As enthusiastic as we are about supercharged HEMI muscle, we have to admit that Hellcat swaps are getting out of hand. And perhaps the pair of Hellcat-animated Viper projects we recently discussed might serve as an example of the trend. Not this AMC Spirit AMX, though. Only a virtual project—at least for the time being—this old-school muscle car serving as a Hellcat recipient makes all the sense in the world.
Only built between 1979 and 1980, the AMX iteration of the AMC Spirit is a diamond in the rough. To be more precise, the AMX treatment meant the sporty-looking hatchback did well in the looks, soundtrack, and handling departments. However, with its 304 ci (5.0L) being Malaise Era-chocked into submission and delivering just 124 hp, straight-line performance wasn’t exactly on par. In fact, you could hardly find a… slower go-fast machine back in the day.
Nevertheless, the vehicle’s character determined just about everybody to work towards remedying that back in the day. Examples range from the AMC AMX Pace cars using turbo six-cylinder trickery (450 hp!) to owners installing the more potent AMC 360 ci (5.9L) V8 and terrorizing the drag strip. We can also add the 1979 Nurburgring 24H endurance racing class win (here’s modern Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody on the Ring) and the moderate IMSA racing success, but we digress. So, with that in mind, why wouldn’t you Hellcat-swap one of these?
Now, while we’ll zoom in on this rendering giving the Spirit AMX some blower-aided Gen III Hemi muscle, allow us to point out that the highs and lows of the Spirit could arguably describe its maker altogether, which is why the American Motors Corporation was eventually absorbed by Chrysler in 1987.
How American Motors Corporation did things
AMC never had the resources to turn Detroit’s Big Three into Detroit’s Big Four. And while the two oil crises of the 1970s saw AMC having to face the same emission-related challenges as Ford, GM, and Chrysler, the smaller company relied on maximum ingenuity and dedication to compete with its rivals. And the AMC Spirit, with its muscular AMX top version, is an example as good as any.
Produced between 1978 and 1983, the Spirit subcompact relied on the platform and engines of the 1970-introduced Gremlin (hey, the artist responsible for this work also Hellcat-envisioned a Gremlin).
And, despite the complete exterior redesign, the newcomer even inherited some of its predecessor’s unusual appearance, especially in two-door sedan body style. However, this model is the Spirit liftback, the sportier-looking alternative that AMC used to revive its Corvette-challenging AMX nameplate, albeit as a trim level instead of a standalone model.
Why a Hellcat-powered Spirit AMX would make sense
Only built for 1979 and 1980, the Spirit AMX is a rare bird these days. And while preservation of an understated special is probably the only argument that could stand in the way of a Hellcat swap, this rendering is for those who have no such concerns. And, as wacky builds like the Hellcat-swapped Vipers mentioned in the intro have shown, they are not few.
Hey, at least the Hellcat V8 is a Chrysler product (okay, FCA and now Stellantis if you want to be pedantic). And, if you compare the rendering to the photos showcasing an actual ’79 Spirit AMX in the gallery below, you’ll notice graphic designer Jim (aka jlord9) didn’t have to do much for the recipe to work on a visual level. The artist kept the modern classic look mostly intact while dropping the machine on Hellcat wheels.
Speaking of the real world, the example shown here was sold on Mecum last year. And, despite being highly original and only packing 8,400 miles, it traded hands for $31,350. Even in today’s still-inflated market, that’s less than what you’d have to pay for, say, a special version of the contemporary Fox Body Mustang in the same condition.
Don’t get us wrong. We’re glad AMC machines continue to be underrated, as this helps with daydreaming about owning one. It’s just that the Hellcat swap would bestow the final AMC passenger car offered in V8 trim with the kind of fury this car has always deserved.