By on October 17, 2017

Image: 1977 AMC AM Van ConceptEarly this year, the Rare Rides series began with this Ghia concept from 1979. A lovely red coupe, it was based on humble Mustang underpinnings. Today we return to the concept car bin with this AMC. Much like the Ghia, AMC’s AM Van is a very 1970s concept based on an existing car platform that never moved past the concept stage.

Let’s check out this pearlescent red box.

Image: 1977 AMC AM Van ConceptAs the 1980s approached and the internet continued to not exist, American Motors’ public relations people needed a PR gimmick. Their best idea was a nationwide tour of concept vehicles designed to remind the buying public of AMC’s strong suit: small cars that were domestically built, economical, and designed specifically for American’s driving style.

Image: 1977 AMC AM Van ConceptSpecifically for this “Concept 80” tour, AMC created seven different design concepts. At each stop on the tour, the public was asked to vote for their favorite design. Of them, the AM Van was the most appealing concept to American consumers by a wide margin, receiving 31 percent of the votes. The next most popular model was the Grand Touring concept (receiving 24 percent), which was a sporty two-door hatchback with profile similar to the later Concord.

Image: 1977 AMC AM Van ConceptThe AM Van was designed by AMC’s most famous (and favorite) designer, Richard Teague. That’s perhaps obvious when considering the concept’s styling, which looks like the result of a Pacer taking a large dose of steroids. I like it.

Image: 1977 AMC AM Van ConceptLike many AMC models, the AM Van was to have four-wheel drive, and the badges indicate a turbo as well. Perhaps AMC’s common 4.2-liter straight-six was to fit under the sloping front end. Since it’s just a concept, there’s no real interior to speak of, and no mechanical bits inside. Still, it’s not hard to imagine bolting on any number of things — leave your powertrain ideas for us in the comments.

Despite consumer popularity, the AM Van was not to be. Budgeting constraints led the company to shelve the idea, with AMC instead revamping (and renaming) the Hornet and Gremlin as the Concord and Spirit, respectively.

Image: 1977 AMC AM Van ConceptResiding for the past 25 years in the Kenosha History Center, it’s now listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $72,000. This is one of those times where valuation may be difficult, as it’s the only example of the thing for sale. What say you?

[Images via seller,  Marty Densch at Carsindepth]

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35 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1977 AMC AM Van – a Concept That Never Was...”

  • avatar

    A Pentastar V6 may do, even though I’m a Chevrolet man. Maybe one of those engines out of the old GMC Typhoon, 4.3L Twin Turbo (IIRC)?

  • avatar

    AMC V8 – there are side pipes on the sucker. What else besides a V8 makes sense? Plus with “All Makes Combined” ;-) a TorqueFlite will bolt right up to that AMC V8.

    $72,000 is pretty steep for a pushmobile with no engine or interior.

    • 0 avatar


      There are 3 general ways to value something:

      Market Comparison – maybe some auction of a similar concept recently

      Income Approach – how much money you could make off owning it (say selling tickets to see it)

      Cost – what it would cost you to build one yourself

      Finally, there is the irrational approach – this is fed by people with high desires and the means to buy it.

      The flip side of that, is that only a very low price might move it if there was little to no demand for the item, regardless of any intrinsic value.

  • avatar

    Why sell it at all? It should be preserved for future generations.

    I miss AMC.

  • avatar

    That is a sweet looking mini van! What are the odds that Lee Iacocca saw this concept and ran with it? Too bad for AMC, since this could have done for them what the Chrysler minivan did for that company.

  • avatar

    This is awesome, its like a Hot Wheel toy come to life: turbo, AWD, huge fender flares, flat chrome bumpers, massive side pipes, killer candy red paint job, deep dish wheels, split tail gate, roof racks, big greenhouse, warp around windshield… what is not to like?

    Honestly the only thing I would change is putting in some pop-up headlights to flatten the nose into the perfect wedge shape. Then change the fog lights to round ones and mount them on top of the bumper. While impossible due to the styling making the front doors slide back like a true mini-van would put it over the top. I swear I drew this thing as a kid back in the late 70s.

    I really miss fender flares, cars today are so slab sided – I want C3 Mako Shark like fenders on everything!

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I agree. With no minivans to compete with until 1984 and the North American heyday of the hatchback just a few years in the future, this could have bought AMC another decade or two.

