Sympathy for the Gremlin: An Automotive Misstep that Became a Legend.

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We see all kinds of cars come in to Copart sites, ranging from the truly exotic to the truly odd. This week, we had a 1973 AMC Gremlin come in, and we wanted to pause for a moment to reflect upon what many consider the ugliest car ever produced in America.

A 1973 Gremlin available for sale at Copart.com.

The Gremlin’s story dates back to the 1970s. The humble auto maker American Motors Company, previously known as Nash, noticed the trend of Americans buying smaller, more fuel-efficient Japanese cars. They wanted to take advantage of this new potential market, but they lacked the resources to design and manufacture an entirely new vehicle. So, they lopped the back off of their Hornet model, slapped a hatchback on it, and dubbed it the Gremlin. The fuel efficiency came entirely from of the reduced weight.

Gremlin Mascot

They even created a cute mascot they were sure would be all the rage. It wasn’t. While manufactured from 1970 to 1978, no one ever picked up on the mascot, but a decent number of people bought Gremlins. It was lower priced than other American offerings in the same niche and sold well in the under 35 demographic. For many people, the Gremlin was an affordable means of transportation despite its looks, inside and out.

For those wondering, the name “gremlin” comes from an aviation superstition that little imps that are unable to leave anything mechanical alone cause all technical difficulties in the plane. A strange warning light or a misfiring engine would all be blamed on gremlins.

The AMC Gremlin came standard with an inline six-cylinder engine that produced around 145 hp, with a zero-to-60 time of about 12 seconds. Believe it or not, a few V8 models were made and badged Gremlin X. The car was known for having one of the widest range of engine sizes over the years, anywhere from 2 to 5 liters, with a small number of custom 6.6 liter V8s.

As a side note, a 1974 promotion saw AMC partner with Levi’s to create a Levi edition Gremlin with the entire interior done in denim. This included the famous Levi tabs and rivets. The commercial is a hilariously 1970s cringe-fest.


These days, the Gremlin makes the list on almost any Ugliest Cars of All Time article. But along the way, something odd happened. Like so many things in life, the car that everyone seemed to hate became beloved for the hate. Gremlins wound up sparking their own fan community that exists to this day. Much like the hipsters, some people who want to prove they are so cool they can drive anything will rock the Gremlin. Some like the nostalgia. And others just want to fight the current and go the opposite direction of everybody else.

The Gremlin has even spawned a few songs ranging from punk to parody. But most interestingly, car customizers and hobbyists have taken to turning them into hot rods and dragsters. Some of these creative customs are occasionally spotted at car shows, in motor magazines, and in the wild on city streets. When most people are asking, “Why?” Gremlin lovers reply, “Why not?”

So, whether you want to laugh at it, drive it, or create something absurdly, insanely cool with it, we should all have a little sympathy and respect for the Gremlin.

On a final note, if you should buy this bashed up baby, consider restoring it for our upcoming 2022 Rebuild Challenge. That would be an entry we would love to see, no matter how crazy.

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