73 Javelin but didn’t have the cash so I got the Rebel. It was a metallic brown, auto trans and 360 V8. It did move out. Had a huge front and back seat too. It was my baby and when a friend of mine told me somebody hit it and took off in a parking lot, I was hot. I found out who the kid was who had run home so I rang the front door bell. Kid said he was going to come back the next day and fess up. Ya sure. His parents were not real happy and paid for the repairs. Well eventually I started (mostly dad) put money into to keep in running and traded it in for a ’73 Gremlin. Remember dad worked at AMC plus I thought it was a cool looking car at the time. At the time I said.