      With those headlights reconfigured, AWD and a Turbo 4 this design might still be viable.

  • avatar

    As the concept was originally shown there were no rear side windows except for bubble portholes. I think those large glass side windows in the car featured in the article were a later edition. I think I like the portholes better.

  • avatar

    “This is one of those times where valuation may be difficult, as it’s the only example of the thing for sale.”

    I’m sure either Mike and Frank (American Pickers) or Rick (Pawn Stars) “know a guy.” ;-)

  • avatar

    So that’s where my Kia Soul came from.

  • avatar

    EEEK! A Gremlin van.

    They could have done like Chrysler (Omni/Horizon) and bought engine/transaxle from VW.
    The VW liquid cooled motors of about 1980 actually held up pretty well. Except for the early diesel motors.

  • avatar

    I think it’s cool. A bullet-proof Inline 6 is a must, sans Turbo. Maybe a more modern Cummins 2.8L I-4 TurboDiesel?

    I would have to be very rich to drop that kinda coin on it, in that case I could afford to drop the Cummins in it and maybe a 6 speed Allison automatic if it would fit, or the ZF 8AT speed everyone raves about. 34 MPG and torque for days in a RWD overgrown Gremlin? Yes. Yes.

  • avatar

    Can I just say how much I like those color-keyed, turbine-spoke mags? The best wheels of the ’70s were really great.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re sensational!

    • 0 avatar

      There were very few alloy wheels to choose from in the 1970s. Magnesium ATK wheels in raw metal with no polish or paint and chrome center caps—functional but weird looking and very expensive. These giant turbine wheels found on this concept and on Las Vegas hookers’ conversion vans (we had one, second-hand…the van, not the lady…the fold-down sofa bed in back was top-notch). Minilites, which can’t be called beautiful. Centerline drag racer wheels with no air holes, which wouldn’t do for most cars and were butt-ugly. And…99% of the time…slot mags. Ugly-ass slot mags.

      The 70s suuuuuuucked.

      The 80s sucked even more, but at least there were BBS wheels.

  • avatar

    There’s almost no hood so any decently sized engine up front would probably compromise legroom pretty badly. You wouldn’t want to make it mid-engine because that defeats the purpose of a van. This thing looks retro-futuristic anyhow, so I vote to go with an electric AWD drivetrain with a flat battery pack under the floor.

    I also agree with Tonyola that it looked cooler with the porthole rear side windows.

  • avatar

    Love that headline: “Company executives talked candidly with journalists and community leaders.” Sure they did.

    Were journalists really that gullible in 1977, or did they just assume their readers were?

  • avatar

    Yep! What a concept. I could use a little van myself.

    (In all seriousness, I drive an old wagon and have been keeping an eye on used fleet-special Transit Connects.)

    I think I’ll suggest this theme/partial rebodying to those Coloradans with the LeMons Pacer wagon.

  • avatar

    So wait, AMC basically invented the CUV and the minivan? Looking through the lens of the times (1977) I think there was a market for this.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    I would try to stuff a SMART EV or BMW i3 powertrain under it.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t look like there’s much room for anything under the hood. I’m not electric car adverse – I like anything with horsepower. If I had cash to burn, I’d put a 100kW motor at each wheel and pack the floorboards with batteries. Then I’d daily it everywhere.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Corey!!!! Great article and look at a vehicle that was ahead of it’s time, in a sense. Very cool! I would agree with others the asking price is high, but it IS the only one in existence. Be fun if someone bought it and did drop an engine and drive train into it. If done well it would add to the value imo.

  • avatar

    That thing is awesome! What engine? Does it matter? AWD and a Subaru boxer would be fine. It’s everything a PT Cruiser or Pontiac Aztec should have been.

  • avatar

    That thing is awesome! I would love one them.

  • avatar

    Three of the photos accompanying the article were lifted from an article I posted on two years ago. FWIW.

  • avatar

    This was designed in the mid 70s around the same time as the Pacer, which it bears more than a passing resemblance to. The Pacer was designed around GM’s rotary, which they canceled in the 11th hour, compromising the Pacer. I’d bet this was intended to have a rotary too, so I’d vote an Mazda Turbo rotary backed by an STI AWD system. The full STI drivetrain is probably more practical and easier, but the rotary is truer to the original.

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