Sometimes the Ugly Car is the Best Car
In early years of the 1970s, several automakers released subcompact cars. Chevy had the Vega, Ford had the Pinto, and AMC had the Gremlin. The Pinto and the Vega were touted as attractive cars that were a joy to drive when they were first released. But the Gremlin did not get any kind of praise and most critics complained about the unfortunate exterior styling.
In November of 1971, Car and Driver magazine reported on a 15,000 mile test run on the Pinto and Vega. The magazine called the Vega a “hatchback coupe with crisp, uptown styling that makes it one of the most visually appealing small cars on the market.” In the same article, the Pinto was called “exceptionally satisfying, even amusing, as a city traffic car….it has the sharp-edged, go-stop-turn feel of a sports car.” When Car and Driver described the AMC Gremlin, they said, “the Gremlin continues the AMC practice of building up a whole line of cars from the same parts bin; it is effectively a truncated Hornet.”
Interestingly, these three compact hatchbacks had decidedly different fates. The Pinto ended up being a history lesson about huge corporations valuing money over customers. The Chevy Vega ended up rusting on contact with air. The AMC Gremlin, while the ugliest of the three, was the most reliable. Over 600,000 AMC Gremlin models were sold throughout the eight years they were manufactured. Over 1.5 million Chevy Vegas were sold in seven years and over 3 million Ford Pintos were sold in a 10-year span. The estimation of Pintos still on the road today is about 10,000. No one knows how many Chevy Vegas are on the road, but there certainly are not many. When it comes to the AMC Gremlin, the cars lasted much longer and had none of the horrifying faults that the Vega and Pinto had. When it comes to collectibility, there is a cult-like following for the unusually styled car.
The AMC Gremlin just goes to show that it does not always matter what the car looks like on the outside; because when it comes to vehicles, the inside matters a bit more.