1971 AMC Gremlin, 1973 Chevrolet Vega and 1972 Ford Pinto by Julia LaPalme - promotional photo for Motortrend

Embattled car-maker Volkswagen plans to bring back the AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, and Chevy Vega so that its own vehicles that have been illegally pumping toxic pollutants into the air for years will suddenly look good by comparison.

“We think consumers will re-think Volkswagen, see it in a different light, once they get behind the wheel of a Chevy Vega and just try to start the damn thing,” said a spokesman for the company that recently admitted it put software on its diesel cars to trick emissions test machines.

The AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, and Chevy Vega were compact cars rushed to market by U.S. automakers in the early 1970s in response to the Japanese car invasion and rising gas prices. They are generally considered the worst cars ever built.

“We figure consumers will make the calculation,” said the Volkswagen spokesman. “Do I want to drive a car with exhaust emissions that could trigger a fatal asthma attack?  Or would I rather drive a Ford Pinto with an exploding gas tank? We think they’ll go with the fatal asthma attack.”

The company said it is rushing the retro Gremlins, Pintos and Vegas into production and they should be at VW dealerships within weeks.

Consultants praised VW for its “corporate courage” in re-issuing the worst cars ever built.

“Most corporations, they get into an image crisis like this, they spin what they say, whereas these guys are spinning what they do,” said Ted Anderson, a partner in the automotive consulting firm Smart Wheels. “That’s commendable.”

The original costs are surprisingly low, said Volkswagen. AMC has gone out of business so the rights to the Gremlin are in the public domain. And Ford and Chevrolet sold the rights to the Pinto and the Vega for a combined total of $17.37.

“We tried to bid them up,” confided a source at Chevrolet who was in on the negotiations. “We figured the rights were worth at least twenty bucks. But, you’ve got to give these guys credit, they did their homework. I mean, we’re talking a frickin Vega. Have you ever driven one?”

The company is facing more investigations, tens of billions of dollars in potential fines from regulators and lawsuits from 11 million diesel VW owners worldwide – roughly half a million of them in the U.S. – and the internal toll of the scandal is mounting.

The company’s chief executive officer, Martin Winterkorn, resigned. The new CEO, Matthias Muller, said few people inside the company knew about the scam. But, certainly, more heads will roll. The company, meantime, said it is working on an elaborate plan to fix or replace all the VWs with the emission-fooling software by the end of 2016.

By then tens of thousands of Gremlins, Pintos and Vegas figure to be rolling down America’s highways, handling and accelerating like crap, and pissing off every last driver behind the wheel. And the scheme — to make Volkswagen look good, by comparison — will have worked.

The risk, of course, is that all those drivers driving all those pieces of crap will turn around and sue the crap out of the company for yet another defrauding. “I would just go with a simple ad campaign to deal with that,” said consultant Anderson.

“It would say, ‘Mess with Us, By God, And We’ll Bring Back the Yugo.’”

Image: 1971 AMC Gremlin, 1973 Chevrolet Vega and 1972 Ford Pinto by Julia LaPalme - promotional photo for Motortrend.
Jeffry Scott

Jeffry Scott

Jeffry Scott is a former staff reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where, over the course of 24 years, he covered two of the biggest trials in the city's history -- the racketeering trial of former mayor Bill Campbell, and the trial of courthouse shooter, Brian Nichols -- and wrote features on travel, food, politics, movies, TV and advertising, and covered breaking news on the metro desk. He left the paper two years ago and is living, quite happily, in St. Petersburg, Fla., as a freelance writer.