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Thursday, October 18, 2012

1979 AMC Concord

The 1979 AMC Concord featured a waterfall grille and rectangular headlamps.

 American Motors was a feisty little company. The last of the independent North American automakers took on The Big Three as well as all international competition with a great deal of flair. The company had long specialized in small cars and niche marketing. When it strayed, AMC got into trouble. The manufacturer nearly failed in the 1960s but reinvented itself with a stylish compact.

The 1970 Hornet was designed by AMC's in-house stylist Chuck Mashigan.

The classic Hornet design offered an almost endless number of variations. Its body was the basis for the sub-compact Gremlin. The Hornet spawned the SC/360, the Sportabout and the Hatchback. A Cowboy pickup truck was nixed at the last minute because there was no place to build it but American Motors of Canada, Limited did create a special Canada-only Green Hornet model. 

The 1972 Canada-only Green Hornet cashed in on the popularity of the comic book hero. A total of 300 of the limited edition model was built.

The company generated profits because its products shared common platforms. It didn't hurt that AMC purchased Jeep. That helped the economy of scale as costs dropped and revenues rose. AMX and Javelin shared much in common. Matador and Ambassador shared sheet metal, too.

All AMC vehicles in 1972 came with a simple, iron-clad 100-word warranty that covered everything but the tires. (Tires were covered by the respective manufacturers.)

In 1972 there were no new products in dealers' showrooms. That would have meant disaster for an ordinary automaker but AMC was ready to pull an amazing rabbit to pull out of the corporate hat--one that astounded the industry as it pioneered the first bumper-to-bumper, all-inclusive warranty.  A caring, common-sense pitch appealed to consumers and sales rose dramatically. Motor Trend magazine honoured AMC for its groundbreaking guarantee with a special Car of the Year Award.

The next year, the warranty was extended, much to customers' delight.

The 1974 AMC Matador two-door coupe was beautiful.

Then AMC found itself in hot water when the Matador coupe appeared in 1974. It didn't share many parts with anything else in the corporate Stable. Worse, it didn't sell.

The 1975 Pacer from American Motors was the most unique car of the 1970s.

The following year, Pacer bowed to the public. Initially the most distinctively different vehicle of the decade was a hot seller but customers shunned the thirsty six-cylinder engine when an oil embargo from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) brought gasoline rationing to Americans.

Pacer, like the Matador coupe, shared virtually no parts with any other AMC cars, either. The company's top brass had pinned its corporate stars on the stylish duo but those hopes would be in vain.

The Ambassador was the corporation's flagship from 1927 to 1974.

The full-sized Ambassador had been retired at the end of the 1974 season. Javelin was nixed. Gremlin and Hornet desperately needed replacing or at least be given massive facelifts. Dwindling sales meant fewer dollars for retooling and no new products translated into ever-declining sales. The cycle was downward and vicious. Worse, it the cycle was fast.

Richard (Dick) Teague was the company's vice president of design. Teague was the longest-serving style chief in the industry and was known as the Dean of Design in Detroit. He knew half a dozen ways to skin a rabbit. He and his boys were about to perform yet  one more magic trick that would stand the entire automotive industry on its proverbial ears.

The 1978 AMC Concord hatchback.
The faithful Hornet would get a new lease on life, reincarnated as a high-class contender in fancy ball dress. Stylists and engineers rolled up their sleeves. The versatile envelope took on a formal, posh look as it was fitted for opera windows and a padded landau roof. Headlamps, nesting in square bezels added to the ritzy look, as did the squared-up, tartan weave grille. Taillights were sophisticated affairs housed in a gracefully understated rear cove. The upscale exterior look was complete with classic colour-keyed wheel covers and a stand-up hood ornament.

The interior of the 1979 Concord offered 'civilized comforts and thoughtful conveniences.'
Inside the cabin, no expense was spared to move the compact into the luxury league. Fabrics were rich velveteen for sedans and a soft-feel vinyl for wagons and the Hatchbacks. Tasteful woodgrain applique was applied to the instrument panel. Upholstered and  faux wood-trimmed doors were fitted with handy map pouches.

Engineers contributed a highly reworked suspension that gave a "big car" ride. There was no money for new power plants but AMC's trusty sixes had enjoyed a solid reputation around the world since their introduction in 1964. Just to cover all the bases, the corporation's 5-litre (304-cubic inch) V-8 was available.

Marketing ensured there were options galore, ranging from air conditioning and sunroofs to sports packages and performance options.

The 1978 AMC Concord wagon.
Christened Concord, dealers were delighted. Offered as a two-door and four-door sedan, a four-door wagon and a three-door hatchback, consumers could chose among four swank models to drive.

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Public response was terrific. AMC produced 121,293 of the luxurious compacts in its maiden year. That figure was nearly double Hornet's production the year before.

For 1979, Concord was updated with four rectangular headlamps and a majestic waterfall grille. A new Limited model was introduced, replete with leather seats and a Niagara of power options.

This was AMC's 25th anniversary and a special edition was fielded to mark the event. Still, sales were down in North America--ever so slightly--as 102,853 units were produced in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brampton, Ontario.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2002
 All rights reserved.

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