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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Is this funky AM Van the greatest AMC that never was?

This lil' red box may look like an overgrown Hot Wheels, but it's actually a real-deal, crowd-pleasing concept car built by American Motors (AMC), with styling not by Mattel but by legendary designer Dick Teague. Back in the late 1970s, it showed off AMC's design chops on tour and hinted at the future of the company.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-profiles/is-this-funky-am-van-the-greatest-amc-that-never-was/
56 REPLIES 56
tmkreutzer
Intermediate Driver

This is a funky, fresh design that likely would have attracted at least a few buyers and stolen sales away from the Ford Pinto wagons. Not really a "van" without a sliding door on the side - if they had included one they might have trumped Iacocca and kicked off the mini-van craze a couple of years earlier.

But sadly, and I say this as an AMC fan, they just never had enough money to do things "right." Their cars were usually underwhelmingly executed and, had these gone into production, they'd be probably be as rare at local car shows as Concordes and an Eagles are today,

Swamibob
Technician

Wow! I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.. UGH! I grew up in an AMC family, but that's just not good looking at all.
Air_and_Water
Instructor

If by "not good looking at all" you mean "awesome", then yeah. Because it's awesome. 🙂
jeraldjcook
New Driver

Agreed, that thing is awesome.
jclawman
New Driver

i wanna buy it and put it on a cj5 chassis...
JohninNC
Instructor

I love it. Every time I see a wacky car like this, I imagine dropping the kids off at school in it (6.5 and 10.5 years old). The Toyota Starion Turbo gets me fired up, or an imported Suzuki Jimny (Samurai) with crazy graphics and small lift/ mudgrips.
JohninNC
Instructor

Starlet not Starion. Toyota Starlet turbo. I do love the Starion though. That Countach inspired Starion/ Conquest Hagerty showed a while back was the bomb.
JohninNC
Instructor

I messed up again, the I messed up again, the Dodge Daytona was made to look sort of like a poor man’s countach. 

chryslerblood
Pit Crew

Hmmmm ... does anyone see a resemblance to the Dodge Colt mini vans, Eagle Summit minivans, Plymouth Colt Vista Wagons, Mitsubishi Expo mini vans of the early 1980's ? .. lines are pretty similar. ... yes,, not exact but, hmmmmmm.
spark123
Detailer

Reminds me of my wife's first car a 1981 Dodge Colt (Mitsubishi)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/keveh/8491564048
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

The Colt always reminded me of a rationalized Pacer, Chryslerblood. From it's first appearance
elldorado2000
Detailer

Yes, I would take one. All day long.
buellerdan
Instructor

Looks like an AMC Pacer wagon design that was rejected by management.
Henning
New Driver

The question "Could it have saved AMC" is a resounding no. AMC did not have product failures, AMC had corporate culture failure. Public corporations are not about the products, they are about share value and generating churn and profits in the stock markets. The products and their profitability are largely irrelevant. AMC always had good cars that sold well. They just had crap management in the corporate offices and board room. 

Snailish
Instructor

As the 50s wound down all the independents had supply chain issues of scale. Hard to compete in mass market sales when the big 3 competition is buying everything in 10 or 100X bulk prices versus your costs.

 

Look at the various ways they (Studebaker, Packard, Nash, Kaiser, etc.) tried to save tooling costs. Annual model changes killed the independents, something the big 3 got rid of pretty quickly too (in hindsight) but not till it worked at thinning the field.

 

Maybe the failed attempt to make "the big 4" could have kept those brands around as a true player.

 

Maybe some of them letting go of mass market sooner and being narrow focus could have let them go a few more decades until they got absorbed in the 90s like all the Euro and such brands. Jeep for one could have stood alone. Multiple successful companies were spun out of some of the other orphan brands.

FloridaMarty
Instructor

Is AMC history worth saving? The only people interested in such a vehicle, Wayne or Garth.

Snailish
Instructor

Yes AMC history is worth saving.

 

Studebaker should be remembered.

 

We are all diminished when Locomobile is spoken for the last time.*

 

 

*replace AMC, Studebaker & Locomobile with ancestral contributors to any area you care about.

