American Motors Corporation (AMC) passed up a golden opportunity with the 1977 AMC Concept 80 AM Van. Looking almost production-ready, the AMC Concept 80 AM Van had a ton of accolades from dealers and, in many ways, predicted the minivan and small worker van rising in the United States.
They should have built it. In the late 1970s, AMC was on the ropes and foreign market vehicles were beginning to catch on. AMC needed to reassure dealers and consumers alike; they still had products worth selling.
It was at this time that AMC created a bunch of concept cars (vehicles that would later become the AMC Gremlin and AMC Pacer) along with a unique van to tour the USA as demos for dealers – viewable by special appointment.
They hit major U.S. cities along with Toronto to show dealerships what was coming.
The AMC Concept 80 AM Van looks like it was built on a similar platform as the AMC Pacer. While no specifications are available, it’s possible that it had a front-engine rear-drive/4WD layout similar to other AMC products of the time; that could mean anything from a 232 cu-in I6 to a 304 cu-in V8. It may have had a floor mounted 4-speed or a column-mounted 3-speed automatic transmission.
What strikes me is the possible permutations of the van that we also missed out on. Remember, AMC pioneered all-wheel drive cars on various platform lengths with a power-plant and drive system that that worked in the AMC Concept 80 AM Van. An all-wheel drive (AWD)/4WD van? That would have been awesome.
Sure, its layout and mechanicals would not have been as conducive to the same packaging utility as the USA’s first minivan – the 1983/84 front-wheel-drive Dodge Caravan. Still, it could have been a fun van to drive. Ironically, Chrysler, the parent of the USA’s first official minivan, merged with AMC in the mid 1980s.
Funny how things turn out.