If your car’s gas filler is its hungry mouth, then its gas cap has to be its, um, mouth-cover? Pacifier? No, that’s terrible. This analogy is terrible. The point is, interesting gas caps are rare, so the ones that are interesting deserve attention. And, I think we can all agree, there’s two real standouts in the field: the Ford Mustang and the AMC Gremlin. But the question is, which one is better?
The art of the interesting gas cap is really lost; aero and other reasons dictate that almost no car still has an exposed gas cap, with, I believe, the Dodge Challenger’s helpfully-labeled FUEL cap/flap being one of the last remaining holdouts of the genre, at least on a mainstream car. I know that if you want to spend half a million dollars on a Singer-re-imagined Porsche or whatever they call them, you’ll have an indescribably beautiful exposed gas cap that’s been milled out of one chunk of metal cast from the extracted dental fillings of angels.
But, for normal, everyday cars, they’re all but gone. Ford is even getting rid of gas caps entirely, with a capless fuel filling system.
So, that brings us back to the first-generation Mustang and the Gremlin, two cars that really embraced their fuel caps. Both cars wore their fuel fillers right in the center of their rear fascias, right between the taillights, at precisely the same location the car would have its anus if it was an animal instead of a machine.
Both cars used the cap as a prominent rear badge; no attempt was made to hide the cap under a flap or a license plate or anything, the cap was treated as an oversized, round emblem.
The Mustang’s shows the iconic horse, mid-gallop, superimposed over a tricolor pennant, the words FORD MUSTANG arcing around the top and bottom rim, respectively.
There were a number of variations of this basic cap, but the crucial element was that galloping horse.
The Gremlin took much the same approach as the Mustang: a bas-relief image of the car’s mascot central in the round cap. The gremlin itself was a funny-looking little bastard, a big-eared, pot-bellied, shirtless kook with big, curly-toed shoes, looking at you with a defiant grin and hands planted firmly on his wide hips.
Surrounding the gremlin were three arcs, red, white, and blue, the colors of AMC. On some versions, the gremlin could be rotated to reveal a lock, like the one up top; other simpler versions dispensed with the color and lock and just had a shallower-relief gremlin in a black void.
They’re both fantastic bits of automotive branding, though I personally would have to go with the Gremlin as my choice. The whole concept is bolder and more daring—lots of cars used animal mascots, but it takes a certain amount of guts to have your car’s mascot be an ugly, mischievous little troublemaker.
The whimsical and almost confrontational nature of the gremlin really sell this one for me. He’s there, smack dab in the middle of the back of the car, challenging everyone behind AMC’s weird little compact to try something.
Yeah. The Gremlin’s gas cap has to be my favorite. Of course, I’ll happily read and perhaps disregard your arguments in the comments, especially if anyone has some other gas cap they feel is worthy.
Let’s talk gas caps, pals.