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Loyal To The End
Wigwam Jones is a very successful County Music song writer who likes to dabble in photography.  As luck would have it, in his adventures he stumbled upon Collier Motors in North Carolina and shot some great pictures of "the last AMC Dealership."  Reproduced here (with Wigwams permission), are those pictures along with some entries from his blog, including a few comments from the son of the man who owns and operates AMC's last dealership.

Wigwam also created a pretty cool Gremlin Tee Shirt from a shot at the dealership.  To check out the shirt, click here.

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,

Wiggy posted by Wigwam Jones at 7/31/2005 09:37:00 PM 

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.

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.