The Truth About Cars » american motors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:11:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » american motors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com American Motors AMX/3 – You Can Own Designer Dick Teague’s Favorite Concept Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/american-motors-amx3-you-can-own-designer-dick-teagues-favorite-concept-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/american-motors-amx3-you-can-own-designer-dick-teagues-favorite-concept-car/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 16:01:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754337 Richard Teague is probably my favorite car designer. No disrespect intended towards the many other talented people who design cars and trucks but Teague was the original silk purse from a sow’s ear guy. He’s best remembered for heading the styling department at American Motors from 1961 to 1986, where limited development budgets forced his […]

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Full gallery here.

Richard Teague is probably my favorite car designer. No disrespect intended towards the many other talented people who design cars and trucks but Teague was the original silk purse from a sow’s ear guy. He’s best remembered for heading the styling department at American Motors from 1961 to 1986, where limited development budgets forced his team to be creative.

 

The compact 1970 Hornet, itself based on Rambler mechanicals, ended up being the basis for a showroom full of cars. It got chopped into the subcompact Gremlin, upfitted into the slightly more upscale Concord and eventually lifted to make the Ur-crossover, the AMC Eagle 4X4 wagon. Teague was a master at recycling design ideas but keeping products distinct. The two-seat AMX concept was stretched to become the Javelin production car so the production AMX and the Javelin are obviously related but they are still easily distinguished from one another. Before coming to AMC, Dick Teague worked for GM and then Packard, where he was responsible for the last genuine Packards, the 1955 and 1956 models, which looked remarkably contemporary considering Teague was working with a body shell that dated to the early 1950s.

With the exception of the 1970s Matador coupe and the Pacer, both radical and polarizing designs, almost all of the cars designed under Teague at AMC were necessarily derivative. Even the Matador, which was based on an existing platform, and the Pacer, which was designed around the stillborn General Motors rotary engine, had constraints forced upon Teague and his team. Dick Teague did get the chance to do one clean sheet design while at AMC. It was called the AMX/3, a midengine Italian-American sports car that came within a hairsbreadth of production.

1956 Packard Caribbean

1956 Packard Caribbean

Teague considered the AMX/3 his masterpiece, the purest expression of his design philosophy and it’s fitting that his family still owns perhaps the finest example of the six cars that Giotto Bizzarrini fabricated for AMC in Italy before AMC management pulled the plug on the project.

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Following the success of Cooper in Formula One, Lotus at the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 and the Ford GT40 and similar cars in endurance racing, in the mid 1960s makers of production sports cars started to embrace the midengine layout those race cars had proven. Lamborghini introduced the Miura, in many ways the blueprint for most of the midengine cars to follow, Lotus introduced the Europa and Alejandro DeTomaso brought out the Ford powered Mangusta. The design studios at the American automakers in Detroit took notice and midengine concepts were produced at both Chevrolet and Ford. Eventually Ford would expand their relationship with DeTomaso, importing the 351 “Cleveland” V8 powered Pantera and selling it through Lincoln-Mercury dealers.

AMX/2 concept

AMX/2 concept

Teague also took notice and in 1968 he drew a two passenger fastback coupe with what he called an “airfoil” shape.  AMC group vice-president Gerald C. Meyers and chairman Roy Chapin, Jr. saw the sketch, liked it and gave their approval to making a full sized model. AMC staff designers Fred Hudson and Bob Nixon worked under Teague’s supervision to come up with a shape that looked good to people then and still has great proportions and attractive lines. They called it the AMX/2. Theoretically based around a midengine layout, the closest the AMX/2 came to reality was as a fiberglass pushmobile show car that debuted at the 1969 Chicago Auto Show. The reaction from the public and the press was very positive, with some people offering to put deposits down. The response was so good that Meyers and Chapin authorized the design and engineering of a limited production version to go on sale in the 1970-71 model year at a price of $10,000.

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Dick Teague (3rd from left), modeler Keith Goodnough, stylist Jack Kenitz and an AMC executive (wearing the suit)

Giorgetto Giugiaro had recently opened up the Italdesign studio and the AMC executives commissioned a competition between Giugiaro and their in-house design staff headed by Teague. Joining Nixon and Teague on the design were Chuck Mashigan (who had prior worked at Ford and Chrysler, including penning the Chrysler Turbine car), Vince Geraci and Jack Kenitz. The full size clay model was shaped by Keith Goodnough and Ron Martin. Molds were pulled from the clay model and a full size fiberglass pushmobile was fabricated. Italdesign sent over their own foamcore based model. Though it’s never been seen in public, Giugiaro’s entrant has been described as typical of his designs of the day, low and angular, but AMC managers thought it looked “lumpy” compared to what became known as the AMX/3.

