Dreams and Nightmares — the American Motors edition

American Motors is remembered today mainly for plain, boring economy cars. But in the AMC styling studios, at least, there was plenty of excitement. MCG takes a long look back at American Motors design with a big photo gallery.  

 

Regulars here at Mac’s Motor City Garage are familiar with the Dreams and Nightmares schtick. In this series, we look back at both the best and worst from the manufacturers’ styling studios, but mainly without judgments. Dream or nightmare is often in the eye of the beholder. And either way, good or bad, automotive design is usually interesting.

And this is for sure: The dream cars and  concepts that came out of the design studios at American Motors (and before AMC, Nash and Hudson) were interesting. No doubt about that. As the smallest of the Big Four, as the major domestic automakers were then called, AMC had to innovate or die.

The AMC strategy was actually formalized in the company’s “Philosophy of Difference” as defined by CEO Roy Chapin, Jr. The little automaker had no hope trying to copy or compete with Plymouth or Pontiac with their massive economies of scale. AMC had to go its own way, inventing its own market segments in order to survive. The AMX two-seater and the Pacer were both products of this hit-’em-where-they-ain’t approach to car design.

Well, we know how this turns out: American Motors was slowly strangled to death by market forces and absorbed into Chrysler in 1987. But in the meantime, the company produced some wonderfully creative and original designs, both with its own talented stylists, including Chuck Mashigan and Richard Teague, and in collaboration with the industry’s top independent designers—Richard Arbib, Battista Pininfarina, and Brooks Stevens, to name but a few.

Dreams or nightmares? In each case, we leave that for you to decide. But either way, AMC produced some memorable auto designs. Gallery below.

 

1951 Nash Healey Bill Flajole protoype
1977 AMC Concept Electron
1974 AMC Javelin proposal April 1970
1977 AM Van Concept
1972 AMC Ambassador Brooks Stevens Proposal
1977 American Motors Concept II
1968 AMC Rambler American Brooks Stevens proposal
1964 AMC Rambler Tarpon Concept
1956 Nash Rambler Palm Beach Pininfarina
1974 AMC Javelin clay proposal 1970
1966 AMC Project IV AMX II
1980 AMC RSV Eagle II concept
1960 AMC Rambler Pickup prototype
1974 AMC Gremlin GII
1967 AMC AMX GT
1962 AMC Metropolitan Royal Runabout
1967 AMC Rambler Amitron Concept
1964 AMC Rambler Tarpon rear
1955 Nash Ambassador Pininfarina prototype
1967 AMC AMX III Sportwagon
1973 AMC Hornet GT Concept
1970 AMC Gremlin Voyager
1958 Nash Metropolitan Station Wagon
1958 Hudson full-scale clay
1962 AMC Budd XR400
1968 AMC Jeffords AMX R Ramble seat
1956 AMC Astra-Gnome by Richard Arbib
1954 Hudson Italia
1951 Nash Healey prototype
1965 AMC AMX I
1966 AMC Project IV Vixen
1950 Nash NXI Prototype with George Romney and George Mason
1977 American Motors Concept I
1970 AMC AMX/3
1969 AMC AMX/2
1976 AMC Pacer Stinger Hatchback
1966 AMC Project IV Cavalier
1969 AMC AMX 400
1970 AMC AMX/3 with Mark Donohue
1965 AMC AMX full-size clay

1951 Nash Healey Bill Flajole protoype

1977 AMC Concept Electron

1974 AMC Javelin proposal April 1970

1977 AM Van Concept

1972 AMC Ambassador Brooks Stevens Proposal

1977 American Motors Concept II

1968 AMC Rambler American Brooks Stevens proposal

1964 AMC Rambler Tarpon Concept

1956 Nash Rambler Palm Beach Pininfarina

1974 AMC Javelin clay proposal 1970

1966 AMC Project IV AMX II

1980 AMC RSV Eagle II concept

1960 AMC Rambler Pickup prototype

1974 AMC Gremlin GII

1967 AMC AMX GT

1962 AMC Metropolitan Royal Runabout

1967 AMC Rambler Amitron Concept

1964 AMC Rambler Tarpon rear

1955 Nash Ambassador Pininfarina prototype

1967 AMC AMX III Sportwagon

1973 AMC Hornet GT Concept

1970 AMC Gremlin Voyager

1958 Nash Metropolitan Station Wagon

1958 Hudson full-scale clay

1962 AMC Budd XR400

1968 AMC Jeffords AMX R Ramble seat

1956 AMC Astra-Gnome by Richard Arbib

1954 Hudson Italia

1951 Nash Healey prototype

1965 AMC AMX I

1966 AMC Project IV Vixen

1950 Nash NXI Prototype with George Romney and George Mason

1977 American Motors Concept I

1970 AMC AMX/3

1969 AMC AMX/2

1976 AMC Pacer Stinger Hatchback

1966 AMC Project IV Cavalier

1969 AMC AMX 400

1970 AMC AMX/3 with Mark Donohue

1965 AMC AMX full-size clay

11 thoughts on “Dreams and Nightmares — the American Motors edition

    • Indeed. In going over the photos I realized AMC did a huge number of designs for a company of its size and resources. We could have done a lot more than 40, that was just an arbitrary cutoff point.

  1. The ’67 AMC AMX GT, among others in your 40, looked like a viable production piece, front half of one design coupled to the rear half of another, but it worked. Another wonderful story, Bill. Congratulations!!!

  2. Thank you for posting this! Was the Project IV Cavalier the design where the front and rear doors, among other body panels, were designed to be interchangable? I remember reading about that but that was a long time ago. Thanks once again!

    • Yes, sir. That’s the one. Good memory. Fenders and doors interchanged diagonally, hood and trunk also. Teague said the idea was not only interchangeability, but to explore the aesthetics of symmetry. Pretty interesting, I think.

  3. I was going to mention something about that. You beat me to it.

    Also, I thought it would be good to mention that a ’55 Hudson Italia sold at a recent Barrett-Jackson auction for $396K. Pretty good…

  4. Great photo story!
    During these years, AMC sure did circle the clock with its design themes, trying all sort of angles from using the Italians, the British and a strange home brew of styling. They finally hit their stride in the later sixties/early seventies with concepts were elegant and exciting. The AMX 2 & 3 and the AMC Project IV are stunning examples of what could have been! As I recall, the AMX 400 (photo 11) was not a corporate concept car, rather a custom car built for the “Autorama” indoor car show circuit by Joe Bailon and George Barris using a AMX supplied by AMC. For AMC buffs, look for illustrator Steve Stanford’s, “April Fools” piece in Hot Rod back a few years when he envisioned a new line up of these cars. It was just amazing good modernization’s of the classic AMC designs.

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