Super Spirit: Ryan Mullis’ Nitrous-Fed 1981 AMC Spirit

Street Car Takeover (SCT) events always have an interesting mixture of vehicles, but one brand you really don’t see a lot of is AMC. That lack of AMC vehicles is exactly why the 1981 AMC Spirit owned by Ryan Mullis really grabbed our attention. Mullis has built a nasty little street car that’s much faster than it looks.

Mullis grew up idolizing his father, who was a drag racer and hot rod builder. They enjoyed working on projects that were always a little different and the brand of the vehicle never mattered to them. That type of influence is what planted the seeds for Mullis to build his AMC when the opportunity presented itself.

“I was in high school driving a 1994 Z28 and this car pulled into a gas station totally stock. I happened to know the guy that was driving it and he didn’t know what to do with it. I’ve always liked these cars, so I traded him my Camaro for it and that’s when the fun began. We put a mild small-block Chevy in it to start with and things have just progressed from there,” Mullis says.

The AMC is a legit street car that weighs in at a healthy 3,400 pounds. The 434 cubic-inch pump gas engine uses a Dart block as its foundation and was built by Davis Machine. BES Racing Engines massaged the GM aluminum heads, and Mullis built the 850 ProForm carburetor himself. The small-block Chevy gets some extra kick thanks to an Induction Solutions nitrous plate kit. The AMC’s suspension consists of Viking double-adjustable shocks in the front, and the stock leaf springs in the rear are matched up with a set of traction bars Mullis made himself.

Mullis races the Spirit in street car-type classes that it fits into, like the Street Racer class at SCT, or True Street in the NMCA. The car is a blast to drive and Mullis has a lot of fun racing it. The AMC has run a best of 5.82 in the 1/8-mile, and is tickling the 9-second zone in the 1/4, with a best run of 9.11 at 147 MPH.

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“We never really intended it to be as fast as it is, but it just seemed to work well. The car kept taking whatever we threw at it and ended up being really fast for a street car at the time. It didn’t have a cage, so we couldn’t really run it at any big events. We finally decided to put a cage in it so the car could be raced anywhere and that’s one of the best things we ever did to the car,” Mullis says.

It’s always cool to see someone build a car that’s not only different, but also find a way to make that car go really fast as Mullis has.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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