Mike_E_V
Detailer

The public wasn't ready for a mini van in the mid to late 70's. If Jeep couldn't save AMC, this unit surely would not done the job. AMC should hhave built a decent truck years ago. There are not many lines which survive at the avrage consumer level without a truck in the line.
Maestro1
Technician

I would have purchased it, hands down. It's a great idea, Teague genious, perfect for folks like myself who have lived in cities forever; you can park it! Style and utility all in one. I don't
see pictures of an interior but if this is a mule I'm not surprised.
I feel badly about the Independents going out of business. There were some really interesting designs and product, and rather than having to do with the conventional wisdom
(Ford, GM, and so on) one could be driving something special. Thank you Andrew, well done.
topside
Advanced Driver

I think it was a great idea: small pickups were really popular at the time, and Chrysler's minivans were a huge hit. Displaying it as an "activity vehicle" instead of a hot rod could have made a world of difference. Heck, today a small truck or van is still a good idea.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

Chrysler's minivans weren't out until five years later.
discard1
New Driver

A significant portion of the look of "The Greatest AMC That Never Was" is the ever-terrific American Racing Vector wheel, spot on in many applications.

Anyone know who drew that wheel???
JSievers
Instructor

Agreed. The AR Vector was one of the very best wheel designs of that era, and still looks great today.
Pilott
Intermediate Driver

Cool history, Andrew! Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I have been a van guy since my first 1966 Chevy Van back in the late 1960's. Vans have their own unique history and the deeper you dig the more fun and amazing they are. Great find!
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

I was going to ask what drivetrain was in it but was disappointed there was none to behold. It looks like a Hot Wheels car for sure.

joetunick
Intermediate Driver

And it's wearing a cheesy set of Marchal 750's, one perpetually crooked. So period correct.
Patrician
Detailer

Without the Independent car companies who had to fight for market share everyday and were willing to take design chances there is no real innovation. AMC in the late fifties with the concept of a small economy car. Their use of dual system master cylinders which every car has today. Studebaker with postwar design, Loewy coupe, wild 2 tone coloring, hill holder(decades before Suburu) and the 1959 Lark which launched Corvair, Falcon, Valiant and Lancer by the big guys. The Avanti speaks for itself. Small personal fast luxury car. Hudson's low center of gravity. Packard's self-leveling suspension, side marker lights and automatic overdrive transmission. Kaiser's anatomic interiors and early supercharging. Cars didn't have safe reliable heaters until Nash's Weather Eye hit the market. American Bantam's Jeep 4 wheel drive vehicle.
It amazes me how with such small budgets for R&D what the Independents were able to come up with. I remember reading on a plane ride on the back of napkin Studebaker designer Duncan McCrea came up with the complete design for the 1959 Lark which pulled the company out of extinction. Dick Teague's 1955 Packard facelift. It didn't even look like its predecessor for minimal money . Except for Packard the other independents weren't Detroit based and had more freedom of thought. Not always good but certainly not mainstream. The 1958 Studebaker line comes to mind immediately but no worse than AMC's bathtub cars.
OldFordMan
Advanced Driver

Yeah this ain't Mattel's Hot Wheels. But it is a shame that so many "customs" I see (especially trucks) look like Hot Wheels toys. I mean a 6" lift on them and tires into the next lane?

This is insanely awesome. I would have bought one to compliment our Gremlin.
27340
Pit Crew

A car for Rodney Dangerfield. "Every Sunday I take my family out for a push."
Jay
Intermediate Driver

I don't find it objectionable. It looks dated today, but is consistent with other designs from the late 1970's era. It was 20 years ahead of the PT Cruiser, which was a money-maker for Chrysler back in the 2000's. The AMC Van's steeply raked windshield and hood are reminiscent of the GM "dustbuster" vans from the 90's - and they came out a decade after Dick Teague penned this design.

But yea, why couldn't someone have straightened out that left driving light before the photo session? it sort of captures the level of quality typical for Detroit in that era.
espo70
Advanced Driver

I love it! Has everything that made late 70's-early 80's cars cool; bold graphics, deep dish rims, and raised white letter tires. I wish concave wheels with some depth and rwl tires would make a comeback. I can see a 70's themed, new Challenger set up like that...maybe a Camaro.
SteveA
Intermediate Driver

The reason it didn't sell well back then was ugly wasn't in like it is now.
gster
Intermediate Driver

I quite like it, all that glass would make it an oven in the summer.
PRScott
Instructor

