American Motors Corp. squeezed out a profit of $1.3 million (4 cents a share) on record sales of $789.3 million in the first three months of the year, the automaker reported yesterday.

In the same period last year, the company earned $32 million ($1.06). The 1979 figure included a one-time tax credit of $7 million, or 23 cents a share.

AMC said sales for the quarter increased from $773.4 million in the comparable 1979 period.

AMC Chairman Gerald C. Meyers attributed the drop in profits to a sharp decline in four-wheel-drive Jeep sales and a host of economic conditions that are depressing the auto industry in general.

AMC earns more money on Jeep sales than on sales of its cars. Retail Jeep sales were off 44 percent in the quarter, compared with the 1979 quarter, while sales of the small cars -- the company's specialty -- rose 76 percent.

Sales at wholesale, counting Jeeps and Renault cars imported from AMC's French partner, rose 4 percent for the quarter to 103,703 vehicles, the company said.

Polaroid Corp. has reported record sales for the first quarter of 1980, but said increased manufacturing costs and start-up expenses on new products kept earnings at about last year's level.

Sales were $308.3 million for the quarter ending March 30, up 16 percent from last year's first quarter sales of $264.8 million. Net quarterly earnings were $17.4 million, or 53 cents per share, compared to $17.1 million, or 52 cents per share, in the 1979 first quarter.

The jump is first quarter sales followed a 10 percent decline in sales for the company's fourth quarter. The news comes prior to Polaroid's annual meeting next Tuesday, when Edwin H. Land is expected to step down as chief executive officer.

His successor, president and chief operating officer William J. McCune Jr., said net earnings in the first quarter were affected by increased manufacturing costs, as Well as increased start-up costs associated with new products, including Time-Zero Supercolor film, which will be nationally distributed this year.

Monsanto Co. yesterday reported a sales increase of 12 percent for the first quarter of 1980 that raised the company's net sales to a record $1.82 billion.

A monsanto spokesman said the company's net income rose to $164.2 million from $161.8 million in the 1979 period.

American Can Co. profits fell to 91 cents a share in the first quarter from $1.18 a year ago in spite of a rise in sales to $1.15 billion from $1.04 billion.

Net income tumbled to $18.3 million from $23.5 million.

Chairman William F. May said soft demand for some products and high interest rates caused the squeeze.

The soft demand was not noticeable in the company's consumer products, such as phonograph records. High developmental costs on other products offset strong demand for metal cans and other containers.

May said he anticipates soft markets for the company's products for the rest of the year.