• Aug 25, 2007
Anyone worried about their legacy would do well to pay attention to the rise and fall of automotive punchlines. More like fall and rise. Cars that were once four-wheeled jokes are gaining in value, demonstrating that history usually plays out far differently than you'd planned. Insurance man McKeel Hagerty noticed that cars once sneered at were increasing in value. Hagerty's insurance company is the number one insurance provider for collector car owners, and the values of the vehicles were suddenly climbing. Hagerty polled his customers and asked them to vote on the worst car designs of all time; a way of researching what's primed to increase in value.

AMC was the big winner of the dubious honors. Consistently undercapitalized compared to the big three, AMC had to be very creative and clever with their resources. The company made it as long as they did by taking more risks, so it's not that much of a surprise to see the Pacer, Gremlin, and Matador honored. Ford's Pinto must be charming a new generation of buyers with its firey personality, because we can't imagine that rampant nostalgia has started to take hold of the rolling jokes yet. Then again, many Boomers might fondly regard what may have been their first car. Prices for musclecars have gotten stupid, are we going to see a three-million dollar Bobcat in the next five years?

[Source: Business Week via TTAC]


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  • 21 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ste'phane, thank you! I am glad I am not the only one who likens the Murano to a Gremlin!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love AMC's- always have- currently own an original 1968 Ambassador sedan- base model- only option on the car is the AM radio (the AC was standard equipment starting in '68). 3 on the tree, manual steering, manual drum brakes- and vacuum wipers. It was special ordered new by a 70 year old man who traded a 52 Nash Statesman in on it.

      The only reason he bought a new car was because his wife- who'd never driven a car in her life- was tired of riding around in a car with no heater and no radio (the old Nash).

      So, in about January of 1968, she made him go to the AMC dealer to look at the new models. The old man, being a cheap old goat, resisted. The salesman, of course, was showing the couple all the shiney new 68 AMCs, presumably including the Javelin. Old man tells the salesman he wants a big 4 door car, nothing fancy. Of course, all the Ambassadors and Rebels on the lot were loaded- V8, power steering and so forth. He insisted he wanted a plain car- nothing fancy that'd just break.

      Of course, the salesman said that such an Ambassador or Rebel would have to be special ordered, as few people wanted one (not) equipped the way he did, but the old man persisted and said he'd wait for the car he wanted to come in.

      So, they go into an office and start the process- old man wanted NOTHING on the car- tried to order it without, even, an outside rear view mirror, and was annoyed when he found out it came standard now. He was even more annoyed when he found out that Air Conditioning was standard. The salesman told him that it could be deleted for a credit (I think it was $375) on a factory order, and just as the old man was saying to delete it, the old woman whacked him on his head with her purse, saying "oh, no, if it comes with it, you're getting it!"

      Salesman asked him what color he wanted- black was his answer- "he'd always had black cars, and cars are supposed to be black".

      Old woman whacks him again with her purse. Said that SHE was tired of riding around in a car that looked like it was owned by a funeral home and that SHE'd pick out the colors.

      So, I have this one-off, custom Ambassador base model sedan in P46A Laurel Green (basically a lime green metallic), P47A Rally Green (think British Racing Green) rims, and a black vinyl interior.

      It was delivered new with no options other than the AM radio (sure wish the old woman had insisted on FM, though! LOL) at the AMC dealer in Jacksonville in February of 1968.

      It's gradually getting restored now- I love this old car; it has TONS of character. I know I'll never get my money out of it, and don't care, as I'll never sell it.

      What someone said about mechanical parts is generally true; however, exterior trim and, especially, interior parts for anything other than an AMX or Javelin from Generation I or II is basically unobtanium these days unless you get REALLY lucky and find some NOS parts somewhere, as I have done on some things.

      I know a lot of AMC people, as a co-founder of one of the larger AMC clubs outside of the rust belt (where most AMC's were sold, it seems). I have known people to literally buy an old AMC- especially Pacers- based solely on the condition of the interior. :)

      In a way, it's nice- as an AMC fan- to see the prices gradually going up and the cars getting some well-deserved attention after all these years of being the butt of jokes, BUT.... it's also driving up the cost of parts, which I don't like to see.

      Some of the going prices for particularly rare or desirable AMCs has gone through the roof already (ok, they aren't at Hemi-Mopar levels, but for an AMC, they're waaay up there)- for example a top quality 69 AMC-Hurst SC/Rambler will easily fetch $40,000, if not more, these days, as will a well-equipped 2 seat AMX or a Rebel Machine.

      I too would love a police Matador, or a Matador wagon, one of these days though.

      AMCs are not "belly button" cars that you see everywhere at every car show, and people are finally noticing them. It's nice.

