Rare Rides: The 1977 AMC AM Van - a Concept That Never Was

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Early 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.

As 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.

Specifically 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.

The 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.

Like 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.

Residing 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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Salguod Salguod on Oct 21, 2017

    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.

    • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 21, 2018

      Exactly my thoughts! Except if it were mine, I think I'd go the EV route. Not much torque in a rotary. The drivetrain from a Spark EV would be fun.

  • AMC Vanconcept AMC Vanconcept on Jul 14, 2022

    Hi AMC Friends Yeeeeess, I bought this AMC Van Concept last week. Now its going to my workshop, I want to make it ready to drive. See you in two years at the cars and coffee meeting :-))

  • Gray Juneteenth - 72 responses. Unusual Isuzu pickup - 18 responses. Happy Juneteenth.
  • Doc423 Said some automakers were slow to adopt the technology of Smartphone Mirroring, too bad they aren't slower adopting the EV technology, rather than cramming it down our throats.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys i was only here for torchinsky
  • Tane94 Workhorse probably will be added to the heap of failed EV companies.
  • Freddie Instead of taking the day off, how about an article on the connection between Black Americans and the auto industry and car culture? Having done zero research, two topics pop into my head: Chrysler designer/executive Ralph Gilles, and the famous (infamous?) "Green Book".
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