Small Car Saturday 2

One commercial that sticks in my head from my youth was for the AMC Gremlin. How many of you remember this dialogue?


[Attractive young woman pulls into a gas station in her Gremlin]

Attendant: Where’s the rest of your car, Toots?

Woman: Can I have a dollar’s worth?

Attendant: [Sarcastically] Ooh, a whole dollar.

Woman: On second thought, I think I’ll just have a gallon. (In the days when gas was less than $1.00 a gallon.)


I couldn’t find a link to the actual commercial on the minion of the Evil Empire, YouTube. Without further ado:


See the source image


From a picture of a 1970 AMC Gremlin. Sometimes even I forget that not everyone wants a high-performance car or a big car. American car manufacturers think that the current market will not support a small car, as opposed to a small SUV, which they call a CUV.

The Gremlin was introduced very late in the 1970 model year, April of 1970. From the doors forward the Gremlin was identical to another new AMC car, the Hornet. The Gremlin’s wheelbase was cut to just 96 inches (the Hornet’s wheelbase was 108 inches) to match a truncated rear body with a lift-up rear window. The styling was controversial. AMC chief designer Richard Teague defended the styling, “Nobody would have paid it any attention if it had looked like one of the Big Three.” For the first three model years, the Gremlin was just 161 inches long.

American Motors beat the Big Three in delivering America’s first sub-compact car to market by about six months. When the Arab oil embargo was imposed in October, 1973–the beginning of the 1974 model year–the Gremlin was well-positioned to meet US demand for a small, fuel-efficient car. AMC sold more than 171,000 Gremlins in 1974, an increase of almost 40% compared to 1973 and 177% more than in 1972.

The US economy suffered two years of recession in 1974 and 1975, which hurt demand for all automobiles. Combined with the end of the Arab oil embargo in early 1974 and AMC’s introduction of the Pacer in early 1975, sales of the Gremlin declined markedly. By 1976 only about 53,000 were sold, a decline of about 70% from the 1974 peak. The last year for the Gremlin was 1978 after which it was replaced by basically the same car, but with more conventional styling, the Spirit. In all, about 671,000 Gremlins were built.

While some might argue that the Nash Metropolitan was really America’s first sub-compact, remember that it was built in the UK with significant design input from there as well. Of course, Nash and Hudson merged in 1954 to form American Motors, the company that made the Gremlin.

Have any of you ever owned a Gremlin? If so, I would like to read about your experiences.






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Small Car Saturday

First…except for the two-day surge in views that occurred in April, 2019 when Bill James tweeted the main link to this blog, yesterday had the highest number of views and visitors for a single day. Thanks, please keep reading and please tell your friends. Speaking of friends: Bill, you are always welcome to tweet the main link to this blog or to any post. 🙂


Not sure why this topic came to me, it certainly didn’t appear in a dream, but I have always had a thing for small, “cute” cars. If I continue this as a feature, the parade of such vehicles will not be in any order and some of those cars have already appeared in this blog. From Saab Planet, a picture of a 1974 Saab Sonett III:


See the source image


The Sonett I (One, not “eye”) was basically a prototype built between 1955 and 1957 with a grand total of six cars produced. In 1966, Saab introduced the Sonett II and then the next year began fitting these cars with a V-4 engine built by Ford.

V-4 engines have been used in motorcycles, but have rarely been used in cars. The most notable exception was Lancia’s use of a V-4 engine in various iterations from 1922 to 1976. I think these very small engines, while being less practical in terms of casting and head design, have advantages in deployment. Their small blocks can be deployed in either a front mid-engine design, leaving the possibility of the desirable long hood, short deck design or they could be deployed behind the driver or even over the rear wheels.

Saab used these engines to replace the two-stroke motors it had been using. Two-stroke motors need to have oil mixed with the fuel and don’t offer much low-end torque.

The Sonett III was introduced in 1970. The car sat on a tiny 85-inch wheelbase. For reference, the shortest wheelbase for any Corvette, which is not a big car, was 96 inches for the C4 (1984-1996). The Sonett III was just 150 inches, 12 1/2 feet, in length. The sleek body was aerodynamically efficient with a drag coefficient of just .31. About 8,400 of the Sonett III were produced through 1974. The 1.7 liter/104 cubic-inch V-4 produced 75 HP/93 LB-FT of torque. Of course, these cars only weighed 1,800 pounds.

I think these cars look fantastic. Without modern safety systems I don’t know how safe I would feel driving one, though.

What do you think of the Sonett III? What are some of your favorite small cars, if any?






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