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At first glance the AMX/3 shares a general shape with the Miura and the Pantera but it’s more angular than the Miura and has more curves than the Pantera. Some have called it “voluptuous”. Chris Bangle would likely approve of the surface detailing and panel shapes. The aggressive prow, more complex than the Pantera’s simple wedge, is backed by a hood with functional air extractors. Along the side of the car is an S shaped character line that you’ll recognize from the Matador coupe, though it works much better on the AMX/3. You can see the air cleaner of the AMC 390 CI V8 through the rear side windows and the back glass, the engine has a matte black cover with louvers, and everything wraps up in a very tidy rear end that featured something rather ahead of its day, a retractable spoiler.

It was not a very large car, just 175.6 inches in overall length and a hair under 75 inches wide, sitting on a 105.3 inch wheelbase. Tracks were substantial for the day at 60.6/61.2 inches front/rear. Overall height was just 43.5 inches, just 3.5″ taller than the Ford GT40 race car (which got the numeric part of its name from its height).

AMC’s factory in Kenosha was set up to mass produce conventional American cars, not limited production, tube framed, exotic sports cars. Though they turned down an Italian designer, AMC looked to Italy for the AMX/3′s engineering and fabrication. American car companies had been using Italian design and coachbuilding companies to make concept and limited production cars since the late 1940s. To turn Teague’s dream into a real car, AMC turned to Giotto Bizzarrini.

Before we go on with how the AMX/3 came into being, it’s appropriate to give a brief look at Giotto Bizzarrini’s background, so you have a better idea of the AMC supercar’s pedigree. The son of a wealthy landowner from Livorno, and grandson of a scientist who aided Marconi, Giotto Bizzarrini got his engineering degree from the University of Pisa in 1953, using a modified Fiat Topolino as his thesis. He was hired by Alfa Romeo, where he worked as both a test driver and as an engineer in their experimental department. According to a story, in 1957 Enzo Ferrari hired Bizzarrini because he was impressed with an engineer who could drive. Eventually moving up to chief engineer for Ferrari, his most notable accomplishment there was the 250 GTO, one of the greatest cars of all time. After a palace revolt against il Commendatore’s plans to reorganize the engineering department, Bizzarrini and four other Ferrari engineers left to form the short lived ATS, to compete in F1 and produce GT cars. That effort went belly up and Bizzarrini then worked with Count Giovanni Volpi on applying the latest aerodynamic theories to a Ferrari GTO chassis. The result is a rather famous car known as the Ferrari Breadvan, because of it’s long station wagon-like roofline and cutoff Kamm tail. He then worked with Iso Rivolta, though after a dispute with them he began building cars under his own brand name. Oh, and in between the Breadvan and the founding of Bizzarrini SpA, Giotto was engaged by one Ferruccio Lamborghini, who had had his own dispute with old man Ferrari, to design the V12 engine used in the first Lamborghini, the 350GTV. Bizzarrini’s design became the basis for every Lambo V12 made until the Murcielago went out of production in 2010.

Not a bad CV, eh?

The heart of any midengine car is the transaxle. Bizzarrini used a ZF box for the first of six prototypes he would build but the others were sourced from OTO Melara of La Spezia, Italy because it better handled the torque of the AMC 390 V8 that American Motors wanted to use. That V8 was mounted longitudinally with the transmission behind it in the tube space frame. Suspension was double wishbones and coil-overs at all four corners with dual shocks in back and sway bars front and back. Germany’s Ate supplied the vented disk brakes. Fifteen inch wheels were from Campagnolo, with 6.5″ wide fronts and significantly larger 9.5″ wide rims in back, mounted with 205mm and 225mm tires respectively. With a 3.45:1 rear end and 340 horsepower, the AMX/3 had a theoretical stop speed of 160 mph and Bizzarrini did do some high speed testing at the Nurburgring but he found that there was lift at high speed, almost getting airborne at 145. After adding a chin spoiler, at Monza the Italian engineer demonstrated to AMC executives that the AMX/3 was indeed capable of reaching the calculated top speed. He reportedly turned to the executives and asked, “Will 170 MPH be satisfactory?” Collector Walter Kirtland, who collects Iso Grifo cars and other 1960s Italian exotics, currently owns the Monza test AMX/3 and he says that Giotto Bizzarrini told him that it was the best handling car that he ever built. High praise considering he built the Ferrari 250GTO.

The stated weight target was 3,100 lbs but the finished prototypes may weigh as much as 3,500. As many off the shelf AMC components that could be used, were, so items like the steering wheel and column, air conditioning controls, assorted switches and exterior door handles will look familiar to anyone who’s driven an AMC car from that era. They may also recognize the AMC engine with its distinctive air cleaner.

Bizzarrini started fabricating the first five cars with steel bodies based on the fiberglass model and BMW was contracted to get the design ready for production. The finished AMX/3 was debuted in Rome, Italy in March of 1970.  The original plan was for the AMX/3 to be a prestige building halo car, with a $10,000 retail price, a big jump up from the $4,000 production AMX two seater it was going to replace.

Teague said later, “We were into racing at that time with Trans Am and all that, and it was really kind of a tool, but a serious one, to create an image for the company that was something other than four-door Ramblers and ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ cars.”

