American Motors Corporation Gremlin DIY Turbo

1971 Turbo Gremlin

I purchased my 1971 Gremlin in December 1970 at Holiday Motors in Memphis, TN. I had decided to buy an American compact car but the Ford Pinto and the Chevrolet Vega were underpowered with four cylinder engines and not very good cars. The Gremlin had a large, powerful, six-cylinder engine and looked different, sort of cute. Who would have thought that I would still have the Gremlin 35 years later.

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My first modification to the engine was a Geraghty Dynotune kit in 1972, the article in Motor Trend said it gave a 30% power increase and it felt like it, really made a difference you could feel. The Gremlin came with 13 inch wheels which were too small so I put 14 inch wheels on it in September 1978, they came off of an AMC station wagon in a salvage yard. The next modification was a set of Clifford headers in 1979, really a good addition, picked up two miles per gallon in gas mileage and definitely had more power.

Nineteen eighty-two was a big year, I added a Competition Cams 252 High Energy cam, an Edelbrock SP2P intake manifold, an Accel coil, and a Mallory distributor. More power and it didn’t hurt the gas mileage. In the suspension department I had added an AMC front stabilizer bar and an ADDCO rear stabilizer bar in 1973 along with gas shocks. By this time the power and handling were much better than stock. I also added a Carter 2bbl carburetor for even more power. I ran this package for the next nine years, in 1991 I noticed that my oil pressure was low so I pulled the pan and found that the front cam bearing had “flaked off” and was causing a pressure loss.

The engine had 250K miles on it and was in great shape but since I had to change the cam bearings I decided to rebuild the engine. I pulled it out and took it to Cabot Automotive, a shop that did a lot of high performance work, mostly on Chevys. They installed hardened valve seats in the head along with dual Chevy valve springs, the block was bored .030 and Keith Black hyperteutic pistons were installed (8:1) along with high quality rings, bearings, etc.

I had subscribed to Dick Datson’s AMC newsletter for a long time and in the early 1990’s he started talking about adding turbochargers to the AMC engines, it seemed like a good idea and a fairly easy way to get a substantial increase in power.

The best thing that ever happened to do-it-yourself mechanics in Little Rock was the U-Pull-It salvage yard on Baseline Road. I went out there from time to time to look around and had found a number of parts for the Gremlin. One trip I saw a 1985 Merkur XR4Ti with a turbo engine, after thinking about it for two or three weeks I went back and got the turbo and started thinking about how I could install it on my engine to make a turbo Gremlin.

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Dick Datson ran a story and picture of my installation in the January/February 1996 issue of “21st Century Turbo” .. I received numerous e-mails from people about my installation and answered a lot of questions. I’ve always wondered how many people actually installed the turbo and got it to work.

I read somewhere that stock pistons are good up to seven pounds boost and that’s it. I run about eight pounds of boost and figure I’m getting well over 200 hp and lots of torque. I do have to run premium gasoline or it will ping under boost.

There may be more modifications in the future but I don’t have any planned.

April 13, 2014/EDITED Story /by Randy For more go to http://gremlinx.com/1971-turbo-gremlin/

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