by Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org)
in 1973, those wonderful folks at OPEC decided to strike back at america for supplying israel in the yom kippur war. so, they began an embargo of oil to the united states. the result was our first exciting oil crisis and the resulting gas shortage. i remember having to get up hours before school started, getting in line at a dark, closed gas station and waiting for HOURS until it opened up – only to get a restricted amount of gas. this went on for months. it became a way of life for a while.
…when we look back on those days (if you are old enough to even remember it), we also remember what 1970′s cars were like – HUGE long gas guzzling monsters full of every luxury and cushion and pleasantry known to man – and ENORMOUS engines. imagine a luxury SUV of today only more so… some of those cars were built to eat so much gas that many of them had mpg’s of well under 10 gallons. i remember one brand that supposedly had 3 miles per gallon right off the lot! try to imagine that. craziness.
so, when the gas shortage struck, the big auto companies FINALLY got the message that america wanted more efficient practical cars. the hondas and datson and toyota and even bmw’s were taking over more and more of the american market as well. one friend of mine even bought a porsche simply because of the imagined fuel mileage would pay for the cost. so, the big auto companies immediately had to re-tool and design smaller fuel efficient cars. this process takes years to complete, so a few years later, we were swamped with cars like the vega and the pinto. these were such crappy cars that they were actually dangerous to drive. but, they got good gas mileage! detroit auto makers have never been the same again. this was an enormous pivot in american industrial and design history. it’s like asking a supertanker to perform a 90% turn.
one smaller auto company – American Motors Corp. (AMC) had been way ahead of this game for along time. amc was formed out of the merger of the nash and hudson auto companies. the immediately went about trying to conquer the small efficient economy car market (as a stepping stone into attacking one of the big three auto makers). they started building ramblers and other tatty looking efficient family cars. later they tried a little style with cars like the marlin and the javelin. in 1970, they bought Jeep and began the years of building cheap crummy jeeps (rather ruining the brand in many folks opinions).
but, when the gas crisis hit, amc was already poised with cars in production that could be sold as fuel efficient. the hornet, the matador, the (omg!) pacer and, of course, the erstwhile gremlin – one of the most aptly named cars in history. when amc rolled out these solutions to the gas shortage crisis, they beat out the big three and got them on the market way ahead of the game. the gremlin was the spearhead model and got all the media buzz. i remember the anticipation and the excitement. it was supposed to revolutionize sporty cars, economy cars and even hotrodding . it was thought that the new gremlins would dominate drag racing for the next generation. when they showed up in dealerships, it was a sort of ecstatic reflex in auto circles – the excitement directed everybody’s attention to the new amc gremlin.
of course, we all now know that we got. one critic described it as a “station wagon with the back end cut off”. it was one ugly little sucker. it was gutless, ran like crap and it was extremely poorly built. i mean this car was a piece of JUNK. it’s now considered a bad joke best forgotten. these cars became as closely associated with 1970′s bad excess in design as those monstrous gas guzzlers. the amc line in the 70′s became the other end of the same bad joke.
one friend of mine bought one brand spanking new off the lot (full price, too! it was a puke green color. lotsa chrome!). to begin with, it had a stink inside it that never went away. everybody thought it was a piece of limbergher cheese that had been stashed inside by a friend as a prank. but repeated and thorough searches never turned up anything. that stink was there under that car finally died – 6 MONTHS LATER. yup, that’s all it lasted. in 6 months it was a total wreck. it literally fell apart piece by piece. it was astonishing.
my favorite story from the quick demise of that crappy car was the time my friend was pulling up to a traffic light (next to an ‘island’ between lane directions). as he approached that light, about 50 feet shy of the stop line, his car suddenly lurched to the left and flopped to a sudden halt. my friend got out and took a look and the rear wheel on the left side had broken the axle. it snapped way up close to the differential and the wheel had begun to extend out on the long stick-like metal axle to a couple of feet away from the car body – like a wheel on a stick. it had jammed up against that traffic island and the car collapsed on it’s frame! some really quality manufacturing, eh?
amc built a lot more fancy-pants cars – the spirit, the concord, amc eagle, and the AMX muscle car. but, they were all crap,too. they were peculiar looking. even though they had some of the most renown auto designers in history burping them out, the cars were sort of retarded look
designs. i mean – look at the ‘pacer’. that’s the one we used to call the ‘moon buggy’ because it was as wide as it was long. it’s the car that those two clowns drove in ‘wayne’s world’. man, that was one homely car. it’s so ugly that today we thinks it’s sorta cute – like the runt.
so, who was the guy behind this Amercian Motors Corp.? did you know the guy also ran for president? he lost. his name was george romney. yup. his son williard ‘mitt’ romney grew up as the son of the ceo of amc. the romney’s built the enormous family fortune making and selling gremlins to suckers like my friend, it seems. nice work fellas! so, now that mitt romney is poised to possibly become our next president, i think it’s time to look at the family traditions of excellence. is it fair to say that the product a family traditionally produces will dictate the sort of country the same people will manage?
it sounds unfair. we’ve had bootleggers’ sons as president (kennedy). we’ve had deadbeat dads produce presidents (clinton.) we’ve had all sorts of nefarious families produce presidents. just the same, if a family that got filthy rich producing really crappy overpriced dishonest products spawned a president, wouldn’t it be logical that such a presidency would be run in the same manner? do we really want a country that was run like amc? do we really need to become a gremlin?
food for thought.