A compact station wagon won't surprise anyone these days, but when it debuted the AMC Concord ticked a lot of the right boxes.
Released at the height of the Malaise era, the Concord lineup certainly had variety, offering a four-door sedan, four-door station wagon, as well as a two-door hatchback, coupe, or convertible. It helped that big cars were becoming difficult to feed in the late 1970s, and AMC took advantage of this trend earlier in the decade.
"America wants an affordable compact wagon with plenty of room and a good ride," AMC ad copy of the time observed.
To be sure, there were other small station wagons at the time offered by the likes of Subaru, Datsun, Toyota, Volkswagen, as well as the Big Three. But geographic dealer coverage for some of these brands was still somewhat spotty, making them popular choices on the West Coast, but somewhat rarer elsewhere. Especially in the upper Midwest, which was still AMC's stronghold.
Most of the choices in this segment were still marketed as economy cars, and the product of downsizing that kicked off earlier in the decade. Ads of the time for most of the Concord's competitors played up frugality, at times glossing over some desperate cost-cutting measures covered up by wood trim.
Despite being a compact car, the Concord could still be ordered with a V8. In fact, the Concord lineup served up a variety of engines that's still difficult to process today.
Base models offered a 2.0-liter VW engine, but in practice it was quite rare. The more common frugal choice was the 2.5-liter GM Iron Duke inline-four. AMC inline-sixes were also popular, including the 3.8- and 4.2-liter versions, while the 5.0-liter V8 was also on the menu if you were in an extra hurry to get to the next gas station, though it was far from a common choice.
But picking a V8 that returned 15 mpg in the city would have been missing the point of buying a small but reasonably roomy car, which was the Concord's main selling point.
"AMC Concord Wagon's efficient size and short turning radius make handling a breeze," ad copy of the time promised. "Inside, Concord Wagon comfortably seats five passengers. Flip down the rear seat and a generous 57 cu. ft. of load space is at your command."
All of these features made the Concord a momentary success in AMC's lineup, but didn't quite translate to a greater share of the market or an enduring lineup that would persist for some time. And that's despite the fuel shortage horrors of the era, just as many European automakers were turning to diesel.
The Concord lineup ultimately arrived at a tricky time for AMC, just as its courtship with Renault that would produce the compact Renault 18i Sportswagon as a competitor of sorts for the Concord. And a few years later the Renault Alliance lineup would arrive to effectively replace the Concord, kicking off Kenosha's French era.
Do you know anyone who owned an AMC back in the day? Let us know in the comments below.