Mark Donohue was then racing Javelins in Trans-Am and he liked the AMX/3. So did all the journalists who drove it. Reports from the time quote a 0-to-60 time of 5.5 seconds, and a 1/4 mile time of  13.5, credible times now, supercar times then. An unrealistic announced run of 5,000 units was scaled down to two dozen cars for 1970, with output increasing as demand called for it. However, it was not to be.

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Mark Donohue with the AMX/3

Production, according to the sources, was greenlit. Tooling was designed, suppliers for purchased parts were lined up and the car was even unveiled before the Pantera. However, the AMX/3 never made it to dealer showrooms. The UAW local in Kenosha struck AMC in late 1969 for 20 days, demanding, and getting, parity with UAW workers at the Big 3 automakers. Not only did the strike cost AMC money in lost production that it couldn’t afford to lose, it delayed the introduction of the Hornet, a critical car for AMC. The financial aftermath caused the company to cancel most special projects. Also, accounting determined that they’d have to charge at least $12,000 for the AMX/3 to make a business case for it. With the Pantera introduced at the AMX/3′s original target price of $10,000, that made the AMC sports car a no-starter.

Also, the times were changing. Teague told Muscle Cars of the ’60s and ’70s, that “…the program was done on a shoestring, and we were on the verge of entering a new era. The musclecar period was ending, and industry priorities were starting to change.” Government regulations were also becoming a factor. To stay in production the AMX/3 would have needed bigger bumpers and emissions controls including catalytic converters. There was simply no money at AMC for those developments. The program was killed. According to Hemmings, Bizzarrini had already completed five cars and had begun work on a second batch of five, when AMC shelved the AMX/3. Bizzarrini’s business partner, Salvatore Diamonte, finished a sixth car from remaining parts and supposedly cut up the remaining bodies which have not yet resurfaced.

Four of the six completed prototypes ended up in private hands while the remaining two were left exposed to Michigan winters outside of AMC’s suburban Detroit headquarters.

In 2005, Teague’s son Jeff, also an automotive designer, told Motor Trend that in 1980, “Dad got tired of seeing those two cars–one silver, one silver blue–rotting away outside the AMC offices and asked company CEO Jerry Myers what could be done.” Old concept cars were worth nothing back then and Myers suggested that they would be crushed. “No way my father would let that happen, so Myers asked Dad if he wanted to buy them. He did, of course, even though they’d deteriorated over the previous decade. We also got hold of a couple dozen unused transaxles.”

Teague restored both cars. He was a big fan of primary colors, so during their restorations the silver car was painted yellow and the blue car was painted red. The AMC VP of styling sold the yellow AMX/3 during the 1980s, but he kept the red one, his favorite of the six, until the end of his life.

All six AMX/3 cars that were made still exist. Four of them have been restored. Dick Teague’s personal red AMX/3, considered the best of the six, remains in the possession of his family, a treasured heirloom if there ever was one. It’s been on display at a couple of museums including the Petersen and last year the Teague’s had it at the Chicago Auto Show where these photos were taken. Some of the other restored cars have been shown at concours level shows, so it’s not as though the AMX/3 is unknown, but I’m a bit of an AMC buff, I’ve known about the AMX/3 for a while and it was a big treat to be able to see one in person at the Chicago show.

If you’d like to own an AMX/3, you’re in luck. To begin with, Walter Kirtland is selling one of the original six cars, the same vehicle that Giotto Bizzarrini drove at 160+ mph at Monza. He put it on sale last fall for $895,000, later lowering the price to $795K. I spoke to him while preparing this post and the car is still for sale. Kirtland told me that he’s gotten a couple of serious offers, but he said but for less than the current asking price, he’d rather keep it. Besides the fact that the AMX/3 is one of my favorite cars, I think the asking price is fair. To begin with, not many high profile, fully engineered and running concept cars come to market in the first place and while there are enough for guys like Joe Bortz and Steve Juliano to have amassed specialized collections of just concept and show cars, the number of AMC concepts out there has to be very small. The last time one of the six AMX/3s was sold was 17 years ago. So Kirtland’s AMX/3 is a rare thing. While AMC cars are usually an inexpensive way to get into the car collecting hobby, there are some very serious AMC enthusiasts who can afford a near seven figure car. Add in the provenance of Giotto Bizzarrini and Richard Teague and I won’t be surprised if someone eventually meets Kirtland’s price. It would certainly be on my lottery list.

