I like ducks. There are too many bobble-head dolls in the world; I figure the maximum number should be around twenty-three. There is no governor anywhere. Fnord. Napalm jokes are not as amusing as some people think they are. Never eat anything bigger than your head. Remain calm. Kinky Friedman is a very funny fella. Good music can be painful. Watch your head.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Loyal To The End

The dictionary says that the definition of 'perseverance' is
Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.

While out driving around today looking for things to photograph, I saw this - the last AMC dealership in the world.

It is located on Highway 117 in Pikeville, North Carolina - halfway between Wilson and Goldsboro.

Some of you may not remember AMC. It stood for "American Motors Corporation" and it lasted from 1954 to 1987, when it was purchased by Chrysler. Chrysler basically gutted it and kept the Jeep, which AMC had purchased from Kaiser in 1970.

AMC made some great cars in my dad's day - namely, the Rambler. When I was a kid, AMC was known for making very strange cars that nearly nobody wanted. The Pacer, the Gremlin, and the ugly-squared Matador were examples.

Well, when AMC folded their tent, this dealer apparently decided not to go along with the program. Some searching on the web seems to reveal that you are viewing the mortal remains of Collier Motors, owned by one Robert Collier. His family had been involved with selling AMC automobiles since the early 1950's, and I guess he just decided to...um...keep on doing it.

Well, with new AMC vehicles being in short supply, Robert had to make do with what he had - existing inventory.

This is a strange place, folks. Photos cannot do justice to what you see when you look at this lot. It has a tall chain-link fence around it now, and the front lot has become completely overgrown with weeds - you can't see the tarmac anymore. The cars have rusted in place - new and used alike - even a few non-AMCs. At one time, there was a tarp over the fence as well, so you couldn't really see the cars, but that's gone now, so you can see the whole thing. Some cars still have stickers in the windows - some are marked with prices - but all appear to be completely non-functional - probably nothing much left of their internals. Perhaps there are some showroom cars inside the dealership that survive - hard to say.

Very "Omega Man" if you recall that movie.

Now frankly, I admire perseverence - I think it is a laudable trait in general. I even have some respect for old-fashioned pig-headed stubborness. But this...well, it goes a ways beyond mere stubborness.

When I was in high school in Golden, Colorado, I briefly dated a girl whose father had been a worker at Coors Brewery. The workers had gone out on strike for some reason, and they picketed for a long time. But eventually, the workers voted to decertify the union, the workers who didn't come back to work were fired, and that was that. But not this guy. Ten years later, he and a couple of other guys were still picketing. He felt certain that someday, if he just kept at it long enough, Coors would have to settle with him.

What do you do with guys like this? Perseverence doesn't even begin to describe them.

I'm thinking I need me a Gremlin X. I hear they're hot.

Beatin' that Dead Horse,



Blogger lilly05 said...

Sweet, I'm first! I remember the Rambler, we had a couple when I was a kid. I remember packing as many friends as we could into the great ugly beheamoth and hitting the trails...I also remember breaking down a lot! Incredible example of stubborn.

Mon Aug 01, 12:34:00 AM EDT

Blogger Dave Morris said...

Wow, fascinating post. A friend of mine had a Pacer back in the 70s. That thing barely ran, looked like a rolling bubble and the paint faded prematurely. Funny that Chrysler bought the entire line of vehicles just for the Jeep, scrapping everything else.

Mon Aug 01, 04:32:00 PM EDT

Blogger Wigwam Jones said...

I think that they actually tried to keep the 'Eagle' line afloat for awhile, if you remember that one. And they had to honor some outstanding obligations with Renault, which had been in bed with AMC for some time, making neither party satisfied. Other than that, yeah, they ended up with Jeep - which has been a big winner for them.

Tue Aug 02, 09:24:00 AM EDT

Blogger Rob Seifert said...

Daddy had a rambler. We hauled a set of alloy wheels around from house to house for years that came of that car. I had a friend in high school that had an AMC Eagle that was a complete POS. Even my crappy 1974 Mustang II was less of a POS than that heap. Thanks for the laugh Wiggy!


Tue Aug 02, 11:24:00 AM EDT

Anonymous Nathan Adams said...

