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VAM Lerma reveals the Concord’s Mexican Spirit

Peter Tanshanomi April 28, 2010 Cars You Should Know 8 Comments

VAM (Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos) was sort of a “Mexican Motors Corp” version of AMC. Originally Willys Mexicana, the south-of-the-border Jeep distributor, VAM went on to manufacture their own Ramblers and AMC models in Lerma, Mexico under license. Most VAM cars were nearly identical to their U.S. versions, with the exception of mix-and-match grilles and trimwork, unique names (“Classic AMX” sounds so much better than “Matador Coupe”, don’tcha think?), and a unique big bore (4.6L), low-compression variant of AMC’s venerable inline 6. There was, however, one Mexico-only model that was never available north of the Rio Grande, the imaginatively named Lerma.

The Lerma was developed in 1980-81 by grafting the Spirit’s sloping hatch and rear sheetmetal onto both 2-door and 4-door versions of the Concord. Since the Concord was a renamed Hornet, and the Spirit was developed from the Gremlin, which was developed from the Hornet, the critical body dimensions were shared by both cars — easy peasy nacho cheesy!

The original prototypes can be differentiated from production cars by their wider B-pillars, round rear side marker lenses, and lack of louvered C-pillar trim on the 4-door.

The concept was pitched to AMC in the U.S., but the company brass didn’t see any value in decreasing the Concord wagon’s cargo capacity. My brain can’t help but wonder how many other awesome variations could be developed, thanks to AMC’s mixmaster product design philosophy. A Lerma body on a 4×4 Eagle wagon chassis? Awesome. A two-door wagon… no, wait — a panel delivery… with gremlin rear quarter windows! The mind boggles.

The Lerma was manufactured from ’81 through ’83, at which time VAM began making Renaults.

  • Mike_the_Dog

    I may have to venture to Mehico to bring one of these back to Michigan. I don't think I'd have too much trouble getting a title here, and that three-door looks sharp.

    • Alex Tomich

      Good luck finding one in any condition! I've been living in Mexico for 25 years, and it's been at least 15 since the time I last saw one. I'll tell you, when you saw one "in the flesh" they were real dogs! That's the reason most of them have been junked.

  • I think I'm in love…

    Eagle versions would have been like proto-BMW X6s except, you know, cool.

  • I agree. The 5-door is sorta LeBaron GTS cool, but the three-door is absolutely dreamy.

  • I still stand by the X6 and ZDX being sort of ironically cool in about 25 years, once they're old and cheap and lost the trappings of their status symbol price.

  • There's no reason I know of that you couldn't put an Eagle drivetrain under these. Everything should just bolt right up.

  • These are seriously cool. But for the record, I can't help thinking it looks like they grafted an Eagle front clip to a GM X-car:

    <img src="http://www.aphids.com/stan/blog/images/chevrolet_citation.jpg"&gt;

    • Mike_the_Dog

      I sorta see where you're coming from, but not really, if you catch my drift. To me it looks like a Spirit hatch rear grafted on aft of a Concord's C-pillar (which is pretty much exactly what it is). I must have one, this car is now on my bucket list.