Walter Kirtland's AMX/3, which Giotto Bizzarrini test at 160+ mph, is for sale for $795,000

Walter Kirtland’s AMX/3, which Giotto Bizzarrini tested at 160+ mph, is for sale for $795,000

If  seven hundred and ninety five thousand dollars is a bit steep for you, there’s another way that you can own an AMX/3, though it’s going to involve some work. In one of those great stories, someone in 2007 saw a local classified ad and posted it in an AMC enthusiast’s forum. Tom Dulaney saw the post, realized what the car was, called and bought what he determined to be the original fiberglass pushmobile AMX/3. The pushmobile is probably the purest expression of Teague’s design, since Bizzarrini made some slight changes. Rather than retell the story about how it surfaced, I’ll let Dulaney, who has a site devoted to the AMX/3, tell it in his own words:

On Monday, April 9th 2007 in the evening I was reading the For Sale section on an amc forum website and saw a post by “AmcKidd” that read as follows.

AMX-3 !! not mine
Apr 9th, 2007, 11:39am
just looking through local rag paper, i dont do extreme Collector cars, so someone will get a DEAL if its what its advertised as !!!

1970 AMX-III-mid engine proto-type, Roller needs restored, worth 225000. when finished, as- is 22,000.00 Kelsey-hayes 20 spoke, original tires, OTO molero 4 speed transmission, Complete history, photos, & ads- Phone or Number (???? exactly as posted)
Cmon deep pockets, jump on THIS one !! LOL
Even though it had been several hours after the posting first appeared when I read it, I called the number and the line was busy, the line was busy for the next 30 minutes, but eventually Mr. Jim Jensen answered the phone and the conversation went something like this.

Jensen “Hello”.
Dulaney “Hello, I am calling about the car for sale, I know you have probably been getting a lot of calls.”
Jensen “Yea, you probably heard the busy signal.”
Dulaney “Yes Sir, I did, has the car sold yet?”
Jensen “I was talking to a guy for quite a while and he wants me to send him some pictures of the car.”
Dulaney “I have an idea, you don’t have to send pictures. I live in San Diego and I have a car trailer. I am going to take a quick shower and get in my car and drive up there right away. I will buy your car and we can put it on the trailer.”
Jensen “Well, I am not going to come down in price, I will no accept a penny less than $22,000.”
Dulaney “I would not dream of trying to negotiate with you, I will pay your full price, I bank at Union Bank of California”.
Jensen “Well the first person to show up with the money can have the car”.
Dulaney “ I will be driving up tonight and I will be there tomorrow around noon.”
Jensen “Well if you are the first one to show up, you can have it”.
Dulaney “I’ll take it, I am on my way”.
I drove straight up 600 miles and arrived a little after noon.
Jensen “My son put some pictures up on the forum. I have been getting a lot of calls and my Grandson says there a lot of e-mails about the car. Some folks have been offering considerably more for the car. But I told you that you could have it for $22,000 and here you are, so I will keep my word. Would you like to see the car?”
Dulaney “No Sir, I would like to go to the bank and get you your money”.

After our transaction at the bank and lunch, he showed me the car and parts he had and we loaded the car up. As I looked in the rear view mirror on the drive home, I felt as if I was being followed by a museum piece in primer, thanks Jim.

Since then, Dulaney has had a female mold made from the pushmobile and has made a small number of fiberglass replica bodies that he hopes to sell.

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American Motors always seemed to punch above its weight, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that AMC tried to make a credible midengine sports car, or that the one it tried to make got as close to production as it did. In the case of gthe AMX/3, though, their reach exceeded their grasp. Still, it was a noble effort and the fact that all six of the cars that were built are all at least preserved is one indication that these are special cars, valued by informed enthusiasts.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

1969_AMC_AMX_2_Concept_05 69amc_amx-2_5 repo3 fiberglass AMX-II Amx_2 img_0193 img_0191 img_0190a img_0189 img_0188 img_0187 img_0186 img_0185 img_0180a img_0178 img_0177 img_0176 img_0174 img_0173 img_0202 img_0201 img_0199 img_0197 img_0194 amx3zjfixed amx3zinn2 amx3zinn1 amx3zifixed 1969-amx-2-concept-car-and-1970-amx-3-6 1969-amx-2-concept-car-and-1970-amx-3-2

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Vintage AMC AMX PPG Indy Car World Series Pace Car Up For Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vintage-amc-amx-ppg-indy-car-world-series-pace-car-up-for-sale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vintage-amc-amx-ppg-indy-car-world-series-pace-car-up-for-sale/#comments Sun, 22 Dec 2013 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685570 In 1981 the CART/PPG Indy Car series was in its third year. Formed in 1979 by racing teams who had split from the previous sanctioning body, USAC, over how races were promoted, the way that television contracts were handled and what they believed to be the small size of the winners’ purses, the ‘81 PPG […]

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In 1981 the CART/PPG Indy Car series was in its third year. Formed in 1979 by racing teams who had split from the previous sanctioning body, USAC, over how races were promoted, the way that television contracts were handled and what they believed to be the small size of the winners’ purses, the ‘81 PPG Indy Car World Series had 11 races on the schedule and featured drivers like Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti. In time the series would go on to become the sole sanctioning body for all of Indy Car racing, but in 1981 the series was still in its infancy and, despite having Indy Car as a part of it name, did not even include the Indianapolis 500 among its officially sanctioned events.