For some ungodly reason, there is a cult following in these old cars nowadays! Don't ask me why! Something to do with them being hard to find, I believe. Some people actually do seek them out and try to fix them up. That dealership would be a goldmine to those folks, er.. weirdos.

Everytime I think of the AMC Gremlin, I'm reminded of that episode of The Simpsons where they spoofed that Twilight Zone where William Shatner saw the gremlin on the airplane wing, only Bart sees it on the bus tire. When he goes to tell the bus driver, Otto looks out the window to sees Hans Moleman driving a AMC Gremlin and promptly knocks it into a ravine!! Hans' last words before it explodes are, "I just made my last payment!" (:

Tue Aug 02, 10:52:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, let's show a little love. From the late 60's to the early 80's my mother who travelled between 3-4 months a year on business had a series of AMC station wagons (I forget the makes) but the damn things ran and ran and ran and seemed to thrive on neglect.

The worst I can say is that sometimes one would develop a mysterious tic of one kind or another and that most mechanics were helpless in trying to fix them.

Also, they seemed to do better once they were "aged" (more in terms of mileage than time) once you put 30-40,000 miles on one of those suckers it was almost indestructible. Pretty they weren't, but I felt more secure facing 250 miles of prarie or desert with no mechanics in one of those things than in any other vehicle I've ever used.

(Michael Farris)

Thu Aug 04, 01:00:00 PM EDT

Blogger Wigwam Jones said...

My father owned an AMC station wagon, I believe it was a Matador. It caught on fire while he was driving it with my sisters inside. Big ol' flaming ball of death, careening down the street. At the same time, the power brakes failed and he could not stop the car. He yelled at my sisters to get out, which they did, except for one who was petrified with fear and refused to move. He tossed her out of the moving car physically, aimed the wagon at a telephone pole, and dived out while it was still moving. The newspaper found it an entertaining sight and it ran the next day on the front page. Ah, AMC, how I love you.

On the other hand, when I was a mere Wiglet, dad had a rambler four-door that had those seats that would lay all the way down to make a huge mattress. He tended bar at night, and on Fridays, he would take me with him, to get me out of my mom's hair. I'd hang out in the bar and drink soda and eat peanuts until I got tired, then go out and make the Rambler into a bed and lock myself inside until the bar closed down. Fun times.

These days, of course, that would be child abuse. But that Rambler was nice!



Fri Aug 05, 09:56:00 AM EDT

Blogger Ari said...

We had a burgundy wine-colored Pacer for about 2 months when I was a kid. It was fun while it lasted. :)

Fri Aug 05, 02:17:00 PM EDT

Anonymous "Spooky Alice" said...

When I was a kid (1960's), I recall the first rambler my Dad bought for my Mom. "We (being my Mom and us five kids) drove that car until the tires fell off." Some years after that, we purchased an AMC Pacer. To say the least, it was an adventure. My Dad's brother purchased a 1957 rambler super in 1957 which we all grew up calling "Spooky Alice." I now have old Spooky Alice. She's a daily driver and with the help of the NCCA Nash Car Club of America, I will be driving it "until the wheels fall off" (at which point they'll be promptly replaced for more driving pleasure). I wonder if anyone has any info on this place and whether the cars are available for purchase/restoration? This dealership would be a great special interest story but not without a whole lot of detailed pics of the dealership (inside and out), cars, Stickers, documentation, etc. Maybe even an interview with someone who was associated with it. Thanks for the glimps into the past!

Fri Aug 05, 03:26:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the the coments left here are from totally uninformed idiots. Just to set the record straight the rambler introduced in 1950 By Nash was the first sucessful compact car. Nash and Hudson merged to form AMC in 1954. Nearly every car on the road today is based on the Rambler! the rambler had a unitized body, meaning it was a single unit welded together into one piece. This saved weight and was stronger. The original rambler Got 35 miles per gallon of gas. American Motors was the first company to put air conditioning all under the hood and at a low cost. Other cars had the compresser and other parts in the trunk and pipes under the seats etc.
Rambler was the first car to have a double brake system standard. Rambler introduced seat belts as an option in 1950, another first. the Pacer in 1975 was one of the first cars to have a built in roll bar for safety.
Nash introduced the first heating system that worked well in a car in 1936. So you see to just brush off this company without knowing a damm thing about it is even less than stupid!

