The Original 1977 AMC AM Van 4×4 Concept Vehicle

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This is the 1977 AMC AM Van, a concept vehicle that was planned to have a four-wheel drive powertrain headed by a turbocharged engine – both quite novel ideas for a production car in the 1970s.

This van was part of AMC’s seven car “Concept 80” traveling motor show, intended to showcase to the American public their vision for the future of the automobile. The AMC AM Van was by far the most popular vehicle in the show, resoundingly winning the public vote everywhere it was shown.

Fast Facts – The 1977 AMC AM Van

  • The 1977 AMC AM Van was penned by legendary automotive stylist Richard Teague, the creator of the AMX, Javelin, Jeep Cherokee and a slew of other designs.
  • AMC was known for unusual and oftentimes quite prescient vehicle designs, including the likes of the Gremlin, the Eagle 4×4, and the SX/4 4×4.
  • Had it been approved for production the AMC AM Van would likely have sold well, the 1970s were a time when vans were king, and with the included turbocharged engine and 4×4 drivetrain the van would have ticked a lot of boxes for a lot of consumers.
  • Sadly the van didn’t get the green light for production, and now just this single fiberglass bodied concept vehicle remains to show the world what might have been.

The AMC “Concept 80” Traveling Motor Show

The AMC Concept 80 traveling motor show was unveiled in 1977 and sent on a seven city tour of the United States, to showcase the future direction of the American Motors Corporation.

Image DescriptionThese are four of the seven vehicles that were used in the AMC Concept 80 traveling motor show. The Concept Electron and the AM Van (top and bottom right respectively) were the most popular.

The tour included seven vehicles including the “Concept Electron,” a small electric vehicle with wedge-shaped styling built  as a joint venture between AMC and battery manufacturer Gulton Industries.

Other vehicles in the show were perhaps a little more subdued, the “Concept I” was essentially a Gremlin crossed with a Pacer, and was arguably better looking than either of them. The “Concept II” was even more Pacer like, and again it was more aesthetically pleasing than the actual production car.

The green “Grand Touring” was very much a child of the 1970s, with styling cues from both the Gremlin and the Spirit sedan.

The final car in the show wasn’t really a car at all, the AMC AM Van was a precursor to the modern minivan and the modern SUV in a single package.

It was a two-door coupe with seating for three abreast and a cargo space in the rear, period advertising materials explained that it was planned to have a four-wheel drive powertrain and a turbocharged engine – both unusual on a mass-production road car in the 1970s.

1977 AMC AM Van Concept 1

Image DescriptionThe styling of the AM Van is clearly the work of AMC designer Richard Teague, the father of the Gremlin, Pacer, AMX, Javelin, and the Jeep Cherokee to name but a few.

Ultimately, none of the vehicles in the AMC Concept 80 made it into production. At each location show-goers were asked to vote for their favorite and the AMC AM Van was the resounding winner, typically claiming almost 1/3 of the vote.

The 1977 AMC AM Van Concept

When it was first published in the American motoring media people didn’t really need the captions to know that this new design came from AMC.

The styling cues were there for all the world to see, the headlights and front end were reminiscent of the AMC Pacer and the rear end was clearly influenced by the AMC Gremlin. The 4×4 system was likely somewhat influenced by the Jeep, which AMC had bought in 1970.

AMC stylist Richard Teague had a marked influence on the cars built by the company during this era, and the AMC AM Van was a greatest hits album of his aesthetic design principles in many respects.

It’s not known exactly what four-wheel drive powertrain was intended for the Van concept, though it was likely a version of the system that would be used on the upcoming AMC Eagle crossover 4×4 and the AMC SX/4 that were released a short while later.

AMC Van Concept Car Newspaper Clipping

Image DescriptionThe van is now being sold from the Bortz Auto Collection, of which it’s been a member for over 35 years. It was most recently displayed at the Kenosha County Historical Society.

It’s similarly a mystery as to what engine would have been used, whether AMC was planning on turbocharging an engine they already had in production or if they intended to harness some of Renault’s turbo engineering chops, as the two companies were closely linked at the time.

Despite the bid popularity of the AMC AM Van concept it didn’t get approved for production, likely as AMC was going through a period of financial difficulty and belt tightening at the time.

As it stands today the only surviving testament to the design is this non-functional concept vehicle from the 1977 “Concept 80” show. It’s a fiberglass bodied 1:1 scale model with a wooden internal structure, it has a partial interior and it can be rolled around on its wheels.

The AM Van ended up in private hands, joining the famous Joe Bortz collection and remaining part of it for over 35 years. It’s been lent out to multiple museums over the years, including the Gilmore Museum and the popular AMC display at the Kenosha County Historical Society.

The AMC AM Van is now due to cross the auction block with RM Sotheby’s in late May, if you would like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

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1977 AMC AM Van Concept 5
1977 AMC AM Van Concept 3
1977 AMC AM Van Concept 2

Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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