To help promote the series, CART/PPG approached several major American auto manufacturers and asked them each to construct pace cars for the different events. Five manufacturers responded, including American Motors, who produced a custom bodied AMX. Based on the production “Spirit,” the AMX featured a fuel injected, turbo charged 258CID in-line 6 cylinder engine capable of a reported 450 horsepower. The car made its debut at the Milwaukee 150 on June 7 and at the end of the season went to AMC’s Vice President of Design, Richard Teague.

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Today that car very car is being offered on eBay by the West Palm Beach specialty car dealership Marino Motors. Based on the many photos offered, it looks like a very clean, well thought out car. It has a full roll cage, period safety gear and a surprisingly complete turbo themed interior that makes it appear more like a production car than something that was constructed exclusively for the race track. Currently, the bids are in excess of $33,000 and the reserve has yet to be met. To an ordinary guy like me $33K is a lot of money, but to a high end collector looking for something truly unique, this car might just be an interesting opportunity. Pop over to either of the above links to see dozens more detailed photos. Love it or hate it, at the very least, it’s one of a kind.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Renault Encore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1985-renault-encore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1985-renault-encore/#comments Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=646930 While the US government decided Chrysler was too big to fail and bailed out the company with loan guarantees in 1979, American Motors was judged just the right size to fail and had to get bailed out by the French government. This led right to the weird history of the Renault Alliance, which included a […]

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12 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile the US government decided Chrysler was too big to fail and bailed out the company with loan guarantees in 1979, American Motors was judged just the right size to fail and had to get bailed out by the French government. This led right to the weird history of the Renault Alliance, which included a Wisconsin-ized Renault 11 hatchback called the Encore. The Encore wasn’t a huge seller in North America and the car tended to deteriorate quickly under American conditions, so today’s Junkyard Find is a rare one.

Can you see yourself in, or maybe as an Encore?

Driverless, stretchy Encores bend lysergically about the nation’s mountain roads!
13 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car spent at least part of its life being towed behind a giant RV.
05 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s no telling how many of these miles took place under the Encore’s own power.
02 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin23-channel CBs had been obsolete for quite a few years before this car was built, so this Surveyor rig was an antique even in 1985.
08 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJanuary 10, 1985 was a fine day in Kenosha.
03 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinKenosha or not, this HVAC control panel has a suspiciously foreign look about it.

03 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1979 AMC Spirit DL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1979-amc-spirit-dl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1979-amc-spirit-dl/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498384 The AMC Spirit-based ’82 Eagle SX/4 Junkyard Find that we admired last week was an interesting car, but it was pretty well picked over and started its junkyard career as a basket case. In the very same Denver junkyard, however, sits this much nicer and more complete ’79 Spirit DL. It was so nice, in […]

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24 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe AMC Spirit-based ’82 Eagle SX/4 Junkyard Find that we admired last week was an interesting car, but it was pretty well picked over and started its junkyard career as a basket case. In the very same Denver junkyard, however, sits this much nicer and more complete ’79 Spirit DL. It was so nice, in fact, that I had to buy some parts from it!
19 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI needed a headlight dimmer switch for my ’66 Dodge A100 van, and so many vehicles of the 1959-1984 period used the same switch that I was able to get one for my van from this ’79 Spirit. It works perfectly.
02 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m not quite the AMC expert I ought to be, but I can tell that this Spirit came with plenty of options. Check out this sporty steering wheel, for example.
03 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car had the fairly rare Rally Pak gauge panel— complete with Malaise-fuel-price-friendly vacuum gauge— on the center console, and I just had to buy it. Maybe I’ll put it in my van, maybe I’ll sell it on eBay, or maybe I’ll just admire it next to my collection of 80s Japanese digital instrument clusters. For 15 bucks, I couldn’t say no.
14 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy late 1970s standards, the 258-cubic-inch L6 offered plenty of power.
05 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTan pleather buckets, floor-shift automatic, gauges, probably an 8-track player for your Gary Wright tapes, torquey engine… what’s not to like about this fine Wisconsin machine?
23 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe owner’s manual is still inside.
17 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOK, so it wasn’t the best-looking car on the road in 1979, but at least it was prettier than the astonishingly hideous Datsun F10.

If forced to choose between a Spirit and a Chevette… well, that’s no choice at all. Spirit all the way!

Let the spirit move you!

And the Spirit was immune to rust, according to this ad.

In Mexico, where the Spirit was sold as the VAM Rally, the ads were más macho than what we got north of the border.

The VAM Rally AMX American GT came with the Rally Pak gauges and an overwhelmingly bordellic red interior.

