Last week, we stumped most of our readers with a first-generation Dodge Stratus. It was, admittedly, a tough one, but we love the Super Touring Stratuses from the ’90s and that was an acceptable excuse to write a few words about them. This week, we’ll give you an easier one; you likely already know the automaker, but can you guess the model?
Yes, that recessed door handle was one of the defining items on AMC’s cars, but the astute will have figured out this was a four-door AMC Concord D/L!
This ’81 Concord demonstrates so many representative aspects of the Malaise Era. Just as most modern cars seem to be grayscale (white, black, silver, etc.), cars of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s all seemed to be brownscale. This one leans toward the orange—dare we say “pumpkin spice?”—end of brownscale.
This four-door carries all the AMC trademarks, as it was one of the last “true” AMCs. As the Big Three downsized their lineups, so too did American Motors. The Concord replaced the Hornet as a mid-sized offering and this four-door has the flat door handles and even a set of AMC hubcaps for the long-gone wheels.
According to a 1981 brochure, this upholstery was “Grained Vinyl” and we were brave enough to sit on it. It felt like and smelled like wicker furniture pulled from a septic tank. Too bad this owner didn’t check the order-sheet box for either leather or the most Malaise Era interior offering this side of Corinthian Leather: AMC’s Sculptured Rochelle Velour! [Pause for “Oooohs” and “Aaaaahs.”]
Under the hood was the other AMC trademark: a 258 cubic-inch inline six. This engine’s design spanned decades and was only phased out early in this century. This one sports a one-barrel carb and probably a realistic horsepower count of about 100. It was never gonna get anywhere fast, but AMC was just struggling to stay alive when this Concord came out of Kenosha in 1981.
To improve the Concord’s fuel economy numbers, AMC debuted the sluggish GM-borrowed Iron Duke 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in 1981. That would have given the 2,800-pound sedan a 0-to-60 time somewhere in the region of two months. As it was, the six-cylinder at least kept the Concord’s performance on par with other Malaise Era mid-size cars.
Decades of the Midwest were not kind to this one. The floors rusted completely through years ago from the looks of things.
Underneath the car, the entire rear axle rusted out with the live axle just sitting atop the shipwreck-caliber leaf springs. We wonder if the original buyer opted for the Ziebart rust protection or if any work was done under the now-archaic one-year, 12,000-mile warranty.
This “New American Success Story” ad from 1979 comes across rather optimistic since AMC was gone within a decade. But the TV spot got the car’s color right. We suspect that about 90 percent of Concords were sold in brown, though the typical AMC buyer eschewed amenities like a Landau roof.
As with all junkyard finds, we first ask: Did people race the Concord? As AMC came up short in funding the efforts, the answer is basically “a few.” You’ll find a few AMCs racing in the traditional red, white, and blue livery today. Mark Ipsen’s 401-powered ‘79 Concord runs with Nostalgia Pro Stocks and looks spectacular. Check this thing out.
At least one Concord raced in some of IMSA’s Camel GT endurance races of the late 1970s, including a win at the 1979 6 Hours of Talladega (where four different AMC models occupied the top four positions). Buzz Dyer also raced a Concord with a fire-breathing AMC 366 cubic-inch V8 in a handful of later Trans Am Series races. That car was found again in 2010 after going missing for decades.
To date, nobody has brought a Concord to Lemons. We’ve had Hornets, Gremlins, Pacers, a Matador, a turbocharged Spirit (above), and an Eagle. But even among AMC’s obscure offerings, the Concord remains forgettable enough that we haven’t seen one. We suspect most of them have rusted away as badly as this junkyard find, but we hope to see one road-racing with its hooptie brethren soon.
Sometimes, cars are even too far wasted to be worth racing in a series for crap cars. As such, this Concord’s little remaining steel will be melted down to become another cheap appliance, automotive or otherwise.