It never fails to amaze just how inexpensive a bad idea can be to get into. Here’s a great example, a hunchy, overpowered, pint-sized, all-head-no-neck hooligan; a 96-inch wheelbase with between four and five hundred horsepower at the rear wheels. It’s loud. It’s ludicrous. It’s dangerous. And for $6,500, it’s for sale.
Hang on, I need to call my wife – it, um, it followed me home! Can we keep it? But mooooooooomm.
This is Bruce Larson’s 1979 AMC Spirit AMX, an orphan from a now-defunct car company with a cartoonishly insane engine under the hood. It’s like Oliver Twist on bath salts.
Larson is an engineer by trade, ordinarily a breed given to rationality and sense. “This isn’t really a demonstration of good judgement,” he says, “If you were a real estate agent or something you really wouldn’t want anybody to see you driving it.”
The AMX has been a fun year-long experiment, a chance to own a classic musclecar. Well, perhaps not a classic – the Spirit is far more obscure than an old Mustang or Camaro would be – but the same essential experience is crammed into this budget-friendly ride as you get from the sort of shiny stuff seen on stage at Barrett-Jackson.
There’s a giant hood decal (one that’s seen better days, admittedly, but replacements are cheap and available). The tires are chunky and have raised white lettering. Twin pipes poke out the rear, emitting a huff-huff-huff panting exhaust beat like an overexcited dog; give the throttle a little bit and it’s like waving a steak at a junkyard mutt – WOOF!
Exciting stuff, even just rumbling away there, but it’s not exactly Bruce’s cup of raw grain spirit. He’s more into the European machinery, poise rather than berserker power. He daily-drives a first gen NA: “I can wind it out to redline in the first couple of gears, and nobody notices,” he explains. That definitely doesn’t apply to the AMX. No. Sirree. Bob.
In an East Vancouver carport Bruce’s Spirit AMX sits next to a 1955 Citroën Traction-Avant, itself a pretty unique machine. Larson recently ran it in the Spring Thaw classic car rally, where it glided through the rain, sleet, and hail, his foot welded to the floorboards. “I like machinery where I can actually use it to its potential,” Larson says. The AMX isn’t that kind of car.
The American Motor Corporation (AMC) was formed in the mid-1950s, the largest corporate merger seen at the time. These days, we’re used to domestic vehicles coming from the Big Three of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but at one time there were a whole host of smaller manufacturers. AMC brought together Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson, combining their strengths to help battle against the larger three corporations from Detroit.
AMC struggled initially, but soon began to find its stride with compact cars. Offerings like the Rambler contrasted with ever-larger machines coming out of Detroit. This wouldn’t be the only instance of AMC being ahead of their time – by the time the late 1970s rolled around, they’d developed a high-clearance station wagon called the AMC Eagle, basically the forerunner of the Subaru Outback.