If Only It Ran: 1977 AMC AM Van Concept

It doesn’t get better than this for me! A concept vehicle that I remember liking from my youth, one-off, known history, and excellent condition! If only it ran! The Am Van is for sale here on eBay, where it’s obvious the seller knows what they have as the buy it now is $72,000. Lower offers are being considered if you are really interested, but unfortunately, I’m afraid the sellers would laugh at my $72.00 budget! Thanks to reader Dominic O. for sending in this great find!

As usual for AMC, they were fighting a battle to stay alive in the late 1970s. One attempt at remaining relevant and to capture the attention of the car buying public was Concept 80 (video here), a display exhibition of concept vehicles that toured in 1977. The star of the show was this very vehicle, the Am Van, which was said to be equipped with four-wheel drive but was, unfortunately, just a styling buck.

In case you aren’t familiar with what a styling buck is in this day of digital design, this was a full-size model constructed so that it could be used for things just like this — gauging the response of the public or executives within the car company to a new concept without spending the money necessary to engineer a complete drivetrain. This picture is reportedly the Am Van clay model (the buck is a fiberglass shell) under construction — but note the Pinto wheel covers!

You can certainly see some Pacer lines in the Am Van, but I think it’s more successful visually than the Pacer. Obviously, the fender flares, side pipes and custom paint might not have made it to production, but if you think about it, the Eagle AWD drivetrain was going into production in late 1979, so it wasn’t that far-fetched at the time.

 

As you can see from this contemporary poll and the attention paid to it in the video clip, the Am Van was the most popular vehicle of the six concepts that were exhibited. The vehicle has been exhibited at museums and in the famous Joe Bortz collection (if you haven’t heard of Mr. Bortz, you owe it to yourself to click on this link). There’s a page devoted to the Am Van here.

As you can see, I’m not the only person that will remember the Am Van! My problem is that I would be incredibly tempted to make this into a running vehicle. I know — if I were a person that had the kind of money to buy this buck, I could just have a replica constructed that was functional, using a shortened Eagle drivetrain! What fun! Please tell us what you think of this concept below, and if you’d consider owning a non-functional but famous concept vehicle.

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Just guessing, Jamie, but the proportions suggest to me this would have been intended for a transverse FWD powertrain, something AMC didn’t have in ’77 (or ever, except for those they might have borrowed later from their Renault partner).

    But it would be very cool to make a runner out of this! It would certainly take a lot of engineering and fabrication skills to make it right, though. Wonder if the doors opened?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      According to what I read, the doors did not open. I still think if you put an engine in the very front, and shortened the driveshaft, an Eagle powertrain might fit. Can’t argue with the practicality of a transverse layout though.

    • Steve65

      The perfect drivetrain would have been a transverse inline 4, lying on its side between the rear wheels. See the Smart car for reference (although I think that has a 3).

      Like 1
    • Rich

      Actually, like the Pacer, it was designed for a rotary power plant. That was the word on the street at the time.

    • Tricky

      Suburu donor comes to mind….!!??

      Like 1
  2. Karguy James

    Nice paperwight.

  3. Srt8

    I wonder given the popularity of mini vans when introduced if this could’ve helped pull AMC out of their death spiral. Such a very cool looking concept, too bad it never happened. This is the 2nd buck in a week and un my opinion the best of the 2.

    • Brian Crowe

      I like it and for 1980 that would have been a great seller I believe and as an option they could have offered an extended version with either a sliding door or just 2 more doors

  4. Leon

    Giant Hot Wheels display model is what it could be

  5. DonC

    Weld a chain to the frame and use it as a yacht anchor.

  6. mark

    Looks like what a 77 Pontiac Aztec would look like.

    • Poncho pusher

      Nope way cooler then the aztec…..now or then

      Like 1
      • Mountainwoodie

        Th Aztec was designed by someone who never saw a compound curve they liked.

  7. AMCFAN

    AMC didn’t really intend on building the AM van. This prototype was created for hype and to let everyone know they were still in the business of building cars. Also to remind us that they were still creative in thinking outside the box. Further reinforcing the idea that they could build and design what the Big three couldn’t.

    Although history tells us that the minivan and SUV fad has taken off and still is popular. I feel that if AMC did build the AM Van it would have ultimately have been a failure for them.They didn’t have anything like it to share parts with and would have had to been all new tooling (problem with the Pacer) unless much could be borrowed from the Pacer. I would imagine an inline six that would require a dog box like a conventional full size van although the proportions look small.

