• May 27, 2010
1972 hydrogen-powered AMC Gremlin – Click above for high-res image gallery

When one thinks of advanced technology, the AMC Gremlin rarely (if ever) pops to mind. In fact, these days, unless you happen to be watching re-runs of the first season of True Blood you likely wouldn't think of the Gremlin under any circumstances. Today's eBay Motors find is a very special hydrogen-powered Gremlin that we've never heard of before.

As the story goes, back in the early 1970s, 64 university teams built cars to compete in the Urban Vehicle Design Challenge, with this machine coming out of the labs at the University of California – Los Angeles. The Gremlin was donated to UCLA by American Motors and Ford provided a 351 Cleveland V8. The UCLA team worked with suppliers such as Hooker, Edelbrock, Union Carbide and none other than Kustom Kar King George Barris to get the supplies needed to convert the V8 to run on hydrogen and get the car competition ready. The Impco-provided hydrogen tanks in the back only gave the Gremlin a 68-mile range, but considering the lack of fuel injection and sophisticated electronics, that's not bad.

The wanton nostalgics among us aren't just drawn to the car's eccentric powertrain, but also to its period-appropriate mustard yellow paint, tire-tread bumpers, vintage Polyglas tires, and a couple of racing buckets that we'd like to mount on swivels and have in the Autoblog Living Room.

Incidentally, the Gremlin ultimately won the competition based on the fact that the steam emanating the from the tailpipe was cleaner than the air going into the carburetor. At this point, there are no bids on the car and it's not clear if it runs, but we'd stand we-hell back before firing it up for the first time.



[Sources: eBay Motors, Wired]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 10 Comments
      Kevin Collier
      • 1 Year Ago
      My dad once owned this car at Collier Motors.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You guys are overestimating how hard of a build this was. They used gaseous hydrogen. Meaning that all the had to do was change out the fuel pumps, tanks, and custom design a gaseous carberator. Then the car would put the hydrogen into the cylinder and combust it just as it did when it ran on gasoline.

      Still an awesome concept tho.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Gremlinburg
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dear AutoBlog,
      I'm not a huge Trueblood fan, but Sookie Stackhouse drove a late 70s Honda Civic. Who drove an AMC Gremlin in the show?
      Cheers,
      Some Kid That Drove A First-Gen Accord
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm surprised this science experiment happened back in the 70's..
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Superx,

        You're bang-on. In the 80's, new oil was secured and prices dropped, and oil companies wanted to be sure they were powering the next generation of cars, regardless of the effects to the environment. Even if this wasn't going to be mainstream right away, at least keep refining the product! Chances are today we would be, as you say, 2 decades ahead.
        • 4 Years Ago
        remember the oil crisis of the 70's?
        • 4 Years Ago
        A lot of things started after the 70s energy crisis. They just were killed by the politicos pandering to the oil companies. Not saying that hydro would be any more viable today, but it may have been. Same w/fusion. Projects were killed in the mid 80s and just recently restarted, losing over 2 decades in possibly having (relatively) safe energy throughout the nation that has little pollution issues (the refuse is like medical waste, and breaks down quickly).
        • 4 Years Ago
        I know about the oil crisis ( before my time, honestly ) and the desperation that occurred during it ( iron duke 4 cylinder camaros.... LOL )

        I suppose i'm more shocked that the science was there to create a hydrogen powered car ( even if it wasn't a fuel cell stack ) back then than anything.

        it is sad that alternative energy projects have basically been fairly dead until the last ~5 years.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We should bring back rubber bumpers. I'm sure they'd be more pedestrian friendly and would be more durable than our current $2k plastic painted fascias that crumble in 6mph impacts.