A rambler is a rambler is a rambler!!! Except the AMX which was a fast rambler.
daydreamerdav
Intermediate Driver

Thank you Henning, not too many of us left these days. I really miss all the independent auto makers. They kept the big 3 from making dull never changing style cars. I remember reading that in 1964 Rambler Actually became #3 beating out Chrysler in sales. That year the Ambassador won several car of the year awards. If Studebaker. Packard, Rambler-AMC and alot of other independents were not around all the big 3 would not have bothered to make good looking cars. Rambler 1st cars to have unibody construction, and best yet for the guys was the reclining seats a real popular item at the drive in movies. Rambler also had the original 327cu.in.and won the 1957 Daytona on the beach race. Studebaker, what great body styles and the original 289cu.in. Super Hawk what a great looking car. Packards were beautiful looking well built cars. but like Henning said they refused to give up to the way the big 3 just shoved many not all, generic looking cars down are throats. from the mid 80s you couldn't tell one make from another. How boring was that!. As for AMC going under they made poor executive decisions If they only kept up with the jeeps and 4x4 Eagles they would still be in business and chrysler would have gone down the drain. As for Florida Marty the history is the key with out it and not to explore it is a true crime.
BillB1
New Driver

A Gremlin on steroids!
MARK400
Detailer

This is the result of when a Pacer and a Gremlin have a child. Wayne and Garth would be proud.
MARK400
Detailer

And oh yea.....schwing !.
Buzz
Detailer

Meh. It’s cuteness would have sold 120k units but no. It wouldn’t have saved the company. The Pacer X wagon is basically that car with a long nose and for the time, better engine options. You could get the 304 V8. The 4WD would have been a great deal. Sadly we’d have to wait for Eagle.
fotogmike
Intermediate Driver

It would have been quite top-heavy with that much glass, but I think the overall design is a funky kind of cool. If I had the money to buy it and garage space to work on it, I'd find a suitable chassis and drivetrain to match what the decals claim. I hope it finds a good home because I'd love to see it appear at a car show some day.
Paladin
Pit Crew

Its cute but a bit too pricey at this point; I'd drive it though. Its like a shortened version of a van, but not ugly and boxy like similar minivans of that era.
RW68RSConv
Detailer

Would this have been the first (and only) production 4 cylinder turbo with side pipes?
1d1a2d2a
Intermediate Driver

Did you miss the part where, there is no drive train, it is on a WOODEN frame, there is no turbo, no 4x4 wheel drive and a partial interior. Concept or not, $72,000. I have a bridge in London l will sell you cheaper...lol. You conceive all you want but design and FUNCTION is what we as car builders and restorers are about. We have some who's designs and innovations have inspired manufacturers.Praise those individuals , Shelby and Loewy to name a couple. To find this awesome l feel is like comparing Big Daddy Roth to Hanna Barbera and think they're real. Sorry, that's just the way l see it.
Snailish
Instructor

Roth was real.

 

Practical... well you got me there I guess.

TG
Technician

I like it. It's the quirky kind of design from yesteryear that you just don't see anymore
MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

Those look like Western Cyclone wheels on the cute push mobile. Same era, think they came out that year.
These "show cars" were excitement builders at car expo's.
Next time you go to an auto show, get down on your knees and look underneath the latest "whiz bang" space mobile drawing the crowds. Odds are, it's a push mobile like this.
discard1
New Driver

Thanks for the tip about WesternCyclone. I used AR Vector 10 spoke wheels a couple times back in the day so I thought the AMC wheels were them. After reading you comment I had another look ... at the cap in the last photo series and see a logo I do not recognize. Is it Western Cyclone???
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

Front end looks plucked off a Chevy Vega.
There was too much hopium in this to make it anything but just for show.
What would AMC have turboed? The AMC 4 [purchased from VW/Audi]? The Iron Duke from GM? Or the 258 six?
'alas, those orange decals write a check that this concept can’t cash.' An apt comment if ever there was one.
The money blown on the Matador two door and Pacer could have made this a reality and a more viable long term offering at the right time.
Although I love the Matador, Pacer and AMC, those two products were a criminal misuse of limited funds.
This van is more a last gasp effort like Packard's big plans for '57-'58. Something to show AMC was still alive.
Snailish
Instructor

Nissan Cube's symmetrical and slightly? sportier grandparent...