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PCH, Six-Banger Kenosha Malaise Edition: Spirit or Gremlin?

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With today's Engine of the Day being the AMC inline six, it seemed only good and proper that we have a Choose Your Eternity dilemma featuring a pair of vehicles powered by that fine powerplant. It's also good to have a couple of American cars, which I really can't use very often in this series because the stuff out of Detroit is too simple and parts obtainment is too easy to make for true hell. Not so with Kenosha products, though- even though the drivetrain parts are easy to find (thanks to the Jeep connection), the body and interior components are another story entirely. And today's trip into Hell isn't just about restoring an old AMC- it's about hot-rodding the six-cylinder engine so you get at least 300 reliable horsepower out of it. The road out of Hell is steep, you see, and you'll need plenty of power to climb out of the boiling sulfur!


When you see an American rear-drive car with a big fiberglass hood scoop, brightly-colored racing stripes, and rear tires so wide they protrude past the big plastic fender flares, you usually assume the presence of a V8 under the hood. How boring! But put a souped-up inline six in that same car and you've got something a bit different. Say, for example, this 1979 AMC Spirit, which can be purchased for the lure-to-Hell cheap price of just $2,800. It's already got some go-fast goodies on the engine (which is of unspecified displacement, though at least it's been bored 0.030" over). You might keep the intake and headers and drop in the good ol' 258 crank/rod combo into a common-as-dirt 4.0 Jeep block, giving you a ring-gear-shattering 280 cubes of inline torque! Thanks to the Jeep freaks, a bewildering array of camshaft options may be found, keeping you up late at night trying to puzzle out just the right combo for your Spirit. We don't know what kind of transmission is in this lil' red devil, but it goes without saying that you need a 4-speed for it, so you'll need to start shopping if the car comes with a slushbox.

Cool as the Spirit is, those Camaro owners won't be able to figure out what the hell it was that just smoked them at the dragstrip with just six cylinders. For AMC name recognition, you can't beat the Gremlin- why, even folks who wouldn't even recognize an AMX can slap an instant ID on the odd-looking shorty Hornet hatchback from deep in the heart of the Malaise Era. We've managed to find a genuine 1974 AMC Gremlin X for just 100 bucks more than the Spirit, which means it's your lucky day! Yes, for only 2,900 clams, or bones, you can head out to Kansas City and claim your own purple Gremlin X. Purple! Put on your darkest shades and take a peek at that two-tone interior- you know you must have this car! You get a 360 engine as part of the deal, but you'll be selling that off to buy some speed parts for the crazy inliner you'll be whomping together for this thing. It's been sitting for a while, so the brakes don't work, the carb gaskets are bad, and so on and so on. Oh, and there's rust. But don't picture yourself endlessly replacing rusty sheetmetal with impossible-to-find patch panels. Picture yourself rampaging around town in the baddest six-cylinder Gremlin X ever to burn 110 octane!

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