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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.
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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.
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