Fri Aug 05, 10:30:00 PM EDT

Blogger Wigwam Jones said...

You're funny.

Fri Aug 05, 10:47:00 PM EDT

Anonymous gandm said...

Anonymous doesn't know everything about AMC !! HUDSON was the 1st unitized body built in 1948, called a "Stepdown" where you actually stepped over the door sills & down into the floor well. It was the fore runner of ALL the modern cars!! Before 1948, all car bodies were set on a frame & bolted on. Nash's heater system was caleed "Weather EYE".

Sun Aug 07, 01:10:00 AM EDT

Anonymous gandm said...

oops, caleed = called. We do Hudson cars & have tons of NOS & used parts for them.

Sun Aug 07, 01:13:00 AM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

mr hudson expert is totally wrong. Nash introduced the 1941 Nash 600 which was a unitized body long before hudson sorry buddy!

Sun Aug 07, 09:03:00 PM EDT

Blogger Wigwam Jones said...

You guys are a riot. You take this stuff really seriously, huh? They're just cars, guys. Take a break!

Sun Aug 07, 09:16:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes they did tell you to shoot for the head. With a 7MM 162Grain BTHP and a 200 yard zero, you were good out to 500 yds for a fatal shot when aiming for the head. It was good out to 1000Yds if you had a ART Scope .

Fri Aug 19, 10:21:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it's true: Nash did devise the first car hot-water heater that brought in fresh air from outside the car. This is the principle that all car heaters use today. However, Nash introduced its "Conditioned Air System" (heater, not a/c) in 1938, not 1936. In 1939, they added a thermostat to control the temperature automatically, and dubbed it the "Weather Eye", because it "watched the weather" and adjusted itself automatically. Some car heaters still don't do this today.

As for car air conditioning, yes, Nash did create the "modern" type of car a/c system still in use today. As mentioned above, Nash was the first to locate all components of the a/c system under the hood/dash of a car, in 1954. Up until that time, a/c systems located the compressor and condenser under the hood, with the evaporator (cooling coils) in the trunk. Cooled air entered the car through the rear window shelf and/or large ducts in the rear seat area. Also, the Nash system sold for about half as much as any other then on the market.

Rambler was one of 2 carmakers to offer dual brake master cylinders in the early 1960s. The other was Cadillac.

Nash/Rambler/AMC traced its roots back to 1902, and was long regarded as one of the highest quality cars on the American market. They built some very rugged, and also some very classy, beautiful cars in their day. By the mid-1950s, all the smaller (independent) car companies were struggling to survive in competition with the Big 3, and ultimately, AMC was the only one that survived until its 1987 buy-out by Chrysler. Next best was Studebaker, which went out in 1966. No others made it past the 1950s, except for Jeep, which wasn't really a passenger car company after 1955 (Willys).

By the time Chrysler bought AMC, there wasn't much left besides the Jeep that was of any value. During the early-mid 1980s, AMC was assembling K Cars for Chrysler in its factory in Kenosha, WI. At that time, the Kenosha plant was the oldest auto factory still operarting anywhere in the world. AMC had not introduced an all-new car since 1975 when the Pacer debuted, and the Pacer was dropped early in 1980. The remaining AMC cars still in production in 1987 were all based on the 1970 Hornet, a pretty old design by 1988, when the last Eagle wagons were built.

Chrysler probably can't be blamed for putting the AMC brand to rest, but it was truly a crime the way they scrapped all the remaining AMC parts inventory, rather than selling it to willing and waiting AMC parts vendors. Oh well, anything for a tax write-off I guess.

Tue Aug 30, 02:17:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Tony S. said...

Unitized Body - first proposed in 1915 by H. Jay Hayes of Ruler Auto Co. First successful application 1934 Citro├źn Traction Avant.

Wed Dec 07, 05:49:00 PM EST

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! What a fantastic site that I just happened to stumble across by accident. As weird looking as some of their cars were, I must admit that when the AMC Eagle 4WD wagon was introduced, I thought they were totally awesome! Perhaps I'd even go as far as saying they were slightly ahead of their time. Anyway, it's a great site with very cool photos. I'm glad I found it.

Sat Dec 17, 07:45:00 PM EST

Anonymous Dan Conte said...