01 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1979 AMC Spirit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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The Encyclopedia of Obscure Concept and Show Cars: Part One – Acura to Chevrolet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-encyclopedia-of-obscure-concept-and-show-cars-part-one-acura-to-chevrolet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-encyclopedia-of-obscure-concept-and-show-cars-part-one-acura-to-chevrolet/#comments Mon, 15 Apr 2013 12:30:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484786 Is it a cliche to say that as a writer I try to avoid cliches? Anyway, I do try to avoid the word legendary (see Dash Parr on being special), but some concept and show cars are, well, legendary. Not in the sense, of course, that people tell grand tales about them but because they […]

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1973 Ford Pinto Sportiva Concept

Is it a cliche to say that as a writer I try to avoid cliches? Anyway, I do try to avoid the word legendary (see Dash Parr on being special), but some concept and show cars are, well, legendary. Not in the sense, of course, that people tell grand tales about them but because they are remembered, ending up in books and blog posts. Some concept and show cars are, if not the stuff of legends, certainly the stuff of history. Other cars, not so much. For every memorable Cadillac Evoq, Sixteen and Converj, there’s been at least one La Espada or Aurora, cars that never really caught the public or auto enthusiasts’ imagination even if they may have influenced production cars. A concept car can cost an easy million dollars to build, but once that year’s auto show season is over, it’s often forgotten.

For a long time, after they came off the show circuit many show cars were destroyed or otherwise passed out of company hands. They were of no further use to the car companies so they were discarded. Few things become as quickly dated or as passe as last year’s concept cars. After collectors like Joe Bortz and Steve Juliano started finding and restoring those cars, though, car companies have tended to regard show cars as worth saving, if only because of their pecuniary and publicity value, though I think some folks inside the companies do have a clue as to their historic and cultural value. Today I doubt many show vehicles are deliberately destroyed and when they do let concept and show cars slip the bonds of their corporation, car companies try to get maximum value out of the transaction. As part of their centennial celebration a decade ago, in 2002 Ford had Christie’s auction off 50 concept cars from FoMoCo’s corporate collection, with the proceeds going to charity. During GM’s financial crisis and bankruptcy, in 2009 the company culled out 250  prototypes, SEMA show cars, and concepts from their Heritage collection and sold them at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale. Since then, car companies have auctioned off a number of other prototypes for publicity and charitable purposes.

While researching Detroit’s legendary (if the shoe fits) Alexander brothers, who built a series of award winning custom cars and also made show cars for Ford in the 1960s, I came across a photo of the 1973 Pinto Sportiva Concept (not an Alexander brothers’ car, though I suppose it’s possible that Larry Alexander may have worked on it as by then he was working for Ford as a master metal modeler in Ford’s prototype shop). It’s a notchback take on the Pinto that presages the Mustang II which was itself based on the Pinto platform, and to make it at least somewhat interesting, Ford gave it a targa roof.

Did you know about the 1973 Ford Pinto Sportiva Concept? Neither did I. How about the 1988 Lincoln Machete? Putting aside the concept car itself for a second, how on Earth did someone at Lincoln think that “Machete” resonated with the Lincoln brand, or with its customers? Those cars got me thinking about obscure concept and show cars so I headed to one of my favorite places to find pics of cool cars from the past, the Chicago Auto Show’s website. The Chicago show has hired professional photographers to shoot the show since at least the early 1950s and they’ve graciously compiled a year by year archive on the show’s website that goes back to the turn of the 20th century. In recent years Robert Shiverts (Oscar & Associates) has been the show’s official photographer. The pics that Shiverts and the other official show photographers have shot over the years are a great historical record of American car culture.

I’ve gone through their dropdown menu of concept cars and picked a few whose names I didn’t really recognize (and a few that I think deserve more attention). Some of them did influence production cars even if they didn’t achieve fame as show cars, others are doubly obscure.

Many of the photos are from the Chicago Auto Show site, but I’ve fleshed out the gallery a bit with some publicity and other archival shots.

AcuraConceptCLX@1995Web22Acura’s alphanumeric production car names are hard enough to keep straight. Do you remember the 1995 Acura CL-X concept?

AMCRamblerCheyenneCarrousel@1964Web221964 American Motors Rambler Cheyenne Wagon. Western motifs were popular in the ’50s and ’60s, particularly with station wagons.

RamblerTarpon@1964WebAlso in 1964, AMC showed the Tarpon concept, a great looking fastback based on the compact Rambler American with an almost boattail design. Unfortunately, AMC head Roy Abernethy overruled designer Richard Teague and the roofline ended up on the midsize AMC platform as the Marlin. The proportions didn’t work quite as well. Dodge’s similarly fastback styled but better proportioned Charger outsold the Marlin by a wide margin.

buick 1959 texanBefore there was the Rambler Cheyenne, there was the 1959 Buick Texan, based on the Invicta wagon.

58_wells_fargo_pcxaAs you can see from the 1958 Buick Wells Fargo, western themes weren’t exclusive to station wagons. The Buick Wells Fargo was made especially for actor Dale Robertson, whose western tv show, Wells Fargo, Buick sponsored.