      And Gremlins ARE cool. Make mine a '78 Gremlin GT- only a few hundred were made.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Your story made me smile. Thanks for that.
        • 7 Years Ago
        So, Spots, you know you MUST go add your car to our Flickr pool for the reader ride post, right? I wanna see pictures of that '68 Ambassador. AMCs are some of my favorite cars. The funk makes them beautiful, as does the clever engineering. That company could stretch a penny into a buck.
      • 7 Years Ago
      AMC did have a good ad agency, I still laugh about the Gremlin ad where a young girl goes into a (full service) gas station, and the pump jockey asks her "Where's the REST of your car, Toots?" Then she asks for "a dollar's worth of gas," and he replies "Oh, THAT much?" And she replied "Oh, maybe NOT! JUST GIVE ME A GALLON!"
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have been an AMC fanatic since 1963 when my dad bought his first Rambler, a brand new '63 American 440H. I've owned close to 20 AMC's over the years including a '73 Gremlin X and '75 Pacer X both brand new. Say what you will about the styling of the Pacer but, as far as I'm concerned, it was one of the best cars any American automaker ever built. It was roomy, rode and handled great and there were no blind spots. It was a car that was definitely ahead of its time. I absolutely loved mine and I want another one. By the way, when the Matador Coupe was introduced in '74, it was considered to be one of the best automobile designs of that year.

      I love AMC and always will
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dan, I tried to do that one time, but an ancient computer coupled with a slow even for dialup connection made it impossible.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love AMCs, the underdog.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My 1975 Gremlin was the first "new" car I bought. Baby blue with a floor mounted 3 speed & overdrive with a 232 six cylinder. The first six months I owned it, I drove the loaner car from a dealer. The loaner was a Gremlin as well and got me to work, where as my new one couldn't. It was the first year of the "electronic" ignition. It eneded up to be that two parts of a diode was soldered to close together. It took the dealer that long to dtermin the fault. Other then a clanking in the drivetrain, the Gremlin in my Gremlin was fixed. I sold it while I could.
      • 7 Years Ago
      We have them all.....


      • 7 Years Ago
      AMC values should soar, since they have been under appreciated and hence undervalued for decades. I bought a number of AMC cars brand new including a 1975 Gremlin for which I paid $2,500. All the AMCs were bulletproof, including the Gremlin. I never once considered a Pacer, however. Aside from the Pinto's fatal fire problem (a big aside) they were otherwise fairly serviceable. The other US sub-compact, the Vega is conspicuous by its absence. Not even time can help one of those turkeys.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Both my parents drove Pinto wagons in the seventies, Mal...they were indeed serviceable and easy to work on.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The AMCs aren't difficult to own because they're fairly simple, and the parts aren't that hard to come by, because the mechanicals were all used for ages. I've always loved Javelins and AMX's. If I had garage space, I would love to have an old Matador sedan (better yet, wagon!) or even something like the Spirit-based AMX just to play around with, and have something unusual that nobody else has.
      David in PA
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've endured some incredibly idiotic statements made on this board and still have respect for most of you....but puhleezzz....My dad bought a '74 Gremlin and it WAS NOT a great car..not a good car...not a decent car...not even a half decent car. Don't allow time to warp your memories nor let a sense of nostalgia make you long for the '70s. That Gremlin was unsafe (Brakes locked the rear wheels on nearly every stop), poorly constructed and as crude a vehicle you could buy in the 1970s. For God sake..it still had vacuum pump windshield wipers..something I thought had disappeared in the early '60s. The happiest day of my life was when I escaped the Gremlin by saving up $300 to buy a '69 Toyota Corona...which btw..WAS a great car for it's time. The only good thing about that Gremlin was all the laughs my dad and I enjoyed over the years recounting the experiences and annoying problems that POS provided. If there was any reason to buy a Gremlin now it would only be for a museum display. A display where the Gremlin, Vega and Pinto sit side by side and the sign says "Here lies the beginning of the decline of the once great American auto industry...an industry that does not fully recover for more than quarter century and will likely never return to the power and success they enjoyed prior."
        • 7 Years Ago
        @David in PA
        It sounds as if your Gremlin was a base model from 1970/1. Manual drum brakes. Just because you had a bad car does not mean others did. My parents owned two Gremlin's, a 1972 plum colored X model with a 304 and stick, and a 1973 navy blue Levi's X model with 258 Auto. Both cars had A/C power disk brakes and steering, And AM 8 track! Neither one had a vacumm wiper. Both cars were bought new. Unlike the 71 vega we owned before the gremlin's neither car had many problems. I can still see my dad's red face at the Chevy dealer when they told him the block was warped. My dad drove the total crap out of the 304 Gremlin, laying rubber every chance he could. I remember going to the good year dealer to get new rear tires a lot. I loved to ride with him because i know we would both be laughing. I was a great time to be with my dad. So yes there are some rose colored memories, but they are not that the Gremlin's we had were better than they actually were. Was there common problems with gremlin's? yes, both of ours has squeeky rear glass hatch's, Both developed a tump over bumps from weak rear springs. The Automatic developed the typical chrysler Clunk when shifted into gear. Other than that I never remember any breakdowns. Both car's stayed in the family until my brother and I out grew the back seat in the late 1970's. I would love to find exact copies of the cars they owned.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Regarding the Pinto....The gas tank issue really distorted the Pinto perception. It is really sad that they did not use the Capri gas tank design.

      The Pinto did not NOT have any reliability issues and was not a lemon!
      The car was powered by the Euro 1600 & 2000 powertrains that were well proven. They were more reliable than their 70s VW, Chevy Vega, & Japanese counterparts.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I think a lot of people thought of them as lemons because of oil usage when they got older and the fact that they had a timing belt. Most American's had never had to deal with the routine replacement of the belt. Still Ford sold a huge number of them.
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