My first car was a '72 Hornet SST I received on my 16th birthday in 1978. It had oxidized gold paint, 232 6-cylinder, no AC(a necessity in Texas), no radio, no power anything, & pug ugly. But that little beast ran & ran with very few problems. While my friends' Trans Ams & Z-28s were in the shop, the "Rolling Circus" kept plugging along. It survived a trip back from the coast with a blown valve cover gasket & oil leaking everywhere. I installed an AM/FM radio with 8-track player, speakers, 40watt booster & had some sound. I didn't like the bench seat in it, so I swapped it out with one from a Gremlin. Was in an accident with it & cannibalized parts from another Gremlin to fix it back up. Packing seven or eight people in it was a regular occurrence. I finally sold it years later after I joined the Air Force. Needless to say I had some great times & memories with it. I still have a few photos of the Rolling Circus.
I'm a Dodge guy, but was disappointed Mopar couldn't keep AMC/Eagle going. My wife owned a '92 Dodge Monaco, which was in reality an Eagle Premier built by Renault. It was a piece of junk, so I understood why Chrysler let it die.
I enjoyed the site very much.

Fri Jun 02, 12:40:00 AM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved seeing/reading about this dealership, must have been a real drip to see it while cruising down the road. Reminds me of a similar dealership outside of Spokane, WA that sold Jeeps and Chryslers but had all original AMC/Renault signs and banners around the building.
Always been a huge AMC fan. My dad's first car was a Javelin SST and man, those things could give any Camaro or Stang driver on the road a run for their money!
AMC will be missed, they took the chances that the big 3 never did and didnt appologize for it.

Mon Aug 28, 11:22:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Kevinator said...

Mr. TeePee,

How about a few comments from the son of the man whose business you have been blogging about? My dad started Collier Motors in 1955 as a single young entrepreneur in his 20's. He is now 76 with rock hard abs and still tough as nails. He still works on cars everyday. I tell him every week to relax--let's go fishing. He refuses because he is doing what he loves. He is also doing what it takes to keep a business running by himself. His chief mechanic retired in 1992 and died a couple of years ago. After AMC started selling Renaults, my dad decided to only sell the American made AMC's. He sold a few of the used Renaults, but lost a customer each time. Shortly after he lost the franchise in the mid 80's he started collecting the most collectible AMC's. He already had a collection of Nash's rusting away. The first AMX he kept was bought from an Air Force pilot who drove it on the Autobahn in Germany. My mom drove it home with my brother in the passenger seat with me behind the seats crammed in between the back glass and the floor. I told my mom as she started off to "SLOW DOWN! 'I'm only going 45!' she said as she shifted into second at 80 MPH! "That's the tachometer I yelled!" Since the 1980's my dad has developed one of the largest collections of AMC cars in the world. It was never his dream--having to work all of his life, but he has been a resource to many collectors and restorers over the years. My grandad was in the business and he worked till he was in his 80's. I doubt my dad will ever quit. I have a lot of fond AMC memories: My first car was an AMC 1970 Javelin Mark Donohue edition with the 390 cubic inch engine and 325 factory horsepower with Ram Air hood scoop automatic transmission, ice-cold air conditioning and tilt steering. That car would fly. I never raced it because I knew it was faster than anything anyone else had and I had nothing to prove. I still enjoyed a few late night romps at 140 mph and faster with the a/c blowing cold. I enjoyed growing up in the car business, and I still have a lot of respect for AMC's and their fans. AMC was the last truly American car company. When it ceased to be American, my dad got out. I have my dad to thank for teaching me how to work on cars. It comes in handy when you look at the price of labor at the dealerships now. My dad just sold me a 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer that he helped me fix up. Grand Wagoneers are still in high demand nowadays. Nash was not the first to make unibodies--just the first to make them popular. Most Nashes were luxury cars in their day. The Nash 600 however, was the first successful unibodied economy full size sedan. Just think--in 1941 Nash built a car with a 20 gallon fuel tank that got 30 miles per gallon with a fuel range of 600 miles--thus the name 600. Nashes were way ahead of their time. AMC's were innovative for a long time as well. Thanks to the genius of one of the greatest car designers of all times Dick Teague, we have had the first luxury SUV--the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, the first crossover SUV--the Eagles of the early 80's and the most successful SUV of all time--the Jeep Cherokee. Teague's designs were timeless and thus they outlasted the competition. The Hornet was the same body through the morph to the Concord and Eagle. The most trouble AMC had was bad press. Ford and AMC were going to work together in the 70's to come up with a new idea of a highly efficient Wankel rotary to compete with GM and Chrysler. When the press got wind of the idea and decided that Ford and AMC had not achieved the fuel economy expected, Ford backed out leaving the Pacer (which was supposed to have had the wankel engine) having to use the taller but time-tested inline six instead. This was one of the best engines ever. It lasted in a modified form until just a couple of years ago as a Jeep powerplant. The Pacer had it's problems with serviceability because of the taller engine problem. But some of those sixes lasted for 250,000 miles in those Pacers just like they have in Jeeps until a couple of years ago. AMC will live on in the Jeeps that they rescued from Willys and improved until they are now true classics. AMC will live on in the countless fans of AMX's and Javelins. AMC will live on in my memory of my first car that was so fast. AMC will live on in the entrepreneurial spirit that if we build something before there is a need ie. an economical car--one day someone will find a use for it. I hope you have enjoyed the perspective of someone on the inside of the joke.

