Perennially cash-strapped AMC, because the story usually goes, did not have the kind of improvement finances bigger carmakers leveraged to replace or exchange getting older platforms to fulfill shifting client calls for. Whereas that is true, the impartial additionally developed many a singular product like the unique AMX and the four-wheel-drive Eagle lineup, typically from a Midwestern make-do perspective, typically to play to its strengths in constructing compact autos, oftentimes to discover a area of interest that the bigger carmakers could not be bothered to discover. So why did the corporate by no means provide a minivan?
As we noticed just lately with the concept AM Van, it is not as if the oldsters at AMC have been blind to the potential of a minivan. Because of both the AM Van’s dimension and configuration or the small print that aped the customized vanning motion, it proved much more standard than the remainder of the Idea 80 autos rolling across the nation in 1977. Nor was it the one thought AMC’s individuals gave towards a individuals mover.
As early because the late muscle period, as we previously saw in the background of another styling study, AMC was contemplating a full-window minivan. Idea sketches beside it confirmed a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive powertrain and snub nostril van proportions. As we identified earlier, this was about the identical time Dick Nesbitt was engaged on the Carousel garageable van idea for Ford, so maybe there was one thing within the water in Detroit then.
That kind of reverse Hofmeister kink underneath the vent window of the early Seventies drawing seems like a extra angular model of the mild upward sweep across the decrease a part of the windshield that appeared within the AM Van, however we see much more of the AM Van’s model on this uncredited photograph that Pat Foster included in “American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker.” Dated April 2, 1976, it reveals an especially compact two-row, two-door, nearly egg-shaped car with a windshield that sloped proper down into the ahead sheetmetal and headlamp coves harking back to the Jeep XJ-002 idea. Given the date, it was nearly definitely a part of this system that resulted within the AM Van, although this rendering seems extra refined and family-oriented.
One other trace that AMC took the manufacturing potential of the AM Van considerably severely is that this photograph additionally present in Foster’s AMC guide of a mockup “created about seven months after the Pacer was launched,” or someday in late 1975 or 1976. Trying like a cross between the AM Van’s entrance half and a Pacer’s again half, it too seems extra refined and family-oriented than the AM Van.
A two-door minivan, nonetheless compact, would finally show lower than sensible, which might be why different renderings apparently from the identical 1976-ish compact individuals mover research stretched the hood and added a second set of doorways to finish up with a compact station wagon that appears one thing like Chevrolet’s 1979 Nomad II idea minivan. Foster’s guide additionally reveals a tall two-door wagon and a four-door sedan primarily based on this four-door wagon’s identical basic theme.
Based on Foster, AMC did present an curiosity in creating a minivan of its personal in 1985—shortly after the Renault Espace nearly made it to the U.S. market through Renault’s tie-up with AMC—ensuing on this Bob Nixon rendering that appears like a severely rounded Espace with its 4 typical doorways and minimal hood.
That stated, we see a variety of the AM Van and the 1976 rendering on this proposal that Foster included in his guide, “Jeep: The History of America’s Greatest Vehicle.” Attributed to Nixon and dated August 10, 1986, the rendering has that very same windshield-matching entrance sheetmetal slope (additionally seen within the 1986 Pontiac Trans Sport concept and the 1990 Chrysler Voyager III concept, amongst others), compact dimensions, and pocket door handles, although it has been up to date throughout for the super-smooth late Eighties look and, with that slotted grille, would presumably have been developed as a Jeep.
Talking of Jeep minivan idea drawings, Foster additionally included this undated and unsigned rendering of a Delica-like four-wheel-drive minivan off-roader with Jeep branding, possible meant for the early Nineties.
We might be remiss if we failed to say the Brooks Stevens-designed Reutter-built 1958 Jeep FC-150 minivans on this context. Whereas they definitely match the proto-minivan definition, they weren’t official producer manufacturing autos, nor have been they constructed underneath AMC’s aegis. Equally, the Jeep Wide-Tracs construct as a part of Kaiser’s Worldwide Car Investigation program and the Jeep-based VIASA Forgone/Caravan/Toledo in-built Spain would possibly fall underneath the minivan designation, however AMC had nothing to do with them.
So, finally, whereas AMC had quite a lot of success shortening, stretching, and lifting current merchandise to create these new, area of interest autos, it took way over tinkering and tweaking to get the minivan formulation to work and for AMC to seize a slice of that phase.