AMC’s 1977 AM Van Concept Is a Turbo 4×4 Puzzle Waiting to Be Completed

We talk about Detroit’s Big Three all the time these days, but these wonderful American stories should’ve been about Detroit’s Big Four. Alas, AMC (American Motors Corporation), a carmaker known for many innovative vehicles featuring a sexy, standout design, couldn’t stay afloat and was absorbed by Chrysler in 1987. And its 1977 AM Van concept, believed to be a one-off, is set to cross the auction block next week, making for a reminder of the times when AMC was trying to turn its fortunes around.

Built smack dab in the middle of a decade that saw America having to deal with two oil crises, the AM Van proposed a practical vehicle for American families just as Chrysler and Renault started preparing the first generations of minivans on different sides of the pond.

The “turbo” script on the sides proposed a fuel-efficient engine, while the eye-catching wheels, shod in meaty BF Goodrich tires, spoke of 4WD decades before SUVs took over the market.

And the show car is up for grabs, with this set to cross the auction block at RM Sotheby’s next week. However, as pretty and quirky as the AM Van concept is, we’re looking at a fiberglass body riding on a wood frame, while the cabin is only partially completed.

Of course, many see this vehicle as a potential investment. After all, the thing did spend the past 35 years in the Joe Bortz collection, while being displayed in multiple museums.

Can somebody please give this contraption some power?

Then again, with car vloggers now handling builds that range from pocket money to six-figure budgets, it would be soothing to see somebody taking the project home, fixing the few cracks it has in the otherwise mint-appearing body (you’ll notice this in the image gallery) and then giving the vehicle some proper oily bits for social media to enjoy.

The styling of the AM Van concept, which manages to impress while offering the kind of large glass surface you’d expect from a family machine, comes from Richard Teague. The designer penned many AMC hits, from the Javelin muscle car and the AMX budget Corvette competitor to the classic Jeep Cherokees that are so popular these days.

Since AMC was working on its reputation back in 1977, the AM Van was part of a series of show cars that toured America under the Concept 80 banner—the six vehicles portrayed AMC’s new-edge vision for 80s motoring, but this AM Van, with its flared fender-fueled muscle-like appearance, was by far the most striking. It seems that people were ready to forgive the lack of rear doors—the barn doors in the back don’t count here.

And while the audience sometimes loses interest in so-called special cars after these make headlines while trading hands, we’re pretty sure enthusiasts will want to know what happens to AMC’s 1977 AM Van (no pressure, dear future owner).



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