BuickQuestor@1983Web22The 1983 Buick Questor had state of the art electronics, with a laser based keyless entry and a computerized navigation system. That was just two years after IBM introduced the Intel 8088 based 5150 personal computer and the same year two guys named Steve introduced the Apple IIe. Some of the Questor’s electronic features ended up on the production Buick Reatta.

Not to be confused with Brooks Stevens’ masterful Studebaker Sceptre concept, the 1992 Buick Sceptre gave a preview of Buick’s soft curvy design language of the 1990s. It also had one of those newfangled cellular telephones.

BuickQuestor@1995Web22They wouldn’t go financially bankrupt until 2009 but General Motors’ creative bankruptcy was evident by 1995. It’s one thing to recycle a concept name, or another to keep a popular car on the show circuit for a couple of years, but reusing the same actual car a dozen years later with virtually no restyling shows that even the famed staff of GM Design didn’t have much left in the tank by the 1990s. In 1995 Buick revived not just the Questor name (companies recycle concept names all the time), it brought back the same car, only with new paint and upgraded electronic gizmos. It’s a little confusing because they recycled the car but by I believe that by 1995 the Questor had 14 micro-computers, automatic level, attitude and spoiler control, a “systems sentinel” to monitor the status of vehicle systems, heads-up display, computer based map and navigation system, automatically aimed headlamps, theft-deterrent system, road traction monitoring and control system, TV rear-view mirror (GM first put a rear facing tv camera on the Centurion Motorama car in the 1950s), and a touch-command system for entertainment, comfort and convenience functions. As a concept car in general, the Questor accurately predicted many of the features on today’s cars. As a concept car to promote the Buick brand, though, it didn’t do much.

BuickSignia@1998Web221998 Buick Signia station wagon. It’s made some ugliest cars of all time lists but I don’t think it’s that terrible. Okay, on second thought, maybe it is.

BuickCielo@1999Web221999 Buick Cielo. Remember it? Had Bill Mitchell been alive to see it, I think he would have said that it looked like a fish.

cadillac la espada1954RonaldReaganWeb21954 Cadillac La Espada. Actor Ronald Reagan was the Grand Marshall for that year’s Chicago Auto Show. Reagan later rode in Lincolns.

CadillacDebutante@1950Web2211950 Cadillac Debutante, with all unpainted interior metal plated in gold. In today’s politically correct world, would Cadillac use even fake exotic fur, let alone the Debutante’s real leopard skin?

Cadillac-Aurora1Cadillac used the Aurora name in 1990. The name would later appear at the top of Oldsmobile’s lineup.

Cadillac-Vizon-Concept-062002 Vizon Concept, a preview of the Cadillac SRX. The Vizon was an early version of Caddy’s Art & Science design theme.

1956Lately there have been rumors that Chevrolet might expand the Corvette lineup to include a four seater. Expanding the Corvette line is not a new idea. At the 1954 Motorama, Chevy showed hardtop, fastback and station wagon versions of the Corvette, introduced only a year before. For the Motorama in 1957, Chevy debuted the Corvette Impala concept which seated five. Most Motorama cars look a little bizarre to my tastes, but the Corvette Impala was damn near perfect. It’s fate is unknown, probably scrapped.

ChevroletSizigiConcept@1992Web22Did Chevrolet really use the obscure, difficult to pronounce and deliberately misspelled Sigizi in 1992 to introduce the dustbuster minivans? Just what two things are connected sygyzistically in this lozenge shaped vehicle?

Continued tomorrow in part 2, Chrysler to Ford.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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Look What I Found: No, That’s Not A Jeep Cherokee. Wrong Tribe. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/look-what-i-found-no-thats-not-a-jeep-cherokee-wrong-tribe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/look-what-i-found-no-thats-not-a-jeep-cherokee-wrong-tribe/#comments Wed, 04 Jul 2012 14:49:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450242 One of the cool things about car shows in the Detroit area is that you will most likely start seeing interesting cars before you actually enter the show. I like to call them “parking lot prizes”, but then I’m fond of alliteration. At the recent Eyes On Design show, which benefits the Detroit Institute of […]

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Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo

One of the cool things about car shows in the Detroit area is that you will most likely start seeing interesting cars before you actually enter the show. I like to call them “parking lot prizes”, but then I’m fond of alliteration. At the recent Eyes On Design show, which benefits the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, I spotted a couple of prewar V16 Cadillacs, a ’61 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and a first generation Corvette with a custom wooden boat tail before I even got to the press credential tent. Those are not common cars but the subject of this post is particularly rare. What could be rare about a Jeep Cherokee? They were in production in the US, South America and China for over two decades. However, this isn’t a Jeep Cherokee. If you look closely at the badge on the fender, it honors another tribe, the Comanches, and the Comanche was only in production for six model years. I deliberately cropped the photo so you can’t see that this noble automotive savage is a pickup truck, not AMC’s genre creating SUV.

Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo

In the early to mid 1980s American Motors, then under Renault ownership, was developing the XJ Cherokee. AMC correctly anticipated that pickup trucks would increasingly be used as passenger vehicles. The decision was made to spin a pickup truck off of the the Cherokee platform. Jeep sold full sized pickups, the J10 and J20, based on the Wagonmaster, but its dealers had nothing smaller to compete with the Ford Ranger, Chevy S-10 or Dodge Dakota. Unlike with those trucks, which are body on frame designs, the Cherokee did not have a separate frame. The XJ platform was Jeep’s first attempt to build a unibody vehicle. Concerned that traditional unibody architecture would not be up to the rigors of being a trail rated Jeep, AMC’s engineers and Dick Teague’s designers came up with what they called a Uniframe assembly. Essentially that involved integrating and welding a traditional ladder frame into the unibody structure. Some have described the Cherokee as being overengineered, which may help explain the Jeep SUV’s legendary durability.

Jeep Image

Unlike other small trucks created from unibody vehicles, like the Dodge Rampage and VW Pickup (aka Caddy), though, the Commache’s engineers gave it a conventional separate bolt-on pickup bed. To do so meant upgrading the rear part of the Uniframe into a proper subframe that could bear suspension and payload loadings. For a company that hacked off the Hornet’s trunk and turned it into the Gremlin, cutting the Cherokee in half and making it into the Comanche was perfectly in character. From the back of the cab forward, a Comanche is very similar to a Cherokee.

Chrysler bought AMC specifically for the Jeep brand. Some say that it was the success of the Cherokee itself that convinced Chrysler to buy AMC. While most of the Jeep lineup did compliment Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth dealers’ lineups, the Comanche competed, more or less, with the Dodge Dakota. The small Jeep pickup languished with little development (other than upgrades to the inline six) and after the 1992 model year Jeep’s unique unibody-with-bed-on-frame pickup truck died. The fact that the well-selling Cherokee was more profitable than the Comanche also didn’t favor the Comanche’s continued production.

Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo

From the number of grille slots (10) and the XLS trim package, this is almost certainly a 1986 model, and because of the higher level XLS trim, I’m guessing that it has the 2.8 liter V6 made AMC purchased from General Motors. That engine has a curious history that involves both GM and Jeep. It started out as Buick’s all aluminum 215 cubic inch V8. Around the same time that engine was being developed, the early 1960s, compact cars started becoming popular and GM needed six cylinder engines. To make a six from the eight, they just lopped off two cylinders, allowing the use of much of the same tooling. The problem is that 90 degree sixes are not inherently balanced. It wasn’t a popular option so GM sold the tooling in 1967 to Kaiser-Jeep, who had only four cylinder engines. Jeep owners would never complain about less than smooth engines. Moving forward a few years, after the 1973 oil embargo, GM was again looking for alternatives to V8 engines and decided to purchase the tooling back from AMC, who by then had acquired Jeep. The engine went back into production as a GM product and since the Jeep team was used to working with the engine, it was a natural choice. Well, maybe not so natural.

Why the odd-duck 90 deg V6 and not the torquey and durable AMC inline six that later became so closely identified with the Cherokee? AMC engineer Evan Boberg wrote in his book, Common Sense Not Required, “The story I was told was [that] the executive in charge of the design of the Cherokee hated the AMC inline 6 cylinder engine and specifically designed the Cherokee so it would not fit. The Nash 2.5 liter engine was fitted with fuel injection and the General Motors 2.8 liter V6 with oil leaks were the original engine options.”

The base engine for the Comanche was AMC’s 150 CI four. Actually, in 1986, the differences between the I4 and the V6 engines were not great. The four was rated at 117 HP and 135 lb-ft of torque, while the V6 had only 115 horsepower, and just a bit more torque, 145 lb-ft.  Jeep did offer two different diesel engines, one made by Renault and the other by VM Motori (Allpar says that it was a Peugeot). They were advanced engines for their day but they flopped in the market. Jeep’s current reluctance to bring diesel powered products to the US market has been attributed to the failure of the diesel powered Cherokees and Comanches. In 1987, that executive’s decision was reversed and the 173 HP 220 lb-ft 4.0 liter inline six made a big difference in those Jeeps’ performance, particularly in the Comanche, which weighed about 600 lbs less than the Cherokee.

AMC and Chrysler sold about 190,000 Comanches in all, the peak years being 1987 and 1988, with about 43,000 units sold in each of those years. While Cherokees are still fairly common, you don’t see many Comanches. Most of those Cherokees that you see, though, are later models.  A quick check at eBay Motors shows very few pre-1995 Cherokees for sale. The early Cherokees had some rust problems. Comanches share those traits, and pickup truck beds, like convertibles, have their own rust issues. So you don’t see many left on the road, at least not in this kind of near pristine shape. I’m assuming that it’s an original condition truck and not restored because the chance of someone finding the parts to restore one of these has just got to be even lower than the likelihood that someone would keep one in showroom shape.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Comanche - CarsInDepth.com photo Jeep Image mj MJ_frame

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