Fri Sep 15, 09:55:00 PM EDT

Blogger Wigwam Jones said...

Pretty interesting story, my friend. I hope you don't think I'm making fun of your dad. In fact, as I said, I'm in awe of anyone who is that dedicated to AMC. A trifle pig-headed, but definitely admirable.

And I have a Jeep Cherokee. A 2000 model, made by Chrysler, but it has the 6 cylinder inline engine you described.

Fri Sep 15, 10:11:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who owns that dealership in North Carolina? Does anyone know?

Sun Feb 11, 03:56:00 PM EST

Anonymous Brad Busque said...

Hi Wigwam-

Just ran across your "Last AMC Dealership" pictures and story, and I think they are great. I guess I'm one of those "Weirdo's" that Nathan Adams referred to, between me and my wife we have two Rambler's and one AMC. We don't seek them out because they are rare, but because our parents had Ramblers when we were kids.

I am also the Webmaster for the web site of the AMC Rambler Club (AMCRC) and would like your permission to reprint you write up and pictures on the AMCRC web site. Of coarse you would get full credit for all material, and I can provide a link to any of your work you would like. Please let me know your thoughts.

Brad Busque

Sun Feb 11, 08:30:00 PM EST

Anonymous Kyle Burrnett said...

I called them up once, and they answered. I would love to muove there and I would clean up the place for free. I love AMC, I own and am currently restoring a 1981 AMC Eagle Kammback w/ 300,000 miles onthe Iron Duke 151 4-cyl.
Kyle Burnett
Pennsville, NJ

Mon Apr 02, 08:51:00 PM EDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a different slant on this story. I grew up in Pikeville right down the street from this mess. Many times, folks tried to get Mr. Collier to clean this up. The family was "different", very stand-offish. We always wondered what the heck he was doing by just letting all those cars, some new, just sit there and rot.

Fri Aug 17, 09:27:00 AM EDT

Anonymous Aaron Kulkis said...

The Kenosha, WI was NEVER the oldest operating auto plant in the world. Cadillac Main on Michigan Avenue in Detroit went into production before 1902 (as part of "The Henry Ford Company" which was dissolved in 1902, and after Ford left with his name and $900, the remainder was incorporated as Cadillac). Cadillac kept the plant in continuous production from 1903 until around 1990 (I forget the laste year of production at this plant)

Sat Sep 22, 11:30:00 AM EDT

Anonymous Aaron Kulkis said...

By comparison, Kenosha, WI plant didn't begin operation until 1917

Sat Sep 22, 11:33:00 AM EDT

Anonymous Jen said...

I live in a town not far from Pikeville, and everytime I ride by that dealership I am struck with the urge to go in. I would love nothing more than to go in and take a look at those cars whether they work or not. I wish there were some way...

Sun Dec 09, 03:31:00 PM EST

Anonymous agnosticpreacherskid said...

I came across your blog from the link on wikipedia's article for this dealership. I remember driving past the place on the way to my Grandma's house in Wilson. (I use to live in the Saulston area of Goldsboro). I always wondered what the inside of the cars smelled like. I'm thinking the opposite of "new car smell."

Mon Jan 28, 04:46:00 PM EST


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