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

rare rides the 1977 amc am van a concept that never was

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]

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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 :-))

  • ToolGuy • Not sure who you get when you call the "Company phone" number listed on the recall report, but confident that it ISN'T Ferrari (someone either screwed up or made a conscious exception; recall might need a recall; where is my excellence in government that all of you are funding?).• 99% of them are fine.• On later models, additionally, a message will also appear on the vehicle’s dashboard that reads as follows: “Brake fluid level low, Go to dealer slowly”. That right there is classic.• Anyway, this is what happens when you build to a price point... (ba dum tsh!)
  • Art Vandelay And what a giant pile of sh!t ths new format is. Great job guys, way to run off the last of the die hards.
  • Theflyersfan If you ever want a review on a 2022 Mazda MX-5 GT RF, I'll be more than happy to type up a few thousand words and add in some great pictures in front of Churchill Downs for y'all!In a nutshell, I agree with this review. I didn't have a chance to try the Recaro seats because the only test drive available was with another GT that someone backed out in buying so it was being used as a demo. But from what I was told, if you're larger than a 38 waist or taller than 5'10", it gets tight. But with the standard seats, and I'm 5'10" and maybe 20 pounds from the 38 waist, I fit fine. Now getting in and out with the roof up after shoulder surgery (especially leaving the surgery center with most of the right arm under a nerve block) is the total opposite of graceful!!! The look on the nurse's face when the MX-5 pulled up and I'm partially wrapped up like a mummy was priceless.I've had mine since the middle of April and have already put 6,700 miles on it, including round trips from Louisville to Chicago and the Philadelphia suburbs. Averaged 38-39 mpg at a steady 75 mph, and it wasn't a torture chamber. The metal top helped a lot. The standard seats are a bit thin on padding, and there was a bit of squirming by around hour 8 on the Philly drive, but it's possible. But even though this design was released in 2015, I still get compliments from total strangers at stoplights, carwashes, gas stations, restaurants, etc. The Soul Red Metallic paint just makes the car pop. I wish it was available with the Terra Cotta leather (the gray above is available with it), and that it didn't have the standard all in black, because it gets thermonuclear in there with the top down and the sun beating on you, but a minor quibble. But it's just fun. Pure driving fun. The best stick shift in any car today. Solid brakes, excellent handling, a sane amount of power to where you aren't going to get into anything reckless and stupid. After a 12+ hour day at work, there's nothing better than dropping the top and driving the 20 minutes home with the better than I thought it would be Bose stereo playing Moby into my ears through the headrest speakers. Mazda has already announced there will be an NE model so I can't wait for that. It'll be interesting how they will keep the weight down with the expected changes to eke more MPG out of what is already an efficient car.
  • FreedMike I don’t know if I buy into the “they’re coming for our cars” stuff - they’ve been saying that for a long time now - but I wouldn’t argue with one word of this review otherwise.
  • Oberkanone It's not a Jimny! Would be nice if we still had a selection of Suzuki auto in the US. Sidekick was simple and affordable.