Imported American Cars Around the World
Classic American cars being shipped overseas is nothing new. Mustangs, Camaros, Cadillacs, Mopars, Bel Airs, Impalas, you name it. Any American car you can think of the odds are someone far away went through a hassle of paperwork to have it sitting in their garage. However, a 1971 American Motors Gremlin with a straight six engine is probably one of the last cars anyone would imagine taking a boat trip across the ocean.
Dario Sguinzi, age 29, is a die-hard car enthusiasts and current owner of a green ’71 AMC Gremlin in a small village six miles outside of Milano, Italy. He purchased the Gremmie a few months back for a variety of reasons. Dario always wanted a classic American car but couldn’t afford to spend big bucks on the go-to favorites like 60s-70s muscle cars, or big finned 50s chrome classics. Then one day he came across the Gremmie.
He liked the car’s underdog cult status of being a vehicle often overlooked by most collectors and enthusiasts. What really captured his attention was the fact that this Gremlin is a time capsule survivor with less than 45,000 original miles and in near mint condition.
Title in hand he learned a bit of the car’s history as to how it left the snowy winters of Wisconsin’s assembly line to the scenic views of Southern Italy.
Story goes that the first owner was a U.S. Military officer stationed at then named NAF Sigonella Air base in Sicily. The officer had the car shipped overseas from New Jersey. It boggles my mind trying to imagine what kind of character this owner must have been to import a Gremlin to Sicily as his personal vehicle. Talk about Mopar or No Car.
According to Dario, the Gremlin spent the majority of the 1970’s living the military life until 1978. The car was then sold to the next local owner and from then on the car was never registered. It passed several hands and rarely saw any drive time, which conserved its shape apart from a few wear and tear scratches on the paint. The engine still wears all the original decals, no rust, no rips in the interior, and the radio still works!
Dario is a huge fan of drag racing. He runs with a pretty serious group of torque bandits called Street Outlaws Italy Team. After seeing his friends pour life savings into their imported American muscle street machines he decided to find a more frugal way to drive tastefully. He wants to be able to afford bigger plans that includes a family, home, and everything that comes with it. Dario plans on keeping the Gremlin original, but debating on whether to keep the 258ci (150 horsepower) straight six or finding a V8 to shoehorn into it. He needs to be sure on this decision before he registers the vehicle because once it’s done trying to register it again with a different engine will be a bureaucratic nightmare. However, Cragar wheels are definitely in the Gremmie future.
American Motors are so often hidden in the shadow of the big three: GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Now, seeing a mint condition Gremlin, Pacer, Rebel, or even an Eagle is a sight worthy of digital capture that warms the heart. Those that know feel a sense of sentiment that someone is looking after these vehicles. Like a no-kill shelter for cars that were once overlooked, forgotten, or mocked. It’s endearing to know that one first gen Gremlin has survived trail by time far away from home and is being looked after by someone who appreciates it for what it is. A comforting thought for anyone who has ever uttered the phrase, “I wish I could save them all”.
Big thanks for Dario for sharing his car story, and for looking after this little green car.