One of the greatest tragedies in automotive history is the loss of the American Motors Corporation. Even though it spent many years strapped for cash it still had grand ideas for what the future could look like. Among a line of futuristic concepts is the 1977 AMC AM Van, a vehicle with incredible visibility, a turbocharged engine and four-wheel-drive.
Spotted by the folks of Silodrome, the one and only AM Van in existence is for sale, but there’s a small catch: you’d have to finish building it because it’s just a rolling shell.
By 1977, American Motors had been burning millions of dollars and its reputation of an innovator was sinking. Jeeps were flying off of lots and AM General couldn’t build enough buses, but vehicles like the Pacer weren’t, well... keeping pace with expectations. The company’s problems spread across automotive media and even the New York Times. In an effort to show the press and the public that it still had some tricks left in its hat, Hemmings reports, AMC decided to take some futuristic concepts on a show hitting seven cities across the United States.
These Concept 80 events were invite-only, and AMC would warn of a near future where cars had to be small to deal with an energy shortage. Concept 80 was meant to represent what AMC thought 1980 would look like and it brought a variety of concepts from the Concept Electron EV to the tiny Concept Jeep II. The more normal cars of the bunch were the Concept I, Concept II and Concept III, all of which looked like existing AMC products with some updates.
However, a little red van stole the show with its bright red paint, turbine wheels and proposed spec sheet.
The 1977 AM Van concept was penned by Richard Teague, the man responsible for greats like the Ambassador, AMX, Javelin, Jeep Cherokee and more. It features a prominent greenhouse, a stubby nose, fat tires and glorious side pipes. More than one version was proposed with one having huge windows like you see here or one with a porthole and graphics like conversion vans of the era. There’s a little Pacer up front and some Gremlin out back.
Now, remember that AMC’s vision of the future was that of small cars. So while this was a van, access to the rear was awkward. There are just front doors and barn doors in back, forcing rear passengers to have to get in through the front.
Power was to be delivered to all four wheels through a turbocharged engine. This would have been a novel layout for the era, but unfortunately, AMC didn’t put any of its Concept 80 ideas into production. We don’t even know what engine and drivetrain that the AM Van would have had because AMC never moved further than the concept stage.
The AM Van that you see here is a fiberglass body and some of an interior on top of a wood frame.
The van did have its limitations, but when when AMC polled show attendees, 31 percent favored the AM Van, beating second place by seven percent. And while AMC didn’t put this van into production, some of its ideas were. Four-wheel drive became an AMC marketing point and the van predated America’s minivan craze.
This AM Van has spent over 35 years of its life in the Joe Bortz collection, where it was loaned out to various museums. It spent over 25 years with the Kenosha County Historical Society alone. This isn’t its first time for sale, as it went up on eBay in 2017 for $72,000. If you feel like finishing what AMC didn’t, you can bid on it on the RM Sotheby’s Sand Lots auction happening May 25 through June 1.