Groovin’ in a Gremlin


Senior Carl Lacy is a long-time Gremlin fan. Photo by B.A. Rupert

When he was 14, Carl Lacy found what would turn out to be his first car in a Kansas City junkyard. It was buried under lots of, well, junk. Lacy could only gain access to the gas cap, which had a little gremlin figure on it. He pocketed the cap.

 After doing some research and saving some money, he went back and bought the whole car, such as it was, a year later.


Carl Lacey’s Gremlin has enough juice to tow a friend’s truck. Photo submitted


The first concept sketch of the Gremlin was done by Richard Teague on a barf bag during a flight in 1969. The vehicle was officially introduced to the buying public on

April Fool’s Day in 1970. It had a hatchback and was America’s first subcompact car.

The Gremlin’s aerodynamic properties were engineered so poorly that, if it reached 140 mph, the rear glass would explode.

The Gremlin from the junkyard is now Lacy’s parts car. He currently tools around campus at Missouri S&T in a different Gremlin, a 1974 model. And this one is purple.

That’s right, a purple 1974 AMC Gremlin X. “It has less than 64,000 original miles on it somehow. I guess it sat outside a lot,” Lacy says. “The AM radio still works.”

He’s used to people yelling things at him when he’s driving around town in his odd car, but Lacy has a sense of humor about it. And actually, according to him, the

Gremlin has good power and compares favorably in many ways to the old Volkswagen Beetle. “People either love it or hate it,” he says. “A lot of times I hear things like, ‘That’s one ugly car!'”


Carl Lacey with his entry to the Brick Factor 2012 building competition. Photo courtesy of Legoland Discovery Center in Kansas City


Lacy likes to tinker with cars and other things. He’s studying to be a mechanical engineer. He recently made the finals in a Lego contest. “In the final round, we were asked to build something that we felt best described us,” Lacy says. “So I built a Gremlin throwing flames out of its hood. Then I lost.”

By Lance Feyh

Read more stories about Miners and their cars.


  1. Sweet ride. Pretty sure I’ve seen this thing around. I used to drive the AMC Eagle Woody Wagon around campus not long ago. Just sold it though. The Gremlin is such a cool odd car and Purple is a classic color for it!

  2. Rafe, I think I know the one you’re talking about! It was so clean! Do you remember getting a note stuck in your wiper from a “fellow AMC enthusiast?”

  3. Still have that note! 🙂 I’ve always been curious who that was that left that for me.
    I hope to have an Eagle again sometime. Hopefully I can find a Kammback. The Gremlin on an Eagle chassis.

  4. Bill Kowalski says

    That car could not be cooler. How about getting it de-rustified and repainted to its original shining purple glory?
    The Gremlin, to my recollection, preceded the wave of smaller American cars, though to call it America’s first subcompact kinda ignores American small cars like the Henry J and the Nash Metropolitan. I think the styling of the Gremlin is downright awesome, like a Hornet with the back hacked off. I think they even made a “racy” Gremlin, white with red and blue stripes! Look out, kids.
    It shared a drawback with its bizarro brother, the AMC Pacer: Since it had a cast iron six cylinder and bigger-car drivetrain, it had the interior room of a small car but the poor gas mileage of a big one!

  5. You AMC Fans might like to see these photos I took at the Great Lakes Classic AMC Show this weekend in Livonia, MI. Several Gremlins and Pacers.