    Who knows. The 1970 Gremlin on paper was not a great idea but in full form was wildly popular and was produced as the Spirit into the 1980’s.

    Very cool indeed however I couldn’t imagine what someone would do with it. AMC people are pretty thrifty and the price rivals SS/AMX and Hurst SC/R money. I can’t see it worth even half of ask but it will live on in someones museum or man cave

    Simply put. If it were made by GM most everyone would be slobbering over it. Certainly the ask would rival the wooden buck “What if built” car previously posted at the Buck Rogers price!. Hoo boy.

  8. michael streuly

    So what we have here is a 72 thousand dollar paper weight.

  9. Steve C

    It seems AMC might have been a little ahead of the times in relation to the minivan, for maybe a sporty version. I think it would be a cool thing to make it driveable…just imagine the looks people who aren’t familiar with the AM Van would give passing this baby on the streets.

    I noticed those Pinto hubcabs right away! Love pics and articles like this.

    Like 1
  10. jw454

    I’m not sure they could have sold that many back in the day but, today, I think they would sell like hotcakes. We are so far removed from the land barge mentality of the seventies and so many have embraced the quirky cars of late…. It may do alright.

    Like 1
  11. UK Paul

    I think it looks fantastic. Shame it never made it ..

    Like 1
  12. Barzini

    A former co-worker used to say, “no bad ideas, just bad timing.” While not entirely correct, there are some ideas that sadly are just ahead of their time.

  13. David B

    They should have have shot for the youth market, with this one! Maybe paneled up the back windows. Inline six with a split manifold, and side pipes, four on the floor, kept the mags… Van culture was a really a hot market back in 77. People forget!

  14. Lowell

    I love it, it doesn’t look dated. Very cool look!!!! I’d love to have it in my garage – – – if it “ran”!!!

  15. cbrand

    I would have to make it run… cool little van … i dig it man!!!

  16. Mike B

    This could have been a bright spot in the malaise era. As a van version it seems like the longer passenger door of its Pacer patriarch (matriarch?) would be well applied here in the absence of a rear passenger door. Head lights/tail lights could have been better integrated, but it was a good start.

  17. DrinkinGasoline

    Screams bloated Pacer.

  18. Dan

    Looks like it has seats. Has anyone found pics of the interior? I have had. O luck.

  19. Jay

    Does the grill/headlights look like a Vega or is it my imagination.

  20. ShoelessTrucker

    Vega grill and head lights, Mopar turbines and Corvette side pipes = AMC a.k.a. All Makes of Cars.

  21. RCFlyer52

    Yes Jay the frt end does resemble a Vega. It would be even better looking if the bumpers fit and weren’t so ugly. There could be a niche market for that now.

  22. Wrong Way

    I wished that they made it to production! I would love to have grabbed one up myself! I will check my retirement account and see if I have a extra $100,000 in there?

  23. Brakeservo

    Modern Stout Scarab – I like how it looks!

  24. Kent McLean

    I like it. Reminds me of the Brubaker Box (1972) and Boonie Bug (1974).
    http://www.rodster.com/articles/BrubakerBox.htm
    https://www.rqriley.com/b-bug.html

  25. whippeteer

    Here’s a picture of a custom van variant built only as a 3/4 size concept: http://www.thepetrolstop.com/2016/03/1977-amc-am-van-concept.html

  26. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Check out the other item that this 0 feedback seller has right now:
    A 1966 Duesenberg Concept Car for $475K
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1966-Other-Makes-G80-Model-D-Duesenberg-Concept-Car-/152742586744?hash=item23902ae978:g:DLsAAOSwehlZ4Rmo

    This one runs and looks like it’s been registered for road use.

    • Brakeservo

      The seller is Joe Bortz, no introduction needed.

  27. jesus bortoni

    It would sell today if one of the big five were making it.

  28. Kevin W

    Looks like a Pacer swallowed a vega. Lol

  29. Steve

    I see some resemblance to the AMC Amitron too.

  30. DonS

    You can see straight thru the wheels, so there are no brakes!

    I love this funky stuff. I love to look at it, but I wouldn’t buy it.

  31. Gregory Nofsker

    This thing screams the corvette from the movie “Corvette Summer” starring Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker in Star Wars).

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